Student newspaper a mouthpiece for the masses
Jan. 26, 2012
By Luke Baynes
What’s blue and gold and read all over?
The Williston School District’s student newspaper, now that The Blue & Gold is an online blog instead of a biannual print publication.
“When we made a decision to switch to (an online blog), we did a survey of all the teachers,” said Williston Central School grades 5-8 enrichment teacher Cris Milks, “and we found out people really liked a common place where we could report school-wide news, but the paper copy wasn’t always being read.”
Although the readership numbers of the print newspaper were hard to ascertain, Milks said that they’ve already had more than 3,500 website hits and 160 comments on students’ articles since switching to the blog format this school year.
Betty Poirot, Milks’ counterpart for grades K-4, said the commenting feature has engaged both students and families in the journalism process.
“The ability to comment has really generated a lot of interest with families,” said Poirot, “and within the school we’re having whole classes commenting on work that kids in different houses are doing.”
Poirot also observed that while the blog format is a non-traditional form of journalism, it has allowed The Blue & Gold to be a more news-oriented publication.
“In our search to be timely and relevant, trying to report all the news from the school twice a year was really tough,” Poirot said.
Richard Allen, a local historian who taught at WCS for 37 years, founded The Blue & Gold in 1990 and started the enrichment program in 1988.
“It seemed like a natural thing to do,” Allen said. “A lot of the work I was doing was with small groups, and one of the attractive reasons (for starting The Blue & Gold) was to serve a wider audience.”
On average, 150 students write articles in the course of a school year, but Milks said she would like to have a group of interested students report on a regular basis.
“Our ultimate vision is to have regular reporters,” Milks said, “but what we’ve been doing so far is pulling in kids (when) we know there’s a story related to their team and having them write stories on it.”
One of the students who has shown a budding interest in journalism is sixth-grader Molly Duncan.
“I’m less of a creative writer as I am a reporter,” said Duncan, who recently co-authored an article on stormwater runoff with classmate Julia Neeld. “I like to write more about facts. I like gathering information and putting that in my own words. I can inform people about things that I think are cool or things that I think need to be recognized.”
Fellow sixth-grader Nathan VanBuren, who collaborated with Abby Rosenthal on a piece about ecological succession, shares Duncan’s interest in writing.
“I really enjoy writing,” VanBuren said. “You can share what’s on your mind.”
For fourth grade student Laurynn Bombardier, seeing the feedback from friends and family was the best part of the process.
“I told my parents about it, and then they told all my family members and they (commented) on it,” Bombardier said. “It feels really good that people actually checked out my work.”
Poirot, who has three kindergarten reporters “who are on the job all the time,” noted that in addition to fostering the journalistic aspirations of young Willistonians, The Blue & Gold serves a valuable function as the collective voice of the student body.
“Within the school, the teachers and the administration like the overview of the entire school that The Blue & Gold provides,” said Poirot. “It gives you the school-wide view and it really has value for that.”
The Blue & Gold can be found on the Williston School District’s website (www.wsdvt.org), under the link listed on the left-hand column of the homepage.