Are High School Newspapers Obsolete?

from the just-go-online dept

When I was in high school years ago, I was both an editor for the school newspaper and a co-founder/editor of an "underground" newspaper that a group of friends put together to compete with the official school newspaper (it probably won't surprise folks to find out my first article for the underground paper was an examination of why an underground newspaper is perfectly legal and can't be prevented by a school administration). Both experiences were quite useful (and fun), but with so much talk these days of the challenges facing the normal newspaper industry, is it worth it for high schools to still publish newspapers? After all, these days, students who want to report on what's going on in a school no longer need the "sanctioned" press, thanks to the internet.

What got me thinking about this was reading an article about a high school principal who decided to shut down the high school's newspaper (via Romenesko) after he got offended by an editorial on flag burning that included a photo of a student burning a flag. The whole thing seemed ridiculous -- because there's nothing to stop the students from taking the content, and putting it all online and not needing any stamp of approval from the school administration.

Obviously, there's something to be said for the learning experience that can be provided by working together on a project, and the potential mentoring of a school newspaper advisor (though if I remember correctly, our advisor didn't actually do much), but that could just as easily be done through other means, including classes/extra-curricular activities focusing on helping students create their own content for online purposes, rather than under the umbrella of any official school newspaper.

Filed Under: high school newspapers, newspapers

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  1. identicon
    olorinpc, 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:02am

    Learning experiance makes it worth it

    While the non-regulated experience is now fully possible - there is such a benefit to official publications that it is sad to see when they die.

    As a former editor for my college paper, the learning experience was priceless. Journalism, teamwork, and most importantly project management were all fascinating and beneficial experiences.

    Naturally, a publication under the official umbrella does have restrictions places on it. (Our college it was published under the presidents office, so his board could challenge issues we wished to present.) Working within that structure, and learning how to properly present controversial issues makes writers/editors take a deeper look at them and take more time in preparing the articles - more than one would if they could just do an online post. (Guilty of that myself at times.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Eliot, 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:14am

    Agree with olorinpc: learning experiences...

    Learning experiences are good things for people, and it's especially good for people to work together in such a way that they get multiple viewpoints and expose themselves to differing opinions from their own.

    Mike, are you listening to this? Differing opinions from your own.

    That is the potential value of official school news organizations -- young people are exposed to differing opinions, new points of view, and must learn to craft more than just an editorial. Though whether or not these things need to be done in print or online is another question. Also, whether the school actually makes this a valuable learning experience is more a question of whether or not the school individually knows how to run the newspaper versus whether school newspapers are still relavent in general.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Michael Sherrin (profile), 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:29am

    Learning environment

    I think structure can be helpful for learning and often a school sanctioned paper will offer that more than just friends working together. Often school papers have traditions from responsibilities and jobs to editorial calendars, not to mention financial budgets that sometimes students get to help manage. The school can provide the frame for a more resourceful learning environment then students experimenting themselves (which can be valuable on its own) so I think there's benefit to having a school paper, even if it's just online.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    hozen, 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:36am

    High School its self obsolete

    i would have to say high school its self is obsolete, i have been graduated for 5years and would have to say i havent used any thing i learned past 8th or 9th grade, may be because everything past that was a repeat. the school paper was just more like school gosip rather than news and no one ever read it anyway.

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  5. identicon
    Michael, 13 Jun 2008 @ 8:46am

    High School is obsolete?

    Uh, yeah. 8th or 9th grade, huh? It shows, too. Might want to check your spelling and grammar there. Your post looks like it was written by an 8th grader.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    some old guy, 13 Jun 2008 @ 9:02am

    Re: High School its self obsolete

    Judging by your subject line, you should probably go back to high school. You seem to be clear evidence that it is NOT obsolete.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    whitneymcn (profile), 13 Jun 2008 @ 9:07am

    More on the learning experience

    I'd completely forgotten about this: I was the managing editor of my high school paper for a year or two, and during that time one of the regularly scheduled "free speech in student newspapers" made the news.

    The editors of a number of high school papers in the NYC area (including me) were invited to appear on some teen-focused discussion show, talking about the issue with school principals and administrators.

    As I recall, I went off on a bit of a rant about how we were supposed to be developing judgment and responsibility in this process, and that heavy-handed editorial oversight from school administration made a joke of that process.

    I also recall that I was pretty much edited out of the version that actually aired, so I guess there was another lesson of sorts to be learned there. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    James, 13 Jun 2008 @ 9:29am


    I buy news papers all the time. They make a great lining for the bottom of my lizards cage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Lisa, 13 Jun 2008 @ 10:08am

    High School Papers are not obsolete

    The purpose of a newspaper is to inform, give advice and opinions, showcase talented students and occasionally make people laugh. Yes, people can find these things on the internet, but I take a publications course every year in high school, and even though I'm an executive coordinator on the national award-winning yearbook, Hi-S-Potts, I take time to appreciate what my statewide award-winning newspaper, Tidelines, has to offer. The Executive-Editor-In-Chief and friend of mine has amazing talent especially writing Life&Style articles. My other friend Joey is a classically amazing food/movie/anything-in-life critic. Katelynn is a fantastic Sports writer. The layout and design (production) staff is phenomenal. The business staff keeps the paper funded by selling the vacated ad space while keeping in touch with the clients to make sure that they are satisfied. Not only does our newspaper report on life in school, but it reports on life outside school. When one of our graduates was killed in Afghanistan, they reported on it. Yes, people knew about it, but they went in-depth. They went farther than an outside source would have gone, and paid tribute to Dave, his wife and his family. Our school also replies to letters to the editor, and no matter how much the writer may disagree with the student/faculty/community member (we send copies out beyond school boundaries- alumni read it online aswell), they must deal with the complaint with tactfulness. Publications in my school also provides many travel opportunities to nationwide competitions, and while at those competitions, our adviser, the most amazing, patient, and kind person I know takes the students to EVERY landmark within a 200 mile radius.
    MTV did a real disservice to high school newspapers across the nation when it revealed "The Paper." It showed only drama, and not the success of what a high school paper can really achieve.
    Yes, as you said newspapers show students how to interact well with others, but they also teach students technology, the ability to write (at least in my school) under the Associated Press guidelines, how to communicate with clients- however happy or unhappy they may be- but most importantly, high school publications helps form tight bonds between students that no other organization can form.

