Little heads bob up and down behind single desks. Their fingers are crossed in anticipation; not daring to blink. Fox is frozen halfway between standing and sitting; Levi grips the sides of their desk as if a wave threatens to knock them out of their seat as the class is enveloped, rapt, in this suspenseful hush. The fate of Mr. Allen’s fourth-grade class rests in the hands of the staticky, dual-language intercom announcement. The broadcast starts with the weekly Cheetah Awards. Students excitedly shout, “I know that kid!” and the palpable elation in the room heightens. “-and now, your 2022 winning class of the Run for Atkinson and a PIZZA PARTY– with an average of 2.45 miles per student is…” the intercom holds for a drum roll.
“Average?” Elijah questions.
Finally, the announcer gives the people what they want. “Mr. Allen’s fourth-grade class!” The room erupts into cheers. Vivienne hops happily, clapping her hands and hugging her friend Poppy. The serotonin levels skyrocket.
While the week prior these sharp minds tested their bodies and will in the Atkinson Run for the Arts (as some of you may have seen on the Franklin track), the wunderkinder of Mr. Allen’s class have since turned their focus back to their fledgling publication: The Atkinson Times.
Folded and stapled in the center with a hand-calligraphed title, The Atkinson Times boasts eight pages, impressive for a publication that was initially conceived through playground conversation. Student poems are dotted throughout, spanning from gloomy meditations on the void to an ode to McDonald’s Sprite. As varied as the poetry is the journalistic material. A front cover story details the recent local snowstorm. As teacher and staff coordinator for the Times Tommy Allen explains, “We had a rough-draft of the paper ready before the snow day on April 11th. When we returned to school that Tuesday, we knew we had our front-page article.” The class adopted a very community oriented approach to this piece. “That article was written collaboratively,” Mr. Allen clarified, “with each student contributing a paragraph […]. I made 100 copies that Tuesday evening and students folded and distributed them all the next morning.”
The first issue of The Atkinson Times was published in April. The catalyst of the publication began with an interest in publishing comics, and throughout interviews, it became clear that many students are looking to brighten the world of journalism. “Some people in the world just need some happiness in their life, and they sometimes only get that through reading,” remarked a student who has chosen to remain anonymous.
Similarly, Loki, who claims to not have a favorite TV show, said, “Showing the comedy through words makes me want to write.” Fittingly, the Times found its start in the world of comedy. It was Hunter, the comic artist, who first spoke to the principal after the idea was gaining traction at recess.
The project has been primarily student-led from its moment of conception up to its present form, which is fairly unique. “Their enthusiasm was serious from the very beginning,” said Mr. Allen, who mentioned that the students reserved a room in the school for a meeting, before remembering that they needed adults to supervise such a meeting. “I think when they actually started really writing their articles was the moment when I knew that they would pull it off.”
Mr. Allen’s intuition proved correct, as the students pulled the project together with an impressive degree of polish, especially considering they peer edit. Elijah, who’s nine years old, described how Hunter and Grant (the paper’s initial comic artists), were inspired by the Atkinson Gender and Sexuality Alliance’s (GSA) newsletter to start a publication of their own. Ms. Madi, the counselor who leads the GSA, told us that out of the 120 fourth and fifth-grade students, 35 belong to the affinity group.
The Atkinson Times also pulls inspiration from our very own Franklin Post. Atkinson sports writer Fox, whose favorite movie is “Uncle Buck,” expressed “My goal [for the Times] is to write as much as I can and to make it more like the Franklin Post, they are our role model!”
As the school year meanders on and motivations waver, what will come of The Atkinson Times? When asked what keeps them writing, Elijah, who covered Run for the Arts in the latest issue, said “I want to see unbiased, factual and representative stories in the media. I think that any story in the news should capture not only the facts, but the perspectives, and other things that make articles less bland.”
Nate had a different viewpoint: “I want to see a news story where a horse kicks a wolf in the face,” he explained.
As Vivenne the “Encanto” fan described, “I enjoy remembering a story because everyone has a story and so does everything.” She hit upon the idea that journalism is an art form that merges the subjective and objective, requiring a delicate balance between compelling storytelling and factual information. Nate expressed a similar passion when he said, “What inspires me to be a storyteller is telling my future kids stories.”
As these students are beginning the journey of using their voices, the kinds of stories they want to tell are beginning to differentiate themselves. Asa, for one, expressed an interest in an issue that will no doubt affect all of our futures: “I want to see climate change [in the media],” they made sure to impress, “Help the cause!”
If the future of journalism—or even The Franklin Post—is in the hands of kids like these, we are bound to be alright.