A group of budding reporters came together this year to put out Waterville Senior High School’s first student newspaper in the last five years. Each month, an issue of The Panther Post was published with articles from students detailing what was going on in the halls of their high school.

Just last week some of those students visited our newsroom at the Morning Sentinel to have industry veterans review their work. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the office for their visit; however, I was able to read all about it in the latest issue of their paper.

On page 5 — following a report on the new Five Guys restaurant on Main Street, a review of the horror film “A Quiet Place,” a rumination on just how quickly senior year has gone by and an op-ed extolling high schoolers protesting gun violence — is student editor Gabe Ferris’ summary of the visit.

The young writer relays some of the questions asked and advice received, but most notably he explains that it was a day for the newspaper’s staff to reflect on how to make their product better and plan to ensure the paper’s success for years to come.

The notion of building up a student newspaper is a refreshing one in 2018.

Student newspapers, in colleges and high schools, are facing problems similar to their professional counterparts: a drop in revenue and resources.

High school papers have been folding around the country often because of budget cuts that make the prospect of paying a faculty member to advise the student journalists untenable.

College newspapers, similarly, have run into trouble funding the making of their product, causing them in turn to lean on their larger institutions for financial backing and subsequently jeopardizing their editorial independence in the process.

A couple of weeks ago, on Save Student Newsroom Day — a day dedicated to rally support for these student organizations — ironically enough, I learned that my alma mater’s student-run newspaper, The University News at Saint Louis University, was at risk of losing its own newsroom. The student government had decided, without consulting the students at the paper, to give the newsroom space to other campus groups and relegate the newspaper to a much smaller (and in my mind, insufficient) space.

And my former high school’s paper— the Campus Crier at Sacred Heart-Griffin in Springfield, Illinois — doesn’t even seem to exist anymore. According to its website, which I managed my senior year, no posts have been made since 2016.

On a personal level, the hits to these institutions — which undoubtedly guided my professional aspirations — are painful and heartbreaking to see.

I was on the staff of the Campus Crier my junior and senior years of high school. I wasn’t a serious news hound then. I mostly focused on the satirical advice column I penned with a fellow staff member, but I had so much fun working with our crew to put out a product that we took a lot of pride in. I still have several old, yellowing copies of the Campus Crier that I can look at now and see how much I’ve grown as a writer.

In college, I worked at The University News as a staff writer for two years, but the reporting staff didn’t spend much time in the office. So it wasn’t until my senior year, when I was added to the editorial board as a news editor, that I began to understand how important a space the newsroom really is. Every Thursday night, we spent hours and hours, often into the early hours of Friday morning, putting together our product for publication. We helped each other come up with headlines and layout designs. We had long discussions and, at times, heated debates over whether something was a story we should cover or what our editorial position should be on an issue.

It was a space for our motley crew of news nerds who are some of the smartest, sharpest and funniest people I know to put out our labor of love.

But my cherished memories of working on these student publications is obviously not the most salient reason to support student journalism; we should support student journalists because they do important work.

Student newspapers are able to shine a light on what’s happening on their campuses from a close vantage point that larger, professional papers often can’t achieve. Many of these papers do break big stories, uncover wrongdoing and hold the powerful administrations to account.

During my tenure at my college paper, we reported on the racist and intolerant culture of the university’s baseball team, and it became a national story. Here in Maine, The Bowdoin Orient just published an investigation revealing the low wages that are causing financial insecurity among faculty members at the college.

Our duty as readers is to actually pick up a copy of these newspapers and click on their stories online so that they can continue to produce this public service.

And to the staff of The Panther Post, thank you for taking up the cause. Your work is important.

I will echo the advice my colleagues gave you on your trip to the Sentinel: Ask tough questions, push for answers and persist when you get resistance and blowback — that’s when you know you’re doing something right.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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