Youth camp in Oak Park to teach kids journalism fundamentals

Campers will produce a kid-friendly newspaper to be published in August

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Local kids will have some journalism know-how after Kidz Newz goes to press this summer: It's a newspaper that will be produced by kids enrolled in a youth journalism camp at Ascension School in Oak Park between June and August.

Jean Lotus, a mother of four Ascension students who also freelances for the Forest Park Review and other Wednesday Journal, Inc. publications, will direct the camp for kids between fifth and eighth grade. The Kidz Newz youth contributors are going to learn to write a variety of stories, to conduct interviews and to properly use quotes, and to take photographs for the debut issue, which will run in August, Lotus said.

"It's going to be news for kids in the area about things that pertain to kids," Lotus said.

The budding reporters will pound the pavement in Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest in search of stories that resonate with their age bracket. The content they produce might run the gamut from video-game reviews to business features on kid-friendly stores, and even some crime reporting, according to a flier advertising the camp that Lotus made.

"We're not going to be reporting on homicides or anything," she joked. "Probably just stolen bikes."

Lotus said some of the kids are interested in crime coverage so she wants to set up interviews with Oak Park police and the kids as part of a crime-prevention story that campers will contribute to.

In addition to this, attendees are going to be drawing comics, writing columns, and learning how a paper is laid out. There will also be educational field trips and guest speakers.

Wednesday Journal publisher Dan Haley plans on speaking to the kids, and possibly inviting them to the company's Oak Park headquarters as part of one of the group's field trips.

"I think the objective [of the camp] is to teach kids what news is, to understand their community better, and to have the hands-on experiences of interviewing, and writing and producing a genuine newspaper," Haley wrote in an email.

Lotus echoed this when she said that her goal was to provide kids with basic journalism experience so they can write for their high school newspaper if they want to.

Lotus also heads Ascension's student newspaper club, which meets weekly and puts out two issues each school year. She and other Ascension parents who are involved with the school's newspaper club came up with the idea for the camp and Kidz Newz last winter, in part to celebrate Ascension's centennial anniversary.

"We thought it would be good to have a historical document [marking the centennial]," Lotus said, in reference to Kidz Newz, which will only be published once.

Richard Klezgard, an Ascension parent and a graphic designer, will assist with the layout and photography for Kidz Newz. He said that working on the paper will help kids develop some confidence in their writing and journalistic skills.

In a time when many question the survival and relevance of newspapers, Lotus points to the kids' enthusiasm for the camp as a sign that the old gray lady is not dead yet.

"Kids that age [adolescents] think that newspapers are the most magical things," she said.

Kidz News hits the streets in August and will likely be found in kid-friendly locations in Forest Park like Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, the public library, Girlicious and more, Lotus said.

The camp will be offered in two sessions — one in June and another in August. For more information or to enroll email oakparkkidz@yahoo.com.

Reader Comments

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Jean Lotus, Camp Director from Oak Park  

Posted: May 5th, 2011 9:22 AM

Just a clarification: "Kidz Newz" is not being published in association with the centennial of Ascension School. The centennial is being celebrated in "Attention Ascension", the Ascension School newspaper.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 4th, 2011 2:51 PM

Sounds like a great way to teach and encourage young writers. Glad to read WJ is supporting the camp.

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