A small group of students have been working to reinvent the Berean Christian High School newspaper. In addition to developing their skills as researchers, interviewers, and writers, the newspaper has been an opportunity for them to flex their leadership and management skills.
Over the years, the school newspaper has undergone two or three renaissance moments according to Charity Samoulides, the club’s faculty advisor. “But this time it was about to shut down completely,” she says.
Students had stopped coming to meetings, deadlines were being missed, and the quality of the stories was slipping. Ms. Samoulides needed students on staff who were committed to holding the club to the high standards that are expected from Berean Christian, but it wasn’t happening.
Then Micah San Andres came to Ms. Samoulides with a proposal to do the hard work of remaking the newspaper from the ground up. Together, they concluded that whatever form the newspaper assumed in its rebirth, it needed to be something that students really wanted to be part of.
Micah took the lead and recruited a handful of other student leaders to remake the club. They spent a lot of time just working to get to know one another. It was important that the new staff come together as a team to create a paper that met high standards.
According to Ms. Samoulides, the club’s leaders have focused on creating an environment that values input from everyone. They want to make sure everyone feels heard, seen, and valued. They help each other with their stories now. Writers are no longer on their own to produce their stories in isolation.
These are the problems that managers from every industry face during their careers. The club has given these student leaders the chance to gain valuable experience in solving real, human-centered problems.
The new team meets every two weeks over Zoom. (In the past, students wandered into Ms. Samoulides’ class during lunch breaks for a few minutes to talk over story ideas.) They also moved the newspaper online. The new staff has published two issues this year and are working on their third.
“These students have really stepped up,” says Ms. Samoulides.
Samoulides graduated from Berean Christian High School in 2004. She was a journalist on the newspaper staff when she was in high school and has been supervising the club for the last ten years.
Journalism is important to our democracy. The right to free speech and a free press is written into the First Amendment of our Constitution. But like many, Samoulides feels that effective, unbiased journalism is hard to find. Nevertheless, she says, “it’s important to show them what journalism is supposed to look like.”
What is our responsibility as stewards of the planet God has given us? What does the Bible say about meditation? What can we learn from our last surviving WWII veterans?
These are questions with which we want our young people to wrestle. It’s part of developing citizens who are capable of thinking critically about the world around them. It’s part of staying connected as a community.
While trust in media organizations swings up and down in American society over time, the important role that journalism plays in our country is unchanged.
In their book, The Elements of Journalism, authors Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel write, “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.”
The members of the Berean Christian newspaper club are carrying on an important principle of our great democratic experiment.