Northwestern High School students reboot newspaper
Students were the driving force behind reviving the Octagon after more than two years.
MAPLE — The countdown is running for the return of Northwestern High School’s student newspaper, the Octagon.
After a two-and-a-half-year hiatus, a new issue will hit the lunchroom tables Friday, Sept. 23. For most of the 14 students involved in the class, it’s a chance to bring back something they remember well.
“When the Octagon was around, we would get it on our lunch table on Fridays. And I always liked reading the senior profiles because we didn’t really know any of the seniors then so it was kind of like getting familiar with them,” said senior Brinley Tonn.
“I think I got to know a lot of the seniors a lot better because I didn’t really get to talk to them, but I got to read what they wrote in the senior profiles,” said editor Lily Blankenship, a senior.
The school paper ceased publication over two years ago due to low enrollment numbers.
"We were worried that when it went on hiatus that it would be difficult to renew the interest, but we had a number of students express interest so we were able to run it this year," said NHS Principal Mark Carlson.
Students were the driving force behind reviving the paper, said Octagon adviser Katie Thompson, language arts chairperson at NHS. Senior Tanner Kaufman actively recruited classmates for the class.
“I just wanted it back because ... Friday at the lunch table, like I said, freshman year I remember they were always there. And then they weren’t there,” Kaufman said. “But now that it’s back, I think it’ll be fun for kids to see it on Friday again.”
Having the paper on the lunch table invites students to explore, Thompson said.
“I’m excited that we’ll have it in print so they’ll not only see the article they’re interested in, but also be able to actually look and find out news about things they didn’t even know they were interested in,” Thompson said. “It’s a great tool for the kids. It’s a great way to communicate with others and then just share that news of the school in something other than a two minute announcement in the morning.”
Stories slated for the premiere issue include senior profiles, sports updates, new teacher interviews and an answer to questions about dress codes and student chants at athletic events. Kaufman put the article on chants together following an interview with Athletic Director Brian Smith.
“I think it surprised him a little bit that I asked him what I asked him. I was a little nervous. Mr. Smith can be a little intimidating I suppose. Good guy,” Kaufman said.
Being able to talk to Smith about the issue, he said, and share that with the school has been the most rewarding part of the class so far.
Thompson said she’s excited the Octagon, which has been part of school culture for roughly 70 years, is back. It was a daily paper when Thompson took the helm in 2004, and she moved it to a weekly format. The class touches more than the 14 students involved, and it reaches the entire school.
"It may be just 14 kids, but I see it as serving 400," Thompson said.
Why is it important to have a student newspaper?
“I feel like it’s definitely like the voice of the school almost. Like we have a say. And like it definitely brings more awareness to situations that way,” Tonn said.
It also provides a primer for younger students about opportunities and activities at NHS.
“You just learn so much from the Octagon about, like, what’s happening around the school, especially for the freshmen,” Tonn said.
Articles can also connect students and highlight interesting facts, said senior Tanner Kaufman. “It informs people about things they usually wouldn’t know about,” he said.
The newspaper class allows students the freedom to pursue passions.
"I love the kids’ enthusiasm for covering articles and when they come up with topics that are of interest to them and then we actually get the answers that they’re looking for," Thompson said.
The Octagon could also help students focus on the future. Blankenship hopes the skills she learns in class will aid her search for a job in the editing field after graduation.
"Obviously, it gives students exposure to that career path. But more importantly, it gives students the opportunity to delve into school issues and serve as a student voice," Carlson said. "And, of course, it is a great way to highlight all the great things that go on at NHS all throughout the year."
Thompson was asked what she would like students to take away from the Octagon class.
"Maybe just the idea that news is for everybody and they can be very much involved in sharing that news," she said.
In addition to paper copies of the Octagon on lunch tables, the weekly newspaper will be posted at nw-tigers.org/District/Portal/the-octagon for the public to read.