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Young writers sought

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Using the Internet to inspire a new generation of news writers, critics and bloggers, a new media site is searching for young writers in New York who are ready to work in a real news setting aimed at teaching them about journalism.

“They’ll learn to write, read, edit, read and write again like they would in a real newsroom,” said Mary H. Miller, education services director for New York News Publishers. She said Young Voices of New York will offer enthusiastic writers a way to practice their writing skills. Students under the age of 14 will learn the basics of journalism, mechanics of good writing and grammar, and journalistic ethics through the organization’s Internet platform.

“We want them to write about what interests them, but since this site is for the whole state, we need the articles to appeal to everyone, whether they live in Buffalo, Rochester, New York City or Watertown,” Mrs. Miller said.

The website, www. yvnewyork.com, was launched by the New York News Publishers Association in April with sample works from a similar youth-run news platform in Colorado. Mrs. Miller said potential writers can take a look at what other children their age have written about. If enough writers sign up, she said, there could be new work on the site as early as the summer.

Mrs. Miller develops Newspapers in Education content for member publications and conducts professional development training for teachers and newspaper staff.

Her partner in the endeavor, Michael E. Peterson, an award-winning journalist, conducts teacher workshops.

“We don’t want this site to be considered a homework assignment. They will only get assignments if they want to commit to doing them,” Mrs. Miller said.

She said they will give the writers a list of potential stories or provide books for them to review. Students also will be encouraged to come up with their own story ideas or write about destinations in their area.

Submitted pieces have the potential to be published in NYNPA member newspapers.

“That’s the whole point of this, to bring the industry to younger people,” Mrs. Miller said.

She and Mr. Peterson might make some minor edits to submitted stories, but they want to teach the writers to be self-critical and to make the changes themselves.

Mr. Peterson said he subscribes to a disciplined kind of writing that is meant to challenge writers to be better.

“It’s no different than being a talented athlete and having the coach say, ‘You’re doing OK, but you’re going to hurt your shoulder if you keep throwing like that,’” Mr. Peterson said. “You want to get them thinking like a journalist.”

For the blog, writers have an opportunity to share more personal experiences and stories. This will allow the youths to write about whatever they want without the approval from an editor needed for a news story.

Mr. Peterson said he has been involved with a similar program in Colorado with about 60 children signed up. He said about half of them actively participate.

All work must be reviewed and approved by Mrs. Miller or Mr. Peterson before it is published on the website.

She said once there are enough writers they hope to hold one-day training sessions to teach the basics of journalism.

The website also will be a great place for the students to develop their resume for future writing endeavors.

“They’ll have a web archive of their work and portfolio of their work that they can take to high school,” Mrs. Miller said.

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