Journalism, Film & Media Arts

Experience journalism, discover the power of the media

The National Student Leadership Conference’s Journalism, Film & Media Arts summer program for high school students uses an interactive approach to learning that gives you an opportunity to immerse yourself in the challenging complexities of the communication field. Together with American University’s School of Communication, you will learn from working journalists, media professionals, public relations experts, web designers and animators.

Program Highlights:

  • Interactive classes and workshops: Learn the latest techniques as you work with professional equipment during classes taught by American University School of Communication faculty.
  • Guest Speakers: Meet with professional journalists, filmmakers, and other leading media professionals.
  • Visit media institutions: Go behind the scenes during exclusive trips and tours.

Interactive Coursework

Tailor your experience to what interests you…

This unique program will provide an introduction to journalism and mass communication, while allowing you to personalize your experience with one of 22 different hands-on classes in one of the three fields below.

American University
Washington, D.C.
June 15 – June 25
American University
Washington, D.C.
June 29 – July 9
San Francisco, CA
July 31 – August 10

Communications: Journalism & Public Relations Workshop Descriptions

Backpack Journalism

Backpack journalists do it all—and you can too. Learn to pitch an idea, shoot video, write a story, and record voice-over. Edit a final news piece and post it on the web.

Broadcast Journalism

This course introduces you to the field of broadcast journalism and related legal, ethical, and technological issues. Develop interviewing, reporting, and writing skills. Produce a brief radio documentary or a television field report for your portfolio.

Entertainment Communication

Television, film, theater, music, sports, fashion, gaming…It’s all entertainment today. Learn from experts in the field and understand the importance of messaging. Why are ratings important in television? How do you promote a film? Could you represent a celebrity—be it an actor or athlete? What is that red carpet all about? Who gets $$ every time you hear a song? Is the gaming industry the next big blockbuster? An inside look and what you need to be successful in the entertainment industry.

International Communication

What does the color red signify in traditional Chinese culture? What is the best approach for introducing a new beverage in Russia or for teaching Africans how to prevent the spread of malaria? Through role-playing, research, discussion, and meetings with international communications professionals, you’ll deepen your appreciation for cultural differences. Produce a media campaign for a topic of your choice.

Investigative Reporting

Learn about the emerging news landscape, the history of investigating the people in power, powerful organizations and how to research an interview subject, as well as 10 types of interviews. Speakers will explain how they developed major investigative stories. Tours will show you the latest in data and investigative journalism. In addition, discover comics journalism, sensor journalism and drone journalism.

Media for Social Change

Learn how to influence people and help change your community for the better. As a collaborative team, students will learn how to apply the ADDIE model (analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation) to effect positive change. Students will create a powerful video, animation, or media campaign for a specific organization.

Professional Newswriting

See what it takes to write a news story for print, broadcast, and the web. Get practical instruction in effective writing techniques for your school newspaper, neighborhood newsletter, or website. Learn how to distinguish between news and promotional writing. Hear professional journalists talk about their careers and visit a local newsroom.

Public Relations

Discover what goes into a blockbuster PR campaign—for example, how did the Taco Bell dog ring the bell at the N.Y. Stock Exchange? Learn how to strategize, develop, and implement your own campaign. Explore the art of messaging and talk to media reps about placing your story.

Social Media 101

Learn how to use YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Flickr, and other media channels for professional purposes. Explore how to handle a crisis situation using social media, create practical social media guidelines, and learn about SEO, SMS, and mobile communications.

Sportswriting & Broadcasting

Bring your passion for and knowledge of sports and learn how to write and announce for live broadcast. Discover the secrets of exciting play-by-play announcing and commentary. Enhance your skills as an evocative sportswriter. In the past, Washington, D.C. students visited USA Today, Comcast sports, and ESPN 980, and received onfield passes and press box seats for a Washington Nationals baseball game. California students have had the opportunity to interview CAL athletes and held a mock press conference at the Oakland Coliseum. Students have also broadcast from AT&T Park and heard from local sportswriters.

Video, Film & Digital Media Workshop Descriptions


This hands-on course for beginning to intermediate students introduces you to the core concepts of animation production. Practice computer-based and hands-on techniques, and build your toolbox. Learn the fundamentals of drawing motion, character design, timing and syncing in animation, and cleanup.

Acting for the Camera

Develop skills to interpret a script and build character, and learn acting techniques for the small screen. Explore physical and vocal aspects of character development for camera work. Team up with student directors to create visual portfolios.

Directing for the Camera

Refine your basic visual vocabulary and learn essential skills to break down a script, tell a visual story, and communicate your ideas to those behind and in front of the camera. Team up with student actors to create visual portfolios.

Documentary 101

Shoot and edit a short documentary using HD cameras and Final Cut Pro. View and discuss classic documentaries and consider production techniques and technologies. Learn practical information about distribution. Equipment provided.

Music Entertainment Production

Music has the power to excite and inspire. But how are songs actually put together? In a professional recording studio, learn about multitracking, mixing, and matching music to film or video. No prior experience required; students grouped by ability.

