By Jonathan Ringle, Volunteer
I’d been looking for a way to get involved in the 2019 Maccabi Games when I heard organizers were seeking journalists to work with Star Reporters, 12- to 16-year olds who would cover the Games. Sharing my insights from 25 years in journalism with youngsters sounded perfect, so I signed up for an afternoon slot.
When I arrived for my shift on the second floor of the MJCCA, I found four kids hunched in front of widescreen Apple computer screens. One was editing video from a basketball game. Another was splicing parts of her interview with an athlete. Another was poring over a digital map of the area. The discussion sounded like the newsroom where I work — quick asides about the progress of stories, the whereabouts of other reporters and related chatter.
It was pretty clear they didn’t need my help, certainly with the equipment. “They’re natives” on the technological side, said Rachel Alterman Wallack, founder and mission director of VOX ATL, the nonprofit youth-development group that’s been supporting the Star Reporter program. The kids still need guidance on organizing their stories, thinking critically and working as a team, she noted.
Working with one girl on a story about track and field events, Rachel suggested key deletions from the final cut, as viewers didn’t need to hear the reporter ask the questions or a runner say her name, which is listed on accompanying graphic. Hearing that one of the runners in the video was the reporter’s brother, Rachel reminded her to disclose that fact, per standards of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Over the afternoon I watched a 12-year-old boy confidently interview the two co-chairs of the event, smiling into the camera without a hint of shyness as he asked his questions. I struck up a conversation with a 13-year old who was looking down at his red cell phone. He politely noted that he wasn’t ignoring me but was editing video for one of his stories and could talk with me simultaneously. He’s always wanted to be a sports reporter, he said.
A 16-year-old boy from Orange County, California, has the same ambition. He did the Star Reporter program during the Maccabi Games there last year. He said this year’s set-up has a lot more infrastructure for reporters to edit and complete their stories — and get them published (mostly videos on Instagram and written stories on the Atlanta Maccabi website).
For half of my years in the news business, I’ve heard executives and higher-level editors implore us to embrace the digital future. I’ve seen millennials waltz through technology that flummoxed more experienced staff. But watching the Star Reporters this afternoon, I got a clearer sense of the future and the people who will create it.