NORWOOD PARK — Taft High School students were greeted Wednesday with a surprise: a fresh copy of Taft Today, the student-run newspaper that’s returned to campus after more than three years.
The newspaper comeback is largely thanks to its three editors, who requested the paper return in print form after a pandemic hiatus to further connect the school community, share student information and opinions and debate important issues.
Editors Taylor Golden, Kailee Roman and Vicki Lipski, all seniors, were worried about how the paper would be received and if it would be read at all — but by Wednesday afternoon, friends were already texting about it, they said.
“For us, it’s really exciting that we have an actual newspaper back,” Golden said. “It’s not just the editors and then the reporters — we’re all contributing to this, and we’re all proud of it in some way. And it’s something that we all can connect on.”
Taft Today debuted at the school in 2008 and produced monthly issues until April 2020, according to the paper’s online archives.
Students taking Journalism 1 and 2 classes taught by Abby Glickman are responsible for creating the paper, which will publish quarterly and soon have a website.
Although the newspaper class didn’t go away during the pandemic, it has dwindled in size since last year, when there was a website version of the paper but it was not public, Lipski said. Now, instead of writing articles only for a grade, stories are getting more traction and the attention they deserve, she said.
“I love being on the paper because it also teaches a work ethic and prepares you for future writing, like if you want to pursue journalism,” said Lipski, who loves to write and is considering a career teaching journalism. “I feel like even passing out the newspaper itself can give an excitement to others — like, ‘Wow, I can edit, I can write, I can be a part of something.'”
The newest issue, with 1,500 copies, has lighthearted and serious news, from sports to reviews of new films and music and stories about bathroom and overcrowding issues that are top of mind for students. Students also write about community issues that relate to Taft students, such as a new Starbucks or a Chicago sports game.
The students determine coverage based on what is happening on campus, what they want to write and what drama is being talked about among friends and in classrooms, they said.
The paper runs independent of the administration, and students have creative freedom to report on hard-hitting school issues, as long as students make sure to get all of the facts and hear both sides to an argument, Glickman said.
“I love writing, and I wanted to experiment with a new class that has to do with writing, and I also love contributing to the community,” said writer Brandon Buzdugan. “So I feel like by doing journalism, I can use my love for writing for something greater than just an essay that one teacher is gonna see.”
With Glickman as a new adviser this year, an updated design and a crop of new writers, the newspaper staff is hopeful the paper can strengthen the student community and amplify their voices — and showcase the power of local news.
Roman, who wants to pursue a career in journalism and loves writing, posted zoomed-in shots of the paper in progress to social media as a teaser before the newest issue was released.
It seems to have worked.
“Going in the halls and classrooms distributing it was so wholesome seeing the teachers being so excited and students carrying papers in the hallway,” she said. “Having your name on something, that’s just so exciting.”
Lillian Martin, a senior who writes in the features section, said it’s been gratifying to know students care about what’s in the paper and feel heard.
“This issue is pretty cool, especially because we spend a lot of time writing them, and it’s basically what we’ve been doing the whole school year since we started, so it’s nice that people are actually interested in what we’re putting our time and effort into,” Martin said.
The editors and other seniors who have taken the class serve as mentors for those in Journalism 1, fostering a tight-knit classroom community that translates to the page, Glickman said.
Glickman recently won a $1,500 grant from the Illinois Press Foundation for the newspaper, which will be used to buy a camera for students and software to get the paper online once approved by school administration, she said.
“I love teaching the class. We have some crazy days in here,” Glickman said. “It’s been nice to have different things for different people to do because there’s people who are in different places with their experience, their comfort levels and their writings.”
As the newspaper grows, staff hope to reach more Taft students by writing about new school policies and rules mixed in with pop culture and community news relevant to students, Glickman said.
Some of the paper’s writers want to pursue journalism professionally; others hope to become nurses, teachers or broadcasters. Regardless, working on the newspaper has fueled a passion for storytelling, writing and community-building, and it’s taught the students valuable skills that will help them in the future, they said.
“People think that news is boring, but it can be fun, and there are things you and others are interested in, so we could inform them about it,” said Jaiden Naranjo, a junior writer for the paper. “I came in [with] an open mind because I never felt like journalism would be for me, but it turns out I really enjoy journalism and I like learning new stuff.”
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