Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Beacon: Or, why I could never be a journalist


In another fit of recent almost-spring cleaning, I found a yellowing copy (cheap newsprint, what can I say?) of that eminent school paper, The Forest Hills High School Beacon. I worked on said paper during my junior year and part of my senior year. I saw it go from a punky little operation with, like, 10 kids in a room with a couple of laptops and an advisor who repeatedly told us not to plagiarize---

"I have two goldfish, a wife, and two kids--I will not go to jail for you."

--To a larger staff (about twenty, maybe, all told, including two of my closest high school friends), a slightly higher circulation (or, at least, less kids threw it in the trash) and seriously old computers. Seriously. Giant, old computers.


I'm sure I have other copies squirreled away somewhere--I'd like to see if I can find the infamous banned copy. I supposedly wrote an incendiary article about high school censorship of their papers, which was simply a research article and not a statement on our paper at all. The issue was banned, we gave it out anyway, my inner revolutionary was smug.

But anyway, the copy I found is from June 2004, which makes it the last Beacon of my high school career.


The article I had published in that issue was about Teenage Memory Loss. Which is kind of funny, because today as I went to the laundry room to put the clothes in the dryer, I couldn't freaking remember if I'd locked the apartment door. When I become senile, keys are going to be a problem.

I read my article before I began this post. Here's my assessment: Did I not own a thesaurus then? Awkward sentence there, redundancy there. Botched quote there. Fake quote there. Lack of factual backup. What the hell kind of source was that?

Working on the paper gave me a wealth of experience, in writing in a different style from the fiction I wrote for myself at home or the fanfic I wrote for the amusement of my friends or the papers I wrote for school. It allowed me to explore different subject matter, write in different tones, and see a tiny part of the publishing process and is probably responsible for my decision to study publishing in college. I used to sit with the mock-ups of the paper during journalism class period and take a red pen through it to copyedit. It's one of the most soothing activities ever. More relaxing than a massage.

Other than the cute-little-kid bits and pieces that were pubbed in my elementary school's semi-regular journal, The Beacon was the first publication that I was published in.

The paper also showed me that journalism was not for me. While I liked the variety of topics and I enjoyed the research (and let's be real, I was much lazier about research then than I am now), talking to people has never been my forte. Plus, there are constraints to journalism, even student journalism, which I found irksome. Also, journalism didn't hold my interest for very long, despite what some relatives think--they still think I majored in journalism at school. Hells to the no. I prefer blogging and my heart's always been in writing fiction.

How many of you worked on your school newspaper? Did you enjoy the process? What kind of articles did you write?

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