Stop the presses!
After long absence, student paper returns to CHS
It's been nearly a decade since Coronado High School had a school newspaper.
That's about to change.
Led by English Department Chair Jenny Chapman and a core group of six students who've taken her journalism classes, the first issue of the monthly Cougar Chronicle is planned for distribution in mid-December.
“I've had a lot of students through the years who were very disappointed they didn't have a voice,” said Chapman, who previously has been faculty advisor to the yearbook staff.
Student interest in a school paper can be gauged by a campus poll this year to choose a name for it. Out of an enrollment of about 1,500 students, some 600 students voted. The name “Chronicle” beat the second most popular suggestion (“Crossfire”) by five votes, Chapman said.
At the outset, there will be no editor-in-chief. The plan is for five editors to take charge of assigned sections and put the paper together that way. The editors are: Jill Burgie, news; Ingrid Bengtsson, opinions; Mark Hernandez, entertainment; Ellyn Plute, features; and Alex Cramer, sports. The sixth member of the core group is Kellie O'Lear, business/production manager.
The editors are doing some of the writing, with other stories supplied by students in Chapman's first-year journalism class. Layout is accomplished using desktop publishing programs on school computers.
Coronado Principal Susan Humphrey has provided $1,500 from school funds to help with the paper's start-up costs - including the purchase of desktop software that will be shared with the yearbook staff. Another $300 has been raised by the students going out and selling advertising; the long-range goal is for the paper to become self-sufficient.
“From the time I arrived here as an English teacher (seven years ago), I was surprised Cor-onado didn't have a school paper,” Hum-phrey said. “I've been very much interested in reviving it.”
She described two main benefits of a paper: first, to the staff, by giving them ownership of the publication process and the “authentic experience of writing for an audience”; and second, to the school as a whole, by giving students a greater opportunity to be heard.
Information is sparse on why there has been no paper. Humphrey mentioned “staffing issues” as a problem. There are also rumors of an unofficial newspaper effort in the latter '90s (before she was principal) that got too radical.
Speaking to the issue of censorship, Humphrey said she wants the students to feel “this is their paper,” but at the same time “to be responsible journalists... I trust Jenny as their advisor, and that she will help them if they want to write about controversial subjects.”
The Chronicle has been a couple of years in the making. Rather than announce the return of a school paper and take the chance of burning out a few inexperienced hopefuls, Humphrey worked with Chapman to start journalism classes, then to see if a core group would emerge. The idea was to “let the interest set the timeline,” the principal explained. “If enough kids were in place, then we would go… because I want it to be successful.”
That's what happened this year, the editors having gone through Chapman's journalism classes in 2005-06.
One of the hardest parts of the job, the editors are finding, is fitting a newspaper's time-consuming requirements into schedules that are already quite full. For example, Plute dances at two studios, is active with the National Honor Society (NHS) and El Pomar Youth in Community Service, and has a class schedule that includes four of the especially rigorous Advanced Placement classes. “The rest of the time I do homework,” she said.
Bengtsson is also involved with NHS and El Pomar and additionally volunteers with KPC Kids Place (helping high-risk children). She, as well as Cramer, hold down part-time jobs. Burgie, Cramer and O'Lear participate in school sports.
Chapman can relate to her students' time crunch, having been a production manager for her paper when she was in high school.
But weary though they may be, the staff leaders are also eager to see what will result from providing their schoolmates a common source of information and opinion. O'Lear spoke strongly about the importance of giving students a voice. “I think we're sometimes looked over because of our age,” she commented.
Burgie is hopeful that the paper will open up dialogue on campus. The way it is now, “kids stay in their own groups,” she said. “I want to see if this changes things at all.”
Westside Pioneer article