Are you interested in joining your high school newspaper? Many high schools have a school paper to give students an opportunity to hone their writing skills and keep students, staff, and teachers updated on school and community news.
Participating in your high school newspaper is a great way to improve your writing skills, learn more about journalism, and develop pieces you can include in your portfolio or resume. Read on to learn all you'll need to know about how to join your school newspaper, what work you’ll be doing, and how it will benefit you.
What Does a High School Newspaper Cover?
If you join your school's newspaper, what will you write about? The specific topics will vary from paper to paper, but most school papers cover topics that affect the school and surrounding community.
Common topics that school papers cover include:
- School events, such as dances, pep rallies, and assemblies
- School news
- Interviews with new students and staff
- School sports teams, clubs, and performing groups
- Community news
- Awards won by the school, a student, or a teacher
- Reviews of movies, music, and TV shows that appeal to teenagers
- School advice, such as study tips and which classes to take
One reason that many students enjoy being on the school paper is that they have a lot of freedom on what topics they’d like to cover. If you are just starting on the paper, you may be assigned articles to write about, but eventually, most writers are able to focus on topics they care about and find interesting.
For example, if you enjoy sports, you may be able to write about the school’s sports teams and travel to different sporting events to cover them. If you like fashion, it may be possible for you to start a column that discusses current clothing trends for teenagers.
What Does the School Paper Staff Do?
The work you do as part of your high school newspaper can vary widely depending on your school and your role on the paper. Some schools offer a journalism class that lets you work on the paper during the day and for academic credit. At other schools, the school paper is considered an extracurricular and is only done after school. Some schools let students choose what roles they’d try, others assign them or have students rotate throughout all the roles.
In all cases, producing the school paper is a lot of work, and students who join it can expect to devote a significant amount of time to it in order to meet deadlines and have enough pieces ready. Students often work together to brainstorm ideas and review articles before they are published, but between those times you may often find yourself working independently as you research stories, interview sources, and write up stories.
The work you do for the school paper will also depend on the role you have. While most students are writers or reporters, other jobs exist as well, and they are all critical to producing a complete and high-quality school paper.
Common Newspaper Jobs
Writer: Writers are responsible for the majority of written content in the newspaper. They research and pitch story ideas, interview sources, and write articles that are then included in the school paper.
Editor: After writing for awhile, you may choose to become an editor or split your duties between writing and editing. Editors are the overseers: they make sure everything in the paper is top quality. Their duties include developing ideas for new articles, approving article ideas, and editing completed pieces to ensure they are high quality and polished, as well as free of spelling and grammatical errors.
Graphics and Layout: These people are responsible for the images included in the school paper and how the final product looks. This group can include photographers, who take pictures to accompany stories and sometimes travel to get specific shots. It can also include graphic artists who design images and headers to be used in the paper. Finally, people in charge of the layout (who may also be editors) decide how the articles will be arranged, where images will be inserted, and smaller details such as margin and font size.
What Are the Benefits of Joining the School Paper?
There are multiple benefits to being part of your school’s newspaper, and I've listed some of the most important below.
Benefit #1: Develop Your Writing Skills
As you may imagine, being part of the school paper requires a lot of writing, and the regular practice you get is one of the best ways to become a better writer. You will learn how to write clearly and concisely and get valuable feedback from your editors.
Benefit #2: Learn More About Journalism
Journalism involves a lot more than just writing; you also need to know how to conduct research, interview people, and find new stories to write about. Being part of the school paper introduces you to each of these components of the job.
Hands-on experience is the best way to learn if journalism is something you want to continue long-term. Many students who like to write want to go into journalism, but when they experience the real daily life of a journalist, they realize it isn’t for them. Joining your school paper can help you learn early if journalism is a good fit for you.
Benefit #3: Increase Your Confidence and Sense of Responsibility
Many people find it nerve-wracking to start a conversation with a stranger and see articles they've written be printed and distributed to people they know. In journalism, you’ll have to do both a lot, and by doing these things so often, they’ll eventually become second nature. Working for your school paper will often make you feel much more confident about interviewing people and seeing your work published.
Being a journalist can also help increase your sense of responsibility because you'll be meeting deadlines, presenting stories in an unbiased way, and respecting and listening to all the people you interview, even if they have different opinions than your own.
Benefit #4: Meet New People
Working on the school paper often requires a large time commitment. Because you are spending so much time working with your fellow journalists, you often form close friendships with them. Being a journalist, even just for a high school newspaper, also introduces you to a lot of people as you research stories. You will likely get to know many new people in your school and community if you stick with your paper for a while.
Benefit #5: Can Strengthen Your Resume and College Applications
Your school newspaper is a great extracurricular to have because it will give you numerous samples of your work that you can show to potential schools and employers. These articles also provide concrete evidence of the work you did for the newspaper.
Strong writing skills are useful for many majors and careers, so even if you don’t plan to pursue a job in journalism or writing, the skills you gained while part of your school’s paper will be useful for practically any job you have in the future.
