Slow and steady is the mantra Elgin High School’s journalism class has been following in the growth of its student-produced newspaper, Husky Tracks.
Guided by English teacher/editor Cameron Livermore, a staff of 19 students work hands-on throughout the production process for each monthly issue — from page design to printing, folding and cutting their newspaper in-house.
“They’ve been enthusiastic about it,” Livermore said of his students’ response to the paper so far. “I’ve got some students who are really running with it and are interested in (the newspaper) and enjoying it.”
Husky Tracks and the journalism class itself are both relatively new additions. Livermore, now in his third year of teaching, established the class after his first year at Elgin High School. Post-graduation from Eastern Oregon University, Livermore worked as a news and sports reporter for the Othello Outlook, a three-person newspaper in Othello, Washington. After a year of reporting, however, Livermore decided to alter his career trajectory.
“When I moved back (to Elgin) and decided to become a teacher, journalism was still a big passion of mine and I wanted to make sure the kids had some sort of product they could create to get their voices out there,” Livermore said.
Husky Tracks was established in September 2017 and centers on events and topics pertaining to the high school, though eventually Livermore intends to expand the paper’s reach.
“From the start, I envisioned the journalism class as a way of communicating with the
surrounding community a little bit more about what’s happening in Elgin,” Livermore said. “A lot of our kids don’t have internet access at home and sometimes parents don’t always know what’s going on, so we wanted to have the newspaper hopefully bridge some gaps. That was my vision.”
Through growing pains and students’ continued honing of their journalistic craft, the student-led production has slowly gained momentum. With class time limited to around four hours per week, Livermore has intentionally kept the production modest.
“I’ve been keeping it limited in scope until the kids get their quality up and get (more) organized,” he said. “I wanted to make sure they had some time to grow without a huge audience. They’ve been learning by doing and finding stories where they can. We’re finally starting to make a couple ripples.”
The paper covers Elgin High School news and sports, with occasional feature stories, columns and student surveys. While the majority of content is curated by journalism students, the publication also receives occasional contributions from other interested students and produces a quarterly district newsletter released to the entirety of Elgin.
“I let students kind of ‘run wild’ (concerning topics). That seems to be the best way to get them motivated,” Livermore said. “I’ve kind of waited for the community to ask me for what niches I need to fill, (but) right now what we’re primarily doing is hopefully giving recognition to people who haven’t been recognized — that’s the angle I’m pushing. Now we’re getting to a point where we have some stories that might be appropriate for a wider audience.”
See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.