After roughly three years of inactivity, the Hillside High School student-produced newspaper, The Hillside Chronicle, has been brought back to life under the watchful eye of Jackie Novotny.
Novotny, a sophomore-level English teacher, began teaching the school’s journalism class in the fall semester despite her unfamiliarity with journalism and reporting.
“The principal asked me over the summer if I would teach it, and I said I would try,” she said. “And so that’s how I landed here. But I love it.
“I hope that at least one or two of them take away things they can transfer into their college, like organizational skills and meeting deadlines and things like that.”
In the fall, the students produced one print edition of the newspaper. Novotny said she has one goal in mind the second time around this spring — producing two print editions.
The entire production is done in the classroom. The students write their own articles, take their own photos, edit one another’s writing, create the layout for the print edition and publish the articles online.
Students and professors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University who create The Durham VOICE provide guidance and advice to the students.
“The VOICE has come in and helped us with our editing and creative thinking processes,” Novotny said. “I appreciate the way the students have looked at my students as learners and adults.”
Novotny said she is learning the same lessons as her students while they all work to produce a paper they can be proud of.
“All the things I want them to take away — how to meet my own deadlines, but also how to keep the journalism interesting in what feels like a dying field in paper journalism,” Novotny said.
“There are also two students in here that have said journalism is their future path, so I’m hoping they take away the most.”
Those two students are senior editors Raina Matthews and Elaijah Gibbs-Jones, who are both hoping to attend Hampton University in the fall.
Students can help produce The Chronicle by joining the newspaper club, called “the Sting,” or by enrolling in the school’s journalism class that serves students taking Journalism 1 and Journalism 2. Novotny said her class is between 25 and 30 students.
Matthews said she decided to take the journalism classes because she hopes to study journalism in college, as she enjoys both newspaper writing and broadcast. The Chronicle has become central to her high school experience.
“It’s important to me because you get to see what’s going on around Hillside and around the world,” she said. “Freedom of speech has been limited to a lot of people, so it’s cool that we get to do it and tell people how we feel about stuff.”
Samuel Belisario, a sophomore editor at The Chronicle, said he likes the effect journalism can have on his community.
“Journalism has power in that writing has a lot of impact on readers,” he said. “Every journalism story can be related to you.”
Student editors keep the newspaper relevant to their peers by focusing the articles on Hillside news or relevant worldly events.
“Journalism is the way of getting the truth out, so it allows students within our school to get the truth out about positive and negative situations that happen around school,” Gibbs-Jones said.
To Matthews, one of those truths is that she does not believe the Hillside area deserves the bad reputation it sometimes gets.
“We are not who everybody says we are,” she said. “We are not a bad school.”
The students are planning to get that message across through the newspaper.
“If something happens in Cornwallis or something happens up the street at the corner store, it’s always associated with Hillside when we had nothing to do with it,” Matthews said. “Hillside gets such a negative name, but we’re actually doing good things.”
Commenting on the relaunch of The Hillside Chronicle, Principal William T. Logan emailed the following statement to the VOICE: “It is extremely important that students have a voice and can express their thoughts and opinions through the collection of factual information that supports those thoughts and opinions. Equally important is growing a readership amongst our students here at Hillside High, so that they demonstrate an appreciation for the work of their fellow peers and hopefully glean an interest in writing as well.”