Joining your high school newspaper will also give you experience in journalism and writing that can help you get an internship or a position at your college’s paper in the future. Job experience can often be difficult for high school students to get, especially experience that relates to the career they’d like to pursue. By joining your school paper, you’ll be interviewing real people, writing articles that get read, and experiencing what it’s like to be a journalist, which are all great work experiences.
How to Join Your High School Paper
School newspapers almost always have a teacher who supervises the paper and ensures that everything is running smoothly. Your first step should be to contact them and ask how you can get involved. In some cases, you have to enroll in a high school journalism class to be part of the paper. You will receive academic credit for this, just like all your other classes, and you will work on the paper during the school day (although you will likely do work outside of school as well).
For other schools, school paper is considered an extracurricular, and you will only work on it after school and not receive academic credit. Some schools require prospective journalists to show writing samples before letting them join the paper, other schools allow anyone with an interest to join. If your school requires a writing sample, you may be able to use a paper you've written for a previous class, or you can choose a story you think is interesting, such as a school dance or community event, and write a story on that. If you are unsure of who runs the school paper, ask one of your English teachers or your academic adviser.
What If Your School Doesn't Have a Paper?
If your school doesn’t have a newspaper, don’t worry, there are other ways for you to get journalism and writing experience.
There are a number of other extracurriculars and activities you can try if you like writing but either aren't able to join the school newspaper or aren't sure it's right for you.
Most high schools distribute yearbooks, and many of these are designed by students. While being part of the yearbook will not involve as much writing as being part of a newspaper would, there are still many similarities between the two. Both require thinking of story ideas, developing layouts, editing, and getting quotes to include. Some yearbooks also include longer written pieces that you may be able to work on.
Your school may produce a literary journal in addition to or instead of a school newspaper. Literary journals often include many types of writing such as poetry, short stories, non-fiction, and humor pieces. If your school has a literary journal, it's likely that you'll be able to submit some articles similar to those you would write for a school paper.
Even if your school doesn’t have a regular newspaper, it will likely have some sort of newsletter that it distributes to students and parents. While most of the pieces in these newsletters are about school news and upcoming events, many newsletters also include articles on topics common in school papers. Talk to someone at the school office or your academic adviser to learn if you can contribute to the newsletter.
Community or Local Paper
If you are unable to find an opportunity at your school, you may be able to join a paper in your community. Many places produce local papers or community newsletters, and it may be possible for you to contribute articles or do an internship at one of them to learn more about journalism.
Start Your Own School Newspaper
You may also want to create a school newspaper if your school doesn’t already have one. While this will take a significant time commitment, it can be worth it if you’re very interested in journalism. Being the founder of the school paper also shows leadership and motivation, two qualities that colleges love to see in applicants.
Follow These Steps to Get Started:
Step 1: Talk to your academic adviser to learn how to start a new club or group at your school. There may be specific procedures you have to follow, and it’s best to know them before you get started. Making the club official may also give you a budget that you can use for printing fees and other expenses.
Step 2: Find a teacher to supervise the paper. While students will be doing the majority of the work, most school clubs require a teacher to act as sponsor and oversee the group. If you don’t have a specific teacher in mind, ask one of your English teachers if they’d be willing to be the supervisor.
Step 3: Recruit members and assign roles. Ask people you know and put up posters around the school. You’ll need writers, photographers, artists, and people with good computer skills in order to produce a complete paper. Your first issue doesn’t have to be extremely long; a few well written and edited articles with good formatting will look better than a longer paper that isn’t as polished.
Step 4: Start creating! Once everyone knows what their job is, start brainstorming topics, interviewing sources, and writing articles.
Step 5: Edit and assemble the paper. Check articles for spelling and grammatical errors, and decide where articles and images will be placed.
Step 6: Print and distribute. Your school may allow you to print the paper for free on one of the school computers or provide you with a budget to cover printing fees. If they don't, and the cost of printing is high, you can try raising money through fundraisers such as bake sales. You may also consider distributing digital copies of the paper first. If you are printing paper versions, get permission to leave copies in the school library, computer rooms, or other areas that students frequent.
Joining your high school newspaper is a great way to learn about journalism and improve your writing skills.
Members of the school paper have a lot of different jobs including researching new topics, conducting interviews, writing and editing stories, and taking photographs to accompany articles.
Being part of your school newspaper can help you improve your writing skills, meet new people, and give you experience to include on your resumes and college applications.
To learn more about joining your school’s paper, talk to the teacher who supervises the paper or your academic adviser. They’ll be able to provide you with more information.
If your school doesn’t have a paper, you can consider joining a local or community paper instead, or you can be the person to create your school’s newspaper!
Want to practice your writing more? Check out our guide to the high school English classes you should take and learn about the different writing classes that are available
Wondering why extracurriculars are important? Read our guide on what extracurriculars are and learn how they can help you get a job and get accepted into a top college!
Want more ideas for after-school activities? Check out our list of hundreds of extracurricular examples, and find some that interest you!
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.