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Reaction to New York Times article about high school newspapers

May 28, 2013

Today, I came across an article from The New York Times New York edition called “At School Papers, the Ink Is Drying Up.” The article details the dwindling number of high school newspapers in New York and indicates a national trend following the loss of many professional print newspapers around the country. While my high school’s newspaper and others in my district in Kansas are still prevalent, I found the article concerning and something vital on which to comment.

The talk for years in journalism (as far as I can tell) has surrounded the imminent death of newspapers / print journalism and the advent of Internet journalism, a world in which anyone can publish a blog and call it journalism. The irony here, as I write a post for my blog, is not lost on me, but this article and post are about high school newspapers, so let’s focus on that. (For the record, there are many who suggest print journalism will never actually die; journalism is simply changing, as it always has, and we are finding new and innovative ways to tell stories. I digress.)

For four years of high school, I worked on two newspaper staffs: The Sentinel at Deep Run High School during my freshman year and The Express at Blue Valley Northwest High School for the other three. Going in, I knew I wanted to pursue journalism professionally, but my time on these staffs as a writer and a copy editor did more than teach me the inverted pyramid, how to talk to businesses about advertising, the right questions to ask and ethics codes. They prepared me for life.

As The New York Times article states, newspapers provide “a public forum for debating civics with intellect and passion” and allow “students to take initiative and hone their writing skills while absorbing lessons in ethics and responsibility.” That’s all well and good, not to mention important for the development of the mind. But being on a high school newspaper staff taught me so much more than how to be a good writer, and that’s why their ink drying up is such a bad thing.

High school journalism taught me about teamwork, for a quality product does not happen without each person accomplishing his or her assigned tasks. It taught me patience and understanding, as working with others is not always so easy.

High school journalism taught me the value of hard work, for a quality product does not happen overnight and sometimes requires extra hours of care. But seeing the perfectly-designed page and flawlessly-edited story in print after publication is reward enough.

High school journalism taught me how to confront fears. In high school, even calling up a source would make my palms sweat, voice tremble and stomach quench. Over time, the nerves dissipated, and now, I have minimal problems when I need to make a call.

High school journalism taught me about decision-making, consequences and success. The editors on staff didn’t always agree, but we always found a way to come to an agreement on the issue at hand.

High school journalism taught me how to have a thick skin and stand up for myself. Not everyone will like what you write (or what you do) all the time, but as long as you can be proud of your work, you’ll sleep easy at night.

High school journalism taught me that asking and hearing the word no is better than not asking at all. And that two-letter word isn’t so scary anyway.

These are values I carry with me in college. And I will carry them with me for the rest of my life. Taking away high school students’ opportunity to learn these values through high school journalism is a shame.

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