Student Journalism Makes An Impact

Throughout my years on the newspaper staff, I have come to find that there is nothing more important than student-run media.


submitted by Valerie Crook

During Spirit Week, the newspaper staff had its first Distribution Day of the 2020-2021 school year.

Maggie McKinney, Web Editor-in-Chief

I never saw myself as a journalist. For most of my life, the news didn’t interest me. My parents got the Kansas City Star delivered to our front porch every morning, and I would pick it up only for the comic section and the weather reports, just to see if I needed to bring a jacket to school with me. I always loved to write, and I always excelled at it, but I never understood the importance of the news or reporting or the impact that writing can have. The news was boring, and I couldn’t stand it.

2016 was a transformative year for most people, very much including myself. A controversial presidential election led to an even more controversial Commander-in-Chief. 14-year-old Maggie could hardly believe her eyes. My mom, a woman who is deeply entrenched in all things politics, watched CNN and MSNBC every single night in the weeks leading up to Nov. 3, and I watched her become enveloped in the reporting and the coverage of the race. It was fascinating, the way the stories could affect her mood and the discussions at the dining room table. I began to watch with her.

I have been able to cover the most profound and important events in my community because of newspaper, including the Black Lives Matter protests at the plaza in May. (Maggie McKinney)

As a freshman, I entered the world of student journalism almost as quickly as I entered the school. Our print newsmagazine was hailed as the school’s pride and joy. Only the elites (the upperclassmen) were on staff and they took it as seriously as if they were reporting for the Washington Post. It was fascinating. 15-year-old Maggie with her unchecked ambition, overconfidence in her ability to write and desperate need to prove herself signed up for the prerequisite courses for the newspaper staff immediately, and got to work. Did I fully understand the importance of what I was trying to achieve? Not quite, but it was a start. 

Flash forward to junior year. I was on staff for the very first time, and terrified of tarnishing the sanctity and the legacy of our beloved newspaper. My fearless Editors-in-Chief, Kamryn, Ava and Maleah were everything I aspired to be, and I didn’t want to let them down. Despite my anxiety, I quickly fell in love with journalism. Covering topics like college admissions, underage vaping and climate change was where I found my passion. Writing feature stories on people at my school forced me to look outside my own worldview and let other people’s stories be told. Whether I was writing editorials, reporting news or crafting feature stories, I had found my home in journalism. 

Through the journalism program, I was able to travel to Washington D.C. for a journalism conference in Nov. 2020. (Emma Hutchin)

Throughout my time in high school, I have truly learned why journalism and the media are so important, especially at a student level. Journalism is about telling stories. Yes, the big stories, like presidential elections and wars and pandemics. But also the little, quieter stories that may not otherwise get told. That is the true beauty of student-level journalism. Without it, people may never get to learn about their peer’s passion for music, or their classmate’s triumphs in horseback riding. Everyone deserves to have their story told, and those stories go untold without the presence of student-run media. 

I found my passion in telling those stories. To me, student journalism is about taking the big stories, and finding the little pockets of interest within them. Yes, a publication can cover the 2020 election, but it is much more meaningful to cover a student’s work with a campaign during the election, or another student with a parent running for local office. Yes, a publication can cover COVID-19, but wouldn’t it be much more personal to cover how the pandemic is affecting the school schedule, or the online courses? Those stories get lost in big publications like the New York Times and the Kansas City Star. It’s important to bring them back to light.

I never imagined myself being a journalist. But knowing what I know now, I can’t imagine being anything else.