Townsend Harris student journalists receive national award

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Remember how student journalists at Townsend Harris High School were accused of “fake news” during their coverage of the school’s push to remove interim principal Rosemarie Jahoda?

If not, here’s a refresher: The Classic, Townsend Harris’s school paper, was led by editor-in-chief Sumaita Hasan and managing editor Mehrose Ahmad. Throughout their tumultuous year, they reported and published daily stories about student, teacher and parent discontent with their interim principal.

As more and more pressure mounted against Jahoda, a Department of Education official called the paper’s contents “fake news.” But The Classic was not deterred.

They kept investigating and writing, breaking news and getting scoops about Jahoda’s behavior toward students, the DOE’s actions and eventually, the process to pick a permanent replacement.

They filed a Freedom of Information request for the names of applicants. They used live-stream video to share the students’ sit-in and thoughts about Jahoda.

For all of their work, The Classic received the Student Press Law Center’s 2017 Courage in Student Journalism Award.

“These stories were maligned as ‘fake news’ by the subject of these stories and her supporters,” said SPLC executive director Hadar Harris. “We’re here not only to affirm that the journalism done by these young reporters is accurate and in context, but to celebrate it at a national convention of 4,000+ high school journalists.”

Hasan is now a freshman at Macaulay Honors at Hunter College, and Melrose is at Barnard College.

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