Working for the student newspaper is often regaled as a memorable and valuable  experience for the many students who participate in it. When considering what extracurricular activities you might pursue this year in school, especially if you are a freshman, you might wonder about the student newspaper – what is it like? What are the time commitments? What do you do? What do you learn from it? This guide will give you a general overview to the student newspaper in high schools and help you figure out if it is the right activity for you.

What is the Student Newspaper?

The student newspaper at most high schools is a newspaper about school and community activities and events that is staffed, written, and edited primarily by students. It is advised by a faculty member, but most of it is run and organized by students themselves. The student newspaper may be offered as a class that gives academic credit, or it might count only as an extracurricular—this depends on your school.

Additionally, the publishing schedule also depends on the school. Some high schools publish their newspaper one or more times a week, while others stick to a bi-weekly or even monthly schedule. Nowadays, the student newspaper often includes a web presence as well. This calls for an set of responsibilities and necessary skills, often somewhat different from the paper edition, and sometimes high content demands. Both publishing schedules and whether or not there is an online newspaper or likeness should be taken into consideration when you are deciding whether or not you will join.

Student Responsibilities at the Student Newspaper

There are various responsibilities you will be expected to take on if you join the student newspaper. You may not need to take on all of them, and, in fact, it may be more helpful for you to focus on improving your abilities in one area. Either way, these different responsibilities will help you come to understand what goes into making not just a newspaper but any organization run smoothly and the amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a great product. Some of these responsibilities and what they entail are explained below:

Writing: When you work at your student newspaper, chances are you will need to write a few articles. No matter the subject of the writing, this process will teach you how to write clearly, concisely, and on a deadline. Additionally, you may be assigned to cover stories that challenge your views, which is helpful in expanding your understanding of the different perspectives that contribute to a situation.

Photography: Most newspaper also include a visual element. This comes in varying degrees – it may be an entire section devoted to photos or instead one or two photos accompanying some articles. Either way, the photos are usually of school events, students and faculty, and other school-related visuals. If your school has a photography teacher, he or she may be involved or offer you advice. This can be a great way to gain some real-world experience if you are interested in photography or photojournalism.

Editing: In the context of a newspaper, editing involves not just revisions of pieces and copy editing, but also includes decision-making regarding content, administrative skills, and newspaper leadership. Being an editor means you have control over the newspaper as a whole, while writers and photographers often focus more on creating the individual pieces.

Marketing: For a high school student newspaper, marketing will largely occur within the student body, promoting the newspaper and student readership. Marketing may also extend to your local businesses and community members, as many student newspapers sell advertising space to help cover the costs of newspaper production.

Web Skills: At schools with online newspapers, you will learn how to upload content online, format and manage web pages, and improve your computer programming and web design skills in general. While this may sound like a job that is solely technology-focused, operating the website of a student newspaper will also mean you are responsible for design and layout and for creating a website that is easy to use.

What Skills Will I Develop If I Join the Student Newspaper?

Joining the student newspaper will help you develop numerous skills.  Below you will find some of the most essential and widely applicable skills that you can develop while working on the newspaper.

Time Management: No matter what schedule your school’s newspaper publishes on, deadlines will feel tight and you will learn how to work in a systematic way under pressure. You will learn how to schedule things in advance and set deadlines for yourself—and then stick to them. Like the saying, “the show must go on,” the newspaper must be published. This is an essential skill to learn for high school, college, and, eventually, real life, where many deadlines have no flexibility and require advance planning.

Writing Skills: Working on the student newspaper will force you to practice writing on a regular basis, and you will receive feedback on everything you write from your editors. This is an excellent way to improve your writing skills, and you will learn the journalistic style of writing especially well.

Leadership and People-Management Skills: Working on a student newspaper means that you will have to interact with other people. Even if you are a writer and do not have a prominent leadership role within the paper, you will still need to communicate with your editors and arrange meetings with people you interview for your stories. This means that you will improve in your communication and leadership skills. Furthermore, if you are an editor or some other leadership role in the paper, you will learn much about managing people, which is a crucial skill as you get older.

Marketing Skills: If you work in marketing at your student newspaper, you will gain a lot of experience by doing the actual work of marketing yourself. With the guidance of older students, and through trial and error, you will deepen your knowledge and abilities in this field.

Web Design and Software Knowledge: If you work on an online newspaper for your school, you may gain knowledge about specialized software or web resources for creating websites and, especially, for layout and publication. You will not only come to understand how websites work, but also how communication on the web works.

If I Enjoy Working on the Student Newspaper, How Can I Carry That Interest Forward?

If you enjoy working on the student newspaper during high school and are wondering about how to carry this interest forward into your future, have no fear: there are many similar (and different) ways to pursue similar endeavors in college and beyond.

First of all, most colleges have at least one student newspaper, and sometimes even more. Furthermore, they often offer a variety of other specialized publications and journals. If you have another specific interest, you might consider combining your interests by pursuing a publication on that topic. When you apply to schools, be sure to look into their newspapers and publications to see what interests you. Some colleges are renowned for the quality of their student publications!

Additionally, when searching for colleges, you may want to look into journalism or other similar majors, such as English or communications. These academic areas will prepare you to work as a journalist and even attend a graduate journalism program.

When thinking about careers, you should talk to journalists in the field already and ask them for advice on how to pursue your goals and which careers are available in the field. If you are not interested in working on a newspaper after high school or college, however, you can also aim toward a combination of writing and editing in another field you are interested in. This could mean science writing or political journalism, just to name a few.

Conclusion

Finally, remember that regardless of what major or career path you choose, good writing and communication skills are invaluable. You will have trouble realizing your ideas and goals in life if you can’t communicate them effectively to others. Joining the student newspaper is not the only way to gain and finesse these skills, but it is a great option. You will learn countless skills and have the opportunity to take on many exciting new responsibilities.

If you are not sure about how to balance your interest in the student newspaper and other extracurricular activities, check out our guide “Well Rounded or Specialized?” For a guide to all other sorts of extracurricular activities, read “Your Comprehensive Guide to Extracurriculars.” And, if you are a freshman looking for more information on choosing extracurricular activities, our CollegeVine guide “How to Determine Which Clubs to Join: A Guide for Freshmen” can help make the decisions a little easier.

Julia Mearsheimer

Julia Mearsheimer

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Julia Mearsheimer attends the University of Chicago. She is considering majoring in Philosophy, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, or Political Science, but remains undecided. In addition to writing, she enjoys listening to Nina Simone and baking bread.
Julia Mearsheimer