For the record

Highlights from Southwest student newspapers

Some students across Southwest are recording their experiences and perspectives in newspapers that reveal what it’s like to be in school and how they’re affected by daily events.

They’re chronicling everything from worldly events to school dances to the “heap of the month,” which feature particularly junky cars from the parking lot.

There are hard-news items that provide a glimpse into difficult circumstances surrounding a school’s community and other more lighthearted ones that discuss various aspects of popular culture, including lengthy features and brief sound bytes.

Student editors and other writers share their opinions about building happenings, introduce staff and students and impart entertaining anecdotes. Some newspapers are published on tabloid sheets of newsprint, others on plain copy paper.

The publications are produced monthly or irregularly in after-school classes or during the day by alternately big and small staffs. One newspaper, for instance, “The Grist,” from Washburn High School, demonstrates a unique partnership that highlights the strides of special education students.

All of the newspapers are labors of love. Here’s a snapshot of "The Grist," along with excerpts from other student-driven stories written this school year.

Inside The Grist

As part of a rare collaboration, special education students enrolled in the Washburn Adaptive Resource Program (WRAP) work alongside children from other classes to produce the 16-page school newspaper, The Grist, at Washburn High School in Tangletown.

At least 40 children belong to The Grist staff. They cover a wide variety of school tidbits including everything from advanced CD reviews to longer investigative pieces exposing tensions between some Somali and African American students at the school.

Christine Salokar, who teaches forensic science, English 10, forensic pathology and biology, is leading the newspaper production for the second year in a row.

Several other staffers and her husband, Patrick Salokar, a substitute teacher, pitch in to create it. “The Grist staff is making history with this issue,” she said in a message on the October issue’s back cover, adding, “The WRAP students are a part of our school but rarely get the opportunity to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the school at large.”

For example, in a story titled, “Every Effort Helps,” student Samuel Johnson wrote: “I help the football team. I get ice and water for the players. I bring water to the players on the fields. I get to stand on the sidelines with the team. I cheer for the team. I help carry the equipment,” he said.

October’s cover story by Dennisha Riggins and Keshia Kirksey, “WRAPing Up The Grist,” introduces a couple of WRAP students, including Hannah, a 10th grader who likes romantic music, math, playing games and generally, having fun, it said. Another WRAP student, Michael, loves sports, has a passion for the Vikings and wants to pursue a sports career. Some of his other interests are science, rap music, nature and animals, it said.

As for a guiding editorial vision, Patrick described its mission: “We tell them [students] it’s your job to report the truth, to increase and exhibit school spirit and pride. We don’t want negativity emanating from the newspaper or yearbook. It’s representing the school.”

Reporting on Washburn

Thirteen hundred copies of The Grist newspaper are distributed for free four times a year throughout the school attended by 1,350 students.

Anyone who wants to join the newspaper or yearbook staff can pursue it as a class or after school. Previously, it was solely extracurricular. Editors, reporters, photographers and others rotate for each issue.

The most recent issues as of the Southwest Journal’s press time includes a piece about the 10th annual Miller Open at Theodore Wirth Golf Course, quotes from football players and new teachers, synopses of homecoming, adapted soccer, National Honor Society, Student Volunteer Association, poems, peace conference, movie and music reviews, school rain garden, college planning and more.

For the reviews, student critics receive advanced copies of CDs and DVDs, and then interview celebrities at press junkets and in conference calls. Determining how much to edit stories is challenging. “If you straighten it too much, it takes the flavor away of what they’re trying to express,” said Patrick.

He said the newspaper’s adult supervisors decided to leave many misspellings, punctuation errors and other grammatical mistakes intact. Each story is considered on an individual basis, he said. Part of maintaining the integrity of their copy is by being familiar with them personally and understanding what they’re trying to say, he said. Most changes are made for clarity.

Overall, stories closely reflect what the students wrote, he said. However, there’s no such thing as free press in a high school setting, he explained. When there’s a negative opinion, it’s framed in a positive way, he said.

The newspaper’s size is dictated by how much students write. Senior Mariah Howze, a Grist reporter, said she enjoys writing. She’s written essays about students’ shoe preferences (Airforce One musical tennis shoes are by far the most popular), dream dates, CD reviews plus more.

Howze said “The Grist” holds plenty of benefits for students, “I think it lets the students be aware of what’s going on and meet people,” she said.


Anna Pratt can be reached at 436-4391 or