Micronews in the Tri-Lakes
In the Tri-Lakes region, dozens of writers are being taught the ethics of news writing in school, flexing their creative muscles at student-run newspapers and expressing their deepest thoughts and emotions in personal publications.
The Lumberjack Lyre
Students at the Tupper Lake middle-high school have been learning how to write news first hand, seeing their interviews, opinions and stories published in the school’s new paper, the Lumberjack Lyre. The Lyre is a quarterly continuation of the L.P. Quinn Times, an online paper started by Sue McGowan produced for and by the students of the elementary school.
Once a week, the fluctuating staff at the Lyre meet in a computer lab, brainstorming ideas, cracking jokes about articles that get worked into print and having their creativity stoked by Sundy Sorensen and Zachary Arthur, the English teachers who advise the paper. When Sorensen wanted to bring the L.P. Quinn Times to the higher grades she teamed up with Aurthur’s poetry club to staff the paper. The paper is distributed throughout the school and printed at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
Now in its second year, the Lyre has an audience in the school’s classrooms, offices and in the homes of students, teachers and their families.
Students have the freedom to cover whatever they want, from Pizza Hut bringing back its coveted butter garlic sauce to the Pepe the frog “meme wars” during the 2016 presidential election. It’s funny, creative and, in the case of the Pepe article, surprisingly informative and relatively unbiased.
Several “teacher features” showcase the school’s most interesting educators each quarter, and business reviews provide insight and commentary into Tupper Lake’s restaurants and shops.
“I feel like it builds morale,” 12th-grader Emily Burns said. “Because we kind of see the best parts of the town. We do stuff on the ensemble and cover choral concerts, the highlights of our school year.”
In the latest issue of the Lumberjack Lyre, senior Dorran Boucher describes the painful college application process, an ordeal many of the paper’s readers are currently working through or plan to encounter in the next few years. Boucher survived weeks of visiting colleges, writing essays and filling out forms, and is now enrolled at Ithaca College for the fall semester.
He actually plans to continue his work in print media by studying journalism, with hopes of eventually working at BBC in New York City. Boucher has developed very strong journalistic opinions and ethics in high school, hoping to share his outlook of the world with others and explore the world in pursuit of truth.
“I feel like people are too invested in their own lives to empathize with other people, so I think it’s important that we humanize other people, especially in different cultures,” Boucher said. “I want [readers] to see an appreciation for everything around them.”
In an age when it is often difficult to find truth in media, Boucher said he wants to bring a non-partisan voice to the news. Understanding that he has biases of his own, he actively works to blunt them by investigating and reporting every aspect of his articles, not just what he needs to prove a point.
“I make sure I keep my own opinion out of there and I research both sides,” Boucher said. “By researching both sides I kind of rebuild my own bias to it, but make it credible.”
The Saranac Lake student paper, the Echo, stopped publication two years ago after nearly two decades. High school Principal Joshua Dann said the paper, produced through an elective class, has not had enough students interested in the paper to keep it operating, but there is a chance it can return in the future if interest spikes again.
“Kids vote with their feet,” Dann said.
Lake Placid High School also has a newspaper named Blue Bomber Times.
Student newspapers play an important role on college campuses, giving a voice to its always-changing population and providing a creative outlet for students moving through some of the most formative years of their lives. At Paul Smith’s College, the Apollos does just that, allowing anyone at the college to create pretty much whatever they want.
With everything from Christmas movie top 10 lists to reflections on parents being diagnosed with cancer, there are articles for every student, whether it be a quick laugh between classes or a poignant poem revealing something about both author and reader.
Of course, no college paper would be complete without political discussion and fiery opinions on campus and national events. A “Think Tank” question each issue asks students and faculty alike to submit information and views on topics ranging from gun control to kneeling during the national anthem.
Two years after student Sarah Hart created the publication, it exists on a regularly updated website and in a glossy bi-weekly print magazine. It is now advised by Andy Johnstone, the college’s digital media specialist, who graduated from Syracuse University after studying journalism himself.
Johnstone fondly remembers his days writing for Jerk, the college’s student-run monthly magazine, and said he feels the same spirit of camaraderie when he meets with the staff to discuss upcoming projects.
“We have a really good staff … communication, banter, it’s fun. We can really enjoy the time together in that room and also get down to brass tacks and do what we need to do,” Johnstone said. “There’s something I really enjoy about working in the newspaper magazine industry. It’s got a certain energy to it that I just love to foster.”
Giving forestry or hospitality students an accelerated education in journalism is what he loves most about having a paper at a school that doesn’t typically attract writers. Johnstone said the journalistic skills students pick up are beneficial for anyone in their career and personal life.
