Three precocious journalists who live in the D.C. area have been selected to serve as reporters as part of Scholastic’s News Kids Press Corps during the next year.
Courtney Pine, Manu Onteeru, and Charlotte Steuble edged out more than 200 kids who applied to the program, joining 32 other finalists. They’ll cover everything from the 2016 U.S. presidential election to local news in their communities: Washington, D.C., Sterling, Va., and Great Falls, Va., respectively. Much like professional journalists, these cub reporters will get assigned stories by an editor—Suzanne McCabe, who directs the press corps—and will be able to pitch their own, depending on what’s happening where they live and, of course, how much time they have to write. (“School work is always the No. 1 priority,” a Scholastic spokesperson explains.)
The goal of the program, now more than 15 years old, is to teach the students how to report news stories effectively and enrich the skills essential to journalism, like interviewing, fact checking, and research. In prior years, kid reporters have talked with politicians, authors, and other influencers; their work’s appeared both in print and online, in Scholastic classroom magazines. Applications to the program involved local reporting, story pitches, and personal essays about why the students wanted to help produce “news for kids, by kids.”
City Desk caught up with these bright-eyed correspondents over the phone last week and picked their brains on what journalism in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the 24-hour news cycle (the oldest thing on that media list, it’s worth noting) means to them.
Courtney Pine, 10, 5th grade, Washington, D.C.
“I’m excited to write about the candidates in the presidential election,” says Pine, who lives in Georgetown and attends the lower school at Maret, in Woodley Park. “Specifically, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I want to know what their views are because they’re in the lead. Donald Trump is being mean to people. How does that work? Hillary Clinton has some trouble too.”
For her application, Pine wrote about social curricula and whether students should take classes focused on empathy, bullying, and other issues. She says she interviewed a friend from a public school and a counselor at her own, adding that her favorite subjects fall under the humanities: English and writing workshop. (Pine says she writes fantasy stories about a land that three friends explore.) The books she likes most include works by children’s novelist Sharon Creech, in particular Ruby Holler, Castle Corona, and Love That Dog.
“I like, probably, Hillary Clinton,” Pine says when asked which presidential candidate she would vote for if she could. “If she becomes president, she’ll be the first woman president we’d have and I’d like that. Also she seems like a very interesting person to report about.”
Manu Onteeru, 13, 8th grade, Sterling, Va.
Onteeru—a fan of English, social studies, and the sciences—says his interest in journalism first started when his family went on a trip to Georgia and got to visit the CNN studios in Atlanta. “Mostly, I remember the reporter Don Lemon,” he recalls. “He was anchoring. It was amazing how I could see him in my house but I could see him here, [and] how he was getting news to all of us in just one sentence.”
Among Onteeru’s other favorite journos? Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett, and Anderson Cooper. He says he reads the Loudoun Times-Mirror, in Loudoun County, as well as USA Today, looking especially for political and scientific news. While political reporting appeals to him because it cuts “straight-to-the-bone” of contemporary issues, Onteeru says advances regarding environmental engineering and HIV treatment excite him. “There’s definitely many disagreements in science because science is always changing,” he says. “In politics, you can have your own opinion: You want [someone] to run their country. But in science, it’s easier to find out if someone is right or wrong, [and] a lot of political reporters are often under fire for working their own opinions into stories.”
To apply to the program, Onteeru wrote about his neighbor who created a “wildlife rehabilitation center” for animals in his backyard, to feed and care for them. Onteeru now wants to write about the White House and President Barack Obama‘s foreign policy.
Charlotte Steuble, 11, 5th grade, Great Falls, Va.
“My story was about my school,” says Steuble, who enjoys the Disney Channel and “the appropriate shows” on ABC. “It does a clothing and food drive sometimes. The kids in fourth grade do what we call the green team: They take food from what we kids have in the lunchroom, and box them up and send them to the needy. I wrote about how it works and interviewed my vice principal and teacher.”
While she says she isn’t much interested in politics and doesn’t regularly read the newspaper, Steuble says she probably wants her job to involve writing. (Of one of the Republican presidential debates, she says: “None of them seemed interesting; some seemed a little dull.”) Her favorite books are from The Hunger Games series, which she views as inspiration for the stories she occasionally writes. When she was younger, Steuble says she lived in Korea, where her dad had to go for work and her mom home-schooled her and her two siblings.
“I don’t really feel like I’m competing with them,” Steuble, a middle child, says.”I’m only 11 so I don’t really know what I want to do yet.”
Photos courtesy of Scholastic