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School’s paper hits the Web

By Nikole Hannah-Jones
The News & Observer
Raleigh, N.C.

Oct. 15, 2005

DURHAM — For Rachel Hoyme, there’s something exciting and slightly ego-boosting about going on the Web and seeing her byline attached to a story that millions of people across the globe can read.

Especially because just a few months ago, not even the kids at her North Durham middle school would have been able to catch her journalistic account of Spirit Week.

It has been years, maybe as long as a decade, since Carrington Middle School had a school newspaper. On Friday, that old tradition was rekindled in a modern way when the school went live with the first edition of its new online newspaper, Paw Prints.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Rachel, 13, as she polished off her article Wednesday. “I like the spotlight.”

Few middle schools sponsor a school paper. Printing them is expensive, costing upward of $1,000. That kind of investment is hard to justify for an elective or an extracurricular activity.

“We just couldn’t afford it,” said Stephanie Johnson, Carrington’s journalism and yearbook teacher.

But journalism is important, Johnson said. It teaches students to work on deadline, to write for an audience and to see how things that happen in the world affect them, their peers and their families, she said. So Johnson had her students write stories and then posted them as Microsoft Word documents on Carrington’s Web site.

But it wasn’t quite what she had in mind when she decided to teach journalism.

Then in August, Johnson received a glossy postcard in the mail from the American Society of Newspaper Editors inviting her to take her school newspaper to the Web for a one-time fee of $25.

“I thought, ‘This is exactly what I need,’ ” Johnson said. “I went online right away.”

For that $25, ASNE hosts newspaper sites for schools across the nation and sends them a stylebook and other materials.

The project, My School Journalism, is financed by a grant from the James L. Knight Foundation. It gives schools access to easy-to-use templates with which students can log in and post stories and photographs for their school newspapers.

The newspaper group launched the service three years ago for high schools as part of its scholastic journalism initiative to “grow the next diverse generation of journalists,” according to Diana Mitsu Klos of ASNE. The professional organization then realized that middle and elementary schools also needed help, so it added them to the program.

So far, ASNE hosts 343 high school Web sites and 49 middle and elementary school sites — 11 in North Carolina, including Durham’s Rogers-Herr Middle and Broughton High in Raleigh.

With the Web site, Carrington students can get the all-important information about what’s cool to wear, gaze at photos of their favorite jocks and find out where to send baby pics for the yearbook.

Amber Compton, a Carrington reporter, said kids her age aren’t all that interested in newsprint newspapers anyway — online versions are much, much cooler.

Don’t believe her? Check it out at my.schooljournalism.org/nc/durham/carrington.