In my three years “working” for my high school newspaper, not a single board meeting was covered. And that was probably one of the biggest mistakes we could have made.
I understand board meetings are not the most exciting thing in the world. I’ve sat through enough of them in the past few months to speak to that statement. But the true inner workings of the school are found there — along with a huge amount of story ideas. I generally get at least two stories and a couple future story ideas out of each school board meeting I attend.
I remember as a high school journo constantly struggling to come up with story ideas. We would have brainstorming sessions and barely come up with enough stories to fill the paper sometimes. Obviously, it all ended up working out. But I think there would have been a lot more interest in the paper itself if we covered the important things that were going on around the school (late-start days, required reading during our academic networking period, how state legislation affects students, etc.).
As an example, we generally knew about all the construction projects going on, but short of anything sports-related, I don’t think it dawned on anyone to write a story about them. They were just an aggravation, not something we ever really considered covering. But we should have.
It’s the same kind of theory we had at my college paper. Why are you letting the area news outlets cover things that are happening in your coverage area? It would frustrate me so much when I would see the Belleville News Democrat or the Alton Telegraph had stories about SIUE that as a campus paper we didn’t even know about. I don’t know why we didn’t have that same mentality in high school.
You generally think in high school that your paper (or newsmagazine, website, etc.) really doesn’t have any competition, unless you count a district-produced PR newsletter. But if more young journalists thought of community newspapers as their competition, especially now with the Patch sites popping up everywhere, they might be more inclined to work a little harder to get those stories.
If nothing else, doing so would have increased teacher readership and readership from the poor souls who felt bad enough for the journalism kids that they bought a subscription out of pity. Plus, it would have prepared those of us who continued to study journalism in college with meeting coverage skills.
Sure, I had a veteran reporter/editor showing me what to do when I covered my first Student Government meeting, but having internal knowledge of how to cover meetings would have helped me immensely.
So, if any high school journalists (or high school journalism teachers) out there are reading this, please, please encourage the students to force themselves to sit through the never-ending meetings. It might be painful, but, trust me, it will be worth it.