The Scoop From a Survey of School Papers

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At a high school journalism conference at Baruch College earlier this month, Daniel Johnson-Kim, a Daily News editor, joked to a room full of student journalists that publishing the Daily News in the week following Sandy was a lot like putting together a school newspaper: staff members were scattered, emotions were high and resources were scarce.

This scene is all too familiar for the hundreds of city students who sport press badges. Between classes, SAT prep, college applications, break-ups, hook-ups and Facebooking, these students have taken full advantage of their First Amendment rights. Here’s a round-up of what the cub muckrakers have covered this school year:

Political Passion

The Classic, the 24-year-old paper at Townsend Harris High School in Queens, extensively covered its school-wide event called Election Simulation.

In this annual tradition, seniors act as candidates from local and national elections and strive to earn the votes of underclassmen by handing out water during track and answering questions on obscure policies.

The campaigns were complete with gaffes – like when Khalid Abdin, as Barack Obama, said he was pro-abortion instead of pro-life. “Everyone makes mistakes,” he told The Classic.

At the Cobble Hill School of American Studies students took the political process outside the classroom by registering voters at Fulton mall. Though some had a hard time getting people to release their Social Security numbers, the government class registered 240 voters, The Stallion reported.

Overall, the students at the city’s public schools overwhelmingly support Obama, according the newspapers’ polls. At Townsend Harris, 74 percent of the students supported the president. Midwood High School and World Journalism Preparatory School had 87 percent favoring the incumbent. In the real election, 60 percent of voters 18-24 favored Obama, according to exit polls.

School Rules

One writer at The Classic took the school to task for its no-gender bending policy when it came to Election Simulation. In the overwhelming female school, male candidates must be represented by male students. Two pages later, readers are introduced to the four head officers of the school’s student government - all are male.

The DOE’s enforcement of a full school day for all students – including seniors –was a hotly examined topic in many of the papers’ fall editions. Headlines ranged from passionate (“Seniors Hate The One Through Eight,” The Stallion) to equitable (“School Compromises to Meet Requirements,” Argus).

Midwood is allowing seniors to fill out their schedules with study halls for Advance Placements tests, internships and SAT math prep, according to the paper.

Bard High School Early College students don’t mind having a longer day, but they do mind having to sweat during it. The Bardvark reported that instead of four semesters of physical education, students must take four years.

“Students here have become used to a certain level of academic autonomy and general independence that many other teenagers do not experience until they go to traditional college or universities,” writes Eliza Fawcett in her page one story. The forced PE courses are limiting students’ elective freedom and crushing the spirit of the school, she argues.

There were reports of food dumping at Curtis High School in Staten Island now that the DOE requires two servings of fruit and one serving of vegetables at lunch. “I don’t want three plums, one is enough for me but the lunch ladies tell us we have to take them,” junior Fanta Conde told Kailey Walters of the Curtis Log.

And for the record, Harrisites want use of the senior lounge restored (The Classic), World Journalism Prep teens want to wear jeans (The Blazer). Kurt Hahn kids want to bring cell phones to schools (The Compass). And nobody really minds that Curtis students must now use the Exit 4 entrance instead of Exit 5 (Curtis Log).

Support for a recent ESPN study that found that soccer is the second most popular sport with 12-24 year olds can be found on the back pages of local school papers. There were profiles of a girl varsity soccer star and a boy rookie goal leader in The Classic.

Argus covered Midwood’s girls’ team’s struggle with its 1-8 record and new head coach. And The Verdict gloated over Benjamin N. Cardozo high School giving Francis Lewis High School’s boy team its first loss in four years.

Last year’s cheating scandal at Stuyvesant High School made its way into several schools’ newspapers, as well. The Blazer took a service journalism approach by explaining the hazards of cheating and plagiarism to its readers, some who are in middle school.

However, the theater teacher at Midwood used the situation as a learning moment by having her class create cheating scenarios. “Hopefully other students will learn from [the Stuyvesant students’] mistakes, she told Argus reporters.

Sandy Stories
While Hurricane Sandy dominated the mainstream press, the coverage turnaround time was too quick for most high school newspapers. That’s where the internet came in.

The Murrow Network of Edward R. Murrow High School was on-top of post-storm coverage with several self-labeled “Online Exclusives.” The coverage included stories of teachers volunteering, school community banding together to help victims and a report on how the storm impacted the school.

According to Adelina Zhang’s well-reported story, posted on the second day the students were back in school – lightening time for the scholastic media, attendance at the school was 17 percent lower than normal during the first day back at school.

The Spectator, at Stuyvesant High School used its website to cover the hurricane with long-form articles that are common throughout the site. In “Stuyvesant Recovers from Hurricane Sandy,” Lindsay Bu writes about voluntary lessons created for a computer science class that used Google Hangout, Google Docs, a Google Plus video chatting program and YouTube.

WJPS Blazer took a stab at citizen journalism by inviting readers to share photos or stories from the storm.