From classroom to newsroom: the making of a school newspaper

From classroom to newsroom: the making of a school newspaper. Printed by Newspaper Club.

In an age of social media and digital content, it might seem like school newspapers are a thing of the past. But at the John F. Kennedy School in Somerville, Massachusetts, a group of dedicated students and educators are breathing new life into the time-honoured tradition of student journalism. 

Led by English teacher Caroline Hanly and parent/designer Kristen Cox, students from 6th-8th grades came together to produce the first elementary school newspaper in Somerville. And it’s printed on our digital tabloids!

“We are so pleased with how The Kennedy Chronicle came out and I can’t quantify how proud the students are of their work,” says Kristen. “One of our advertisers posted photos on their Instagram page and we even had to rustle up a copy for our mayor!”

Below, Kristen shares how the first issue of the student-led publication came together - from conducting interviews (with help from homemade press badges!) to finding advertisers to fund the printing.

Read about the whole process from start to finish or jump to a specific section:

•  Getting started
•  Finding our voice
•  Making it official
•  Designing the newspaper
•  Meeting with advertisers
•  The final result!

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Getting started

Though we have several after-school clubs, this was the first newspaper club and we’ve been learning as we go!

Caroline sent out an email to the 6th through 8th-grade families to invite students to join. We kicked off our first session with 19 students and the first couple of meetings covered the very basics: What would we call our newspaper? What kind of articles would we have? How are we going to pay for it? And every Thursday for an hour and a half after school we tackled our newspaper.

newspaper club

In our early planning meetings, Caroline said she had found a newspaper printer in the UK and was getting a free sample pack sent to the school. As soon as we saw them, we were smitten! We needed that newspaper feel and we couldn’t believe that color was even an option. 

After seeing the samples, the digital tabloid was our Goldilocks option – not too big and not too little. There are 438 students at our school but part of our readership is still learning how to read, so we opted for a conservative 400 copies of an 8-page digital tabloid.

The making of a school newspaper

Finding our voice

We gave the students a lot of latitude to choose what to cover, but the topics needed to be relevant for a range of students aged between 4-14 years old. Here’s what we ended up including in our first issue:

•  Articles about student life, like whether phones should be allowed in classrooms.
•  Interviews with new teachers (plus a “Guess who?” with childhood photos of the teachers!)
•  Poll of student’s favorite places to get pizza in the neighbourhood.
•  School news and events, like our Turkey Bowl football tournament.
•  Recipe for applesauce overnight oats, a healthy pre-school breakfast!
•  Tech news in the form of a list of websites the students use for learning and creativity.
•  Reading recommendations, featuring a selection of books about Norse mythology.
•  Puzzles made by the students using the online resource Discovery.
•  Comics by the club's drawing aficionado (he’s doing horoscopes as well for the next issue!)

In some cases, finding a specific story for a student involved Caroline’s knowledge of their personality to help them find a topic they’d be interested in. For example, one student liked sports but couldn’t narrow down a team to write about, so we gently steered him to write about an annual school tournament.

Other times we took an idea students wanted to write about and helped them make it more newsworthy. Several students are very interested in mythology so we let them write about that, but also recommended books across age levels that students could read to learn more.

Making it official

One of the first things we didn’t know that we didn’t know was to tell the students that they needed to explain to others what they were doing.

We went as a group to an after-school event to conduct polls and everyone in the newspaper club rushed up to other students and, with great excitement, started asking them about their favorite option for school lunch - only to be met with mild shock and confusion.

Enter the press badges. (Followed closely by polls with a pre-determined set of answers to choose from, so there are not 46 answers with two votes each.)

Press badges for The Kennedy Chronicle

Designing the newspaper

Making the badges also helped me start to hone in on the design of the newspaper itself.

When we began, the students wanted to have an active role in the design so I created a presentation to try to explain grid structures and their flexibility…but it was too much. In the end we decided it would be best for me to handle the design for our first issue.

I’m in the Adobe suite all day for my design work, so I got started with Newspaper Club’s InDesign template for digital tabloids. (Don’t worry if you don’t have professional design software – Newspaper Club also has free Canva templates.)

The layout was a bit challenging as students finished their articles at different times and we wouldn’t know how long those articles would be until they finished them. I relied on photos and graphic elements to create a cushion I could expand or shrink to accommodate more copy. And when I got really desperate, I was also able to rob space from areas we had left blank for advertisements.

Meeting with advertisers

The advertising aspect of the newspaper was a lot more fun than we’d expected. In fact, the students were so excited that we needed a rule that they had to finish their articles before talking to businesses!

Due to the aforementioned robbing of space (attempting to rectify that for Issue 2), we had 8 ad spaces in 5 different sizes and an option for a sponsor listing, but no real idea of how much to charge. Thankfully Caroline mentioned it to the 8th-grade math teacher and we had students calculate ad pricing as an extra credit assignment. 

The Kennedy Chronicle school newspaper for The John F. Kennedy School in Somerville, Massachusetts. Printed by Newspaper Club.

When the day finally came to go to businesses, we had a quick practice session where they pitched to another teacher at school. Then they broke into small groups and, armed with their press badges and some flyers I made, headed across the street to a shopping area and started pitching our newspaper. They did great!

Following up and collecting money didn’t go quite as smoothly but lots of emails and spreadsheets later, we raised all the funds we needed with a small cushion for our next issue. Several businesses even allowed the kids to make their ads!

The Kennedy Chronicle school newspaper for The John F. Kennedy School in Somerville, Massachusetts. Printed by Newspaper Club.

The final result!

We sent the newspapers to print during our February break. To our surprise they arrived 2 days into the break, so we had lots of private squeals of joy before getting to share with the rest of the crew. 

Everything came out flawlessly. We were nervous about colour-heavy ads bleeding through or rubbing off on the opposite page but it was perfect. Nicer than the newspapers I used to get while commuting every day!

"We're so pleased with how the newspaper came out. I can’t quantify how proud the students are of their work."

During the editing process we had printed out samples of the newspaper at a local copy shop and glossy stock is so sad. I print on it all the time, but for newspapers it’s the saddest fake garbage there is. Newspaper Club gives you what you didn’t even know you could hope for: a nicer-than-expected, legitimate newspaper.

newspapers arrive

On the Monday back from break we had an impromptu distribution meeting where we counted out enough papers for each student from 2nd grade and up to get a copy. We also set aside smaller sets for the Pre-K, Kindergarten and 1st-grade classes (who are still learning to read).

The newspaper club delivered them to each classroom so that the next morning they were waiting on the desks of eager students. We’ve also posted a couple of laminated copies on outdoor bulletin boards in the playground.

The making of a school newspaper. Printed by Newspaper Club.

Caroline’s 4th-graders (above) are arguably the biggest fans but it’s been a great success overall. One of our advertisers posted photos on their Instagram page and we even had to rustle up some copies for our superintendent, school committee and mayor!

We're so pleased with how the newspaper came out and I can’t quantify how proud the students are of their work. You can read the first issue online and if anyone has more questions about starting a school paper, we’d be happy to help! You can email us at

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