Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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Feb. 9, 2011

Struggling to maintain Chips' diversity

by Gardi Royce, Page Editor
The Silver Chips ombudsman is the liaison between the paper and the Blair community.

In a school that boasts one of the most diverse student populations in the area, itís always tough as a newspaper to know what will provoke readersí attention. With so many different cultures, races and traditions, itís always a challenge to write stories that attract everyone.

We strain to come up with ideas that you as students can relate to, but itís increasingly difficult to represent Blair when our own staff is not a balanced representation of the student body.

With fewer people electing to take journalism, the pool of students eligible for Silver Chips is shrinking.

The Communication Arts Program (CAP), which requires students to take journalism, serves as one feeder into Silver Chips, with 19 members of our 23-person writing staff in CAP. While this is by no means the programís fault, it leads to a lack of diversity as its members filter into Silver Chips.

While this problem remains, we need to strive to make Silver Chips more representative of Blair as a whole. The ombudsman reaches out to students by contacting English teachers and taking surveys. This year these surveys have proved invaluable, as we have gathered great responses and views, influencing our stories and ideas.

Another way we have begun to restructure our paper is by making our Spanish page a more prominent aspect of the paper. With Latino students comprising over 27 percent of Blair, itís crucial that we reach out to those who may speak both English and Spanish.

Our last cycle featured Spanish on our centerspread, the newspaperís main feature.

This type of change and adaptation is something that is absolutely critical if we are to remain a professional and respected high school newspaper. However, introducing more Spanish-language stories alone cannot bring the necessary racial and cultural diversity to our paper.

We canít and shouldnít force black and Latino students to take journalism to boost our diversity or employ some sort of affirmative action, but instead we need to take on the problem and plan for the future.

The fundamental problem is that there are simply not enough journalism classes to offer our editors a wide pool of applicants.

As Gandhi once famously said, ďBe the change you wish to see.Ē This is perfectly applicable to this situation, because if we want more applications, we need to progressively motivate more students to sign up for journalism so that there are more classes.

Already the Editors-in-Chief for next year have begun planning and thinking about ways to make Silver Chips more representative of our diverse Blazer community. They will establish Spanish page writers as permanent members of our staff, instead of writing only one page a cycle. By canvassing more, they will try to reach as much of ďbig BlairĒ as possible.

With each national award we win, it becomes much more evident that if we are to be considered as one of the premier high school newspapers, we need to hold ourselves to that high standard. This includes making sure we are a true representation of our school and not just a selective sliver of students.

However, the solution does not fall solely upon our staff. We need English teachers to encourage their good writers to take journalism and pursue an interest in writing. If teachers support our writers, they will instill in them a confidence in writing that could promote an interest in journalism and Silver Chips.

In an ever-growing world, itís important that Silver Chips evolve with the changes in order to truly embody and uphold our motto of defending and representing the Blair community.



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