Student journalists at Pius XI High School are making ambitious plans for their school newspaper.
This fall, “Scope” will join the growing ranks of high school papers with an online edition – one that features young writers from around the world.
“I’m hoping to continuously update it, and certainly have people write at least once a week to keep things recent,” said Bridget Anshus, Scope Online’s first editor-in-chief.
Students have flocked to join Scope’s staff over the past few years and breathed new energy into a publication that was founded some 70 years ago.
“My freshman year was the low point for Scope,” said Charlie Burnett, who served as editor-in-chief as a senior in the just-completed school year. “We built it steadily and made it more entertaining and readable, made it relate more to the student body.”
Even the Milwaukee Press Club has taken notice, awarding Scope two grants over the past three years to expand its electronic reach. (Other winning schools in recent years have included St. Joan Antida and Messmer high schools.)
The most recent grant, presented at the press club’s May 17 Gridiron banquet, will pay for a laptop computer so Pius students can write and edit during study hall. Dan Kinderman, associate editor, wrote the grant application.
“I told Dan, ‘This will be your legacy,’” said Peter Reeves, faculty moderator.
Plans call for Scope to launch a Twitter feed this summer and begin publishing the online paper in the fall. Reeves expects strong interest from the families of Pius’ international students. The school had 45 international students – 33 of them from China – this past year.
By partnering with Global Youth Leadership Institute, a global diversity education program housed at Pius, the paper plans to recruit student bloggers living around the world.
“Imagine the impact for our students and the community to have a true student newspaper with true student voices from all over the world,” said Reeves. “They will be able to blog directly on our site. It’s going to be really powerful.”
One of the Chinese students wrote regularly for Scope this past year despite some language difficulties.
“We tried to keep their voice in it as much as possible so you got a feel for who they are,” said Burnett. “The articles offered students information they wouldn’t otherwise get about the exchange program, hearing it directly from the students.”
The online paper will be distinct from Pius’ school website, which provides a calendar of events and other general information.
“Our website audience is prospective students, so it isn’t a real strong vehicle for our kids to put news stories out there,” said Melissa Douglas, marketing manager. “It makes sense for them to develop their own product.”
About a dozen high schools in Wisconsin have online papers, according to School Newspapers Online, a Minnesota company that helps schools create student newspaper websites.
“The future of journalism is in digital delivery,” said Kinderman. “We wanted to be at the forefront at this level, and be innovators.”
Burnett and Kinderman are headed to UW-Madison in the fall. Burnett is considering journalism as a major, while Kinderman already plans to study journalism and political science. Jackie Lee, who served as layout editor and is interested in a media-related major, will attend the University of Minnesota.
Kinderman figures his work on Scope has given him a head start in college journalism studies.
“It’s not only the experience of learning how to write different types of stories, copy-editing and running a publication, it’s real-world experience in managing different types of people and personalities,” he explained.
The print edition will continue, with M.C. Tilton serving as editor-in-chief. Typically, Scope has produced six issues per school year at a cost of about $400 per issue.
“We might have a print Scope every two months, eight or 12 pages, with some shorter news bulletins of one or two pages in between to keep things current,” said Anshus.
Print or online, Burnett believes a high school paper is an important vehicle for developing good writing.
“With social networking and texting, writing skills have deteriorated. People do it as simply as possible,” he said. “To sit down and learn how to write like you’re supposed to is pretty important. And the paper is one of the few outlets we have that is a pure form of writing.”