With more than 12 publications, Paly’s 104-year-old journalism program is one of the largest and most unique in the nation. Since former Campanile adviser Esther Wojcicki began expanding the program with a focus on student leadership in 1999, hundreds of students register to be on a publication staff every year.
Currently, to join a publication, students must take a semester-long prerequisite not offered to freshmen: Beginning Journalism. With this system, the earliest that a student can start on a publication is the second semester of their sophomore year. As a direct result of inflexible sophomore year course schedules and publication capacity limits, many students can’t join a publication until their junior year.
The Campanile thinks students should have the opportunity to participate in Paly’s nationally acclaimed program earlier in their high school career. Thus, we commend journalism advisers for designing a pathway where students can join publications in the first semester of their sophomore year, and administrators for supporting their plan.
This coming school year, interested freshmen students will have the option to take one semester of Introduction to Broadcasting and one semester of Photojournalism, instead of being forced to wait to take Beginning Journalism as a sophomore. This combination of courses will allow students to join a publication as a sophomore in the following fall semester.
Until now, students haven’t been able to join a publication as a freshmen or a first-semester sophomore largely due to concerns about younger students’ ability to succeed in an environment that requires high levels of maturity and independence.
However, a student’s willingness to take two semester-long prerequisite courses instead of one shows their dedication to journalism. For those interested in a leadership position on a publication, joining a year earlier will also help them gain the experience needed for those opportunities.
Making the journalism program more accessible to underclassmen also supports necessary staff diversity. Underclassmen make up roughly half of the student body and should be more represented in student journalism.
Additionally, this new pathway ensures that the program’s size stays at a stable level. Due to an overall decrease in enrollment in PAUSD schools in recent years, fewer students are joining publications every year — The Campanile underscores the importance of keeping student journalism, an outlet for expression, alive and thriving at Paly.
The Campanile and other Paly publications are tight-knit, collaborative communities of opinionated, driven leaders where students can discover their voice, learn how to be resilient and work as a team. Allowing more students to be a part of such a special program is a big step in the right direction, and we’re thankful for the administrative support to keep the program vibrant and the work of the journalism advisers to inspire a new generation of students who need the skills journalism classes teach, now more than ever.