Saturday, September 26, 2020
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Publishing on Voxitatis or sending us a news tip

Calling all high school student journalists, writers, and reporters: So far this calendar year, Voxitatis has published or republished almost a hundred examples of student journalism, and we’re asking you to help us continue this well-received series of Student Reporting by sending us tips for newsworthy stories or commentary from your school, your school life, or your community.

When is a story newsworthy?

Stories should have some value as news. By this, I mean that although we agree, for instance, that your water polo team’s victory last night is important, we probably wouldn’t publish the story. Likewise, bands, orchestras, and choirs give performances all the time at schools, so they tend to come in very low on lists of newsworthiness.

On the other hand, if some very special preparation was involved for one of the works performed or if two players on the team have some special backstory to share, the tip starts to go up as being more newsworthy.

In classes, calculus teachers teach calculus as part of their job, so just doing that isn’t really newsworthy, although as with water polo and orchestra, we agree that this activity is very important in our lives and yours. However, any enduring ideas about teaching that the calculus teacher would want to share definitely count as news. To get an idea of the difference between an enduring idea and a fad, read the first chapter of Harvey Alvy’s new book Fighting for Change in Your School: How to Avoid Fads and Focus on Substance.

The same goes for school boards. They approve budgets and set policies all the time. Substantial movement on these matters, however, becomes news if it has the potential to affect the lives of students, teachers, parents, or others involved with improving our schools.

Opinion pieces are also welcome. For a few hundred examples of writing prompts for persuasive essays, see the pages here, here, or here.

Please be aware that although Voxitatis is a news agency with access to sources that go far beyond Google, we don’t have a huge investigative team like one a newspaper or TV station would employ. We’ll be glad to help you complete research for a story, but if you have a news tip that needs investigation, please contact another agency or bureau.

How to send us your story

Assuming you have written the story, you can send it in any number of ways. Each way has advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Email: Send it to editor@schoolsnapshots.org. I will reply by email.
  2. Twitter: Send a tweet to @voxitatis with a link to your story.
  3. US Mail: Send it to me personally at the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Curriculum, Assessment, and Accountability, 200 W Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. You do not have to provide a return address or an email address, but if you provide one of those, I will try to contact you and let you know how we decided to work with your story. If you want to remain completely anonymous, send your letter in a public mailbox, not from a post office.
  4. Secure FTP: If you contact me by email and let me know you need to deposit a piece of evidence for your story on a secure FTP server, I will set up an anonymous account for you on our server.

If you are on the staff of a high school newspaper, please have your faculty adviser contact us.

Also note that Voxitatis regularly scans more than a thousand high school newspaper sites across the country, looking for good stories, as well as the official websites of schools and school districts in Maryland and Illinois. But in case we miss something, you can send us a tip that a well-written and well-researched story is in your high school paper. We would be delighted to extend your audience.

Will you get paid?

Not initially. However, Voxitatis has every intention of seeking out quality writing from the most industrious student reporters and columnists we can find. You never know where this could lead.

In truth, though, you probably don’t want to get paid for writing at this point, since being paid means you’ll have to take on responsibilities, like showing up for work, producing good content on deadlines, and such.

We work on a nearly 24/7 schedule here to produce content for delivery on our blog and we also pay lots of money to various organizations in order to use content created by others. For high school students, a job as a writer would most likely be impractical. What I think is more desirable is the freedom to write about what you want to write about, when you want to write about it. That’s not how it works for paid writers.

Plus, you probably don’t want to become a reporter or writer in your adult life, which is understandable. Write about something you know well, and keep doing that other thing, developing your skills in biochemistry, math, politics, or whatever.

But some people get paid for writing

Voxitatis has paid students to write articles in the past, but not all student-written content on this site is paid.

If you hone your writing skills for online journalism with our help, someone will pay you for writing, believe me. Maybe you’ll find a career as the communications director for a big company, a school district, or a political candidate. All these jobs require a finely tuned writing ability.

For the moment, all we can promise you is exposure, which may mean anything from nothing to a shot at a new interest or a fulfilling career. That is something beyond our control.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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