The annual press week at school makes it possible to sensitize students to reading newspapers, to hear journalists talk about their profession and to understand the interests of a pluralistic press.
It is also an opportunity to discover the students’ productions and the media they develop in their institutions. On the occasion of an exhibition on the university press organized at the Maison de la Radio, let us return to some highlights of its history. Indeed, over two centuries of existence, these media are a reflection of young people’s concerns and their relationship to current events, politics and the world around them.
School newspapers were published as early as the 1820s, which we can prove by testimonies from contemporaries, which unfortunately have not been preserved. The first to be saved date from the Second Empire in the 1860s. Although these newspapers were banned, they circulated in schools.
A diary from 1868, The youth, has a brave editor, Alfred Sircos. Despite all obstacles, the latter managed the feat of publishing fortnightly for more than a year the school world, the harshness of the boarding school, the boredom in the lessons and the concerns of the high school students about their future.
From the Acts of 1881 that established true freedom of the press are the College newspapers proliferate. youth rights, a weekly newspaper, made history in 1882. The newspaper went directly to the minister responsible for school education and made suggestions about the content of the programs. He appealed to the major newspapers and asked them to open a weekly column for him.
The newspaper managed to appear in Paris and in Lyon, Marseille and Lille, being distributed by a national high school club. In the 1890s, the news made a name for itself in the columns of the youth press with a hot topic, the innocence of Captain Dreyfus.
A secret existence
At the beginning of the 20the At the end of the 19th century, the school press spread and multiplied throughout France, although it had no legal existence. During World War II, underground newspapers appeared, written by students and high school students, some of whom joined the ranks of the resistance fighters.
As a result, after the Second World War, the average age of journalists fell. Journalists from the lay press continued the editorial adventure even after the end of the Second World War. Coming out of the war, young editors called for independent journalism and civic and civic engagement.
In the 1960s, the High School Action Committees, formed in December 1967, demanded freedom of speech in high schools. There are about fifty in France, including twenty in Paris.
The events of Spring ’68 will accelerate the uplift dynamics. In May ’68 thousands of tracts and short-lived newspapers were published, written by college and high school students. In the case of titles written exclusively by high school students, the duration and the conditions of existence remain very precarious. Press organs are banned in high schools, allowing the administration to take action against editorial teams if they become known.
A legal framework
At the end of the 1980s, it became beneficial again for high school students to speak up in public. Political decisions profoundly change the status of high school students and allow their press organs to be legally recognized. In 1989, the Orientation Act established the Council for Higher Education Life (CDVL) with the aim of “expressing its opinion” and “formulating suggestions on school life and work”. The fall of the Berlin Wall in the same year excited the university press.
High school students receive the right of assembly, the right of association and the right of publication. This position of principle is made pragmatic by the decree of February 18, 1991, which authorizes, in the school context, the free distribution of publications directed by high school students.
The news, which is selected and covered by the college press, comes in three shifts. The first is associated with adolescence, which is characterized by puberty, which is accompanied by significant physical and psychological changes. Questions of otherness, desire, and sexual relationships run through these puberty messages. Articles can adopt a humorous tone (advice is given to please the opposite sex), use a poetic form, or approach the topic from a societal perspective by addressing issues of sexual orientation, gender stereotypes, or homophobia.
Legal news for teenage high school students is tied to local news shaped by local high school life. On a first level, the reality is that of the class. So these are articles that focus on teachers, their kind words, the little incidents that punctuate the expected everyday life of high school students. At the high school level, the organized events concern high school students of different classes and levels.
The issues of the baccalaureate and university studies are also largely addressed. The field of possibilities in adolescence causes a certain dizziness. The high school years are crucial for step-by-step orientation. In addition to the stress of the Abitur exams, there is also the fear of orientation after the Abitur.
The third layer, media news (understood here as all information processed by the mainstream media), is extremely present in high school newspapers. This news – organized by the media agenda and what rocks or interests society and politics – captivates high school journalists.
This message is not tied to the personal experience of young journalists, but is based on their media experience. In their eyes, what they see and hear, especially through the media that offer audiovisual media, fully participates in their entire life experience. In recent years we have seen an increase in international news (US elections, migration crises, armed conflicts, terrorism) as well as the treatment of climate issues and international meetings to protect the planet.
Finally, the media itself, how it works, the new risks and challenges associated with digital technology (conspiracy theories, fake news, cyber humiliation, hate speech and violent speech) keep newsrooms busy.
The creation of a medium in schools contributes to the media literacy of young journalists for several reasons. Writing articles with the reader in mind, using graphic tools, managing a budget, a work diary and being in contact with a printing company are all part of the know-how and interpersonal skills acquired.
Above all, however, they state that they react more sensitively to current events and their treatment by the mainstream media, want to be better informed and ask themselves questions about the reliability of sources. In 2015, the Minister of National Education was of the opinion that “there is no better media education than making a medium yourself”. This is even more true today.