The Making of a Student Newspaper
ver·ba·tim /vərˈbādəm/: in exactly the same words as were used originally.
From global dailies to local weeklies, journalists utilize the printed word to inform and educate their constituents. Chenglin “Tony” He ’19 had the same intentions in January 2019 when he started Verbatim.
Cardigan Mountain School’s first student newspaper, the Cardigan Clarion, was first published in March of 1947. Filled with contributions from countless students, the newspaper provides a glimpse into the life of the School’s first students–reports of hiking adventures off campus, introductions to new faculty and staff as the school grew, accounts of the student-athletes’ first competitions against other schools.
It was the Cardigan Chronicle, however, that weathered the test of time. Started by Warren Huse ’52 and Byron Koh ’52 in October 1950, the paper was completely student run and gave the boys a voice on campus. Mr. Huse says, “I don’t recall ever being censored. The faculty read the paper before we went to press, but they never asked me to change a thing.” As the school grew, so did the Chronicle, adding pages and readers, and eventually developing into a community magazine with a circulation of over 6,000 alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of Cardigan.
Fast forward to the fall of 2018, when ninth grader Tony He arrived at Cardigan with a passion for debate and journalism. While visiting schools during the application process for secondary school, Tony’s keen eye noticed that all the schools had newspapers. The Deerfield Scroll, The Governor, and The Choate News–vehicles used by aspiring journalists to answer questions for their readers.
Upon returning to Cardigan, Tony decided to start a newspaper that would share the stories and interests of Cardigan’s diverse community and feature the intriguing characters and unique events around campus. Beginning in January 2019, Tony worked diligently throughout the week–completing his homework, studying for tests, coordinating peer tutoring in PEAKS–and then on weekends, he brought a student newspaper to life.
“There’s a computer program that's widely used in the academic debate world called 'Verbatim,’” explains Tony. “It's a paperless debate template that makes taking notes more efficient so that a debater can easily keep track of points raised in a debate. One day in Mr. Perricone's French class, I suddenly realized the word 'Verbatim' would thus make sense as the name of a newspaper that was focused on candid interviews and character profiles.” Thus, Verbatim was born. Its first issue was published on February 11, 2019.
“On top of being a phenomenal student, Tony took on the newspaper single-handedly,” says sixth-grade teacher Pat Kidder, who Tony asked to be his faculty advisor. “He provided the community with an outlet for student voices and gave students who hadn’t previously had a way of contributing to the community with a venue to do so.”
Fast forward again to the 2019-20 school year. Tony, by then a student at Deerfield Academy, signed on as an associate editor for the school’s online newspaper, The Deerfield Scroll. Back on the Cardigan campus, the crew Tony had appointed to continue his work rose to the challenge and faithfully published Verbatim weekly while school was in session. Franklin Chow ’20 was the editor-in-chief, while Deegan Blasko ’20 and Diego Escalante ’20 were editors.
Even when COVID-19 resulted in remote learning last spring, the Verbatim team continued to conduct interviews, write articles, and publish their weekly newspaper. They also chose their successors, ensuring that Verbatim would continue in the fall of 2020.
“He provided the community with an outlet for student voices and gave students who hadn’t previously had a way of contributing to the community with a venue to do so.”Pat Kidder on Tony He, Verbatim's first editor-in-chief
This year’s editor-in-chief, Zihan “Harrison” Huang ’21, has carried on the tradition, making sure that the newspaper arrives on the breakfast tables in Kenly Dining Hall on Monday mornings. The tricky part this year has been that Harrison, as well as two other members of the staff, are not on campus. Because of COVID-19 and travel restrictions, they are learning, and working on the newspaper, from home.
“For the first two issues, we were definitely adapting,” says Harrison. “We needed to strengthen our channels of communication.” Harrison’s solution was to write an instruction manual that is both inspirational and instructional. It begins with a short history of the newspaper as well as quotes from literary giants including Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Pulitzer; it then jumps into deadlines and the priorities set out by the paper. Stressing the importance of the title of the paper, Harrison and his guidebook take the task of journalistic writing seriously, making sure to produce meaningful content that is both accurate and tells the stories of the interviewees as they intended.
Harrison says he is also learning a lot about being flexible and taking responsibility for something beyond himself. Ms. Kidder adds to that list: learning how to interview sources, designing the layout, drawing a reader into a story, working together, and resolving difficult situations when someone hasn’t completed an assignment.
The Cardigan community has grown to expect Verbatim on the tables on Monday mornings; the newspaper has become something bigger than any member of the staff expected. There is no assignment from a teacher. There is only a passion for journalism and a quest to enrich the Cardigan community with information. There is Verbatim.