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Journalism Program Aims to Bring A Rainbow to Every Newsroom

`Summer camp' for minority students trains, makes connections

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THE American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Freedom Forum, and the University of North Carolina have discovered a pot of gold by way of a rainbow.

The Rainbow Institute, that is.

Founded two years ago and expanded this year, the Freedom Forum Rainbow Institute is, on the surface, a three-week journalism-training program for high school juniors and seniors. In a larger context, it is an attempt to establish newsrooms that represent the full spectrum of minorities.

``A new wave of quiet racism is sweeping the country,'' says Chuck Stone, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-director of the Rainbow Institute here. ``What you have today is a sophisticated kind of ... not even racism. You might call it a withdrawal of patronage or support,'' he says. ``America is developing a hardening of the multicultural arteries.''

The editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, David Hawpe, conceived the program. Even even when the Rainbow Institute was only an idea, he says, practical issues such as how to get minorities involved at a young age, keep them interested in journalism, and pay for a training program were paramount.

What emerged was a sort of journalism camp, taught by UNC journalism professors and paid for by a $70,000 grant from the Freedom Forum in New York. The 15 participating high school students were recruited by their hometown newspapers and given an internship for the rest of the summer, thus ensuring newsrooms' continued contact with the students.

Each participant also earned a $1,000 scholarship toward journalism education in college, ``so parents don't think they wasted their summers,'' Mr. Hawpe says. ``We designed it really to remove the impediments for everyone,'' he adds.

Though Hawpe says it is too early to measure the program's success, he points to the ongoing relationships the first group of participants has had with host papers as a positive sign.

This summer, the Freedom Forum opened a second Rainbow Institute site at San Francisco State University. ``If we had 10 of these around the country, we could make a difference,'' Professor Stone says. ``There aren't enough [minorities] in the pipeline.''

At the two locations this year, 12 blacks, 10 Asians, five Latinos, two whites, and one native American were chosen for their ``outstanding writing and general excellence,'' Stone says.

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