MIDDLEBURY — Only a few months ago, the Middlebury Union High School’s Tigers’ Print student newspaper — and indeed, the journalism program itself — was in jeopardy of folding.
But, after the eleventh-hour infusion of a savvy instructor and 11 sharp students, the Tigers’ Print has not only continued to publish, but also has flourished with some national exposure and a new on-line edition.
The national exposure has come through the placement of some Tigers’ Print stories on youth/student Web sites of the PBS television program “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE).
“I’m excited about this class and the work these students have done,” said Matthew Cox, an American Literature teacher and journalism advisor at MUHS. “They have really exceeded my hopes. They have done an excellent job.”
Through their own initiative and guidance from Cox, the students this year have thus far published three newsy issues of the Tigers’ Print, featuring:
• A Nov. 12 story about Mexican dairy farm workers featured on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer’s “Student Voices” Web page. MUHS students Dan Sunderland and Melisa Ortiz authored the story.
• Also in November, the ASNE featured on the national edition of its teen journalism Web site (my.hsj.org) the Mexican dairy farm workers story, along with Tigers’ Print stories about the swine flu (by student Allie Walter) and Vermont’s same-sex marriage law (by student M. Avery Many). The my.hsj.org site also picked up a review of the Halo 3: ODST video game written by student Joey Hynson, as well as recent stories about a former student headed off to Afghanistan, and a first-person essay written by a student who was a victim of domestic violence.
The ASNE reserves its national edition as a posting spot for a sampling of the highest level of journalism produced in the country’s high schools.
Walter, a senior from Salisbury, was very pleased to see her swine flu article posted on the ASNE site. Her reporting included facts about the first confirmed swine flu case at MUHS, as well as research on other schools confronting the fast-moving illness.
“I was really excited,” she said of the recognition. “I worked hard on my story.”
Walter had not been thinking about a career in journalism prior to joining the Tigers’ Print staff. She is intrigued about the prospect of doing more writing.
“At least it is in the back of my mind,” Walter said.
Sunderland and Ortiz were also gratified to see their hard work pay off. The story on migrant workers was a true collaboration. Ortiz, an exchange student from Argentina, is fluent in Spanish and was able to converse freely with sources — whom she met through farm families — for the article. Sunderland is also proficient in Spanish and serves as an occasional translator at the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury.
“It was really relevant,” Sunderland said of the article, noting Vermont farmers’ economic and labor struggles.
Sunderland only found out about the PBS posting when the Tigers’ Print photographer Hilary Swift asked him and Ortiz to pose for a photograph that had been requested by Jim Lehrer’s staff to run with the story.
“(PBS) was a relatively big name for a small-town Middlebury newspaper, so I was really honored,” Sunderland.
While he does not plan a career in journalism, Sunderland would like to take some writing courses in college while majoring in medicine.
Meanwhile, Ortiz is thinking about a career as a foreign correspondent, and the success with Tigers’ Print has given her encouragement.
“I love journalism and I love writing,” she said. “I saw this as a good opportunity to learn better English.”
She was thrilled to see her writing get wider exposure.
“This was amazing,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz immediately e-mailed her family upon hearing of the PBS posting and quipped, “Now I am famous in Argentina.”
The on-line version of the Tigers’ Print can be found monthly at my.hsj.org/vtr/middlebury/tigersprint. The print version is featured in the Addison Independent.