A group of middle school students in Yarmouth has recently started a school newspaper. From left are Vagni Das, Katya Fromuth, Eliana Goldman, Coltrane Vitalius and Antonio Velazquez. Kate Irish Collins / The Forecaster

YARMOUTH — Hoping to empower their fellow students by sharing “what’s really going on” in both the outside world and their own school, a group of students at Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth recently started a school newspaper.

The “Harrison Times,” is offered in a digital-only format and the first issue, published last month, includes a couple of viewpoint articles, as well as submissions of art, poetry and sports, along with other content. The goal is to publish the newspaper on a monthly basis, according to newspaper advisor Charlotte Agell, the gifted and talented teacher at Harrison Middle.

The core newspaper team consists of sixth graders Katya Fromuth, Vagni Das, Antonio Velazquez and Eliana Goldman, with fifth grader Coltrane Vitalius.

The masthead for the new student newspaper at Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth. Courtesy of Harrison Middle School

Both Fromuth and Goldman say they hope to be journalists and authors one day and their goal for the “Harrison Times” is that the paper can provide a “slice of life” view of what goes on at the middle school, while also raising awareness among students about issues in the community at large.

For instance, in the first issue, Fromuth wrote an article about the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian that hit the Bahamas in early September. It’s considered to be the worst natural disaster in that country’s history. And Velazquez wrote a piece about the disappearance of trees from the urban landscape.

Fromuth and Goldman have long been newshounds, starting a classroom newsletter together when they were in fourth grade. They understand that newspapers are under pressure these days, especially because people can get information from the esoteric to the mundane with the click of a button on their smartphones.

However, both said they see still a future for professional newsgathering.

“I want to see legitimate news, not a blogger’s opinion,” Goldman said.

All five youth said they read newspapers from the Portland Press Herald to the Forecaster, to the New York Times. Many of their parents still subscribe to newspapers and Fromuth said her father routinely saves articles he believes will be of interest to her.

Goldman said the impetus behind starting the “Harrison Times,” was that “there’s so much fake drama in middle school that we thought it would be good to spread awareness about what’s really going on. Journalism seems to be full of such sad things, we thought why not use the news to empower instead.”

Agell, the advisor, said she’s impressed by the team’s commitment and said over her nearly two decades at the school they are the first to actually follow through on the idea of creating and publishing a student newspaper.

What their interest in newspapering shows, Agell said, is that “journalism is not dead.”

That’s a viewpoint shared by J.W. Oliver, editor of The Lincoln County News and president of the Maine Press Association.

“While Maine newspapers face the same challenges as newspapers across the country, I see the industry in Maine as comparatively strong,” he said this week. “I think owners who live in Maine and have a personal commitment to the communities their newspapers cover are major factors in the comparative strength of Maine newspapers.”

That said, Oliver also recognizes that newspapers are facing “a variety of challenges, chiefly declines in print advertising revenue and print circulation” and that the attempt to adjust and diversify their business models are seeing “mixed results.”

Encouraging young people to think about the news and the quality of news coverage is key, Oliver said, because they “will decide whether newspapers survive in their present form or some other form.”

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