Workshop Continues Training Students in Journalism After 33 Years

Jasmine Peterson | Urban Agenda

From the current students to alumni, the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop aims to leave participants feeling well prepared for careers in media — or anywhere else.

Founded in 1983, the weeklong program trains up to 30 high school students in all facets of web, newspaper, TV, radio and photography every summer.

For Keith Alexander, it prepared him for the career of his dreams, he said.   WORKSHOP story 1 (Brian Cook)

“It was incredible and life-changing,” said Alexander, 47, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post who attended the workshop in 1985, 1986 and 1987.

The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation sponsors the program, hosted at Point Park University. This year the workshop ran from July 30 to Aug. 6.

Students from all around the country spend the week at the workshop where they are taught what journalism is all about by instructors who are journalists themselves.

Penn Hills resident Kyle Smith, an 18-year-old web reporter in this summer’s workshop, said the experience was challenging.

“I never did articles before, and I never blogged before, but I think I can overcome it,” he said.

When asked if there was any advice to be given to current and future journalists, he responded, “Don’t get discouraged.”

This fall, Smith will be attending California University of Pennsylvania, where he will major in marketing.

Ahmari Anthony, a 17-year-old Homestead resident who attends Shady Side Academy, said being in the workshop’s newspaper section is helping her toward her college goals, which would ultimately lead to her career in journalism.

When asked why she chose to attend the workshop, Anthony responded, “I love writing.”

Her top two choices for college are Howard or Hampton University

The goal of the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop is to increase staffing diversity in media by inspiring students of color to pursue careers in media, according to the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation.

Anthony Carlisle, a workshop alumnus and volunteer, explained what the workshop was like for him when he attended in 1986.

“It was fun. We didn’t stay a whole week; it was every Saturday for the whole day. I would catch two buses to get there,” he said.

Carlisle, 48, always knew he wanted to be a writer, so he studied journalism at Cal U.

Carlisle remembers feeling “confidently comfortable” in his college classes, due to lessons learned during the workshop.

Carlisle, who has a doctorate in English literature, worked as a reporter for 11 years before becoming a professor at Cal U.workshop story 3_Emoni-2

Workshop alumnus Alexander was part of a Washington Post team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize this year for its coverage of fatal police shootings.

He and his colleagues were the first news reporters to ever look at and cover police shootings with such in-depth analysis.

Because of the workshop, he was able to join the newspaper at Howard University as a freshman, which was unusual. He advised workshop students to take advantage of all opportunities in the program.

“Do as much as you can in the workshop. Don’t limit yourself to one expertise,” he said.

Another person with a long history with the program, and the students, is co-director Olga George. An assignment desk editor at KDKA, she started with the program after Chris Moore, co-director and founder of the workshop, came to KDKA telling her about the workshop and how he needed a little help in certain areas. From there, she fell in love with the workshop. That was 20 years ago.

When asked what she admired most about the program she responded, “It gives students a purpose. It’s not just about journalism. It has assisted in so many kids finding friendship, lasting friendship, support and sometimes themselves.”

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