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2000 / THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

News Kids on the Block

The convention's cub reporters are bent on getting the stories that appeal to youth.

August 16, 2000|MARTHA GROVES and DUKE HELFAND | TIMES EDUCATION WRITERS

Look out, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and the rest of the world media.

The Associated Student Press is going head-to-head with the big guns at this week's Democratic National Convention. So are young journalists from scores of other high school newspapers, magazines, dot-coms and cable operations.

Armed with full-fledged press credentials just like the pros, these intrepid cub reporters from around the world are putting a kid's-eye spin on the vital issues of the day, from education to gun control.

"It's almost surreal to be involved in the process, to see it firsthand," said Ian McHenry, 17, of Associated Student Press, a nonprofit online wire service for high school journalists. "But we're journalists. We can't stand in awe. We have stories to cover."

The Claremont High School senior and his 15 fellow ASP reporters got their first taste of big-time journalism within minutes of their arrival at the convention Monday.

They had been seeking an interview with Karenna Gore Schiff, Al Gore's daughter, but had no luck going through channels. A Gore campaign official had sent their assignment editor an e-mail stating that the vice president's daughter did not do events with anyone who wasn't of voting age.

Then, all of sudden, there she was, a few feet away from their booth in the convention center, giving an interview to AOL Live.

Ian, sporting a tie and rolled-up shirt sleeves, approached one of Schiff's press aides.

"We feel it's important to speak with her," Ian told the woman.

"And you're with?" the aide responded, asking Ian for a business card he did not have but fumbled for anyway. The aide asked Ian if he and the other students could wait until after the convention to meet with Schiff.

Instead, Ian launched into his questions: Was Schiff aware of the youth convention taking place this week at Occidental College in Los Angeles? Was she protected by the Secret Service?

"We don't talk about that," the aide said in response to the latter query.

Ian and his fellow reporters gave it a solid effort. Their editor, freelance writer Rebecca Fairley Raney, turned the failed encounter into the first lesson of the day: Never take no for an answer.

Raney and ASP's founder, former Los Angeles Times reporter Laurie Becklund, were deploying their 16 reporters across Los Angeles to cover the convention. The students were expected to write daily stories out of the various briefings and round-tables, as well as longer pieces about such complex subjects as abortion rights.

The group consists of many of the state's top high school journalists, including teens who have exposed a range of scandals, from the overpricing of class rings at one school to the death of a Bay Area immigrant girl who had been held as a sex slave. Their convention stories are being posted on the ASP Web site, http://www.studentmedia.org.

Throughout the convention hall's media zone, other student reporters were producing deadline stories this week for print publications, radio stations, cable outlets and Web sites. The outlets include Scholastic.com, Time for Kids, Children's Express and CNN.

Many of the student journalists note that young people of voting age tend to shun the polls. Reporting issues from the perspective of the young could help bring out more of the youth vote, they agreed.

"It's necessary to start motivating teenagers," said San Marino High School senior Angelica Corral, who is writing for a student-produced election report to be published by her school.

One of the youngest members of the youth press corps this week is Daniel Chin, who drew the coveted assignment of covering Vice President Gore's acceptance speech on Thursday for Scholastic.com.

Although acknowledging that he is not particularly interested in politics or journalism, Daniel, who will be a seventh-grader at Emmaus Lutheran School in Alhambra this fall, said he was excited to have the opportunity to attend the convention. As for his reporting credentials, he said, "I like to talk a lot, and I like to meet people."

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