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A few days ago, I watched a video titled “People React to Being Called Beautiful,” made by a student, Shea Glover. She filmed various other students and told them she was “taking photos of things [she] find[s] beautiful.” The various reactions are surprising to say the least. Most students laughed and smiled. Other responses are more heartbreaking.
One girl gives a small smile then looks down and bites her lip.
Another covers her face, deeming herself unworthy for the camera.
A boy asks, “Are you serious?”
It’s obvious that none of these subjects were used to hearing this kind of compliment; that really pulled at my heartstrings. It also reminded me of the romanticized culture of teenage life, filled with angst and a desire to “fit in.”
And it reminded me of when I first sought out to create a school newspaper. The disapproval of peers can be a crushing force, one that can stifle ideas. I had heard stories about newspapers at other schools: “No one really reads it, honestly,” confided a friend. “It’s mostly run by the English teacher and just features random short stories and essays”. And yes, most students aren’t terribly interesting in reading other students’ English assignments, but the generally negative opinion had helped to kill it even faster.
So I told another friend about my idea.“It’s a terrible idea,” she proclaimed. “Our school doesn’t have any school spirit. No one’s going to read it.” I struggled to find a response. “But don’t you even want to try?” “Not really. Good luck,” she said, already walking away, chewing her gum.
But I was persistent. I gathered a small team of seven others who were at willing to join me in my venture. My mission was simple: to bring more awareness about the happenings of our school to the students. Inertia, though, is not just a physics concept to be applied to moving masses. Our first issue was released to a great storm of no publicity at all. It had suffered a worse fate than condemnation; it was simply ignored.
Over the next few months, we would have countless Skype calls and many revisions of our plan. How would we attract readers? Going further than that, we realized that we needed to expand electronically, and be as legitimate as an actual newspaper. A Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a website, and an Instagram profile have all popped up. We began selling advertising space to local businesses to generate revenue. Our creation, The Pinetreae Post, has expanded to include investigative journalism, such as a feature on the issue of overworked counselors.
Slowly, student interest began to build. We successfully shed off the “cringey” label we had worked so laboriously to avoid. Students started to contact us, asking for their pieces to be put in the next issue. If my paper could speak for itself, it would confirm the necessity of going against the grain, of the reliability of hard work – would confirm the idea that, instead of opinions shaping our ideas, our ideas can end up shaping opinions.
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