GREENTOWN — Three Eastern High School students and one English teacher volunteered to take over responsibilities for the community’s newspaper, the Greentown Grapevine, when the sole editor and reporter retired this year.
First-year teacher — and now newspaper editor — John Bahler said this will be the perfect learning lab for his students. What better way to make writing relevant for them?
It’s an opportunity to give some responsibility to students, he said. He remembers when he was in high school, teachers didn’t trust him or his classmates enough to let them take on real responsibility.
“As a student, I was frustrated that I was not out in the world accomplishing something,” he said.
Bahler’s students will get the chance he never had.
It won’t be easy, though. The expectations are high, higher than they would be for a normal school newspaper, the teacher said.
“You’re upping the ante with a community newspaper,” he said. “And Rachel set the bar pretty high.”
Rachel Jenkins helped form the Grapevine, a monthly publication, in 1993.
Sometime that year, the Greentown Economic Development Committee started talking about how having a local paper would be good for the town, Jenkins said in an article in the most recent issue of the Grapevine.
The town’s first publication was started in 1894. It was called the Gem, she reported. In 1937, the Gem became the Howard County News.
That newspaper lasted until 1983.
People in Greentown missed having their own publication after that, she said in her story.
“Many times I heard the lament, ‘I wish we had our Howard County News back,’” the story said.
Jenkins brought it back for them, albeit with a different name.
She had two people helping her with the layout for the first three months of production, but both decided it was too much work. After that, Jenkins did all of the layout and most of the reporting and writing herself, she said.
And she did it old school.
News and ads were printed and then “pasted” with hot wax onto full-sized layout sheets, Jenkins’ article said. The sheets were carried by car to Fairmount, where the News Sun print shop made full-size negatives of the pages. Those negatives were transferred to aluminum sheets, which were placed on the press, she said.
Bahler and his students will try to bring the newspaper into the 21st Century.
Junior Aaron Wyant, the newspaper’s new design guru, has been creating page templates in a design program and converting the ads to digital files.
It has taken a while. He’s basically teaching himself how to work with the program. Trial by error is the only way you learn, he said.
“I like to mess around with technology,” Wyant said. “It speaks my language.”
He said he was excited when he finally got the newspaper’s banner transferred to his digital template.
Meanwhile, senior Kirsten Adair is working on a special project for the October issue.
Adair is the writer in the group.
While the newspaper will be more school focused now that Eastern has taken over, Adair will still be expected to report on other Greentown issues.
“We’ll still dig into events that are important to the community,” Bahler said.
For the upcoming issue, Adair is writing an article on the latest wind farm developments in the area, he said.
Senior Brandon Wittman has been compiling a list of Greentown events while he waits for his new camera to come in.
He will be taking photos for the newspaper.
Wittman’s grandfather was a photographer and taught him the tricks of the trade. Wittman also interned for an area photographer recently.
He can’t wait to get out in the community.
“It’s a pretty sweet task,” he said. “It gives you a sense of pride. It’s cool being able to deliver what people want to hear.”
Bahler said officials in the school district were thinking outside the box when they volunteered to take over the newspaper.
“It’s pretty unusual,” he said.
But when they asked him to take charge of the project, he didn’t hesitate.
It’s going to be a big challenge. He admitted he was a little overwhelmed as the next issue’s deadline quickly approached.
In the end, though, it’s going to be a great experience for his students, he said.
He just hopes he can live up to the community’s expectations.
“The people of Greentown are pretty proud of their newspaper,” he said.
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.