Young journalists share knowledge with Iowa City teens

Two Illinois high school students are hosting a journalism workshop for teenagers across the nation, including one session in Iowa City.


Jeff Sigmund

The Iowa City Public Library is seen on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

High school students and young journalists Victoria Feng and Malini Pillai from Illinois are sharing their knowledge in a more than a month-long teen journalism workshop at the Iowa City Public Library.

The workshop, which began Sept. 13 and goes until Oct. 16, is structured to allow students in grades six to 12 to receive training in journalism basics. The workshop is designed to cater to the needs of every student in the workshop, regardless of experience.

Feng has published work in The New York Times, Wired, and Business Insider.

Pillai and Feng created Launch Student News in spring 2020, which helps libraries and school districts create journalism classes and clubs.

“We want [workshop participants] to learn the essentials of journalistic writing, but we’re also hoping that they’ll love the subject and will want to immerse themselves in it in ways outside of the workshop as well,” Pillai wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Feng said she wants to teach student journalists reporting basics and give them an opportunity to learn more about the journalism process.

“I think journalism is important, especially in the 21st century, because there have been in the past few years so many attacks against fake news and biased media that I feel that students need to be able to kind of rise above all of this negative criticism,” Feng said.

Feng said she chose to bring the workshop to Iowa City because she is aware that the city and the University of Iowa have a long history of strong writing programs.

Pillai said she joined Feng’s Launch Student News because she saw it as an opportunity to share her love of journalism with others.

“My goal for this workshop is that, at the end of the six weeks, students will be able to learn more about the journalistic process, but more importantly feel empowered to tell stories they’re passionate about,” Feng said.

Pillai wrote that she hopes participants will continue their pursuit of journalism after the program is over.

This workshop has also been hosted in Ohio and Georgia, and twice in Illinois.

“I did do one [at] the Chicago Public Library, which was super fun, as well as the Hudson library this summer,” Feng said.

Victoria Fernandez, teen services librarian at Iowa City Public Library, is collaborating with Feng on the workshop. She was really interested and impressed by Feng’s work when she reached out to the library, Fernandez said, and wanted the workshop as a resource for teens.

The workshop will be held via Zoom, but there will be an opportunity for students to come to the Iowa City Public Library to watch the workshop together.

“So the workshop is online, but I’m also in person, so teens have the opportunity to do whatever they feel most comfortable with,” Ferendez said.

Ferendez is not sure if the workshop will be held again, but said she does anticipate that some sort of writing program will be held again.

Feng said she wants to make a class newspaper at the end of the program,

“Making a class paper is honestly one of my favorite parts about the process, because students get to look down at their work and see all the great jobs that they and their peers have done,” Feng said.