The Editor's Journal: Signing off from LS News

To whom it may concern:


It's time for me to break off a relationship. It's one that has gone on for quite some time, one in which I have found fulfillment and joy, as well as frustration and disappointment. It is a relationship in which I have invested hundreds of hours at all hours of the day. It has caused me to lose sleep at night, to stay up way past midnight texting and emailing, and to drive all over the county and sometimes out of the county to keep it going. It's one that has led me to devise detailed, often secret strategies to protect my interests, to build other relationships to protect it, and to constantly worry that at any second it could end due to circumstances beyond my control. And it's one that must be terminated.


The cast of characters I have had the pleasure of calling "my
staff" ... considering "editorial board" seems to overstate
the seriousness of this group :-)
So today, I announce to the world that I am ending my relationship with LSNews.org effective the end of my school year (yes Mom and Dad, your blood pressure can return to a normal level).


It has been a distinct honor and pleasure to serve as the first editor-in-chief of the revived school publication, something that started on a spring day last May when Mr. Zurn, our audacious advisor, called into my AP Calculus class to run some ideas by me, which almost immediately put me as the editor.


Over the past 388 days, we have published 559 articles, which have had 55 distinct student authors and have reached just over 205,000 viewers. On Facebook, we reach more than 20,000 people per week with 1051 followers; on Twitter, we have 283 followers and on Instagram, we have 672. We won six Keystone Press Awards based on less than four months of publication. More significantly, our articles have featured approximately 374 different students (out of approximately 1,000) participating in all kinds of activities inside and outside the classroom.


More important to me than the stats are the people. Numerous people featured in articles have thanked us for sharing their passions with the community. Numerous writers of articles have shared how their confidence has grown as a writer (and how they appreciate having a legitimate excuse to go to whatever event it is about which they are writing). Several of our photographers have expressed delight in finding an outlet to share their hobby.
Yup, that's me ... the fearless except for when I'm not editor
of LSNews.org


Personally, LSNews.org has occasioned me to immerse myself in the range of activities in which our students participate inside and outside the classroom, whether they are sporting events (I've begun to understand several different sports this year about which I previously had no clue), classroom activities, guest speakers, or even grammar bowls. I have spent hours after school talking to teachers and students about the issues they see, about their recollections from the past, and about their goals for the future.


I am really, really, really going to miss it. (And yes, to anyone whose article I have edited "really" out of this year, I am sorry for using it there.)


At the same time, however, I could not be more excited to see what happens with it in the future. Particularly over the past few months, I think we have done the work necessary to pull the slingshot those challenging final few inches backwards so that students of the future can experience the launch forward. Of course there will be bumps in the road, perhaps even occasional stoppages, but all in all, I am delighted with where my team is leaving LSNews.org.


That would be in the hands of Ms. Lillian Murr, our current school news editor who will be assuming my role as editor-in-chief beginning with graduation. Lilly has done an outstanding job this year. She has written over 35 articles and has never turned down an assignment. She has done tedious work like finding people to cover events, she has done challenging work like conducting interviews when people do not necessarily want to talk, and through it all, she has done excellent work. I could not be more confident in the hands in which I leave this publication.


My goals for the future of LSNews.org are largely irrelevant, but because I am still the editor until I am done writing this piece and am not eager for that time to end, I am going to share them anyway:


  1. Dig up the stories no one knows about, analyze them in ways no one thinks about, and present them in ways no one would have thought of. Also, don't end clauses with prepositions.
  2. Over a student's four years in high school, make sure they are featured at least once in an article. Everyone has a hidden talent or hobby that can be interesting to the rest of us; find them.
  3. Harness the unique position of being a school publication into making sure that the student perspective is always considered, that the interesting question an outside media source would not even know exists is always answered, and that the ultimate presentation of a story is always done in a way that no one else could do.
  4. Try to beat other media outlets to the story and regardless, cover it deeper and better than they could even imagine.
  5. Make sure that sports coverage always goes "beyond the box score" … a computer can generate a box score, a student reporter can explain why that box score came to be.
  6. Never settle for an email or a text message when a conversation could take place; pounding the pavement almost always yields a better story.
  7. Work with school administration to devise strategies and guidelines that will allow LSNews.org to be a first class media source and the go-to when the community wants information on L-S.
  8. Develop more ideas for "Inside L-S" stories that truly go deeper than a cursory review and represent the type of coverage that only a school publication can offer.
  9. Encourage a greater number of students to contribute a greater number of articles to engage the entire student body.
  10. Win a National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker award.


If I had a second year at the helm, those would be my areas of focus. Alas, I do not, and it will be up to Lilly and her team to plot a path forward.


In closing, I would be remiss not to thank those who made this possible:
  • Mr. Adam Zurn, our advisor, who had the motivation to get this started, the courage to put a student in charge, and the patience to weather the challenges we faced.
  • Justin Burkett, our managing editor, for talking me off cliffs when I was at the edge ready to jump, for handling many of our Inside L-S series, and for jumping on board last spring when no one else would.
  • Lilly Murr, the editor-in-chief elect and our school news editor, who never turned down a challenge, who constantly strived to write the best story possible, and who is willing to take over as captain of the ship for the coming year.
  • Lauren Mast, our director of sports photography, for attending more sporting events than I care to count to take more pictures than I probably can count, and for always being someone on whom I could count to be genuinely happy to contribute to this publication.
  • Aaron Davies, Alyssa Van Lenten, Jacky Kirchner, Ben Eidemiller, and Maggie Johnson, the remainder of our editorial board, for managing their respective departments with great conscientiousness, for dealing with my constant nagging as to who was writing which article and "when will it be done" comments.
  • Mr. Eric Spencer, our principal, for responding to emails about publication quickly and for committing to work through challenges and disagreements in a timely, professional manner when many would have simply thrown up their hands.
  • And most importantly, you, our readers, for being the constant impetus forward with encouraging comments, loyal readership, consistent engagement on social media, and for caring about what goes on in our school, the bedrock of the local community.


Now, it is finally time for me to sign off for the final time. LSNews.org has been a great ride and one I am sad to leave, but when I think about the goal I set way back when -- "In the pursuit of journalistic excellence to disseminate information to the public they otherwise wouldn't get … and to do it better than any group of L-S students has ever done or ever will do" -- I can't help but smile.


L-S students can do great things. My hope is that each year of this publication will outshine the last.


Lilly, make us proud :-)


Sincerely,


Benjamin Pontz
Editor-In-Chief / Co-Founder
LSNews.org

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