Eric Francis Coppolino   Journalist & Broadcaster
P.O. Box 3606
Kingston, NY 12401
(845) 331-0355 or (845) 797-3458

March 15, 2018

Kirk Reinhardt, Principal
Kingston High School
403 Broadway
Kingston, NY 12401

Dear Mr. Reinhardt:

I had the pleasure of visiting the Kingston High School campus for the first time this week. The occasion was covering the National School Walkout Day for Planet Waves AM/FM on Radio Kingston, the Pacifica Network and Kingston Times.

It was quite an exciting day. I was not expecting to leave with such an excellent story. And each time I left, the story got even better.

I had so much fun that I'm here today with a proposal for you: to be a volunteer guest teacher, and offer a class on basic journalism for any students who are interested. This could be part of the curriculum, or extracurricular, as state law and school policy allow.

When you became principal, you told the Daily Freeman that you wanted to work on "closing our gaps for all of our students to be more successful." I think this program will make them more successful journalists, as well as interest some in law, activism, history and politics.

I also believe that practicing journalism, even on the simplest level -- such as covering the city or school board -- builds confidence in young people, and teaches them how to question those in authority, how to read carefully, and how to express themselves.

In my journalism course for students, I would cover some of the following topics:

1. The First Amendment. James Madison included the freedom of religion and the press and the right to protest in one article of law. To me this says that journalism and activism are part of the essential spiritual DNA of our free society. What is "freedom of the press," really? How do you claim and use it?

We will cover some basic Supreme Court cases pertaining to the right of student and professional reporters to do their work, as well as the fundamentals of libel law, and how to handle threats of legal action from government officials.

We'll cover the landmark Supreme Court case involving student protests, Tinker v. Des Moines School District.

2. The Freedom of Information Law. I will teach students how to obtain documents from the government, as well as the various categories of documents that are available.

For example, students have a right to see school district budgets, safety records of the buildings they study in, safety policies, records of toxins testing and of the use of toxins (such as pesticides), historical documents, and many communications that administrators usually think of as confidential.

I will explain how to access these documents, and provide form letters that they can use in the process.

3. Interview Methods. We will cover essentials such as how to conduct an interview, starting with how not to be intimidated by an adult wearing a suit. Then I'll cover how to lead the interview in such a way that the journalist gets the information they are seeking, as well as how to ask follow-up questions. We will learn one of the most important skills, which is how to corroborate sources, and use one as a lever against another, for example, "Are you aware that so and so said this, but you said that?"

4. The Right to Record. New York is a "one-party state," meaning that any party to any conversation can legally record that conversation. It's important to understand this law and its implications in the "age of the iPhone."

5. Basics of Writing the News Story. We will cover the straight news piece, the news feature and the investigative story. We'll start with studying the some excellent specimens, and learning how to put together the article, which I liken to carpentry.

6. Research and Fact-Checking Techniques. These are the main ingredients of a quality newsroom. Research is ferreting out facts before the piece is written, and fact-checking is evaluating claims the story makes after it's written. We will learn the difference between primary and secondary sources, and why that difference matters.

7. How to Obtain Documents. Besides the Freedom of Information Law, there are other ways to obtain documents. For example, if a government entity, corporation or individual has been involved in a lawsuit, many of those records are available. Attorneys are often cooperative with the press, especially the student press, and under the right circumstances will help facilitate this process.

8. How to Conduct a Background Check. The internet provides many opportunities to investigate the backgrounds of individuals, with information both legally available, and often, free of charge. Other elements of background check come through speaking with private individuals, and asking their opinions and experiences. Sorting fact from fiction is the name of the game.

9. Editing and Rewriting. It's not well known that most writing is rewriting. This segment will cover methods of editing and development of articles through the process of careful rephrasing, adding and removing of text.

10. Photography, Photo Research, Photo Editing. Since the early 20th century, these are basic elements of journalism and are fun to learn, and easily taught. These days, every student carries a camera with them. Knowing what constitutes a solid news photo is an important skill.

11. How to Publish on the Internet. This is about more than using social media; it's about working the many channels available on the internet to get the word out, with credibility and style.

12. How to Handle Publicists and PR People. Many entities engage publicists, effectively for the purpose of lying to journalists and the public. I will teach the essential skills to unravel their tactics, and document and expose their lies, and how to not fall for their hypnotic charms.

13. The Importance and Legitimacy of Satire. Some of the most effective writers and journalists have utilized parody and satire. You can only make fun of something if you really understand it, and humor is a way to open people's minds to the truth. We will study the masters, from Ben Franklin to Mark Twain to MAD Magazine.

14. Media Theory of Marshall McLuhan. Finally, no journalism class would be complete without studying the first in-depth philosopher of media and its impacts, Marshall McLuhan. We will work with a reading list that includes Understanding Media, The Medium is the Massage, and other works -- and dip into his many, many videos available online.

I work with Marshall's grandson Andrew, who may be willing to contribute an hour of his time to your students via internet.

Mr. Reinhardt, I believe that we have entered a new age of student involvement. It is students who have the greatest chance of taking back our Republic from the money-grubbing ghouls and power-hungry fools who now control it. Students have the strength of youth, of optimism, and of having little to lose. Young people are eager to learn about the world, and to know the truth.

Today's students are embarking on their adult lives in a perilous moment in world history, and American history.

To change the world, even to participate in the world, young people need to understand how society works. They need to learn how to verify truth, and demonstrate falsehood. Most importantly, the skill of learning to write and speak in a clear, compelling way is an essential ability.

Journalism is an efficient way to learn these skills.

Thank you again for an exciting day at Kingston High School. You, your fellow administrators, and your security team, once again demonstrated for me why I am a journalist, why it matters, and why I love this work so much.

You may reach me any time at (845) 331-0355 or (845) 797-3458, or by email at It helps to contact me by two methods the first time.

Very truly yours,
Eric Francis Coppolino

PS -- An online copy of this letter is available at

PPS -- You are invited to be a guest on my radio program, Planet Waves AM/FM, which is broadcast each Sunday evening at 10 pm on Radio Kingston, 1490 AM or