Author Archives: kujourcivics

Efficacy Rises with Journalism Experience

graph7-newspub-WEBThe civic payoff is greater for students who take more journalism classes and for those who contribute to a news publication.

Students who have taken journalism for more than a year and those who contribute to a news publication are more likely than less experienced journalists and those who do not contribute to a news publication to feel confident about using the media to address a community issue.

See info on statistical differences here.

Why This Matters: Forging Lifetime Citizenship

graph1-futureeng-WEBJournalists answered 15 questions about being civically engaged in adulthood. They rated how likely they will be to express their opinions using conventional and social media, contact elected officials, sign petitions, promote issues and candidates, and vote in elections.

That’s why this study is meaningful: It shows that civic-media efficacy is related to — and may be a stepping stone toward — lifetime civic engagement. Journalism can give students the tools to be better citizens.

Supporting journalism means supporting programs that can produce civically aware individuals who can use the media to address important issues in their schools and neighborhoods, strengthening their communities.

See info on statistical differences here.

How We Measured Civic-Media Efficacy

graph2-MCEmeasure-WEBRespondents came from 42 public and private high schools in metropolitan Kansas City (in Kansas and Missouri), and in Wichita. Surveys were administered online. Surveys were administered online. Student journalists and journalism teachers completed separate surveys.

To measure media-civic efficacy, we first asked students to identify an issue they felt needed addressing in their schools or communitites. We then asked 18 questions about whether the students could effectively use their student media to address the issue they identified.

Media-civic efficacy scores averaged across the 18 questions ranged from “disagree” (2) to “strongly agree” (5). Most scores clustered around “agree” (4).

Research you can use: A research-based instructional unit

Using Scholastic Journalism to Affect Student Civic Engagement

unit-frontUsing data from the survey, we developed a set of five lessons to assist journalism and social studies teachers advance their students’ civic efficacy through the principles of journalism.

Click on this link or the graphic to the left to download a PDF containing the lessons.

The unit begins with students considering what it means to be civically engaged, and identifying issues that matter to them and to their communities. Students then learn about the extent to which the First Amendment protects their speech. The unit culminates with students learning to write opinion columns that address the issues they identified earlier.

The original survey on civic-media efficacy is available online for teachers to use as a pre- and post- assessment for this unit.

The following materials support the lessons:

Examples of letters to the editor

Writing a letter to the editor or publishing a blog post that expresses an opinion on an issue can serve as the first step to using journalism for civic purposes. Before they write their own letters or blog posts, it may be helpful for students to read letters from their peers that have been published in newspapers.

Below are links to recent letters to the editor authored by high school students.

Peter Bobkowski


Peter (Piotr) Bobkowski, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

He received a doctorate in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010.

Bobkowski has been involved in high school journalism for 15 years. He was publications adviser at St. Thomas High School in Houston from 1999 to 2006. During this time, his students earned numerous state and national awards including Pacemakers from the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) and a Gold Crown from Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA). He was a frequent instructor at high school journalism workshops and conventions.

Bobkowski continues to support high school journalism through his research. He was a co-author with Mark Goodman and Candace Perkins-Bowen of the Scholastic Journalism Census (2011), and of the related research article “Student Media in U.S. Secondary Schools: Associations with School Demographic Characteristics” in Journalism and Mass Communication Educator (2012). He received a grant from the Spencer Foundation to study civic engagement among high school journalists in metro Kansas City (2014-16).

Bobkowski also serves regional and national scholastic journalism organizations. He is a member of the NSPA Board of Directors. In 2013-14 he chaired the search committee for the Executive Director of the Kansas Scholastic Press Association (KSPA). From 2007 to 2011 he was secretary and newsletter editor of the Scholastic Journalism Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). He regularly judges high school journalism contests. He previously judged the CSPA Crowns and NSPA Pacemakers. CSPA awarded him a Gold Key in 2012 in recognition of his service to scholastic journalism.

Kayla Schartz


Kayla Schartz is studying broadcast journalism and sociology at the University of Kansas and will graduate in May 2016. She was involved in student media throughout her time at Ellinwood High School, eventually serving as editor-in-chief of the yearbook her senior year. She has continued to be involved in student media at KU, serving as assignment desk editor, producer, and anchor for KUJH-TV. After graduation, Kayla hopes to enter the broadcast journalism world working as a producer for a smaller market where she can continue to produce stories about her passion: small town America.

Alec Voss

Alec Voss is a sophomore from Houston, majoring in strategic communications and finance. He is a journalism ambassador and serves as secretary for the university’s PRSSA chapter. In his spare time, he enjoys participating in community service and attending KU basketball games. After graduation, Alec hopes to enter the field of investor relations or financial communications where he can apply his writing and analytical skills.

Becky Miller


Becky Miller worked with the research team prior to graduating in May 2014 with degrees in Spanish and Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communication. During her time at KU, Becky gained research experience through her coursework in the School of Journalism in classes such as Research Methods and Strategic Campaigns. Outside of the classroom she served as a Student Ambassador for the Office of Admissions, a Hawk Week Guide for the Office of First Year Experience, and a member of the Crimson Crew.

Becky is now a communications specialist with the Blue Valley School District. In her free time she will, of course, continue to cheer on her Jayhawks. Rock Chalk!