Is This the Start of a Student Media Revolution?

This announcement from the Washington Post is interesting on several levels.

High School Newspapers on washingtonpost.com: washingtonpost.com and the Washington Post Young Journalists Development Program are now enabling local high school journalists to put their school newspapers online, free of charge.

Our goal is to create a thriving virtual community for high school journalists and their peers, a place where students and other washingtonpost.com readers can see what schools are writing and comment on their work.

High-schoolers, with the aid of faculty advisors, use easily accessible blog software to publish articles and photos to a washingtonpost.com server. The blogs can be updated from any computer at any time, allowing student journalists the freedom to post stories outside of their traditional publication schedule.

We are launching the new feature in collaboration with three local high schools – located in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, respectively – and are actively recruiting more participants. The program is open to public and private high schools in The Post's circulation area.

While it appears that the newspaper faculty advisors will have some role, I wonder how that will work in practice. The Post says that “The blogs can be updated from any computer at any time, allowing student journalists the freedom to post stories outside of their traditional publication schedule.” Does that mean true freedom from the school's control? In other words, will the faculty advisors have to sign off on every posting, or just initially authenticate the students (and perhaps pull credentials)? There's a real potential here for this resource to become a liberating back-channel around the censoring grip of high school principals. Can that really be what the somewhat conservative Post has in mind?

And how about the comment sections? Presumably these will be moderated like the Post's own comment sections, but by whom? Will these become real independent forums for kids (and parents?) to talk about school issues? That would be a potentially transformative political resource as so much of family life is organized around schools.

Then there's the revenue issue. Will the Post run ads in these sections? Will it kick back any of the money to the students? Will they be recruited to sell ads for their sections and given commissions?

Done right, this could be the start of something big.

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