Do high school students read newspapers? These will write for oneRobin Washington column: Young people don’t read the newspaper, right? They get whatever information they need from the net, correct? Not if you’re talking about the Duluth East Daredevils robotics team or their Blue Twilight counterparts from metro-area Eagan High School.
By: Robin Washington, Duluth News Tribune
Young people don’t read the newspaper, right? They get whatever information they need from the net, and they certainly don’t look to a printed paper to find anything remotely related to their lives, correct?
Not if you’re talking about the Duluth East Daredevils robotics team or their Blue Twilight counterparts from metro-area Eagan High School. Or, I’m willing to bet, any of the other 3,000 high school robotics competitors descending on the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday who will be the subject of three days of coverage in the News Tribune.
Reporting it will be the Duluth East and Eagan students themselves.
“I’m not so nervous about the writing itself, but I’m nervous about how it comes together,” said East freshman Henry LaLiberte — a reasonable response given that the idea of deputizing student reporters came up just about a month ago.
Then, members of the Daredevils media department (part of having a robotics team is running it like a business, hence the specialized “department”) visited the News Tribune and Budgeteer offices. Inspired by stories of college journalism students who produce limited-edition daily newspapers at journalism conventions, they jumped at the chance of trying it here.
The News Tribune would make a significant contribution of staff time and resources, but there were other expenses, and the green light didn’t come immediately.
“We physically went and contacted each one of these businesses,” said Tim Velner, the Duluth East coach. “The kids did the approach. I was there, but I didn’t do it.”
Ditto, he said, for a group chaperoned by Elise Kuutti, a Lester Park kindergarten teacher and another adult mentor. Add advertising sales to the team’s newly acquired skills.
Then it was time to assign and start dividing up the stories. One is about teams to watch for, and there are editorials debating whether robotics should be considered an official school sport. There’s also a story explaining how a robotics competition works (which I certainly didn’t know), in which a new challenge is given each year to all contestants nationwide. This year’s, “Ultimate Ascent,” is to build a robot that can throw a Frisbee and climb a pyramid. Don’t try that at home.
The result will be a special page of coverage to be wrapped around Thursday’s News Tribune, followed by one or two pages each in Friday’s and Saturday’s papers. The Saturday paper poses the biggest challenge because it has to be reported in one day.
Remember — a month ago, this was a pipe dream.
“The hardest thing? We weren’t prepared for our deadline last week,” said East senior Jonathan Gessert, who co-reported the Ultimate Ascent piece.
“I always thought newspapers were a good source of news but maybe a little antiquated. Now I appreciate how much work goes into them, all the effort and sweat and blood and tears,” he said, adding he now sees a difference between what’s in the newspaper and what you might find on someone’s blog.
“One thing about the Internet is that it can be updated so quickly. For print, you have to know the facts by deadline, and you can’t change it,” he said.
Fellow senior Kirsi Kuutti — whose involvement on the team got her mother, Elise, hooked — also noted the value of the printed page.
“Having a newspaper in your hands, you have a lot more time with it than on TV or the Web. And having a paper in your hand makes it feel more real,” she said.
Though Kuutti’s planning on majoring in electrical engineering, she said there are skills from the newspaper project she’ll take with her in her career — mostly: “Meeting deadlines. That if it’s not perfect it still has to be published.”
We’ll find out Thursday how close we come to perfect. But it certainly is a perfect opportunity for expanding young minds — who, you may have heard, never read the newspaper.
Robin Washington is editor of the News Tribune. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.