Gibraltar’s School Newspaper Looks Ahead

Nora Harris has worked on the Viking Voice since she was a freshman at Gibraltar High School, and has worked on nearly all facets of the newspaper – writing, photography, layout and editing. Harris, an incoming senior, will fill the editor-in-chief position for the 2013-2014 school year. She hopes to build on the paper’s success, and believes it should be more student-focused next year.

She learned how “to be a perfectionist, to catch everything when [I] edit,” from the previous editor-in-chief Samantha Phillips. Harris’ well-roundedness will pay off when stepping into Phillips’ shoes. She already has an impressive focus and direction she thinks the paper should go.

“The goal I’d like to set is to do more journalistic investigation; have writers talk to people in the school. Don’t just go to Wikipedia, get a quote from a teacher or student; talk to the principal,” said Harris.

Her other goal is to increase student readership: “I would bring it back to the students in the coming year.”

She says teachers are appreciative of the paper as a whole, but the students typically flip right to the Photo Poll and the 5 Things column, because they’re “funny and witty.” Harris believes getting more student opinions and comments will increase that readership, and strengthen the perception of the paper around the school.

Even though the student readers may not devour each article or appreciate the hard work that goes into building a newspaper, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association (WNA) has taken note of the Viking Voice.

Since the student newspaper’s inaugural issue in Dec. 2008, it has received numerous awards for individual writers, columns and overall quality; and that’s no different for the 2012-2013 school year.

Wisconsin newspaper publishers, general managers, editors, reporters, photographers and copy editors determined winners from school newspapers in two groupings. The Viking Voice was included in the group for schools with fewer than 500 students. The specific awards were: first award in Column Writing for “Thoughts from the Editor” by Samantha Phillips; second award in General Excellence, Feature Writing for “Safe and Sound” by Samantha Phillips, and Column Writing for “5 Things Not To Do When…In the car for entertainment” by Josie Shabbit; third award in general reporting for “The Grass is Greener for School Lunches” by Ainsley Nelson; and an honorable mention in general reporting for “Helping Bats in their Time of Need” by Ella Norris.

The contest, according to the WNA website, “recognizes excellence, encourages students to pursue journalism careers and acknowledges that simply participating in high school newspaper activities helps encourage lifelong learning and better citizenship.”

The students of the Viking Voice surely meet the criteria. Instead of being school funded, the Viking Voice has to drive its own revenue through ad sales. This requires students to be self-motivated, have a presence in the community, and is essential real-world experience for students who want to pursue an education/career in journalism or communications.

When asked to respond to the awards, Harris states, “[the General Excellence award] shows student initiative; the students want the paper. We were in debt last year; the principal said if [we] didn’t raise the money there wouldn’t be a paper anymore. It took [the students] going out on weekends and asking people for ads,” to get it back on track.

The student determination paid off, literally, as the newspaper made a profit, according to Harris. The student initiative that drives the paper is what is truly being rewarded through the awards, beyond the writing.

Harris, however, says the immediate purpose of the newspaper is to showcase student-centered writing. With wisdom beyond her years she questions: “Where else can you show off writing? Who do you show your writing to besides English teachers? Students can show athletic skills in sports and artistic skills in [fine/performing] arts; where can writers show their talents?”

To Harris’ questions, the resolute answer is the Viking Voice.

The Viking Voice is published once a month while school is in session, and can be found at various businesses in Northern Door and Gibraltar High School.

Other Door County schools with school newspapers are Sevastopol High School – Pioneer Chips, and Southern Door High School – The Eagle Eye.