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  10. identicon
    Brent, 13 Jun 2008 @ 10:18am

    I just finished up a school year as the high school newspaper sponsor. There were many good things in this for the students that have already been mentioned in other posts. It also was another opportunity for my students to gain desperately needed writing skills without labeling it as "writing". While the internet proved to be a valuable resource for research my students were so much more interested in it that it was difficult to get them excited about printed media. Electronic media is where it's at for young people. I think it would be more pertinant, and less expensive, to publish online and do away with printed media in school. Just my opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Jake, 13 Jun 2008 @ 10:27am

    Re: Learning experiance makes it worth it

    Clearly your alma mater's official publication was of rather higher calibre than the one mine put out; I don't know what the students learned from writing four pages of obsequious pap for a 'newspaper' whose editor was a salaried employee of the university and quite obviously had his orders -a one-day strike by the teaching staff over pay was not deemed newsworthy, which may have been why I was the only student to turn up and join the picket- and frankly I don't want to know, but I do know that nobody majoring in Journalism or other media-related subjects wanted anything to do with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Brian, 13 Jun 2008 @ 10:36am

    Mike's High School Underground Newspaper

    Headline: Is Cafeteria Meat Obsolete?
    from the: it's-been-there-for-eight-weeks! dept.

    (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    comboman, 13 Jun 2008 @ 11:13am

    The medium is not the message

    What's obsolete about school newspapers (and newspapers in general) is not institution itself, but its means of distribution (i.e. dead trees). A school "newspaper" website and/or podcast will teach all the same things that printing a newspaper would (as well as teaching the technical aspects of running a website).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Buzz, 13 Jun 2008 @ 11:34am

    Re: High School Papers are not obsolete

    Yet, everything you described can be accomplished much better on the Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    celticchrys, 13 Jun 2008 @ 12:42pm

    fleeting memories

    I was lucky enough to ride the wave of PC technology through my childhood and adolescence, entering college just before the World Wide Web made the Internet accessible to average people. So I had experience with many "old" methods of research and information dissemination as I grew up, like books, newspapers, etc. I also had experience with computers, software, and the online world(via BBS systems and later, telnet, gopher, etc., then the Web). While I love my technology, and the Web, the old medium are a valuable part of the learning experience. They are also great memory builders. For example: I have a stack of paper yearbooks from grade school, jr. high, high school, and college. My last year of college someone got the bright idea that we should be "modern" and do a "video yearbook." So for that year, instead of a book I can pull of the shelf to make the teenagers I know giggle, I have a VHS tape of disjointed video clips of campus life. A VHS tape, which most of the people I know no longer own a player for. Yeah. A paper newspaper or yearbook offer layout and design experience, reporting experience, etc, some of which are done on a PC, offering computer experience, and they also provide artifacts to trigger memory in coming years.

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  16. identicon
    Nathan, 13 Jun 2008 @ 4:34pm


    Don't be so certain that the school wouldn't take action against a student for posting something to their personal site that the administration doesn't agree with...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    CoreyO, 13 Jun 2008 @ 7:34pm


    Even if students don't really need administrative stamp to run on online paper about the school or even an underground newspaper, they will do everything to stop it. That would even include bringing in the equivalent of the FBI at the state level to investigate such newspapers. It happened at the high school I went to 5 years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Mike K, 15 Jun 2008 @ 7:28am

    Process vs Product

    High school newspapers and by extension college papers are really more geared toward providing value via the process than the finished product. It is the process of creating the product that teaches and informs.

    In terms of product, HS newspapers have been obsolete for years, but there is no replacement for teaching and learning via acceptance of responsibility, deadlines, teamwork and pride in the work, not to mention the myriad of technical skills learned by the participating students.

    It is important to realize that free speech is not guaranteed within the walls of the standard high school institution. Nor is it guaranteed in today's corporate owned media empires. It is the permanence of the printed word that sets it apart from any online publication. With this permanence comes the need for greater due diligence with regard to the actual content, content that ultimately is the responsibility of the school whose name is attached to the publication.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Fred Dunst, 17 Sep 2008 @ 3:24pm

    This Company prints school newspapers for schools all over the country. They have alot of clients and are a good gauge of how many schools still print newspapers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Tom, 14 Nov 2008 @ 5:34pm

    Go online

    I'm convinced that the future of student journalism -- like that of traditional journalism-- is online. Particularly with schools, online publishing is simply more cost effective than print. My friend -- a high school newspaper adviser -- and I have started a company to help schools move their print newspapers online, and the response from schools has been overwhelming. High school newspapers are going to survive by moving online.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    tammy, 3 Dec 2008 @ 10:36am

    Re: The medium is not the message

    I completely agree. The news is just as relevant ,if not more, on the web as in print. It also helps technology diadvantged students, such as myself, with their technological skills

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    mary, 7 Dec 2008 @ 8:18pm

    high school tabloid

    School journalism isn't dead just evolved hasn't anybody heard of

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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