Students learn skills reporting for school paper

TUPPER LAKE – Sometimes it’s hard for students to ask their teachers questions, rather than the other way around.

But 10 sixth-graders at L.P. Quinn Elementary School are learning to do that as they test the waters of being reporters.

Six of the 10 staff writers for the LP Quinn Times told the school board about their newspaper at the board’s Monday night meeting, along with their adviser and editor, sixth-grade teacher Sue McGowan.

At the beginning of the process, each kid is assigned a grade level to cover; then each writes a letter to a teacher of that grade level, asking if there is a topic, presentation or project the teacher wants to see in the paper.

Upon hearing back, the student reporter sets up a time to visit the class and talk with the teacher about the story, taking notes and photos.

The notes are used to write an article, which is turned in to McGowan, who edits it – usually about three or four times, the students said. (There’s candy involved in the editing process, too.)

Once the stories are ready, McGowan sends the copy to her husband, school district Superintendent Seth McGowan, who lays out the paper and sends it to the Enterprise to have it printed.

“Then the process begins all over again for the next issue,” Sophia Martin said.

Emily Burns said she was anxious when she did her first interview with a teacher. She said the teacher was welcoming and nice, but it made her uncomfortable to ask questions.

“It was sort of a weird thing for me,” Burns said.

Ben Lanthier agreed, saying he was really nervous for his first interview.

Sophia said it was hard to cover a bowling event because she wanted to take pictures of the action but had to stay out of the way at the same time.

They usually put together three papers a year, and the first one tends to be the weakest, Sue McGowan said. Students have to learn a lot about the process, starting with basic things like not asking yes-or-no questions.

“That takes a while,” she said.

She started the newspaper in the 2002-03 school year and has kept it up ever since.

When asked if the students want to be reporters when they grow up, none was quick to answer the question. McGowan said they may not go into newspaper reporting, but she sees many creative students in the bunch who may write books or take on other writing projects.

“We’ve got some excellent writers,” she said. “I see some of them really taking off with writing somehow.”

The students told school board members about their favorite parts of being on the newspaper staff and which stories they liked best. Noah Cordes said it’s good to get an idea of what real newspaper reporters do, but he noted it’s not quite the same because they put out newspapers more frequently than three times a year.

Charlotte Price said she likes having a club where she can hang out with new friends rather than sitting at home watching TV on Wednesday afternoons.

Lanthier said he liked covering the first-graders learning about penguins. He said it was fun to go back and visit his first-grade classroom and see some of the teachers who were there when he was that age.

“It just brought back memories, so it was a lot of fun,” he said.

Jack Skiff said he liked writing a review of the movie “Lincoln,” a piece McGowan said used high-level vocabulary that adults could relate to.

School board member Dawn Hughes asked if there is a middle- or high-school newspaper so these students can continue their efforts as they move on. Middle/high school Principal Matt Southwick said the newspaper has come and gone throughout the years at his school as staff has changed, but he likes the idea of finding ways to carry this established group forward.