by Éadaoin Quinn
It is always on a Thursday at “little break” when The Mile Post is distributed. The newspaper team armed with bundles of papers, take their places at the lockers and the entrance to the canteen, awaiting the bell. The buzz of excitement is evident as both students and staff rush to get their copy, leafing through at speed (to see if they are in it!), before settling in for a read. The Principal and Deputy Principals are given their papers ten minutes before everyone else. The newspaper team anxiously await their thumbs up. Voicing opinions, writing on difficult topics, and interviewing staff are acts of courage. Waiting for feedback is nerve-wracking!
Our school newspaper is effectively the student voice of Enniscorthy Vocational College and The Mile Post is the real deal. It is a school ‘newspaper’. It is not a newsletter and it is not a magazine!! We are a tad touchy about that. The school community includes over 400 pupils, but the readership of our newspaper extends far beyond that to teachers, families, and the wider community. Our newspaper aims to make our world bigger, exploring the world beyond the school gates. Articles look at local youth groups, third level study, career choices, visits abroad, going to the Gaeltacht. A lead story last winter studied the air quality of the town in comparison to WHO norms and world averages for pollution with shocking results. This is a publication which acknowledges that growing up means finding your place in the world.
The publishing team meets weekly at lunchtime in the library with the JCSP librarian and a teacher. With feature writing, editing, sports reporting, photography, cartoon drawing, research and distribution, there is a role for everybody. The TY class join in through Newsbrand, Ireland’s Press Pass media literacy initiative. Sometimes the team hosts tea and chat in the library and bring together groups of students for features. Freelance articles are commissioned from students, often they become hooked and are enlisted for further pieces. We stress that everyone has a story to tell and a unique experience of school and the world around them. Students are, if necessary, supported to write by members of staff: resource teachers, NBSS, librarian and teachers. Reporters and photographers are given press passes allowing travel to matches and events. Prompt filing of stories is expected, or passes are revoked!!
Mylie our resident agony aunt (really two wise sixth year students who work in secret) promotes wellbeing. Dear Mylie answers anonymous questions from students on everything from losing a BFF when moving from primary to secondary, drug use, separation, anxiety and learning to study. Dear Mylie has his/her anonymous finger on the pulse and is a firm favourite among the school community. The student voice is also championed with articles like ‘My experience of living with ADHD’ or ‘Music and me – playing the violin’. There is inherent wisdom in some articles ‘I hate it when my friends look at their phone when I’m telling a story’ and peer advice on the merits and otherwise of TY from graduating students at the end of the year. Issues raised in editorials have even made it to the agenda of senior management meetings.
Like any school club or committee, just being part of a team is a great. The newspaper team works hard together and celebrates each issue with cups of tea and biscuits. We also mark the end of the year with a pizza party in the library. Of course, we are not forgetting that in publishing our school newspaper valuable skills are learned; researching, writing, drafting, editing, communicating, photography, IT skills, working to deadlines (sometimes learning the hard way!) and working as part of a team. The “final -final” deadline is always a Friday, with tweaks and last-minute additions on a Monday before a PDF is sent to the printers on Tuesday, to be collected early Thursday morning. An electronic copy is also created and shared to supplement the paper.
At its most basic function, The Mile Post publishes listings of information, what clubs and extra-curricular activities are on, when and where and how to get involved. Match scores are reported, competitions and big events are flagged. However, the real magic of the newspaper is in building community. We get to know each other and celebrate our successes, inside and outside of school. There is the ever popular ‘Shout Outs and Happy Birthday’ feature. Students from across year groups and friendship groups work together towards their deadlines. We learn all sorts of details about each other’s lives outside school from our hidden talents to our secret fears and maybe even our favourite breakfast cereal. We have discovered that our students have wildly diverse and interesting hobbies like ballroom dancing, flapper racing, hunting, rally driving, mountain biking, boxing, and make-up vlogging. There is no end of material to write about. This September will see some special celebrations for our team, as they have recently achieved an impressive second prize in the Press Pass awards for school newspapers. Voicing opinions, writing about difficult topics, and interviewing staff are acts of courage. And these young reporters are incredibly BRAVE! The future of print news in alive and well in Enniscorthy Vocational College!