Scriptwriting & Video Production

Write an original short script. Produce a video, including shooting, sound recording, and nonlinear editing on Final Cut Pro, all in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution. No prior experience required; students grouped by ability. Equipment provided. NOTE: Students interested in documentary film making may also enroll in Documentary 101.

Special Effects

Special effects are necessary to boost the “wow” factor in any science fiction or action film. Through the powerful 2D and 3D tool Adobe After Effects, learn digital tricks and methods for creating simulations like fire, explosions and rain, and masking for flying, teleportation, and sky replacement.

Video Game Design

Using accessible tools, learn how to create compelling virtual experiences. This course focuses on the craft of game design and critical thinking about the medium. Students should have advanced computer skills and familiarity with entertainment consoles.

Photography Workshop Descriptions

Digital Photography

Explore and learn the powerful photographic techniques to make the most of your digital camera. Abundant opportunities to hone your digital photography skills by capturing images of plants, animals and the environment; to city sites, individuals and chance encounters. Assemble a portfolio and have the opportunity to publish your images. This class is offered only in California.

Digital Imaging

This course introduces you to the powerful potential of Adobe Photoshop, where you will learn the tools for manipulating digital images for book covers or movie posters and for creating vector graphics for powerful branding packages and logos. Learn the basics of color and graphic design theory that will communicate your message through both streamlined graphic art and complex digital photo manipulation.

35mm Photography I

An introduction to 35mm black-and-white photography and basic darkroom techniques. This hands-on course covers both aesthetic and technical issues. You must have your own 35mm camera. Film and darkroom materials are provided.

35mm Photography II

If you have basic knowledge of 35mm photography or have completed 35mm Photography I, this course offers advanced training in lighting, composition, and black-and-white darkroom techniques. Film and darkroom materials provided. Bring your own 35mm camera; we will provide one if requested in advance.

Nature Photography

In conjunction with Nature’s Best Photography magazine and Nature’s Best Photography Students Online, explore techniques for photographing animal, plant, and environmental subjects. Attend discussions with editors and photographers from NBP and NBP Students Online. Go on field trips to museums and nature pre- serves. Assemble a portfolio and take advantage of the opportunity to publish your images.

Meet the Experts

While at the NSLC’s high school journalism program, you will meet with and learn from leaders in the many areas of journalism. Aside from the extensive time spent with an American University professor, in past years, NSLC students have heard from guest speakers including:

  • Mr. Walter Mears, Political Correspondent/Pulitzer Prize Winner, Associated Press
  • Mr. Ron Edmonds, Photographer/Pulitzer Prize Winner, Associated Press
  • Mr. Jim Morin, Cartoonist/Pulitzer Prize Winner, Miami Herald
  • Ms. Stu Seidel, Senior Editor, National Public Radio, Weekend Edition Sunday
  • Mr. Tim Kurkjian, Reporter & Analyst, ESPN
  • Mr. Linton Weeks, Staff Writer, Washington Post
  • Mr. Andy Pollin, co-host, The Sports Reporters, WTEM Sports Radio

College-Level Curriculum

Partnered with American University’s School of Communication, the NSLC provides a unique opportunity to spend two weeks working in real classrooms, labs and in the field, studying a part of journalism that interests you. You will work closely with professors in AU’s School of Communication and experience college-level lectures on the various fields of mass communication. The lecture series will provide you with a foundation of knowledge that will be vital to your success not only during the conference but in your future career in the communications world.

Topics include:
  • The History of Media
  • The First Amendment, Electronic Media
  • Journalism and Blogging
  • Ethics in Journalism
  • The Power of Documentary Filmmaking
  • Graphic Design

Leadership Workshops

At the heart of the NSLC is a leadership curriculum designed to build concrete leadership skills that will help you succeed. From the beginning of your program you will learn to work as a team during an exciting Ropes Challenge Course. Interactive lectures and small-group workshops will give you an opportunity to build upon your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

Leadership topics tailored to the Journalism & Mass Communication program include:
  • Personality Styles and Group Dynamics
  • Public Speaking
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Stress and Time Management

Trips & Tours

An important part of the NSLC high school summer journalism program is seeing the sites around some of our nation’s greatest cities. These trips are designed as both sightseeing tours and exclusive educational trips specifically tailored to the area of Journalism:

Washington, D.C.
  • Newseum
  • The Smithsonian Institution
  • Capitol Hill
  • Comcast Sports NET & ESPN 980
  • Voice of America
  • National’s Park
  • National Public Radio
  • The National Press Club
  • Baltimore Harbor
  • Historic D.C. Monuments at Night
San Francisco, CA
  • KQED, National Public Radio
  • Palo Alto Media Center
  • San Francisco Chronicle
  • Sterling Communications
  • The Working Group Non Profit Media
  • AT&T Park and the Oakland Coliseum
  • Pier 39
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Walt Disney Family Museum