Budding young journalists learn how to tell fact from fiction

NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) More than 100 middle school students in Neenah are beginning a unique and big project.

First Alert Investigative reporter/anchor Sarah Thomsen helps teach students at Shattuck Middle School in Neenah how to research and investigate tough topics.

They're creating documentaries and podcasts about a wide range of problems, and all are topics important to them.

But doing the project the right way means a lot of investigating and researching first.

"My group is bringing awareness to body shaming and beauty standards," says 8th grader Macy Schmidt.

"We're doing sleeping, student sleep, turning the schedule back an hour for school so we can start later and get more sleep," says 8th grader Will Radies.

"We're doing social media images on how people view themselves on social media versus in real life," says 8th grader Hilary Heroux.

The students at Shattuck Middle School in Neenah are ambitious, tackling topics that make them ask why.

"It's affecting our generation of people, and it's like, we have to do something," says 8th grader Peter Ranger, who is considering a project about global warming.

The students are beginning a long journey of researching and learning journalism 101, figuring out for themselves what's fact and what's not.

"Kids write stories all the time in narrative form or whatever, so journalism is kind of a new spin on that, that they can infuse a little bit of information as well," says language arts teacher Becky Robillard.

To help the students have an idea how to ask questions, find information and sources and learn how to investigate, they asked Action 2 News for a little help.

Investigative reporter and anchor Sarah Thomsen showed the students how she investigates stories, helping them figure out how to channel their curiosity to guide research.

"I would say this is probably the most engaged in two days of work that I've seen them all year," says Robillard.

The students have about a month to piece together documentaries, podcasts or some other form they create, but they're already thinking like budding journalists.

"We were thinking about contacting therapists and counselors and statistics they have on body shaming and who comes to talk about it," explains Schmidt of her group's process so far.

"It's going to take probably a lot of research, lots of connections, lots of emails, lots of calls," says Ranger.

When asked if he's excited about it, he replies, "Oh, yeah! Yes! I love investigating in general."