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Here’s to budding journalists

Syndicated Columnist
Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sentimental fool that I am, a recent change in my son’s extracurricular activities was like an early Christmas gift.

Gideon has joined the staff of his school’s newly launched (online) newspaper, the Cornersville (TN) High School “Paw Prints.”

Since I cut my journalistic eyeteeth at my junior high, high school and college newspapers, Gideon’s decision was heart-warming — and much safer than two klutzy individuals seeking father-son bonding via athletic roughhousing. (“Don’t panic — I remember reading a book that tells what to do if you get a football caught in your esophagus...”)

I’m so proud. Gideon is following in his old man’s footprints (or following in his old man’s SLIME TRAIL, depending on your opinion of the press).

When I was a campus writer, we journalism nerds viewed ourselves as budding Woodwards and Bernsteins. No one could take away our First Amendment rights to inform the public. The band nerds could take away our LUNCH MONEY, but no one could take away our First Amendment rights to inform the public.

For the first issue of “Paw Prints,” Gideon has contributed a witty essay about obscure December holidays, as well as the first installment of a painstakingly drawn comic strip about a dystopian future.

Gideon stays abreast of the political scene, but someone else was assigned to write the opinion piece. I expect a lot from Cornersville editorial writers, but not every school promotes such lively debate. (“Whatever.” “I was, like, whatever FIRST.” “You’re LITERALLY making my whatever explode...”)

I hope faculty advisers will adhere to strict journalistic ethics and not be pushovers, like some teachers are in the classroom. (“Teacher, I was technically incorrect with that scoop about the cafeteria lady being a former KGB assassin, but don’t I get bonus points for this cool font?”)

I hope the staff realizes just how wonderful today’s resources are. When I look back at my printed school newspapers, I realize they were saddled with bulky paragraphs, tiny print and watered-down ink. It’s interesting to contrast my generation’s two main sources of breaking news: the bathroom wall (“For a good time, call Drusilla”) and the student newspaper (“For herniated retinas, read the newspaper”).

With online publication, the staff has the luxury of sharing almost-unlimited amounts of crisp, color digital photographs and even spicing up the pages with audio and video. (Back in the day, the only audio was the sound of 500 students murmuring, “Trees had to die to print Tyree’s crap?”)

I can imagine investigative reporters capturing incriminating admissions in the teachers’ lounge. (“Yeah, I get massive injections of Botox, so I can keep a straight face when I tell the students how Captain Ahab will be useful to them in the Real World.”)

Best wishes to budding journalists at Cornersville and everywhere. You may never get rich; but, then, there’s less chance of somebody mugging you with a tuba.


Danny welcomes email responses at

San Marcos Record

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