Saugerties school newspaper takes on sexism, among other issues

The Spirit has gone mostly online. But it’s still available in its traditional dead-tree format.

The first issue of the 39th year of the Saugerties student publication is just out. It features coverage of the Mum Bowl by athletic director Dom Zarrella, student-council issues, the SHS Key Club’s participation in the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, and colorful photos of student and faculty Halloween costumes. The above-the-fold front-page headline story delves into whether the tradition of the Mum Queen and her court is sexist by nature (Spoiler: Students surveyed by reporter Alexandra Millham shared a wide range of opinions on the matter).

The paper can be found on the official website of the school district. Faculty advisor and editor-in-chief Jennifer (Dargan) Murphy is placing a few written copies in high-traffic areas throughout the schools. But The Spirit can’t be found in campus newsbins any more. It’s mostly an online newspaper. Murphy sends electronic copies in pdf format to all staff members on campus.

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“What led to the move online was the sheer wastefulness of the previous printing arrangements,” explained Murphy. “All the money that went into printing 400-plus copies per issue was for naught, because most of the time students weren’t interested enough to bother reading it. Papers just sat in mailboxes or untouched on desks. However, this approach is much more cost-effective, and it is available to those who care to partake in reading or contributing to it.”

Murphy, an English teacher of ninth and tenth graders at Saugerties High, is in her first year as editor-in-chief and faculty advisor for The Spirit. She has been an advisor to the student council for over a decade.

“Last year, I began advising the yearbook and I thought the newspaper would work in conjunction with some of the assignments for yearbook,” Murphy said. “In fact, I have students who work on both. This streamlines the process by allowing me to combine meetings, due dates, assignments and deadlines for both.”

Between 12 and 15 students are on the staff of The Spirit, with roughly half writing stories. Other students pitch ideas, attend functions, conduct interviews and take photographs. Key contributors include Shane Hart, Michael Averill, Abby Hart, Millham, Olivia Staby, Logan Kiersten and Angelina DelGreco. Kira Podmayersky, the paper’s managing editor, is responsible for the layout. Murphy said the paper’s staff regularly holds editorial meetings to discuss future issues.

“Students come to meetings once a week and we have round-table discussions about what’s going on in and around school and the community, creative ideas for getting more readers, and upcoming events,” Murphy said. “I then allow students to choose which topics they’d like to follow up on and in which capacity they’d like to do so, and give them a due date. On the due date, I meet with my copy editors and we review and edit the articles for submission. Once we have them all set, Kira sets up the layout, I do a final re-read/edit and insert pictures. From there, we go to print.”

Previously, The Spirit was published quarterly. Murphy is shooting for a bimonthly schedule this school year. A November-December issue in the works.

Tthe current issue of The Spirit also contains Mum Festival coverage by Hannah Mangione, Mad-Libs by DelGreco, and a book review by Staby.

Murphy said the paper wasn’t equipped to go deeply into the 21st century. “An interactive news website would require more manpower than we can handle at this time,” she said. “For now, the online/print format is the best means of communicating.”

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