Friday, November 15, 2019

High School Newspapers

A recent walk down memory lane -- a tour of your blogger's high school as part of a reunion weekend -- served as a reminder of how big a role working on my high school newspaper played in my high school experience. It was a great way to build confidence, to learn the inner workings of the school, and (as a senior) to guide younger students in the skills needed for producing the monthly paper on time.

These skills translated to work on my college paper -- where a large sign in the chaotic newsroom proclaimed "This is a Daily, Not a Weekly!" By then there was real news to report -- strife on campus, sit-ins, and an activist student body in a turbulent era. Some of the folks I met during that time went on to careers in journalism, while others became doctors, lawyers, and even a producer of Law and Order.

It was with particular interest, therefore, that I read a recent article in Chalkbeat highlighting a New York City high school teacher, Dennis Mihalsky, who started a journalism class and a school newspaper at the City College Academy of the Arts in Inwood. Part of his motivation, the Chalkbeat piece explains, was to heighten his students' awareness of events going on around them in their school and community. And, not surprisingly, to counter the reliance his students placed on social media as a source of information.

The venture has proven to be a success, with students coming up with ideas for stories that would have an impact on the life of their school. The paper publication was something very tangible for the students and they are learning to realize the importance of this kind of journalism.

Building on this success, Mr. Mihalsky has founded a nonprofit organization, Students Disrupting, whose mission is  "to bring student newspapers to every high school in the city through training, advising, and supporting students, teachers, and administrators, helping them find their voice, deepen their thought, and seek the truth." Students Disrupting notes that only 12.5 percent of NYC public schools have student newspapers and a key part of its mission is to support students and teachers who want to increase that number. Does your school (or your child's school) have a newspaper? If not, maybe it's time to start one. If you have 26 minutes, you may enjoy hearing from Dennis Mihalsky about how he started his school's newspaper.

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