Student journalism is back at Los Alamitos High School.
High schoolers reporting news for other students had been part of the culture at the Los Alamitos campus since 1969. But during Covid-19, the student newspaper, the Griffin Chronicle, went on hiatus and never came back.
Now in 2022, there is a new source for student news with the birth of the Griffin Gazette. The online newspaper features articles written and reported by the 19 students in the LAHS elective journalism class taught by teacher Lori Franzen.
“The school newspaper offers the opportunity to give voice to student perspective and experience; students offer a unique lens which can't be accurately portrayed by administrators or teachers,” Franzen wrote in an email to Spotlight Schools.
Franzen and her students have hit the ground running in launching the Griffin Gazette this school year.
From debates about school dress codes, to student performing arts and athletics, to coverage of the local school board election, to tips on tutoring, student journalists have churned out dozens of stories on topics and issues affecting the campus and surrounding community. In most stories you’ll read quotes from students and teachers.
“It's important to know that when we started the school year in August that we had absolutely nothing,” Franzen shared, saying the website administrators, Student Newspapers Online or SNO, were key to the successful restart by offering training and web design help. “Their support allowed us to grow into an award-winning program in only eight weeks,” Franzen said.
She also credited the Los Alamitos Unified School District and high school administration with financially supporting the rebirth of student journalism at a cost of about $1,200. “The district has been very generous to offer and fund our very small class,” Franzen said. Journalism is an elective at LAHS and satisfies the “G” requirement for California State University eligibility.
The students are already making an impact with their work. Seniors Alicia Tan and Sean Macdonald won the news outlet’s first “Best of SNO” award for their September article on the heat wave and changing climate . “Our goal is to be recognized as a ‘Distinguished Site’ by the end of the 22-23 school year,” Franzen said.
In October, I had the pleasure of visiting Franzen’s class and speaking to her students, including Macdonald, one of the many teenagers who was eager to learn more about journalism. In an email, he shared that he decided to join the class to improve his writing skills and contribute to his community.
“I wanted an outlet to share information about the school and local community and express myself through op-eds pertaining to things that are important to me and worth sharing,” Macdonald wrote in an email to Spotlight Schools.
Macdonald said he hopes students and parents check out the website for information about what is happening in their own neighborhoods.
“Local news is as important if not more than national news, so I hope that our current and prospective student readers get a better sense of their school and local community by reading the Griffin Gazette,” he wrote.
Senior Sofia Youngs, an editor for the Griffin Gazette, said she had been working since last school year to bring the journalism class back, recruiting other students to join by putting up signs around campus.
She said the students from all grade levels work together, collaborating on stories that share a student perspective on the issues. In a recent phone interview Youngs described what excites her about being part of the class: “For me it’s being able to see other people that are determined and ambitious to learn about the world.”
She stressed that she and her fellow student journalists are committed to reporting news accurately, as explained in the newspaper’s Mission Statement.
“We really pride ourselves on not being biased and telling it how it is and not glorifying one side and demonizing the other,” Youngs said. She has worked for various media outlets covering sports among other things while in high school. But writing for the school newspaper offers something unique.
“It’s going to not only benefit myself, it’s going to help others as well,” Youngs said of her reporting and editing, and added, “It’s a really big commitment but I enjoy doing it.”
You do not have to be in Franzen’s class to get your name in the Griffin Gazette. The newspaper accepts guest submissions for stories, artwork, feedback and more at lahsgriffingazette.com/submissions/.
“We would love the support of the community. Please visit our site often to 'like' stories and leave comments for our writers,” Franzen wrote.
You can also help financially support the student journalism class by making a donation on the website. The money raised will cover the costs associated with publishing and hosting the website, about $600 next year, according to Franzen.
And if social media is more your thing, you can follow Griffin Gazette on Instagram @lahsgriffingazette.