By Alyce Brown
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BETTENDORF, Iowa (Schedules of the four cities) – Local journalism has long been presented as an important part of every community, seen as an integral part of proper functioning and accountability.
High schools are a place where local journalism cannot be forgotten, where student journalists face a distinct and ever-changing set of triumphs and challenges.
âWe are the keepers of high school history,â said Sarah Miers, yearbook and newspaper counselor at Rock Island High School. âThere is the record book for athletics, there is attendance, there is it all, but to really say what it is here for students every day, we are the only ones in the school to do that. “
“You document student life and allow these students to understand that they have free speech,” added Clint Balsar, the newspaper’s adviser at Davenport Central.
Student journalists across the Quad-Cities all work to be âkeepers of historyâ for their respective school communities and face the unique struggles that come with writing for and about peers that they see every day.
“Professional journalists don’t really hear people’s criticism right now,” said Allisa Pandit, editor of the Pleasant Valley print newspaper. “But as soon as (the diary) comes out you hear everyone talking about it, which is definitely a weird experience.”
Their student status also places them under great authority, which can sometimes make controversial stories more difficult to take on.
âA big challenge is getting high school students to gain the confidence to tackle important topics,â said Maureen Dyer, newspaper and yearbook advisor at PV. âStudents see administrators and teachers as authority figures, which is great, but sometimes it makes them unwilling to question the status quo. “
The academic setting also means high school journalists maintain the paper while taking care of many other engagements, and becoming a jack of all trades to help make up for understaffed newsrooms is often the norm.
The publishing classes at Rock Island and PV both face smaller staffing levels than in previous years, and the club that meets at Davenport Central has around 12 staff members.
âThe workload is heavy,â said Phoebe Fuller, a member of the Rock Island Directory and Journal. âWe have to work hard and we have to work fast. “
Heavy workloads often come with budget cuts, a common theme in all schools.
âWe collect the funds for our newspaper ourselves. Funding is a constant battle, âsaid Dyer. PV obtains the majority of its funding from student journalists who raise their own funds by selling advertisements.
Davenport Central also receives partial funding from advertising sales, and Rock Island, whose primary publication is its directory, is funded through directory sales.
âAll we sell is our budget,â Miers said. “This is something that we are always very aware of.”
Often, however, attracting writers to publications is one of their biggest hurdles.
âIt’s easy for me to browse through hours and hours of YouTube because everything is provided to me on a platter. It’s another thing to be able to create that sort of thing. So we’re trying to clarify what the benefits are of actually creating instead of just consuming, âsaid Oliver Klipsch, editor at Davenport Central, of his efforts to attract writers to the newspaper.
Because of the ease of consumption, high school journalists had to quickly identify and adapt to content that would actually interest their media-centric peers.
âA lot of times we’ll come up with an idea and then we’re like, ‘But wait, do high school kids really care about this? “” said Pandit.
Despite the challenges faced by high school journalists, many believe that the existence of news written by high school kids, for high school kids, is still crucial.
âIt’s one thing as a student when I receive information from someone in a position of power, and it’s another thing when I receive information from a peer of mine, because it is coming from someone. one who is going through the same things as me, “Klipsch said.” When communication comes from peers, it has a lot more power. “
Davenport Central’s online newspaper can be found at blackhawknews.com, Pleasant Valley’s online journal can be found at spartanshield.org, and Rock Island’s online journal can be found at rockislandcrimsoncrier.org.
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