Kai Koblentz, 13, a seventh-grader from Chevy Chase, will soon be a published journalist.
Koblentz was one of 45 young reporters selected out of a nationwide applicant pool of more than 300. Over the coming year, he will pitch and write articles for the Scholastic Kids press website and in select issues of Scholastic Classroom Magazines, which reach more than 25 million students across the country.
“Kids aren’t always interested in what may be going on in the news because news is usually directed towards adults,” Kai said in an interview. “It’s good to have a news source that’s coming from other kids.”
The program allows students ages 10 to 14 to report on issues significant to them. Recently, the young journalists have interviewed U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Chris Coons of Delaware.
Kai recently finished writing his first article. It’s about how the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted holiday traditions, particularly Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade.
He interviewed Dr. Linda Fu, who is a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital, and multiple medical school students.
Kai said his favorite part of the process was piecing together the quotes he found. He could see his work pay off as the interviews fit together.
But he wasn’t prepared for the challenge of remote reporting, he said, as it was much harder to coordinate with sources over email. Nevertheless, he finished the article and sent the piece to his editor. He expects it to be published this week.
Next, he will write an article on the film industry and how it has been affected by the pandemic.
“Being in quarantine has led to many inevitable hours watching Netflix,” Kai said. “I wonder how people can still make TV shows and movies.”
When he applied to the program last spring, he pitched two article ideas. One was on how younger people could participate in the Black Lives Matter movement. The other was on climate change.
Additionally, Kai had to submit an article he had previously written. He chose one on how people could take care of their pets during the pandemic.
The application also asked for a short essay on why he wanted to join the program.
“At school, my teachers used to hand out Scholastic Kids magazines once we’d finished our work,” Kai said. “I was fascinated by them and decided to apply to Scholastic Kids Press. so I would one day be in the [magazine].”
He was accepted to the program on Sept. 28. As he learns reporting at a young age, he’s unsure what he wants to do when he grows up, but he’s considering investigative journalism.
Suzanne McCabe, the editor of Scholastic Kids Press, said she hopes some of the young reporters go on to pursue journalism as a career.
“I’m continually amazed by the vision that young people bring to reporting — how seriously they take it, how wonderful their ideas are, and how passionate they are about issues that really matter to them including social justice, climate change, and maintaining a democracy,” McCabe said.
Young reporters have an opportunity to provide news to an often-overlooked audience. Young people become particularly engaged in issues when they hear about them from reporters their own age, McCabe said. This helps them recognize how the issues will affect their own future, and helps them relate to the messaging.
“Young people tend to listen to their peers,” McCabe said. “Sometimes more than they do adults.”