I’ve always loved journalism. I dreamed of writing for a major publication, bringing people the news that they needed to live a well-informed life. When I grew into my teenage years, I craved an outlet for my knack for writing and reporting. I was in luck, as my high school ran a school newspaper: the coveted Central Stampede. I applied as soon as I was eligible, and I became an editor by my senior year.
I can, with certainty, say that the Stampede newsroom was the place that cemented my plans to be a professional journalist. It taught me numerous lessons that I carry with me to this day — even into the article you’re reading right now. I was, admittedly, a relatively atrocious writer at the time, but the fact that I can look back on those substandard pieces in a retrospective manner proves that it was an important building block in my professional and personal growth.
This experience has ingrained in me a fervent belief that high school newspapers are among one of the best opportunities for blossoming writers, whether they be journalistic or otherwise. The communal benefits, confidence and vast array of experiences that come with being a staff writer for your local scholastic paper cannot be found anywhere else, especially in a setting and time so important in every person’s development.
Why Are High School Newspapers Necessary?
High school, by design, is generally seen as boring. It’s meant to be a place of learning, for preparing for tests and college essays, not creativity. The rigid curriculum in the classroom tends to stifle remnants of expression.
Within a high school newsroom, this trait is thrown out the window.
A high school newspaper is there to report the news, but also give students an outlet to express their views on said news. While a local community newspaper may serve to inform the public about upcoming high school sports events, the school publication can interview star athletes much more easily and gather student opinions on the game. Profiles on faculty, students and school-sponsored programs may seem trivial and downright unnewsworthy — but to the students of small-town America, it’s what affects them on a daily basis.
In short, a high school newspaper is the voice of the student body, making it wholly unique in a microcosm that enforces strict conformity. Being the one to deliver such a powerful tool can be the most rewarding thing you do in your teenage years.
Interviewing your fellow students and tapping into what they want to hear about makes you, at the risk of sounding a bit corny, a much more well-rounded person. When it’s your job to manage your school’s only form of self-expression, you end up feeling connected to the institution as a whole, not just your stereotypical tight-knit clique of friends.
It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
If for some reason you don’t care about the lofty ideas a high school newspaper represents, there are plenty of more selfish reasons to partake. Chief among these is the confidence that the writing process brings to a budding journalist, or to anyone who enjoys creating.
When you attend your first editorial meeting or journalism class, you will probably feel a little lost. Even at the scholastic level, journalism is filled with jargon and concepts that don’t make much sense to those who have spent their academic careers writing MLA and APA formatted essays.
However, this confusion serves as a foundation for growth. The beauty of journalistic writing is that you can only get better with practice. It’s a grind that takes months or even years to truly grasp, but it’s worth it when you finally do. Like any skill, it’s about the journey more than the destination.
Journalism also shares a trait with numerous other artistic endeavors: the creation of physical products. It may be hard to track your progress while learning guitar or weightlifting due to their intangible natures, but with journalism, you can look at and reflect on the work you produce. By the end of your high school reporting career, you will have a gallery of pieces that range in quality and subject matter, tracking your progress every step of the way.
As someone who is well on their way to doing journalism for a living, I can confidently say that this is an invaluable resource for building your self-esteem. You can revisit old pieces to see both where you have improved, but also fondly remember the effort that went into a particular article or column. Each piece is a time capsule, and they make you appreciate how far you’ve come.
Join a Community
Outside of school service and individual growth, being part of a high school newspaper is simply a unique experience. The connections you make and the events you take part in will follow you for years after, and will usually correlate with the community and confidence benefits mentioned before.
A core feature of a high school newsroom is the team dynamic. Because newspapers, by design, are collaborative, you will find yourself relying on a mishmash of personalities to put out a comprehensive product. This can be a blessing or a curse, but regardless of denomination, it will force you to learn to work together.
Most of the time, you will end up bonding with the writers and designers around you. Like a shift of waiters or a platoon of soldiers, the stress that comes with deadlines and crunch time can bring even the most antithetical people together. You’ll find friends in unlikely places, and you’ll be a better person for it.
Additionally, news teams get to participate in events barred off from the non-journalist crowd. Journalism conferences may sound boring on paper, but they often become some of the most anticipated events of the school year. Having your newspaper and its members recognized for their hard work is always a great experience, and it can help you appreciate the larger journalistic community you’ve become a part of.
Take a Chance
Whether you love the news or simply enjoy writing, a high school newspaper can bring countless benefits to both your current high school experience and future career. The best part of your local Central Stampede is the freedom it brings with it — you can get anything you want out of it.
Whether it be a brief break from the monotony of classes and standardized tests or a fulfilling, skill-building exercise, becoming a scholastic journalist is worth a shot.