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Posted by on September 24, 2012.

School newspapers refocus to meet with the changing times

By Melissa Weinman and Stacy Bubes

Dunwoody High School Principal Noel Maloof, left, checks his calendar to schedule a meeting to be interviewed by senior Stephanie Powell.

Over the summer, Dunwoody High School teacher Desiree Tabor Carter reached out to the community for help getting a newspaper started at the school.

She was hoping to drum up support from adults, but more importantly, from kids who were interested in putting in the hours to write, edit and design a publication for their fellow students.

Only a handful of students stepped up this semester. But Tabor Carter meets with the kids who are interested in the newspaper once a week, and they hope to print an issue this year.

Left to right, clockwise, Dunwoody High School teacher Desiree Tabor Carter discusses potential interviewees for the school newspaper with her students, Rachel Gunter, Tyler Schmidt and Taylor Ibarrondo.

Tabor Carter said the school published its last newspaper about five years ago, when the then-advisor was promoted to assistant principal. No one took over as advisor to the newspaper, she said, and the program never recovered.

“Basically these students haven’t seen a school newspaper. That’s my biggest challenge,” Tabor Carter said.

While the world is quickly evolving to all things technological, some schools are joining in, choosing to shift their newspapers online. But many high schools are choosing to continue printing newspapers – or, like Dunwoody, hoping to start printing newspapers – and finding that the print editions remain popular with students.

Many Atlanta area schools have longstanding student newspapers that are popular with students.

North Springs Charter High School produces a monthly paper, called The Oracle. The Galloway School’s journalism class has published its newspaper, Columns, for the last 25 years.

But many other schools are shifting focus away from print in favor of online and broadcast programs.

Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs stopped publishing a student newspaper this year and the former newspaper staff hopes to find new life online with a website produced by an extracurricular club, said sports editor Mikayla Farr, a senior.

Dunwoody High School junior Tyler Schmidt works on the school newspaper’s layout.

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School is changing its journalism program this year to make The Crimson and Gold an online newspaper as well as a quarterly news magazine. And at the Lovett Schools, students produce an online newspaper, The OnLion, and a print edition, The Lion.

Other schools are just starting journalism programs. North Atlanta High School established an online newspaper before moving into print. The first fully student-led paper was established last year when curriculum changes allowed for a journalism course, where eleven students established The Northerner.

North Atlanta High School students decided they wanted to create a website first before moving to a printed publication.

“We thought it would be easier and cheaper, because at the time we weren’t sure of our resources,” said Max Woo, editor of The Northerner. “At this point, we know we will definitely be putting forth print issues.”

Woo said the staff of The Northerner has been working to raise awareness about their website to students.

“Right now, because we are just starting back, there aren’t very many readers. But last year, we had an ad campaign throughout the school where we had announcements and had posters all around,” Woo said. “We have a news show now, displayed every week, so we will be advertising the newspaper on it as well as doing what we did last year with the campaign. So hopefully we will have more readers this year.”

Many students say they take high school journalism seriously, even if working for the school newspaper is an elective or an after-school activity.

At most schools, students work hard to earn a spot as editor of the school newspaper.

Ariel Siegel, editor of The Oracle, said she felt like the role of editor would be a challenge. “I felt like I had really developed as a journalist, and was mastering the production aspect as well,” Siegel said. “I wanted to take on a bigger position, the leadership role, and contribute what I could to the paper.”

At North Atlanta, Woo said that there are a few reasons that he wanted to be editor.

“Partially resume building, of course,” Woo said. “At this point, I’m not really sure what I want to do as I go into college. My main thoughts are journalism or video production. I thought this would be a great opportunity to decide where I want to go.”

At Dunwoody High, Tabor Carter believes a newspaper is an important way to keep students informed about what is happening at their school that is more affordable than the annual yearbook.

But Tabor Carter said she is aware that she has to compete for students’ attention with the much flashier mass communications course at Dunwoody.

“They take a big trip to New York in the fall and to LA in the spring,” Tabor Carter said. “So students who are interested in journalism, those students are going into those programs instead of the newspaper.”

But Tabor Carter is hopeful that she will be able to find the 25 students required to teach a journalism class. There was a lot of interest from freshman, who are unable to take electives because of their class requirements.

“We’re hoping it will take off once we get going,” Tabor Carter said.

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