Teen Spotlight: Finding a family and a haven at the Skier Scribbler | AspenTimes.com

Teen Spotlight: Finding a family and a haven at the Skier Scribbler

Aspen High School newspaper editor-in-chief reflects on an unusual year in student journalism

Katelyn O'Callaghan
Special to the Snowmass Sun
Teen Spotlight columnist and Skier Scribbler editor-in-chief Katelyn O'Callaghan.
Dan O'Callaghan/Courtesy photo

In the midst of quarantine, Emily Kinney, Tessa Guthrie and I received the news that we would be the editors-in-chief of the Skier Scribbler for the 2020-21 school year. We were elated, of course, that our two years of hard work and dedication paid off, and we were ready to leave our mark on the paper. However, we were not as excited for the slew of difficulties and new responsibilities that came with being the editors-in-chief during a pandemic.

Our first paper as an editorial team was in May 2020, when the previous seniors left to work on the graduation issue and we scrambled to produce the paper. The best way we can describe it is if you were told to put out a raging dumpster fire and accidentally poured lighter fluid on it instead of water.

It was the prime example of Murphy’s law: anything that could have gone wrong did. An unhealthy amount of articles and layout pages were missing, page numbers were mislabeled, and wrong fonts and distorted pictures decorated each page. Since we were not officially doing online classes in the spring semester of 2020, we had to rely on weekly class check-ins to brainstorm articles and ensure the paper was running “smoothly.” Once everyone saw the state of the layout pages during our check-in that week, panic ensued. In a frenzy, each person thoroughly scanned the pages to help fix the mistakes. The layout team worked tirelessly to correct the pages and the staff designed and created a paper we were proud of. It wasn’t perfect, but we tried our best and knew the Skier Scribbler could only improve.

With one successful paper under our belts, we felt more prepared to produce the September issue. Thankfully, we also had bi-weekly Zoom classes that brought back a bit of normalcy to the paper. Articles flowed, creativity flourished, and the full editor team comfortably settled into their new positions. The overall production was a significant improvement from May. Although it was online, it felt more like the Skier Scribbler we had come to know and love the past two years. Our team grew stronger, and our connections deepened despite the challenges of COVID-19. The class was not only a space to produce the paper but a haven where we felt we could vent about the issues plaguing the country and have candid discussions about how we were feeling and coping.

With each edition, the editor-in-chief team reflected on ways we could improve and implement them into our system. The entire class also seemed unsatisfied with complacency as their journalism skills improved immensely.

In fact, picking the articles and other media to enter into the Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA) awards was quite the challenge because there were too many phenomenal articles to choose from in each category. Eventually, with difficulty, the editors chose and submitted pieces, and our class won 16 CSMA awards. The Skier Scribbler also won first place in the publication portfolio contest. According to CSMA, the judge commented on the entries, “it is impressive to see student publications that make the effort to put this much thought into their coverage. They go well beyond the basic ’day in the life’ of high school.”

Running the Skier Scribbler during a pandemic was not ideal, but we would not have changed it for anything. It pushed us creatively, not only in problem-solving, but in journalism itself. The news was overrun with COVID-19 coverage, and we wanted to diversify the paper. As a result, we produced many interesting articles that otherwise would have gone uncovered.

Being a part of the journalism class over the past three years has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Its impact on our growth as people and leaders was ineffable, and we developed many skills outside of writing that we will use throughout life.

We cannot thank our adviser Sarah Ward and this year’s Skier Scribbler staff enough. Without their dedication and perseverance, the paper would not have been possible. Our team is from all walks of life, but despite our differences, we created a family who made an impact on our school and community, no matter how minuscule. It provided the necessary teenage voice often left out of the media, and for that, we are proud of our time on the Skier Scribbler and can’t wait to see its continued success.

Katelyn O’Callaghan is a senior at Aspen High School and one of three editors-in-chief for the Skier Scribbler school newspaper. She will graduate this Saturday with the class of 2021 and will head to Lake Forest College in the fall.

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