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HSJ Headline News

Student newspaper mixes electronic media with print

Unsie Zuege
Chanhassen Villager
Chaska, Minn.

January 12, 2012

Room 102W is headquarters for the Chanhassen High School school newspaper and yearbook. Newspaper and yearbook are elective classes that can be taken by any student who has taken the prerequisite Intro to Journalism class. The classroom is filled with nearly two dozen students.

On a recent day, after a briefing by Mrs. Nelson, Chanhassen High School’s student newspaper and yearbook advisor, the students breakout into small groups to continue working on assignments, or head out the door for an interview or photo assignment.

The Storm Scribe newspaper staff has gathered to talk about their student newspaper. The first edition was completed, printed and distributed in December.

While the yearbook staff enjoys at least a dozen or so members, the newspaper has one editor Kaitlin Hellendrung and four reporters—junior Dakota Erlanson, senior Austin Weigel, senior Kaisi Haarstad, and junior Alexis Immerman.

The Scribe was launched when Chanhassen High School opened in 2009. In the first two years, it was published in print only. This year, the Scribe is also available online.

According to Brie Nelson, the newspaper advisor, the staff is using an online content management system and web host called my.hsj.org. The company, My High School Journalism, is a free online/digital hosting for youth-generation news. A visit to www.my.hsj.org describes it as a hub for 3,976 youth news sites.

Putting a student newspaper out is easier now that students first learn the basics in the Intro to Journalism class, Nelson said.

“Until the two high schools split, students could join the newspaper and yearbooks staffs without taking a journalism class first,” Nelson said. “It was actually more difficult for students because they were learning basic skills as they were putting out the paper or working on the yearbook.

“When we became two high schools, we had a curriculum adjustment, and that’s when we required Intro to Journalism as a pre-requisite,” Nelson said. “Now, before anyone can join the newspaper or yearbook, they have to complete that one semester class.”

It also explains why the newspaper staff is so small this year.

“We have students interested but they haven’t been able to fit the Intro class into their schedules,” Nelson said. “But we have a number of students who are finishing that class first semester—which ends Jan. 20, and they’ll be able to join the staff second se-mester which begins Jan. 24.

TRIAL AND ERROR

The Scribe staff is a young one. Of the four reporters gathered in the room, only senior Austin Weigel has been on staff in previous years. His beat is sports. Junior Dakota Erlanson covers sports, too.

Senior Kaisi Haarstad and junior Alexis Immerman debuted in the first issue with a story revealing the story behind the mystery tunnel that leads to nowhere on the school grounds. Kaisi and Alexis consider themselves general assignment reporters, game to cover anything and everything except sports. The two also dabbled with video.

“We both went to the tunnel, trading off the camera,” Alexis said. “I was narrating and I wasn’t looking and toppled into the stream. She filmed it. People should log on.”

“We’re so understaffed,” Kaisi said. “That’s why we were only able to get one issue out so far this year. “

The staff published that paper first online. The print version was available a week later.

Publishing online has been another new challenge for the staff.

“It’s trial and error,” Kaisi said, “and if we can’t figure something out there's a wonderful guide online.”

But the biggest challenge is marketing the newspaper and making students aware of the printed and online versions.

“We have a scrolling bulletin board in the commons that we’ve used to publicize the paper and online,” Alex

Surprisingly, the staff said they’ve received the most feedback on their first newspaper from parents.

“I’ve gotten surprising feedback,” Kaisi said. “Parents read it.”

When they brainstorm what they’ll write about, they ask themselves, “Would I want to read this?”

“And if you don’t, what’s the point?” Alexis said.

In addition to paying attention to what classmates are talking about in between classes, by their lockers, and at lunch, the staff uses Facebook.

“The students have found that it’s great way to get comments from kids,” Nelson said.

“Kids are more honest when you ask them a question about something on Facebook,” Kaisi said.

Alexis agreed.

“A lot of kids don’t have e-mail or extended data plans,” Alexis said. “So they use Facebook instead. And anyway, why would you use e-mail. It’s just alerts and notifications about your Facebook anyway.”

The popularity of Facebook has prompted them to look at setting up a Scribe Facebook page.

“Everything will work out for the best,” Kaisi said, “if we consider all the options.”
 

Copyright 2012, Chanhassen Villager. Reprinted with permission

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