Guest post and recommendation by Brynn Fitzsimmons, a homeschooled journalist
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Daniel Schwabauer’s passion for story and history collide in his Byline podcast, a bimonthly exploration of some of the most fascinating and influential works of journalism from the past.
Daniel is a native of Kansas City, and best known for creating the highly-praised high school English curriculum for homeschool, The One Year Adventure Novel. You may have met him at MPE conferences in the vendor hall. He has been creating educational material for homeschool families since 2008, including Cover Story, a Language Arts curriculum for middle school, and now, Byline.
I’m a homeschool graduate and journalist who took Daniel’s One Year Adventure Novel course when I was in high school. It was hands down the best course experience of my homeschool years. Now pursuing my masters at UMKC, I am a strong believer in the power of Story as Daniel taught it to me, and I am applying his ideas to the classes I teach as a TA. My long-term goal is to teach English and Writing at a college level and help students be better creators and consumers of the stories that fill our modern world. It was Daniel’s teaching that first taught me to see story in this broader context, but working in journalism really drove the importance of stories home for me.
Although I am not working as a journalist while at UMKC, journalism is still very important to me, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Daniel was developing a brand new curriculum with a journalism focus! If only I were still in high school! Byline is a writing curriculum for grades 8 and up that teaches essay writing (another form of storytelling!) through time-traveling journalism—what Daniel calls “chronojournalism.”
It’s fantastic. The curriculum introduces students to historic journalists like the amazing Nellie Bly, Rudyard Kipling, Ray Stannard Baker, and—my personal favorite—Jacob Riis. It’s thanks to Daniel that I know about Jacob Riis at all. I attended the One Year Adventure Novel summer writing workshop in 2017, and Daniel talked about Jacob Riis in one of the sessions. I was later able to do further research and writing on Riis, and I found that the ideas of this extraordinary man who changed the future of journalism and photography were important for anyone who engages with media—not just for journalists.
About halfway through this research process, I was delighted to find that Daniel planned to devote more time to Jacob Riis in the Byline podcast, a free educational resource that complements the Byline curriculum. If you’ve ever heard Daniel tell a story about someone, you know he has a way of making that person seem approachable and real (maybe writing about very relatable mice helped develop that skill), and I knew he would use that skill to bring the past to life in his podcast as well.
When Daniel prepared to film Byline, he came across so many wonderful, completely forgotten journalists and their articles—far more than he could fit into the curriculum!—that he was inspired to start a podcast to share many of these stories he could not fit into the course readings, thinking that it could be an extra resource for curious students. It’s available on iTunes, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, and pretty much any place you would search for a podcast.
The podcast is completely free, and free of ads as well. It’s just a digital space for discovering and appreciating historic journalism. You don’t have to have any experience of Byline to follow or enjoy it. And you don’t have to be a teen, either! It also comes with a corresponding text archive, called “Extra! Extra!”, where you can read the stories in full, as well as stories that could not even fit on the podcast. In many cases, the photos and illustrations embedded in the text were scanned by Daniel from original copies of McClure’s and Youth’s Companion—if not for education then for their entertainment value!
We hear a lot about the power of the media these days, but the power of media through history has been its ability to tell a story effectively. Media—whether that’s an old news story from Jacob Riis or one that shows up as a video on your social media feed—tells a story that shapes our thoughts, viewpoints, and futures. That power makes story an ideal lens through which to learn from the lives of the great men and women who have come before us, and consider how their work still shapes us now.
Today (perhaps more than ever), we hear a lot about how important it is to be a conscientious consumer of media. If story is what shapes our media-saturated perception of the world today, then not only is Daniel’s story-focused perspective on journalism through history both relevant and captivating—it’s necessary as well.
Brynn Fitzsimmons is a homeschool graduate from Wisconsin who recently relocated to Kansas City to study for a Masters in English with an emphasis in Manuscript, Print Culture, and Editing at UMKC. She supported her undergraduate years at Maranatha Baptist Bible University by working as a journalist, and then went on to work full time as a reporter and later as a legislative assistant in the Wisconsin State Capitol. A former One Year Adventure Novel student, Brynn’s long-term vision is to apply the story training in Daniel Schwabauer’s curricula to college-level English and Writing courses. She is already bringing the role of story into UMKC classrooms as a TA.