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Something is better than nothing. If it’s a high school newspaper’s online edition, it might be everything.
Perrysburg High School today is launching eSomethin.com, a phoenix from the ashes of its printed newspaper, which folded at the end of last school year. The electronic paper can be reached through The Blade's ourtownperrysburg.com Web site, which has a link to it near the top of its main page, or by going directly to www.eSomethin.com.
“I really did have faith that we would come back in some fashion or another,” Principal Michael Short said.
The school newspaper had been published since 1922 in various formats under the name Somethin, sans the letter “g.” But because of loaded course schedules and extracurricular involvements, too few students signed up to take the journalism class for it to be continued, Mr. Short said.
Enter The Blade, which designed the new Web site and whose editors will serve as mentors to the student staff.
“They thought it was sad that we were getting rid of that program,” said Ben Fry, who teaches English at the high school and serves as an adviser to the staff of the new digital newspaper.
The Blade will offer technical support for the first few months while the students concentrate on writing stories and developing multimedia content through what is now an after-school club program.
“The staff of eSomethin.com is impressive and so in touch with its readers. The reporters are digitally savvy and are working to produce stories and video reports that will be interesting and relevant for Perrysburg students,” said Dave Murray, managing editor of The Blade and an adviser to the eSomethin.com staff.
One of the first stories is on new federal guidelines decimating the school’s lunch menu, said student staff writer Joshua Valera, 17, a senior from Perrysburg Township.
“It has its benefits and it has its downfalls,” he said of the changed food options.
With stricter standards for nutritional elements such as protein and sodium levels, popular items have disappeared. The issue prompted the first-ever reader poll on eSomethin.com: “If you could choose one lunch item to bring back, what would it be?” Choices are soup, cookies, or ice cream.
Joshua predicted that “soup” was going to be the highest vote-getter, decrying the loss of selections such as chicken noodle, French onion, cheeseburger chowder, baked potato, and red beans and rice.
Features on the new Web site will include fashion and advice columns. “This site is also going to be a lot of fun for people to come to,” Mr. Murray said.
The online newspaper will cover athletics, school activities, featured students, and community issues. "Things that are important to the students," Mr. Fry said.
Hanya El-Shamy, 14, a freshman staff writer from Perrysburg, is working on a story about the recent fire at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo and how students may be able to respond through donations.
Hanya said the electronic edition was a good idea. “I think more students will want to look at it because they’re already online,” she said.
Mr. Short said students are allowed to use electronic devices such as smart phones between classes and during lunch periods, so they will be able to view eSomethin.com during the school day.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to unplug them while they’re here,” he said.
The student population isn’t the only target audience, Mr. Fry said. With a link on The Blade’s local site OurTownPerrysburg.com, eSomethin will be able to reach folks such as family members and taxpayers and share with them what is happening at the high school, he said. “I would look at it, just to see what’s going on at school,” said freshman Jessica Walczak.
Letters to the editor will be considered for publication, but a decision was made to not include online commenting to avoid bullying and to shield the students from the public, Mr. Fry said.
“High schoolers are vicious. We don’t need online commenting,” Joshua said.
The club would welcome more members. It meets at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays in Room 237 at the high school for about an hour, and students are tasked with writing at least one story a week for the Web site or making other contributions, such as taking photographs or videos, Mr. Fry said.
He added that writing is not the only skill students will gain. “Being able to talk and work with people is a major part of it,” he said.
Principal Short lauded the partnership with The Blade and the experience with professional journalists.
“The students who are interested in it are having a great experience with The Blade, and working in a medium they will be using the rest of their lives,” he said.
Mr. Fry said he hoped the high school’s photography club and multimedia class also could become involved, giving the online edition something even more.