“I would argue that writing can be a big part of any job in any industry, just having those communication skills,” Johnstone said. “They carry that with them in some capacity after leaving,”
The Apollos also provides students the opportunity to call attention to issues affecting them on campus, giving a clear line of communication between them and leaders in the college and state.
Articles reporting on the negative effect Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Excelsior scholarship program had on enrollment and questioning everything from the addition of a psychology program to the college’s dog policy may not be desired by college and state administrators, but are important views to have in the public sphere.
“I’m a firm believer in the fourth estate as part of a functional government,” Johnstone said. “Here we do that on a bit of a small scale.”
The Daily Profit
You cannot subscribe to the Daily Profit, you can’t find it on newsstands around town and you certainly will not find it in your mailbox. What you can do is find it at the Community Store in Saranac Lake, being handed out at Waterhole concerts or in bags Sarah and Jenny Curtis carry around.
The paper, a mixture of comedy, absurdity and philosophy, compiles the poems, drawings and thoughts of the Curtis sisters and their friends, with photocopied magnets from their fridge. It comes on a two-sided page of printer paper that Jenny, the editor-in-chief, printed at her job at the Saranac Lake library.
It is not a record of what has happened, rather it’s a publication of things they want to happen. Hence the slogan, “Bringing you the news before it happens.”
Initially pitched by their friend Stephanie Sears as a podcast, The Daily Profit morphed into a physical paper as the three writers who work regular jobs tried to profit from their art.
“The original idea, the reason we started the paper was because we wanted to make money,” Sarah said.
At 50 cents a copy and with a less-than-consistent release schedule, it has not been a lucrative venture. After selling out of the first issue of the Profit, the two split about enough money to share beers to toast their success. Since then, sales have been down.
“Distribution needs work because we’re doing it ourselves and we lack enthusiasm,” Sarah said.
There is an element of sarcasm in many Profit articles, reporting on current events like the hot guy working at the sub shop and homunculus murders. It’s not always child-friendly material. There are, as Jenny puts it, “graphic graphics.” But crude, shocking jokes is not the paper’s purpose. Readers may come for a laugh, but they will stay for the genuine and introspective life lessons.
Tackling topics like envy, beauty and making friends, the Profit dishes out unique views of the human condition and encouraging advice for hard times. The merging of philosophy and comedy is meant to “tickle” readers, according to Jenny.
“Everybody gets so stuck in their routines and the way that they are in their day-to-day thing that they don’t see things that they might have seen or could see,” Jenny said. “In order to get them to see those things, you can’t just be like ‘Hey look at this thing,’ … you have to be like, ‘HEBLEBLEBLE’ and then they might be shocked enough to stop thinking about whatever it is that they think about all the time to look at something else.”
Influenced by Sarah’s prolific reading of self-help books and Jenny’s fascination with the convergence of science and philosophy, the paper is a personal look into their daily thoughts, creations and creative neuroses.
“We’re taking something straight out of our souls and making it plain, which people don’t do a lot anymore in public,” Jenny said.
Though the paper has become more premeditated from issue to issue in terms of layout and content, the goal is more to entertain the writers, than to be marketable. The Curtis family members are all avid readers, and Sarah and Jenny journal daily, publishing some of their most comedic and profound writings in the Profit.
“I find it a lot easier to explain my thoughts in writing than speaking usually,” Sarah said. “You have a jumble of thoughts, but when you’re forced to put it through your arm and onto the paper it sort of sorts itself out.”
“There is an aspect of magic to it,” Jenny added. “The things that you write down become, in a sense, real, and therefore manifestible, and they can have an effect on people outside your brain.”
As the paper grows with longer, headier articles, more contributing writers and a small audience of regular readers, the Daily Profit represents the thoughts and emotions of some of Saranac Lake’s most creative artists. Sarah said that while the paper is not a wild financial success, she hopes it reaches those who can enjoy and relate to it, to build what she referred to as their “tribe.”
“Tribe building in physical reality is so important,” Sears said. “I think we’ve all, in the last few years, got this taste of Facebook groups. I think the next step after you’ve got that little virtual taste of synchronicity or ‘vibing’ with certain types of people is to go find them in person.”
Sears envisions a sort of “Maker Space” for creativity in Saranac Lake, providing an environment where anyone can go to experiment with self-expression, learn a skill without investing in all the necessary material and be influenced by the work of friends and strangers.
The fifth issue of the Daily Profit is currently on shelves and in publishers’ pockets around Saranac Lake.