School newspapers give schools a voice
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Northern Lehigh Middle School eighth-graders (l-r) Nate Snyder, Julie Knerr and Catharine Maniscalco look over their school newspaper "The Bulldog Bark" as advisor Chris Barnes (standing) gives instruction.
Tried and true, school newspapers afford students an opportunity to express their thoughts to an audience of their peers.
The Northern Lehigh Middle School newspaper "The Bulldog Bark" is one example, where a staff of 40 students produce four issues a year.
Chris Barnes, English teacher, advisor, said the school's most recent publication was its spring issue. After the students turned in their articles, it took about one week to produce an edition. About 350 copies were distributed throughout the district.
"It gives them a voice, increases their interest in writing and for working for things other than a grade," Barnes said. "It isn't just articles, but comics, photos."
Prior to this year, Barnes said the publication had been called "The Bulldog Times", until then-eighth-grade student Tyler Trumbauer suggested that they "put some bite into it."
"I wanted to make it more of a student voice," he said. "They just do it for the love of doing it, which sparks an interest to write and share their voice."
Eighth grader Catharine Maniscalco said she enjoys her school newspaper a great deal.
"I like to write about teenagers and their experiences," Maniscalco said. "It's just nice to talk about it."
Fellow eighth-grader Julie Knerr said the paper provides her with a forum to share her ideas.
"I like to write about controversial topics," Knerr said. "I've learned the importance of being able to express my opinions without having to worry about what others think."
Nate Snyder said he's gained much insight from the activity,
"I like writing about school-related stuff on a personal level," Snyder said. "I've learned more about writing and opinion writing."
It's much the same at Palmerton Area High School, where students produce their school newspaper, "Avenger."
Robert Falkenstin, English teacher, advisor, said his staff of three full-time editors, a business manager, and about a half dozen other contributors produces six issues a year.
Of those, four are the traditional eight-page publications; one is a 32-page literary magazine called "Shrapnel"; and the other is a 12-page senior edition.
Falkenstein said it's typically a six-week process to complete the eight-page publication. The students have about three weeks to work on their stories, and the editors have a week. After a week to do the layout, one week is needed for printing, delivery and distribution to each homeroom.
The literary magazine consists of poetry, short fiction, drawings and photographs, whereby a panel of three students rate each submission with a cover artist, he said.
The 12-page senior edition is begun in late-April, and includes each senior's post-graduation plans; asks how they would like to be portrayed, and includes baby pictures that are created into collages.
Falkenstein said the students are able to expand horizons through involvement with their school newspaper.
"It gives them a permanent audience," Falkenstein said. "Many students have used them to build a portfolio to get them into college, and several editors have gone on to either write or edit for their college newspapers."
For his part, Falkenstein said the publication "gives me an opportunity to work with students I might not have in class, and I get to introduce them to software they have probably never used before, and work as a team."
Falkenstein said he derives pleasure whenever he sees students look through the pages.
"There's nothing like walking through the building in the morning and seeing 500 people read the newspaper," he said, "or a student asking for extra copies to share with their families."
Senior Blake Campbell, who serves as editor in chief, said he has learned a great deal in the four years that he's been a staff member on the paper.
"I've become a much better writer," Campbell said. "I wouldn't consider myself an expert, but I've gained more skills in writing to take with me in the future."
Campbell, who in the fall plans to attend Emerson College in Boston, Mass., to major in writing, literature and publishing, said the job presents him with a challenge.
"I would say the hardest part is the editing process," he said. "It's hard to edit other people's stuff because I don't want to compromise their work."
John Achtermann, a junior who serves as news editor, said he's gained a greater appreciation for the field through his affiliation with his school newspaper.
"I enjoy writing more because it's helped expand my interest in journalism," Achtermann said. "Overall, it's been a very enjoyable experience."
Achtermann said he wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
"I enjoy working with other students, and I enjoy the entire process of putting together the newspaper," he said. "It's a pretty unique club because you can write yourself, and the whole school gets to read it."