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Hanover High School Newspaper Is on the Upswing

Part 2 of a Two-Part Series

  • Hanover High School senior Caleb Benjamin, 17, editor of the Hanover Broadside, defends himself in an argument with senior Oliver Minshall, 17, right, over a typographical error in Minshall's report on the November meeting of the Dresden School Board in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2018. Senior Aiden Rowley, 17, looks on at left. Benjamin started his day early in the school library giving copies of the student paper to his classmates and giving stacks to Broadside staff members to distribute throughout the school. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Valley News Pressman Buddy Druge rolls a printing plate for the Hanover Broadside onto the flexographic press at the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. Fourteen plates were used to print the eight page tabloid sized publication, with full color front and back pages. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Valley News Pressman Buddy Druge monitors the press as 400 copies of the Broadside, Hanover High School's student newspaper, are printed in about two minutes in West Lebanon, N.H., Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Caleb Benjamin, editor of the Hanover Broadside, looks to see if anyone is in a Hanover High School classroom while distributing copies of the paper before the start of the school day in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover sophomores Alice Rodi, 15, left, Kate Gasparro, 15, middle, and Julia Horan, 16, right, turn to a story Rodi and Horan collaborated on about an anti-vaping campaign by the FDA in the Hanover Broadside student newspaper given out by Editor Caleb Benjamin, far left, in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 01, 2019

In the days leading up to Christmas break, about a dozen student journalists were putting the finishing touches on the latest edition of the Broadside, Hanover High School’s student newspaper.

Editor-in-chief Caleb Benjamin, a senior from Norwich, was working on a story about a boys’ bathroom that had been shut down due to vaping incidents, exploring both the issue of vaping in school and the question of why only the boys’ bathroom was closed. Zane Schiffman, a freshman staff writer from Lyme, was pursuing a tip from a student. Other students were compiling sports scores, taking photos to accompany articles and posting stories and briefs to the paper’s website.

Locally and nationally, school newspapers, like their community counterparts, are on the wane. Many high schools in the region no longer have newspapers, and those that do are producing thinner, less frequent editions, often with fewer substantive articles.

But by all accounts, the Broadside is bucking the trend.

Rather than shrinking, the Broadside’s presence in the school and community has grown in recent years. Digital editions come out every two to three weeks, and four print issues of 300 papers are planned for this school year. New stories are posted to the website weekly, and the paper has an active social media presence, posting quick tidbits such as sports scores directly to Twitter and Facebook and using social media to start conversations about articles.

The staff has also begun trying to sell ads to businesses in the community, where the paper also has a strong presence: Print editions are distributed at the Hanover Co-op, Umpleby’s Bakery and Cafe and around the Dartmouth campus.

“I’ve had Dartmouth professors come up to me and say, ‘I just picked up the paper at Umpleby’s,’ ” Benjamin said.

The Broadside staff has grown, too, with the addition of several freshmen this year, some of whom say they’re interested in the field of journalism. That’s not an anomaly. Nationwide, journalism schools have seen a significant bump in enrollment since the 2016 election, which gave rise to the war on the media and the term “fake news,” according to an April, 2018 article in MarketWatch, an online publication produced by Dow Jones & Co.

For aspiring journalists, the Broadside, unlike some student newspapers that deliver mostly fluff and opinion pieces, offers authentic experience. Writers attend student council meetings, dig through archives, investigate tips and interview teachers, administrators and students.

It also is unafraid of taking on controversial subjects. Last year, the paper detailed two lawsuits that had been filed against the school and exposed one teacher’s practice of writing nearly identical recommendation letters for multiple students.

While the staff doesn’t seek approval from administrators for the paper’s content, they often discuss articles ahead of time with them and make occasional concessions. When they wrote about the teacher recommendations last year, they agreed to put the teacher’s name lower in the story than originally planned so that the emphasis was on the practice rather than the teacher.

“We try to keep good relations alive,” Benjamin said.

A good reputation is one ingredient in the paper’s success. Staff members also attribute its vigor to good student leadership and a fertile atmosphere.

“I think we’re a pretty engaged community,” said Jasmine Lou, a senior from Hanover and the paper’s sports editor. “I feel like people want to know what’s going on in our school.”

Staff members say the same factors that have fueled interest in journalism as a career may be boosting the paper’s readership. “I think people have realized that it’s really important that we have an independent press,” Benjamin said.

In its 80-plus-year history, Hanover High School’s newspaper has undergone two name changes and at least one period of dormancy, judging by the files housed in the school media center. Detailing sports rivalries and student council disputes as far back as the 1940s, the paper has also undergone periods of shaky journalistic merit. In its early days, it offered poetry, announcements such as “Teachers Have Christmas Party,” and what appears to be some sort of serial short story called “Harpy by Dandy.”

In the ’60s, it printed heavily opinionated articles on its front page, before finding solid footing again in the ’70s, with articles such as an examination of a proposal to ban smoking on school grounds. While it enjoyed a healthy sprinkling of (presumably paid) advertisements, its content in previous decades often lacked the depth and context of today’s editions.

The edition that rolled off the Valley News’ press last week includes an article about the latest school board meeting, an update on the school’s composting program and an opinion piece about the lack of adequate seating in the school atrium, in addition to Benjamin’s controversial vaping article.

It all came together without the oversight of a single faculty member: The Broadside’s adviser, Gabe Brison-Tresize, who has also been a correspondent for the Valley News, left the school for a job with National Geographic earlier this year. The student journalists have seamlessly continued their operations without an adviser, which demonstrates what school newspapers, at their best, are all about.

“I think the whole idea of an independent review of what’s going on is important,” Benjamin said. “Rumors travel fast, but what actually happened? What’s true? What’s not? We’ll have the information that people wouldn’t get otherwise.”

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com and 603-727-3268.