Miami Montage Explores the Digital Divide in South Florida

The sounds of keyboards clicking and phones being answered reverberate throughout the room, but this is more than an everyday office job.

These 20 young journalists were selected to take part in the Peace Sullivan/James Ansin High School Workshop in Journalism and New Media for the summer of 2017. Through the month of July, the high schoolers were introduced to the different skills associated with print, broadcast and photographic journalism.

“I like working here because I get to witness a tremendous amount of growth in young teenagers in a short amount of time,” said Rebecca Fortes, chief counselor and writing coach.

“The coolest thing about Montage is, I guess, the different kinds of journalism it exposes people to,” said workshop participant Ben Estrada. He is a rising senior attending Coral Gables Senior High School.

“Obviously everyone here has a different background in journalism… and this workshop gives people a chance to try things they haven’t tried before and prepares them for the future.”

Sam Terilli, chair of the Department of Journalism and Media Management at UM and co-director of the Montage program, agrees.

“The students who go through this program do wonderfully in college,” Terilli said. “They learn so much about writing, reporting, evaluating information, how to tell a story… These are fundamental skills in journalism.”

Since its creation in 1984, the workshop has given students an array of knowledge related to the journalism field while also giving them an experience on a college campus.

“I want them to gain familiarity with how news is gathered and how reporting works,” said Tsitsi Wakhisi, a previous program director. “It allows them to become familiar with the university campus and become familiar with being away from home while exposing them to college life.”

Miami Montage is sponsored by Peace Sullivan, a retired journalist, James Ansin, WSVN-Channel 7 general manager, the Dow Jones News Fund and the Miami Foundation. Martin Bruce Garrison, the founder of the Miami Montage program and University of Miami faculty member, shares his inspiration for creating the workshop.

“The goal was always to encourage top minority high school students to move into careers in newspaper journalism,” Garrison said. “We have large communities of Hispanics and African-Americans in South Florida and this program was started to attract the best high school students to explore journalism more deeply.”

“If you got selected for this program, you were doing pretty well in high school,” Terilli said. “It’s a pretty competitive process.”

Every year, the students and staff of Montage choose a theme for their stories. This year, that was technology and how it affects South Florida. With topics ranging from commerce to camgirls, the newspaper produced a diverse collection of stories that stayed relevant to the theme.

“I feel like the social media topic is very interesting for us, because it’s something we can relate to, especially with all these new technologies being created,” said Ashley Acevedo, a rising senior at John A. Ferguson Senior High School. “I feel like it’s taken a really big toll on everyone’s lives, especially the 21st century teenager with social media.”

The benefits of reporting for the Miami Montage go beyond the workshop itself, allowing students to use what they have learned in their futures.

“Workshop participants can take what they learn back to their high school news media and share with their staffs,” Garrison said. “And, we hope, they will decide to study journalism at a university and begin a career in the news business.”

Terilli shared similar sentiments.

“What I’m really hoping for for the students is that they get a jump on developing these skills, and they enter college, whether they realize it or not, ahead of the rest of the pack.”