Superintendent pulls student newspaper
December 29, 2003
For the past two and a half years, the Summit High School monthly student newspaper, Tiger Tracks, has been published as an insert in the Summit Daily News.
When this year’s first issue came out in October, it was riddled with errors and on display for the entire county.
“In October, I read the paper, and there were lots and lots and lots of mistakes – simple spell-check and grammar mistakes,” Spampinato said.
“I expressed my concerns in a positive way,” Spampinato said. “My suggestions were this: look at top, award-winning papers in the state; run spell-check and grammar-check, take the kids on field trips.”
Spampinato admits that the Tiger Tracks staff had more than its fair share of difficulties during production of the October issue.
The newspaper’s new advisor, John Padjen, is the third Tiger Tracks adviser in three years.
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When the November issue came out, Spampinato did not see sufficient improvement. She found 117 spelling and grammatical errors, including the misspelling of her own name in the headline on the front page above the fold and in about a dozen subsequent references.
Tiger Tracks staff also misspelled the names of Krystal 93 general manager Mo Bennett and the school’s assistant principal, James Hesse.
In addition to the misspelling of names, many stories contained problems that would have been alleviated through a spell-check program, such as, “Students will make intellegent decisions that positively imapct their lives” and “The students were egar for the award ceremony because they had a few things entered.”
“I had complaints from parents about the quality of the paper,” Spampinato said. “Frank and Jim (Hesse) and I decided to take the paper out of the Summit Daily.”
The students published 700 copies of the December Tiger Tracks for distribution at the high school. Had the issue run as an insert in the Summit Daily News, more than 11,000 copies would have hit newsstands throughout Summit County.
On the Tiger Tracks opinion page, production editor and senior Matt Spaulding retaliated against Spampinato’s decision with a heart-felt editorial.
“I’m pretty mad about (her decision),” Spaulding said. “I don’t think it was reasonable at all. If you look at it, it’s a student newspaper. If you look at our first paper to where we are now, we’ve gotten better, but she doesn’t see that.
“We had two papers come out before. We were trying to get it in on our deadline. We didn’t mean to overlook mistakes, but we thought it was the best paper we could get out at the time,” Spaulding added.
According to Spaulding, the Tiger Tracks staff has to abide by its deadlines, because its reporters strive to write newsworthy, time-sensitive stories that would lose their punch if publishing were pushed back.
Many staff, administrators and students agree that the students’ latest effort is a big improvement over the previous two issues.
“It’s a student-generated newspaper and it’s never going to be exactly perfect,” Mencin said. “There are mistakes in the Summit Daily. There are mistakes in the Denver Post. Sometimes it takes a jolt to make things better.
“In the third issue, we were able to address the issues of editing,” Padjen said. “We’ve spent time on writing and the importance of rewriting. We’ve worked on learning software and writing styles. It’s a lot to get in in three months, and the faculty was very pleased with our third issue.”
Despite his confidence in the December issue, Spaulding and his other student editors decided not to let Spampinato review the paper before publication in an attempt to reverse her decision.
“If we ask her how she feels about it, it’s almost like she’s editing it for us, and then it wouldn’t be a student paper,” Spaulding said. “Our teacher looked at it, but he didn’t tell us what to change, because it’s our paper- not his.”
Steve Wahlfeldt, president of the Colorado High School Press Association and 14-year veteran adviser for student publications, agreed with Spampinato’s decision to temporarily limit Tiger Tracks’ circulation
“This is a good learning opportunity for the students,” Wahlfeldt said. “A leader in the community is stepping up and saying, “We want a better product. Until then, you won’t have a wider audience.’ That’s commendable. The onus is on the students to meet the challenge.”
Spaulding said he has learned some lessons, not all of them about writing.
“I’ve definitely learned from this,” Spaulding said. “I’m voicing my opinion about things. I’m glad that we’re causing so much controversy, because it seems like school newspapers are submitting to what their administration tells them to do, but we’re not.”