Occasionally, Bluenote just gets it wrong. Never intentionally, of course, but wrong, nonetheless. Last week’s post on the Gateway Club fell short. Of clarity. Of explanation. Of expectations. This week’s post is a sincere attempt to rectify those shortcomings and hopefully, in the process, paint a fuller picture of the remarkable club that is the Gateway Club. It replaces a previous post entitled, Through a Gateway Brightly.
Without further ado…Gateway Redux, below.
“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without
newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Thomas Jefferson
“No [idea] can be more interesting than that mankind may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual… is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.” Thomas Jefferson
Sometimes, Bluenote gets an idea for a post and then approaches it with preconceived notions as to what the story is going to be about. For the record, Bluenote nearly always has to adjust its thinking. And in the process… learns an important lesson. Take today’s story about the school newspaper, The Gateway, and the current staff of gifted students who write and publish it. Going into it, Bluenote thought it might interview the next generation of war correspondents and investigative reporters. Or that, perhaps, we’d discuss what it’s like to be a budding journalist in the digital age, moving from print to online and so forth. That was not exactly the case. A quick poll of the girls interviewed revealed that- at least for the moment – none of them has any particular interest in pursuing Journalism as a major in college. Not only that but, according to Gateway moderator, Mrs. Laura Lorenz (middle school English), statistics suggest that perhaps Journalism is “not a viable career choice”. While that may come as a bit of a disappointment to the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Katherine Graham, Rachel Carson, Bob Woodward, HL Mencken, Edward R. Murrow, Joseph Pulitzer, Helen Thomas, Christiane Amanpour, Rachel Maddow, George Will, Matt Drudge, David Brooks, and Peggy Noonan – just to name a few – Mrs. Lorenz knows what she’s talking about. Indeed, much has been written about the decline of print newspapers and the trends that will shape the industry in an era of 24/7 news cycles. The Newspaper Association of America is particularly concerned and to that end continually strategizes creative ways to drive industry growth. Bringing it back to NDP, Journalism as a classroom course is no longer offered at NDP as part of the academic curriculum. The publication of the school newspaper is currently handled by the Gateway Club, and is considered an extracurricular activity. The club is open to girls from both the Upper and Middle schools, and the group I interviewed represented both:
7th grade sisters and twins, Mary & Katie Lorenz; sophomores, Erin Shoul and Meg Zink; junior, Olivia Connolly (who also started the Writer’s Club); and senior, Julia Wilson.
So, with all that said, why publish a school newspaper in the 21st century or encourage interest in journalism at all? And why are so many NDP girls flocking to the club? More so, in fact, than when it was offered as a course?
Simply put, because the girls of the Gateway Club love to write. And The Gateway is a perfect vehicle through which the girls can exercise their prolific gifts, practice a new craft, write succinctly, express a personal point of view, be a voice for others, tell a good story in 300 words or less and inform their audience of news and events important to them. And they do it all by themselves. The newspaper is 100% student run. For them, being on the school newspaper is a perfect opportunity to express themselves and practice leadership skills.
As I listened to the girls talk about the newspaper with what by now I have come to recognize as signature NDP Enthusiasm (with a capital E)…I realized that the Gateway staff – under the remarkably capable leadership of its editor-in-chief, Julia Wilson – is pursuing its collective interest in writing and story-telling in exactly the right way and publishing a first-class school newspaper with precisely the right balance of subject matter and content in the process. Gateway publishes a respectable amount of news reports, but leans more towards human interest stories, opinion pieces, and reviews. And that’s as it should be. Because as I listened, I realized that the first step to being a voice for others is finding your own.
The newspaper is aptly named. Not just because it has special significance for NDP, but because a gateway is something you go through and end up on the other side of. And once on the other side, you look back and reflect on the experience; reflect on where you’ve been and what you’ve learned. In that sense, the gateway reminds me of another, similar literary metaphor…Alice’s Looking Glass. Alice created the Looking Glass world as a way to bring order to her own life experiences and as a way to connect with others. And that’s what writing is all about. Exploring and connecting. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Reportage or fantasy. Mrs. Lorenz intuitively knows this and the girls are given free rein to explore all that interests them and their young readers. In this way they connect with each other in enlightening and fruitful ways.
And to that end, the latest editions of Gateway feature stories on such topics as various NDP service projects, what it’s like to be a freshman, the joys of being a junior, the search for the perfect summer job, a profile of NDP basketball superstar, Marissa Varnado, as well as more global issues like the upcoming Winter Olympics. A particularly well-written review of the movie, Catching Fire, by NDP junior, Olivia Connolly, caught my eye. Olivia made the review relevant to the NDP readership by reporting on the significance of a strong, female, teenage lead in a Hollywood blockbuster. As her fellow writer, sophomore, Meg Zink, explained:
“We try and write stories that are universal in appeal while at the same time have particular relevance or interest to the NDP reader.”
“It’s always a balancing act,” added Julia Wilson.
While writing is their first love, the girls are learning a great deal about all aspects of journalism and publishing including the differences between online and offline publications, keeping current, multimedia components, color vs. black and white photography, filtering information, fact checking, accurate and reliable research, confirming and including sources, budgeting, distribution, templates, brainstorming, team work, and,
“DEADLINES!” the girls said together, as if on cue.
The Gateway is published online and though not a daily, it is updated regularly. It can be found on the web at www.ndpgateway.com (user and password: ndpgateway). In addition, a limited number of hard copies are printed monthly and distributed to each homeroom (the limited number of printed papers is in keeping with NDP’s commitment to remain a certified green school). For the girls, publishing the school newspaper is a great way to learn about the unique world of newspapers and the broader world of 21st century journalism. Who knows? Some of them may yet change their mind and choose journalism as a career. They’ve got plenty of time to explore and decide.
Of all the girls I interviewed, editor-in-chief, Julia Wilson, may be the most likely to ultimately pursue a career in journalism. Though she wants to major in math, she would eventually like to write about math and science for a general audience. You never can tell. Maybe Julia will be the first to report from outer space or the first to write about the newest Internet algorithm. It could happen. As for all the other gifted writers on the Gateway staff, whether they become journalists or essayists, whether they win the Pulitzer Prize or write the next Great American Novel, I hope they’ll continue to write and to develop their own, completely unique, creative gifts. Because the world will always need good story-tellers, defenders of free speech, and those who are brave enough to speak truth to power and give a voice to the voiceless. And it all starts with finding one’s own voice first. As for the current staff of the Gateway… they are off to a good start. I think Jefferson would be quite pleased.