An Unapologetically Cliche Reflection on Journalism and High School
June 19, 2015
I was originally going to entitle this article, “Peace, MHS. See you never” but the truth of the matter is that I’m going to be back to visit my bff Kathleen Bergen ASAP. Get psyched, MDO, get psyched.
At the beginning of this year, I asked the MDO Staff to compile a “Summery” of Summer 2014 and all of it’s highlights. For the sake of continuity, let’s review the year we had here at MDO.
As a staff, we produced over 300 unique articles based on school events, student interest pieces, major news events, and opinion. On a relatively regular basis, we shared Staff Picks: links to articles of interest from major news sources for further reading. Each month featured an editorial written by two staff members. This year, we covered the issues and opinions of Yik Yak, celebrity influence in the media, the Sayreville case, sexual assault on college campuses, New Years Resolutions, Valentine’s Day, Senior Finals, Day of Service, and, of course, Prom. Our staff learned how to collaborate on articles with people they did not really know and deal with a wide variety of content in a single piece.
Though my focus as the Editor-in-Chief was ensuring that the staff was learning how to write good news stories as well as investigate their own interests, I realized as the year went on that literally no one was looking at this website. As social media and immediacy becomes more and more commonplace in the lives of our peers, we as a staff and me as an editor struggled more and more with increasing or even maintaining a solid level of readership. According to our Google Analytics board, our average number of unique site visitors per day ranges from the mid-forties to the low-nineties. Given that our student body is 841, a generous assumption of 80 unique viewers a day gives us a 9.5% viewership rate from our peers. This is, to say the least, pitiful. Though I have nagged (and possibly harassed) my staff and my friends on a daily basis to promote the website, Mrs. Bergen and I agree that the only way to get people to visit this website is to literally place links in front of our demographic. No longer can we tweet or insta “Check out MDO” without also providing immediate links to the viewers. No teenager scrolling through their apps on a Wednesday evening will go out of their way to read an article to a website they barely knew existed. Albeit depressing, this is the truth.
In recognizing this, I now question why it’s important to have a school newspaper at all if no one reads it. For the most part, we can all learn the “important” news through the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post or even the Boston Globe. We can follow CNN and AP and Fox News on Twitter and get live updates. We can download Time magazine and the Economist to our cellphones and check in with the world there. We can stick our noses into this swirling vortex of information we call the Internet and come out with more than we imagined. It’s not that difficult to find stuff out.
I aspire to be a lot of things. A journalist is one of them. As a white Jewish girl from New Jersey, being an international reporter is a dangerous prospect. In pursuing what I believe is a noble profession, I will be putting myself in harms way. There is no dearth of anti-Semitism in the Eastern Hemisphere. There is no doubt I will be in danger if I try to report news from hot spots in the Middle East. There is no doubt I will struggle to gain the respect of my co-workers in England, France, and Spain. When I discussed these fears and hard truths with my parents this past week and they asked me, “then why do it?” I responded, “because this is important work and it matters.” To compare Student Spotlight articles to real-time reporting in war zones is foolish, but there is no doubt that a school newspaper is, too, important. As your peers, the staff on MDO provides insight into the comings-and-goings of school and what makes this very poorly ventilated institution worthwhile anyways. Let’s face it: high school is rough. Knowing that there’s some hope makes it better. My New Year’s Resolution was to be less apologetic, so I’m not sorry if I sound cliche: there’s good to be enjoyed during these seemingly endless four years of relentless bombardment of information. There are sports games and musicals and silly science projects and class picnics and also friends to meet and memories to be made. High school is meant to be endured, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed too. Whether it is writing for the school newspaper or playing softball or singing in Mad Jazz, find your niche, stick with it, and be happy. Because that is what is important and you matter.