This week, the Sag Harbor School Board looked at making some tough cuts in the 2010-‘11 school budget in order to avoid walloping homeowners with a huge tax increase.
Many parents showed up at Monday’s board meeting pleading with the administration to reconsider cuts to their favorite programs. So we thought we’d add our own two cents by lobbying for a program that is near and dear to our heart here at the Express — the school newspaper.
Over the course of the last five years or so, readers have come to know a bit about the students and staff at Pierson High School through Folio, the student-produced newspaper that appears occasionally on a full page in the Express (a page which is donated, by the way).
Though the school will offer a new journalism class in the English department next fall, and will likely put student written material online, still up for debate is whether or not there will be a traditional student newspaper.
Learning about journalism is great, but it’s only part of the equation. Without a final product, where is the motivation? Journalism is a great discipline for writers of all stripes – there’s nothing like a deadline to make you focus — just ask us, every week. But without a paper, and more importantly, without a community of interested citizens to read and respond to it, it is simply writing produced in a vacuum. And as far as we’re concerned, kids are in enough of a vacuum as it is, communicating with one another, as they do, in texts and tweets.
Some may say journalism as we know it is a dead medium. But we beg to differ. Community newspapers continue to be the only reliable source of local news. More importantly, papers start dialogues. Whether it is ultimately published by the school or as an occasional offering in the Sag Harbor Express (and quite frankly, we feel the school would be foolish to walk away from this free platform), a school newspaper connects students to the community in which they live. There are very few high school classes that offer this sort of experience. School papers require that students reach out to their audience, be it adults or fellow students, and challenge their thinking on contentious issues or preconceived notions.
Most importantly, writing for school newspapers teaches students real-world values and the skill of knowing how to communicate with their community. In this world of constantly changing modes of communication, what could be more important than that?