Are young people still interested in journalism?

Several years ago, when I was managing editor of this website, we had a lot of young journalism students taking tours through the World Headquarters. As I was just getting MPR into digital journalism, I’d always ask, “how many of you want to be online journalists?” No hands ever went up. Most everyone wanted to go into TV, a few into newspapers, and a smaller number into radio news.

These days, we hardly ever get groups of aspiring journalists coming through the sacred sod.

That’s what I realized today while reading a sad tale from Trisha Marczak, a reporter/photographer at the East Otter Tail Focus, who went to Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls for a high-school career fair, and found no one interested in what she does:

I understand high school students don’t have it all figured out, and I truly believe they don’t have to. But I at least expected to meet one eager, young student with their eyes set on changing the world through their pen (that’s how I felt at that age). Don’t these students watch movies? You have to admit; reporters are a movie character favorite. They may not always be small town editors, but you get the idea.

Throughout the day, when explaining to students what I do, exactly, I also began to ask whether any of their schools had student-run newspapers.Not one.

There are still plenty of young people working their way through the dues-paying world of small-market journalism. The Penn State scandal, for example, was uncovered by a 24-year-old in one such market.

But the small towns of America need high school kids to keep feeding the supply of tomorrow’s storytellers. Why aren’t you, Fergus Falls?