Intern brings new readership to daily newspaper

SND15-wk2-Student journalistA prominent daily newspaper has been inspired to better connect with young readers following the successful internship of a 17-year-old school student.

Poppy Davis, in Year 13 at Freyberg High School in Palmerston North, has been working at The Manawatu Standard one day a week as part of a school Gateway placement.

Editor, Rob Mitchell, says Poppy’s presence is “outstanding for the paper”.

“It puts us in touch with new readers, is making the paper relevant and will encourage young people into journalism. We are training up a potential future employee, and at the same time finding out what makes young readers tick.

“We have to be out in the marketplace and putting our newspaper in front of younger people. What better way to do that, than by having one of our target audience in the newsroom.”

And for Poppy, the benefit is doing what she loves, while earning sector-related NCEA credits as part of her Services Industries pathway to employment in the communications industry.

“Every time I go out and interview it is exciting for me,” she says.

“It thrills me to know I’m part of the newspaper and the community. I’m learning the disciplines of writing and grammar and know how to talk to a range of people. It’s reinforced the desire I’ve had to be a journalist since Year 9.”

As part of her training Poppy is writing captions for photographs, attending events, interviewing a range of people and is picking up the ‘soft skills’ – like an ability to communicate with a range of people – needed for conducting herself in the hard hitting world of news.

She also writes a Friday column to give the views of a 17 year-old, which is helping capture that new audience for the newspaper. Poppy has written about teenage pregnancies, X Factor, bullying and other trends.

“Her peers have been reading it and responding, and that’s been great for our newspaper,” Mr Mitchell says.

“She has a viewpoint that we want to encourage.”

Having Poppy contributing ideas about what teenage readers want is valuable to The Manawatu Standard and something Rob Mitchell wants to take further.

“What she’s doing is part of our engagement with the community and I think the idea should be more widely implemented in Fairfax.”

The Ministry of Education’s Group Manager for Youth Guarantee Arthur Graves: “This sort of collaboration between business and education will ensure that school leavers are highly skilled and ‘work ready’. We are encouraging businesses and schools to source similar partnerships around the country. Learning happens both inside and outside of the traditional classroom.”

Mr Mitchell sees giving work experience to school students as extremely important to newspapers.

“Our industry is trade based and it’s through these work placement schemes that many school leavers will make their way into newspapers. It’s still a very viable career and can be a launch pad into different areas.”

Mr Mitchell and chief of staff, Jonathon Howe, have already discussed Poppy’s future with her and recommend she attends a journalism course and graduates with a diploma. Poppy wants to do a Bachelor in Communications at Massey University.

Careers counsellor at Freyberg High School, Helen Green, says 70 students are similarly earning sector-related credits through work placements (Gateway). Fifty are doing a variety of secondary/tertiary courses and a further 25 are learning one day a week at Ucol’s Trades Academy. The aim is to keep them engaged in learning and to put them on a pathway to future employment.

“These initiatives are absolutely crucial in giving students a variety of ways to learn. Learning in the work place not only makes their study relevant, but it also means that they have a better chance of succeeding because they know what’s involved, and that’s what industry wants,” Ms Green says.

“But this success depends on the partnership between business and schools. We want more links with businesses like The Manwatu Standard because they are helping give our young people direction and those young people are the future workforce.”

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.
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