A new focus on the newspaper at RHS
When she was a freshman, Lydia Karlson picked up a copy of the Irish Gazette, Rosemount High School's student-run newspaper, and decided it needed some help. She didn't like the way it was organized. She didn't like the selection of stories. And she figured she could do better.
Karlson joined the paper's staff that year, but she quickly learned freshmen don't have much opportunity to propose sweeping changes. She stuck around, though, and now as a senior she and two other student editors are getting a chance to do things the way they think they ought to be done.
That means bigger, better photos, a better variety of stories and pages devoted to graphics that explain big-picture stories like the Republican Presidential primary or the European debt crisis.
"We've been trying especially to make our paper more visually appealing," said Scott Miller, another of the paper's editors. "What we want to do is make people more engaged."
Miller, Karlson and Rachel Busse, all three-year veterans of the Gazette, started meeting over the summer to plan out their approach to this year's Irish Gazette. What they came up with is a complete redesign, from the look of the paper to the content. They wanted a cleaner, more appealing design with less text and more graphics to draw people into stories. For that page on the Republican candidates they had another student draw caricatures of the candidates. For the December issue's graphic on the debt crisis in Europe Miller is creating a map of the continent made of Euro symbols - with each country's size adjusted for their prominence in the discussions.
Busse, Karlson and Miller have gotten comfortable over the years with InDesign, the program the school uses to lay out its paper, and they've tried to teach the other students.
The editors have tried to move away from the opinion-based stories that typically fill high school papers and toward more fact-based news reporting. And they're doing their best to clean up spelling and grammar mistakes.
"I would say the stories are more interesting now," Karlson said. "Before, they were more trivial."
The monthly paper has a staff of about 10 students, though that number changes as other commitments come and go. They also get submissions from a journalism class.
November's issue includes stories about marijuana legalization, the impact of divorce on students, whether RHS students have too much homework and the Minnesota Vikings stadium debate, among other topics. Stories come from brainstorming sessions with the paper's staff.
Getting everything just the way they want it takes a lot of work, especially when deadlines are looming. All three editors have worked some late nights.
"We've been here until 9:30 at night," Busse said.
The results, though, seem to speak for themselves. Newspaper advisor Tom Reinartz said the Irish Gazette has been steadily improving since the paper returned from a one-year absence several years ago. He called this year's version a big step toward creating something students and teachers will pick up and read.
The editors, all of whom say they want to continue working on school newspapers when they get to college, have gotten good responses as well.
"In past years the newspaper hasn't really had much respect from the student body," Karlson said. "This is the first year we've gotten compliments on it.... People say it looks like an actual newspaper."