Arvada West teacher takes walk down memory lane

Investigative reporting, photography, one-on-one interviews, and keeping up with current events are all part of writing for the school newspaper, which has interested a number of high-school students throughout the years. In fact, Bret Thayer, a social studies teacher at Arvada West, wrote for his high school paper as a sophomore; he states that the processes of writing stories, laying them out, and printing the paper have evolved substantially over the years. Thayer remembers that  layout was done without computers on a type of grid paper and each letter and word had to be specifically fit.

Thayer’s favorite part of the paper to read (and write) was the editorial section. He states that there are not many differences between how editorials are written today versus back then, but the trick to writing them is “trying to gauge what people are interested in reading.” However, grabbing the students’ interest is not the only obstacle that a good reporter must overcome; Thayer clarified that when he was in high school “Another challenge as a reporter was spelling and grammar.”

Most stories for The Westwind are written online and emailed or shared with the editors, who then make grammatical and spelling corrections before sending the story off to be graded by the editor-in-chief. Currently, common computer technology contains spell check, so a majority of the time the errors are fixed automatically. When Thayer was on staff every strenuous, little detail was checked over and corrected by hand. “We had to make sure that we did our own spell check and that we had it ready to go because the printer [of the newspaper] was not going to correct it for us. The more errors we had, the worse we looked.” Similar to current school papers, Thayer’s high school paper was distributed once a month. “A lot of the time, our errors came in because we were too close to the deadline, and we did not really plan it out well. That is where we had a lot of typographical errors and spelling mistakes that made us look not as good as we could have.”

Another major difference in the printing of the newspaper is that Thayer’s school paper was printed in black and white, which saves money. Today, the format is mostly in black and white, but with pops of color in the center section, and similar to that of a magazine. Thayer’s class was also in charge of developing the film for pictures; his responsibilities included taking pictures, and drawing animations or comics that grabbed the audience’s attention. For The Westwind, the pictures inserted into the paper are taken with digital cameras, or found online, and then edited in Photoshop; another huge advancement in technology.

Thayer also adds that when he was a reporter, “about the same number of students as today” were interested in reading the paper. He reveals that the most successful newspapers include stories about the students themselves. “People like to read about themselves. So, when you interview students, (about sports or the musical coming up or whatever they are excited about) you tell people ‘This is going to be in the paper!’ Then, they will pick it up and read about it.”

In journalism, the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same.