August 12, 2013
GothamSchools is looking for teachers to help us shape our Student Journalism Initiative, a new program launching this fall. Details about the program, what we’re looking for, and how to apply are here.
Writing has always been a hobby for me. Growing up I used to make newspapers every day for my dad when he arrived home from work. I would hand him my newspaper filled with updates about home and he would hand me a copy of the New York Times. When I had the opportunity to take a journalism class as a senior at Dewitt Clinton High School last September, I jumped at it.
Future students at Clinton might not have the same opportunity. As the New York Times reported this spring, student newspapers across the country are struggling in the face of budget cuts. Few student newspapers in the city have managed to last as long as ours, but the future of the Clinton News is far from certain. If the paper doesn’t survive, students will miss out on an experience that gave me more confidence in my writing and changed the way I viewed my role in the Clinton community.
The most valuable lesson I learned from writing for The Clinton News is to take pride in my work.
For the past two years, our school has received a failing grade of an F on our progress report from the Department of Education. Now, the department is planning to shrink the school substantially over the next several years. As we prepared for our February issue earlier this year, I decided it was high time for some changes to be made in order to turn our reputation around. I wrote a piece about change at DeWitt Clinton. Since we got two Fs, it was obvious that we needed some change in our school. But it’s not clear whether the school is actually going to change the way things are run. In my article, I raised questions: Is change possible, or were we too set on the way things were run right now for change to happen? If things did change, how would that affect the school community?
While it was a well-written article, not everyone was happy about it. Although I got a lot of positive feedback, I got just as many negative comments. The comment that bothered me the most came from a school safety officer. I was distributing newspapers and he stopped me and asked who wrote the news article on page five. At the moment I did not know he was referring to my article, so I honestly replied that I didn’t know who the author was. He said, “That is a horrible article. Doesn’t the person have anything better to write about? Why are they trying to start something in the school?”
When I figured out it was my article I was very upset because I put a lot of work into reporting and revising the article. My friends and teachers all tried their best to cheer me up but it didn’t do much. I didn’t get any sort of relief until I spoke to my journalism class and faculty adviser, Sarah Singer. My classmates were doing a great job of convincing me how awesome my article was, but I did not need convincing, I already knew it was awesome. Then Ms. Singer said to me, “People are always going to disagree or have negative comments on your writing, especially when it is good writing. Why bother with them?”
I am proud of the fact that my words and my opinions will be printed for everyone to read and use to form their own. Through this experience, I learned to be positive about my writing and not focus too much on the negative comments. This positive attitude spilled into other areas. I noticed that over the course of my time writing for the newspaper, I’ve also become more confident in my work in other classes at school.
Without my classmates and Ms. Singer, I wouldn’t have the outlook on my writing that I have today. In the past year we have grown together as a family. The newspaper also helps build the school community, because it’s something everyone in the school knows about. It’s not only for one person; it’s a community thing. Everyone reads the newspaper.
The Clinton News celebrated its 100th year anniversary this past May. It was a bittersweet experience reading back through the archives (which go back to 1913!) and seeing how past students’ lives differed from ours because in the next few years, will there even be archives? As a new principal comes on board and Dewitt Clinton shares space with another school for the first time, what will happen to our beloved newspaper? Who is going to run it? Will it still be titled “The Clinton News”? Most importantly, will future Clintonians have the opportunity to learn all that I did from writing for the News?