The public school student newspaper is a dying art form in much of America. This is not an over exaggeration, or an opinion; it’s a fact. According to the Chicago Times, “In an era of tight school budgets, high-stakes testing and changing news consumption habits, the once time-honored tradition of offering students the chance to be newspaper reporters has joined the list of school activities becoming obsolete for today’s students. Newspapers are forced to scale back, move online to save printing costs — and often eventually dry up.” This rings true even at Carson—people really don’t read that much of our newspaper. Our most-viewed story (“Where to find your SOL scores and when you’ll get them”) has a measly 80 views.
Every school’s newspaper is different, and so too are the reasons why it’s never read. Some people say it’s not useful; it’s boring; it takes too much time; they already know all of this . . . the list goes on. But the newspaper is an essential pillar of American society. Who else but the muckrakers take the time to hold the powerful’s feet to the fire? Yes, student newspapers aren’t chock-full of juicy exposés all the time, but what message does it send when we don’t respect or even listen to our fellow peers who—as any newspaper student knows—take months learning the foundations of articles and interviewing, and everything else journalism entails?
It doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, in a lot of private schools, it isn’t. In elite boarding schools up north, places like Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut, and Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, (home of The Choate News and The Phillipian, respectively), student newspapers have in-depth, factual reporting and—and here’s the interesting part—are actually read by their peers. Top public schools have them, too—The Stuyvesant Spectator (from Stuyvesant High School in New York City, New York) has been recognized by Columbia University for its journalistic prowess. Even nearby private day schools, like the Sidwell Friends School (home of the Horizon) and the Georgetown Day School (with The Augur Bit), have robust newspapers.
There’s a few common links running through all of them: a vigorous English and Social Studies program, a focused and intelligent student body, and newspapers with a vibrant social media presence, among other threads. We can have that at Carson—our English program is strong, we have an intelligent student body, and while our social media presence isn’t “vibrant,” there’s no reason it can’t be. We have to learn from these schools, because, in a world where truth is pushed aside in favor of agreement, newspapers are more important than ever. Student newspapers lay the foundation for that, and will most definitely act like a bellwether for what’s to come.
We can choose to elevate student journalism, which we know is deserving of that exposure, and we can preserve a desire for the facts for our generation; or, we can put that aside and get our news from our favorite sources: Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and the rest of the lot. But understand this: a president’s tweets are not news, and neither are a congresswoman’s, as much as sometimes we’d like them to be. In today’s cluttered media landscape, we have to make sure that we make decisions with our brain over our heart. Things like who to trust, who to listen to, and who to support are more important than ever. It’s time we act like it.