In a year of quarantine and remote learning, school newspapers in Sammamish have worked to bring a sense of community despite the physical distance.
Eastlake High School’s Wolf Street Journal, Inglewood Middle School’s Inglewood Post, and Evergreen Middle School’s Evergreen Post have all had multiple digital issues published through the 2020-21 school year, covering topics ranging from school news to opinion pieces to facts about science.
Although Eastlake’s newspaper was discontinued years ago, students restarted the publication in the spring of 2019 and renamed it the Wolf Street Journal. Various organizational problems and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic kept the newspaper from publishing right away. It was not until December 2020 that the first issue was finished and sent out digitally to students.
Having published three issues for this school year, the paper still faced a major challenge in meeting deadlines, says chief editor and graduated senior Andre Eisele. Communicating online was difficult, causing decision delays. The club was almost 40 members strong, so aligning schedules and coping with homework made hitting deadlines tough.
Those challenges proved a problem for the more time-sensitive articles, some of which had to be canceled because they could not be published on time. However, the staff met after the second issue to talk through and improve their processes, and this helped to get the final issue out before the end of the school year.
Darin Fisher, the teacher advisor of the Wolf Street Journal, said that making sure the entire publication is cohesive was another challenge, since the student-driven nature means that topics covered by reporters varied greatly. While traditional school newspapers might have a first article on going back to school and a last one about graduation, the Wolf Street Journal has none of that.
“I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not, but that’s just one of the things that I noticed,” said Fisher.
The Inglewood Post, meanwhile, just completed its third year of production. Originally a print paper distributed during lunch, it was forced to go digital in 2020. Chief editor and eighth grader Addison Smith said this was a benefit because it eliminated the need to print 400 copies of their lengthy issues.
Besides providing schoolwide news, Inglewood’s journalism club aims to teach its 17 students about journalism, with Kellie Parsons, its advisor, running mini-lessons in journalism practices. Parsons said that students in the club learned about what it is to tell the truth and what makes something newsworthy, as well as how to not be biased, how to cite sources, and how to make something visually appealing. The paper also progressed from more personal interest-type stories to more political, editorial-type pieces, said Parsons.
However, Parsons believed that it is extremely important for the students to own the news-gathering process.
“It’s their paper, it’s their school, they’re the primary driving force of everything we do in this school,” she said.
The first inkling of Evergreen Middle School’s newspaper emerged in the summer of 2020, when a neighbor told Vidhi Mehrotra, an eighth grader, about her new position as editor-in-chief of the Willows Preparatory School newspaper. Already feeling disconnected from the school community due to remote learning, Mehrotra wondered what it would be like to start a newspaper for Evergreen.
By October, Mehrotra had recruited another eighth-grader, Ananya Diddee, as co-editor. Together, they finished a first draft of the Evergreen Post. After pitching it to their Leadership teacher and an associate principal, the newspaper was approved, and five students in the Leadership class were delegated to form a committee and work on it. Since then, Mehrotra, Diddee, and the rest of their committee have produced 11 issues.
The remote setting created some problems for the Evergreen team, who also experienced communication issues. At times, Mehrotra said that they would be online late at night, scrambling to complete the last section before the deadline because everyone had thought that someone else was working on it.
Diddee said other students questioned why she would put so much effort into a school news source, but she ignored their skepticism. She worked on the Evergreen Post because it was something she enjoyed, and because she thought it was important to provide news for the student community.
“I feel like most kids, at least in sixth grade, would never read the local news,” said Diddee. “So in the middle of all this fun stuff, if we can even slide in one article about an important topic that happened, I feel like that’s doing more, and that’s spreading more awareness, than doing absolutely nothing.”