Start High School is starting a new student journalism project, with help from The Blade.
The news Web site LifeAtStart.com is set to go live by noon today, with content by students, technical support by Blade staff, and advice by Blade editors. Start journalism teacher Mary Mandley said she lives near the school and loves Start and her neighborhood. She said she hoped LifeAtStart.com will help others learn about the positive things inside the school.
“I want to get the message across that there are really amazing things going on in the community,” Ms. Mandley said.
Blade Managing Editor Dave Murray said the newspaper approached Toledo Public Schools Superintendent Romules Durant with the idea after The Blade’s gang series earlier this year.
“Instead of just reporting on youth crime in the city, we felt The Blade should do something to help,” Mr. Murray said.
TPS officials selected Start as the pilot school.
Mr. Murray has met at the school each week for the past month with Ms. Mandley’s journalism class, editing stories and planning news coverage. Kurt Franck, The Blade’s executive editor, has designed and built the Web site.
“The Blade is so pleased to help Start High School create a digital newspaper with the launch of LifeAtStart.com,” Mr. Murray said. “The quality of the students, their ideas, and their writing ability is only exceeded by their enthusiasm for this project.”
Ms. Mandley admits she doesn’t read print newspapers; neither do most students. But they’re already involved in their own sort of journalism through social media, passing on what they’ve heard, sharing memes and news online. The news site, she said, will hopefully help spark a desire in students to expand upon their social media habits and embrace long-form writing.
“I want them to bridge the gap between what they are already doing with all these forms of social media,” she said, “and what can be done and how they can turn it into a passion and a career.”
The relationship between Start and the newspaper is similar to one in Perrysburg. Blade staff members designed a Web site for a digital replacement to Perrysburg High School’s long-running student newspaper, the Somethin’. Editors serve as mentors there, just as they will at Start.
Though the goal is to highlight the positive attributes of the school, students writing for LifeAtStart.com will be free to tackle potentially controversial topics within the school. Already, the site has a story about a TPS decision to temporarily cancel a student performance of The Laramie Project, a play about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student whose brutal killing caused an outcry in 1998 and was seen as an example of bigotry against homosexuals. Objections by students and supporters led to the decision’s reconsideration by the district, which will allow the production to go on, though with some alterations for adult language and themes.
There’s also an open letter from the student director of the play that includes less-than-flattering comments about the district’s decision.
There are five students in Ms. Mandley’s journalism class, and she’s also recruiting other students to serve as feature writers.