Inheriting the Fourth Estate

High School Journalists Work Their Beats

Keeping Kenowa Hills students informed each week are, from left, Sarah Nowack, Ashly Hancock, Alyssa Langlois, Andrew Chaparro, Allison Caverly and Julie Eggerding

They don’t read newspapers much, but they’re really into spreading the news.

That pretty much sums up the staffers of Knightly News, a new online “information hub” produced by an after-school journalism club at Kenowa Hills High School. A small but dedicated cadre of writers aims to keep their fellow students up to date on school events, sports and issues of interest.

They started the site to fill what they saw as a void for keeping students informed in a timely way.

“There’s a lack of cohesive information for students and for parents,” said Sarah Nowack, the site’s de facto editor and club president. Knightly News provides “a place where students can go to find this information, easy access,” she said, as well as good experience for college and possibly a journalism career.

Sarah is one of half a dozen students who meet once a week to update the site on everything from sports and arts events to college visits and a Toys for Tots campaign. They’re also planning on stories about school issues, such as the Journey to Excellence curriculum, as well as creative writing pieces.

They just recently started getting the word out about the site, which has been online since October.

“I love it,” said Julie Eggerding, who wrote a story about programs for teens at public libraries. “It’s very satisfying to me to put work into something other people are going to read and get knowledge from.”

Ashly Hancock, Allison Caverly, Andrew Chaparro and Alyssa Langlois fill out the staff. Though they mostly get their news online or on TV, they feel strongly about the value of traditional journalism.

“People need to know what’s going on in the world, and they’re not going to get that on Facebook,” said Allison Caverly. “They’re getting other people’s opinions.”

Noses for News

English teacher Grace Bollman, the club’s adviser, said it nurtures students’ skills in critical thinking, information literacy and collaboration. She’s been impressed by their initiative.

“I’m blown away by them,” Bollman says. “Just to see their dedication, it’s inspiring. The depth of knowledge they have at their age gives me hope.”

The students write their pieces on Google Docs, which Bollman reviews and provides feedback on before publication. She emphasizes the importance of synthesis, “taking information and creating something new with it.”

Staffers each have their beats: Allison covers sports, Alyssa does clubs and so on. Andrew records school announcements, including a recent post about making up excessive absences. Ashly is an aspiring author who plans to post some of her fiction and encourage other students to do the same.

“I love writing, but I don’t like to get my feelings out,” Ashly said. “But I know if I’m going to write well, I have to.”

Sarah assigns pieces and makes sure they get done, even stopping during this interview to remind Allison to contact school officials about a sports story: “Keep bugging them.”

She gets much of her news from the likes of TV satirists Jon Stewart and John Oliver. Journalism is essential to hold people accountable, she says: “If people know about it, they’re going to fight it – or not fight it.”

Julie Eggerding plans to major in journalism at Grand Valley State University, with an eye toward investigative reporting.

“We live in a culture that sometimes breeds ignorance,” Julie says. “I do not praise ignorance. I inform people so they’re no longer in the dark.”

She and other staffers hope the Knightly News sheds light on important information for students.

“As long as a few people find it useful,” said Andrew Chaparro, “I feel like it’s worth it.”

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Knightly News

The staff of Knightly News pumps out stories each week in their after-school club
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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