As we have found to be true over the past several weeks, learning can happen virtually. Each day, the computer screen engages students by entertaining, teaching and challenging them. A high schooler, however, has both an academic life at school and an extracurricular one. Although many activities that rely on students being physically together are now cancelled, student newspapers continue to publish. Five editor-in-chiefs of their school newspapers reflect on their experiences changing and adapting to remote journalism.
High school senior Josephine Schizer, co-Editor-In-Chief of The Rampage, Ramaz Upper School’s newspaper, expressed how much of her experience with her staff has not changed since online learning began, as The Rampage’s staff typically does not have many in-person meetings. “Students are still writing articles, and a lot of them have been about how our school community is responding to the coronavirus,” she commented. In fact, Schizer has been taking advantage of some opportunities created by our technology. “We [had] a press conference on Zoom with the administration and our Rampage writers so the writers could ask questions for their articles,” she explained. “That would have been hard to accomplish in person since everyone’s schedules are usually so different, but it was easier to plan on Zoom.” While this event was a huge success for Schizer, there are also some challenges created by not being together in school. True for The Rampage and many other newspapers, schools are not able to distribute print editions of their papers. She added, “We always post our articles online and promote them on Schoology, but we find that more people read the print paper anyway.” To address this concern, Editor-in-Chief Schizer uploaded her layout to issuu, a digital publishing platform, so students are able to read the articles as they would in the print paper.
Junior and co-Editor-In-Chief of Scarsdale High School’s Maroon, Ariel Weinsaft, attempts to run her paper as normally as possible. During a regular school year, Maroon functions by meeting weekly, on Thursday afternoons, to brainstorm ideas for their website, and then four times a year the staff meets more frequently—every afternoon for two weeks—to work on and publish a print magazine. According to Weinsaft, “Now, we meet over Zoom on Thursday afternoons to discuss web ideas…and are also working on a COVID-19 edition print magazine which we are hoping to mail to the student body.” Additionally, Maroon posts many podcasts to compliment typical articles featuring recorded and edited Zoom interviews with the school superintendent and principal.
“Toward the beginning of the pandemic, we were a bit uncertain as to how we were going to maintain a consistent newspaper which the whole school could access,” Raphaela Gold, a junior at the Abraham Joshua Hesechel school and co-Editor-in-Chief of Heschel’s student newspaper Helios, reflected. Her staff considered only posting articles on her website, but to Gold, online newspapers do not feel as authentic as print journalism. “I really love the idea of being able to hold a physical newspaper and turn the pages, but the next best thing is to keep the paper formatted the way it usually would be,” she said. Ultimately, Gold, together with the Helios’ Editorial Board decided the best option would be to email a copy of the layout, complete with art, interesting fonts and thoughtful placement of articles, to the whole school in order to maintain that “authentic newspaper feel.” According to Gold, “It’s working really well.”
Sara Greenberg, a Leffell High School junior and Editor-in-Chief of The Lion’s Roar, explained, “Running a newspaper online is not easy, but I feel like it is my job to give these students a creative outlet during this difficult time, and I am very happy with how active we’ve been.” Greenberg runs weekly meetings via Zoom to discuss upcoming issues, and to check in with everyone about their articles. The Lion’s Roar successfully published their April 2020 issue and, although it could not be printed and distributed, it was posted on the school website, various Facebook platforms run by Leffell and on their Daily Bulletin. “Of course, I was anxious to see how the school would perceive an issue released solely online,” expressed Greenberg, “but I was pleasantly surprised to get a ton of positive feedback.” Currently, her staff is working on the June issue.
Junior Talia Kahan, co-Editor-in-Chief of Stuyvesant High School’s student newspaper The Spectator, stated that her paper is as busy as ever. “Especially now, there is no shortage of news,” so The Spectator is continuing to publish bi-weekly. Kahan conducts daily meetings with the editorial board, a routine that has proven to be a productive way to know what stage the newspaper is in. To address the common issue of not being able to distribute physical copies of the paper, Kahan sent out a form to students, teachers, administrators and parents so they could sign up to receive a copy of The Spectator in the mail. When in school, they print 1,000 copies of each issue, however virtually, they deliver 100.
Teenagers want to be connected. We like to know what is happening in our world, and the role of student newspapers in delivering that information is now more important than ever. And, in the process, we are documenting a significant historical event from our own perspective.Air Max