Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
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Read All About It: In “The Commons”, JW Students Offer the News and More

Ellen Gilbert

With articles on everything from The Slushy Machine in the cafeteria to the turmoil in Libya, The Commons, a digital newspaper produced by John Witherspoon Middle School (JW) students, is a worthy contender among local publications. The current and previous issue of the new enterprise can be viewed at http://jw.prs.k12.nj.us/TheCommons.

The first JW paper in recent memory, “The Commons is geared toward students and covers events in school such as field trips, activities, and assemblies,” said eighth-grader Sarah Gavis-Hughson. “We also publish articles on major current events that we feel are interesting or important for students in our school to know about. Then there are some ‘fluff’ items to make it more appealing to kids, like crossword puzzles, sudoku, and horoscopes.”

“I feel extremely proud to be the staff adviser for the JW Newspaper,” said civics teacher Stephanie Gigliotti. “ I am overwhelmed with the amount of hard work and dedication all the students have devoted to it.”

“When I asked, at the beginning of the year, if any students would be interested in writing a newspaper, I received a few positive responses,” she recalled. “Little did I know that I would be lucky enough to have such an enthusiastic group of young journalists. I will be sad to see many of them leave next year, but I hope that the newspaper will continue, as it is a great resource for all JW staff, students, and the Princeton community.”

“We have been training seventh graders like Gabe Greenwood and Gillian Samios to take over when we are gone” in anticipation of the eighth graders’ departure for high school, reported Ms. Gavis-Hughson. A search for new recruits has begun, and includes finding someone to fill the shoes of “our amazing Christina Chen,” the eighth grader who currently works as the paper’s design editor.

Hard Work

It’s a challenging effort. Since students schedules provide for meetings that only last 20 minutes, the staff gets together three times a week during lunch or before school.

“Basically we start by having a meeting where we just throw around ideas about articles and make a list of the ones people like,” said Ms. Gavis-Hughson, describing preparation for a new issue. “Then we go through and assign the articles and set a due-date for rough drafts. As the drafts come in they are given to someone to edit, and it is that person’s job to get it back to the writer so they can make the final changes. Then we start formatting the paper.”

“I feel like it is something that our school has needed for a long time, and right now we’re kind of bumping around in the dark,” observed Iona Binnie of the nascent publication. “I think it could really grow,” she added.

“It’s really fun and it’s a great learning experience for the future for high school newspapers and careers,” added Janie Kim.

“We don’t have as much publicity as we would like,” admitted Ms. Gavis-Hughson. “We hope that our classmates and teachers take the time to read it. I realize that it may be hard to view at the moment, but we are working on the technical issues.”

Fine-tuning aside, the consensus about working on the paper seemed to be reflected in Sammy Prentice’s thought that “it’s hard work, but when you see the product, it’s very rewarding.

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