BERLIN – Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan stood behind a podium Monday afternoon, fielding questions about resort parking rates and closed meetings.
As he would at any press conference, he was facing a crowd of reporters — student reporters. Meehan’s mock press conference was a special event for Stephen Decatur Middle School’s new journalism club.
“It gives the kids that want to go into the news business a head start,” student Justin Hicks said.
Stephen Decatur Middle School (SDMS) launched the journalism club this year as one of its various after-school offerings. The eight-week program is meant to provide students with the basics of news writing, teach them how to conduct interviews and how to spot fake news.
“My goal is to take what would be ‘Journalism 101’ at the college level and boil it down to something middle schools kids will understand and enjoy,” said Brian Shane, an SDMS educational assistant who acts as the club’s advisor. “The idea is to introduce them to the basics of journalism and show them how to be intelligent consumers of media.”
Students from Stephen High School’s Seahawk Writing Center attend the sessions each Monday to provide guidance to the younger students. Tara Fischer, the 11th grader who manages the writing center, said she’d been motivated to reach out to SDMS after attending a writing conference.
“A lot of the presenters had outreach programs at their middle schools,” she said, adding that students would benefit from learning how to report and particularly how to identify fake news.
In addition to Monday’s mock press conference with Meehan, students in the journalism program will hear from a Salisbury University journalism professor and will meet with broadcast journalists from WBOC.
Hicks said that while the program might not appeal to all middle school students, he’d been eager to sign up. While he likes writing, what really interested him in journalism was the news aspect.
“The whole being the first to know and telling other people the news, I thought was interesting,” he said.
Hicks said he also liked the way that journalists covered a variety of topics.
“This is different because you’re not set to do any one thing,” he said. “You can write about anything that’s important.”