Wick Communications

The Paw Print perspective

In journalism on 14 Nov 2013 at 2:20 pm

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Paw Print, Half Moon Bay High School’s student newspaper.

I had the opportunity to speak to the bright students who produce the newspaper last year, and we’re actually working to partner with the school this year so that we can sell ads for them and publish their newspaper as a special section of the Review. It’s a win-win that increases the student newspaper’s reach and adds youthful, local flavor to our product. It’s one of the most exciting initiatives we’re working on at the moment.

That aside, I’ve been somewhat surprised at what I see in the newspaper. Suffice to say, there is a stark difference between how the students cover the school and how we do it. Perhaps there is something to learn from that gulf.

I took a guess at how our coverage breaks down and you see that at the top of the post. I would say that school coverage in community newspapers — like the Review and our other Wick newspapers — runs something like this: 50 percent sports, 30 percent school board/administration/taxes, 15 percent special events and 5 percent other stuff that deals with life on campus. The Paw Print looks something like this: 60 percent campus and student lifestyle, 20 percent sports, 10 percent school events, 10 percent opinion. …

Notice, the kids themselves spend almost no time on governance, school board issues, parents arguing over programs, etc. That isn’t to say that stuff isn’t important to our readers. It’s just that it may be less important to 18-year-olds than you might think.

The other prevailing truth is that the students’ social lives are every bit as important as academics or school programs. I know that’s not shocking, but that kind of coverage is all but missing from our newspapers.

For instance, the current issue of The Paw Print includes a feature on students and their cars headlined, “Love at first drive.” It’s so obvious that 16-year-olds are enamored with their automobiles, but I don’t think we’ve ever done a single story about that connection in my 10-year tenure at the Review. There is a long feature on 13 clubs operating at the school; I’d never heard of most of them.

It’s all a lesson in perspective. News means different things to different people. Seniors and homeowners and various minority groups and young mothers – all are somewhat separate constituencies that have their own concerns. Ask yourself if your newsroom reflects these demographics and if not, how you overcome that problem when reporting on these constituencies. It’s easy to forget the crucial role of perspective when you consider yourself a professional.

Clay

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  1. I am a current student at HMBHS and in light of the recent resignations from the Cabrillo Unified School District, I fully intend to write extensively about the teachers and administrators at the high school. I would argue that some investigative journalism is heavily in need at the high school and that students feel intimidated by the threat of the administration turing against them should they write unfavorably about them. However I do not share this fear and hope to expose some skeletons that may be left in closets by parents, teachers and possibly even unions.

    Clay I strongly disagree with your Op/Ad about not jumping to conclusions about the recent turn overs. This isn’t a coincidence, and I intend to find out why.

    Hit me up, Hebbelicious@gmail.com

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