By Tessa Raebeck
They conducted interviews, took photographs and wrote various forms of editorial content—and they did it all before summer vacation.
The first issue of the Pierson Press was distributed to students and businesses around town last week, six glossy pages featuring business stories about local restaurants, columns on talented Pierson alumni, and will-be recurring feature pages like “Sag Harbor Style.”
Nine students, three from Pierson Middle School and six from the high school, worked on the paper alongside math teacher Jason LaBatti and parent Kelli Delaney Kot, a club advisor. Judy Clempner of The Sag Harbor Express helped with layout and art teacher Peter Solow also provided assistance.
“I’m excited,” said cultural editor Ella Parker, who is going into her sophomore year at Pierson, adding that the paper is more kid-oriented and appealing than your standard student newspaper.
“There’s more pictures and I think people respond to color and large print… Unfortunately, I think we’ve hit an age where we’re so drawn to Instagram and to social media and I think this really appeals to what kids want now,” added Ella, proudly holding up the issue.
Sag Harbor’s official student newspaper is printed on glossy pages in full color. The front page grabs readers’ attention with a large photo of sophomores above the fold and, to its right, “Pierson Paparazzi,” a reel of pictures taken “out and about on campus.”
Also on the front page, is a feature written by Ella on Doppio East, Sag Harbor’s newest restaurant.
“Part of the learning curve,” said Ms. Delaney Kot, “was seeing how to create a story from start to finish and calling people for quotes—not being shy walking into Doppio and saying, ‘Could this be the new hotspot? I’m going to write about it.’ All that stuff’s not so easy when you’re 14, 15, 16.”
Ms. Delaney Kot, whose daughter Lily is in Ella’s class and also worked on the paper, is the founder and editor in chief of KDHamptons.com, “the luxury lifestyle diary of the Hamptons,” and has worked as a fashion editor for Condé Nast and at Us Weekly.
“They’re all reading Us Weekly, whether their parents really want them to or not,” she said of high school students, saying the goal was “to create something that was completely different from any other high school student newspaper and something that was glossy and color-driven and photo-driven.”
A goal of Pierson Press, in addition to setting itself apart from your standard run-of-the-mill, black-and-white and boring student newspaper, was to include shared experiences alongside “info snacks,” as the editorial team calls them.
For “info snacking,” they have tidbits “where kids can jump in, it’s easy to understand what the piece is about, cool picture, maybe you have a laugh and then you can move onto another piece,” said Ms. Delaney Kot. “It was important to have a balance where this was a fun read.”
“Yeah, it’s not so heavy on information, I agree, it’s not too serious,” added Ella.
“Sag Harbor Speak” features common language among teenagers, “a cheat sheet to understand the vernacular of Pierson students.” Though is “doe,” you’re crazy is “u cray,” and yes is “yewwwww.”
Pierson student Eve Bishop wrote a travel diary about her trip to New Orleans and a student trip to Washington, D.C., with Mr. LaBatti was featured, bringing the paper beyond Sag Harbor.
“I think what I like best about the paper,” said Mr. LaBatti, “when it was finally finished and I looked over it, is that it celebrates what they did.”
“There was some information about stuff going on outside of the school, but it was mostly about their lives,” he added.
Following the first issue’s success, the staff at the Pierson Press is optimistic about next year, during which they hope to put out not one issue but 10, with a full paper coming out each month of the school year and continual updates to a page for the paper on the school’s website, which is set to be revamped.
“Also, have the kids manage it and do the editing and proofing,” said Mr. LaBatti, adding that in the long run he hopes to incorporate the paper into an expanded computer science curriculum.
Recurring features in the paper will be the “Teacher Feature,” a Q&A with a Pierson teacher, Pierson Paparazzi, Featured Athlete, Awesome Instagrams, Sag Harbor Style, and Featured Alumnus, which this time around highlighted celebrated musician Rafaela Gurtler of the class of 2009.
“To have a handful of teenagers working on this once a week over a two-to-three month period and to have this result look so professional and perfect—not one typo—is really a testament to how hard everybody worked on it,” Ms. Delaney Kot said.