If newspapers are morphing into something completely digital, these youths already are ahead of the curve.
The Growl, Sequim High School’s own newspaper, returned to campus this school year, minus one big aspect of its product: the paper.
The Growl is now all online (www.thegrowlonline.com), as a small group of SHS students interview sources, write stories, develop poll questions and post digital photos for their stories through a site hosted by SchoolNewspapersOnline.com.
The print version of The Growl was dissolved two years ago and last year Sequim High saw a news product through the Growl News Network, a student-produced television show.
“It (was) a bit chaotic at the beginning of the year getting it going,” said advisor/instructor Andrew Hosford. “We spent six weeks or so of training them to be reporters.”
Helping lead the newsroom is managing editor Parker Cibene, who came into the class with a couple of years of newspaper experience: he was a reporter for one year and editor-in-chief the next at the Bullpup Press, a middle-school newspaper in Sand Point, Idaho.
As managing editor, Cibene is responsible for maintaining the website, making sure stories get posted, being the first set of editing eyes on each story and dealing with myriad details of putting the “paper” online.
“It came together a lot better than I envisioned it,” Cibene says of the first edition of The Growl that hit the web before students went on winter break in December.
Joining Cibene in putting The Growl together are Ella Rickerson, Brandon Jones, Cassidy Derrick, Andrea Tjemsland, Jackie Sanschagrin and Tyler Jennings, students Hosford recruited from his Digitools class last year.
The online newspaper stories touch on a number of student topics, from juvenile crime and social trends to food, sports and opinions.
“We’re trying to come out with new articles each week … and to keep it fun for everyone,” Hosford says. “We’ve opened it up to opinion and ‘fluffy’ articles.”
Derrick says the toughest part about being a student reporter is getting information from her sources.
“It’s almost like pulling teeth — I have to keep asking questions,” she says.
On the bright side, Derrick says, “There’s always something new.”
Jones is The Growl’s sports reporter. He says he’s found getting information for his stories is easy, but getting them to form into a cohesive story is not.
“It’s hard to make regular (sports) games emotional unless it comes down to the wire,” Jones said.
He got exactly that recently, with a double-overtime boys’ basketball game versus Port Angeles.
Not all of the pieces are lighthearted, however, as shown in Rickerson’s exploration of the Clallam County Juvenile Detention Center and Jones’ piece on classmate Kahn Mill’s sojourn from Thailand to Sequim.
The website also features front-page spaces for a poll, photos galleries, video and advertisements.
Hosford says that the paperless newspaper format — one that takes out the headaches of layout and software issues associated with printed products — has made it easier for students to concentrate on their writing and editing.
“We’ve had a few bumps, but it’s great overall,” Hosford says. “I’m very proud of the students coming in and taking on the challenge.”
Hosford adds, “This is not a normal class. They are used to rigidity.”
“We spend a lot of time laughing; it makes it easer,” he says.
“We don’t feel like kids in here.”