Paul Farhi’s March 27, 2014, article, “Is local reporting in a death spiral?” bemoans the decline in local reporting, especially the “city hall or the local high school team” coverage that surveys show to be a top priority. Readers looking for solid “hyperlocal” reporting should look no further than the newspapers put out by their local high schools. In Montgomery County, where I have been teaching journalism for 14 years, many of the 26 high schools offer reporting that rivals any small town paper.
To name a few of the best, the Churchill (Potomac) Observer, the Blake (Silver Spring) Beat, the Blair (Silver Spring) Silver Chips, the Rockville Rampage and the Sherwood (Olney) Warrior, as well as my own Wootton (Rockville) Common Sense, all provide solid game coverage of all high school sports, not just the “major” sports covered by our local Gazettes. Did you know MCPS now offers a corollary bocce program? Read about it in any of the papers I just mentioned. Our student journalists cover what’s going on in their classrooms, clubs, social lives and minds. Did you know teenagers both love and hate Miley Cyrus as much as adults do? Again, those papers have her covered. Our reporters debate relevant topics in the opinion pages. Do you know what teenagers think about legalizing marijuana, lowering the voting age or the NFL’s treatment of the n-word? Once again, I direct you to the high school press. Our writers follow Superintendent Josh Starr and questions his and the county’s policies and procedures. They provide localized coverage of national and world news stories, demonstrating their relevance to our area’s teenagers. Want to know how the closing of I-270 to catch bank robbers affected people or how the missing Malaysian airplane matters to us? Again and again, high school papers provide these answers.
Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center said, “If professionals can’t bring us ample news coverage of conditions like overcrowded classrooms and ineffective curriculum, who can? Fortunately, there is an army of ‘embedded journalists’ at the ready – the last, best watchdogs for the taxpayers who pay about $590 billion a year to support K-12 education nationally. Adults need candid, uncensored student journalism if they are to have any idea what is going on inside the schools they support.”
You adults need student journalists, now more than ever. Support your local high school press. Any school’s website can show you how to subscribe, usually for a paltry fee that offsets postage. Almost every school newspaper also has a website where you can read the news for free. Support these programs, financially if you can. Advertise in these papers, reaching targeted customers inexpensively.
There is no need to mourn the death of local reporting. It lives on, vibrantly. If you want to know what teenagers think and desire and know, let them tell you, in their own words, in their own “hyperlocal” publications.
Newspaper and Yearbook Adviser
Thomas S. Wootton High School