Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi School Newspapers on the WWW

By Devin D. O'Leary

APRIL 27, 1998: 

Junior Journalist Jamboree

Every major newspaper in the world (including Weekly Alibi, of course) has staked out its claim in cyberspace. The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times: All maintain extensive and cutting-edge Web sites. Many of the journalists employed by these papers, I am sure, got their start as budding keyboard bangers on a high school newspaper. Things have changed a bit though--even since I was in school. No longer content to stick to their four-page mimeographed roots, high school newspapers are jumping on the Web, too, providing their creators with a valuable background in technology as well as journalism. Here is a small sampling of school newspapers that have found their way onto the WWW.


The Arrow (www.netrix.net/fhspub/)--This weekly paper is "the official paper of, for and about Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana." The kids who go there are obviously quite proud to be flatheads. Their newspaper is a prime example of the typical high school newspaper. Amazing how headlines like "District 5 To Change Lunch Program" can take me back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Arrow maintains a simple and straightforward design. There are no pictures or graphics, but some stylish type and a well designed layout manage to keep readers' attentions focused. A single cover page trumpets the week's headline, while small buttons link to sections on News, Editorial, Features, Sports, Arts and Entertainment. Some of the writing is surprisingly poetic, as in a review of "The Simpsons" TV show: "There are many splendors in life that may go unnoticed. The lucky people are those who find their joys before they're gone. Some joys are sunrises, fresh mountain air after hours in a stuffy brick building, and most of all: 'The Simpsons.'" Gosh, kinda brings a tear to the eye of an old couch potato like myself.


The Bolt-Reporter (reporter.bolt.com)--This site is a little different. The Bolt-Reporter is a national online newspaper featuring articles that have been banned by high school officials. No "Lunch Program" articles here. This is some surprisingly hard-hitting stuff for teenage journalists, and it certainly bodes well for the future of the print medium. Some recent articles featured in this jazzy daily have explored topics like assisted suicide, the dual prejudice facing biracial kids and the debate over sale of medical marijuana. No wonder some wormy little high school principal in Des Moines was too scared to print this stuff. It's great to see someone combating the forces of censorship and giving these topics the worldwide audience they deserve. Big kudos should go out to the creators of The Bolt-Reporter and multiple job offers should go out to its writers.


Hanabi Homepage (www.asij.ac.jp/journalism/hanabi.html)--This small, online newspaper is the work of journalism students at the American School in Tokyo, Japan. While the articles are far from hard-hitting, they do demonstrate some nice travel reporting skills. Some recent articles have included "The Irony of an Air-Conditioned Bus" and "Train Mania: Commuting to ASIJ." The breezy articles and accompanying photos (kids wrestling with chopsticks and a bowl of noodles, for example) give a nice, detailed feel for what it's like to be a foreign exchange student in a faraway land. Just a click of the mouse, and you're in Japan. Amazing.


International Student Newswire (www.vsa.cape.com/~powens/Kidnews.html) -- Here's another excellent use of the Web for disseminating news, information and views to a wider audience. The KidNews site collects articles written by children all across America. Unlike the above papers, the kids represented here are mostly of the elementary school persuasion. This graphic-heavy, kid-friendly site is a great opportunity for junior journalists to submit their own articles for the world to read, or to read newswire stories that other kids have written. Just like a real newswire, teachers and students are encouraged to use the (free) site to dig up articles for their own use, or for publication in their (nonprofit) school newspapers. Heck, some of these kid copywriters have a wider syndication than I do! Even if you aren't publishing an elementary school newspaper, the articles in ISN can be entertaining. Take, for example: The informative "Adjusting to Being a New Student;" the provocatively titled "My Daddy Saved a Skunk," or the shocking celebrity profile "Role Model or Just a Regular Kid: Jonathan Taylor Thomas."

--Devin D. O'Leary

devin@alibi.com


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