Knights Set the Bar for High School Journalism

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Teacher Alex Navarro interacts with Hanks High School journalism students. (Romeo Fierro/Borderzine.com)

Teacher Alex Navarro interacts with Hanks High School journalism students. (Romeo Fierro/Borderzine.com)

EL PASO — From NFL drama involving quarterback Jay Cutler to the Hanks High School theatre department advancing in UIL competition, Hanksmedia.com covers it all.

“It’s really advanced for a high school paper. We cover any aspect of society just like a real paper,” says associate editor Michael Nanez, senior at Hanks High School.

Hanksmedia.com is the first fully-operational online high school newspaper in the El Paso area. It is the digital version of the student magazine Scriptoria and like all online publications it is updated daily.

“We’re the only program in the city that absolutely prepares these students for modern day journalism,” says teacher and advisor Alex Navarro.

The publication was started in fall 2008 by doing away with ordinary printed newspapers and totally converting to a magazine version, as well as the online paper. Navarro said that having their student paper online prevents them from printing hundreds of copies that students don’t even read and that the viewership among students has increased by converting to online. “We have to prepare these students for the future of journalism.” He also said that the administration at the school has been completely supportive of this and that the reception from the student body and faculty has been positive.

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Students have a number of ways to interact with the website. They can comment on the stories saying whether they agree with the topic of conversation or not. They can purchase the school yearbook and they can even watch the daily school news program, Knightvision, which is updated daily on the website and also run by students.

“The most interesting thing about [hanksmedia.com] is the fact that we update it so much and it looks so professional,” says editor in chief Garret Anderson, senior at Hanks. “It’s very student friendly and Hanks community friendly.”

The transformation started three years ago when Navarro took over the program. “They’re no hiring one trick ponies, you have to know online now.” Around that time is when the school remodeled the band room and they got the idea for a multimedia room, where the advanced journalism class is now conducted. “I don’t want to just have my students just compete, but be better then everyone else at the next level.”

Hanksmedia.com reporters working on stories. (Romeo Fierro/Borderzine.com)

Hanksmedia.com reporters working on stories. (Romeo Fierro/Borderzine.com)

The program doesn’t take any extra funding from the school and Navarro says that it only takes about $200 a year to run the website. All of that money generated from the ads it sells online to local businesses.

Navarro use to teach journalism at San Elizario High School where he said the most difficult thing about running the student newspaper there was actually getting the students to write stories. But he did say, “It could work at a school like San Elizario, because it could get the students to write more consistently and it would cost less than $200 a year to run a program like ours here at Hanks.”

There is no tracker to see exactly how many total hits the website has but by logging on to the website and reading a few stories one can see that there is an interaction among students. One story about the tardy policy at the school had nearly 20 comments from students voicing their opinion on the subject. “I feel honored to be a part of this program and it’s really neat because we’re the only school in El Paso to have an online publication,” says Nanez.

Navarro says that it will be about two years before most schools in the city convert to online publications. “We’re ahead of the curb and it’ll catch up eventually.”

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