When people imagine what it’s like to run a newspaper, they might envision a pristine, expertly coordinated machine of towering city skyscrapers, glossy magazine covers, modern office furniture, a production floor humming with life — a huge team of writers, photographers, and editors working in sync, impassioned and driven by daily motivational speeches about the everlasting pursuit of the truth.
It took about two weeks into freshman year to realize this wasn’t the case, at least outside of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. The Forum, Wilton High School’s student-run newspaper, has had an average of seven to 12 members since I joined it four years ago. We meet once a week in the classroom of Mrs. McLoughlin, an English teacher and our club adviser, and brainstorm article ideas. We write when we can snag a chance between schoolwork and sports games and the general push and pull of life — articles about school and sports and the general push and pull of life. No matter how humble our headquarters or process, though, I’ve always loved every minute of it.
When I became co-editor in chief with my friend Alika at the beginning of senior year, I eagerly made a list of goals and ideas: to double our staff (with donuts at meetings as an incentive, anything seems possible), to raise enough money to buy a couple of professional cameras, to redesign the site, and on and on.
There has been one main problem, though, to all of this: high school students don’t want to write. Between Julius Caesar essays and college applications, most people can’t imagine taking on an extra writing assignment.
Against this one reason, though, there are a hundred others in favor of writing for The Forum, The truth is, no matter how modest our size, no matter how trivial some people call our subject matter, I hope more than anything that students at WHS would try sending in an article for themselves before making any judgments.
If they did, they’d understand what it means to feel truly inspired by something, and they’d understand the feeling of uncontrollable excitement at being able to write about it in their own voice — to delve into its depths and make that subject their own, no matter what other people think about it. They’d feel the same rush of thoughts transforming into words — even just a flicker of an idea shooting through the neurons to the fingertips to keyboard keys. Even if we’re not reporting live on Middle Eastern conflicts or interviewing President Obama, we’re having conversations with the average people around us, teachers and students and administrators and townspeople, learning and listening to their often extraordinary stories and words. We find some larger message in each local event. By writing these stories, we make them important, newsworthy. By writing, we make the event worth reading.
So it might not be entirely possible for The Forum to get its own shiny office building or start incentivizing its writers with cash rather than pastries. But at the heart of our small group at the high school, there’s something crucial that can never be taken away: the fact that we care about the things we write, we choose them, we make them ours.