I heart Newton South High School!
Nine students pepper their principal with questions. Why is the school construction project taking so long? Why will students get gym credit for taking sex ed? Any thoughts about the upcoming trial of a driver’s education teacher accused of assaulting a student?
Some carry reporter’s notebooks and tape recorders. Others scribble notes into their three-ring binders.
The student journalists sit in two groups. On one side are reporters from The Lion’s Roar, a tabloid that frequently tests the limits of high school journalism. On the other are reporters from Denebola, a broadsheet that calls itself “the official school newspaper.”
While many major US cities are down to one newspaper, Newton South High School boasts two. The principal started holding weekly news conferences this year because he was getting stopped so often by reporters in the hallways. One out of 10 students is on one paper or the other.
“I don’t know of any school other than that one that has two papers at least in part supported by the school,” said Jack Dvorak, director of the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University. “That really is rare, if not unique.”
Seriously, go kids. This is the best way for young people to learn about the value of a free press: to learn how one works in an environment that most accurately simulates the realities of journalism. These kinds of enterprises will produce good, ballsy reporters who know that if they don’t ask the tough questions, their competitors will, and they learn early on that before they become famous they have to be fair, and be right, and fight for what they want to print. Those are lessons some journalists never learn, even at the highest echelons of the trade.
These kids give me hope. Get the Newton South High School crew to the Washington press corps, stat.