Michael Stroud/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Michael Stroud/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

5 Times Student Newspapers Broke Big Stories

Michael Stroud/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Michael Stroud/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Anyone who is curious to see what the future of journalism holds should pick up a student-run newspaper. In between the new teacher profiles and sports highlights, they may find hard-hitting stories that rival reporting done for award-winning national outlets. Here are five examples of articles written by high school and college students that led to real-world results.


Maddie Baden, a junior at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kansas and co-editor of the school's newspaper, didn’t intend to break a major news story. When it was announced on March 6 that Amy Robertson had been hired as the school’s new principal, Baden volunteered to write a profile on her. But what should have been a straightforward piece quickly morphed into an in-depth investigation of Robertson’s credentials, according to The New York Times.

The real reporting began when basic details Robertson gave in her interview didn’t check out. Corllins University, the institution from which Robertson claimed to have earned her master’s and doctorate degrees, lists no physical address on its website. Further research revealed that Corllins is an online university that’s been accused of not offering proper accreditation to its students. Baden, along with other student staff members at The Booster Redux, published the front-page story titled "District Hires New Principal: Background called into question after discrepancies arise" on March 31. By April 4, Robertson had resigned "in light of the issues that arose," according to a board statement. For their part in uncovering the truth, the kids made headlines of their own.


In December 2007, students at Massachusetts's Newton South High School were unsettled to read that hidden cameras had been installed around their halls in secret. Teachers on the school committee, who first learned of the cameras in the school newspaper, were equally surprised.

Juniors Jason Kuo and Nathan Yeo broke the story in the Denebola, their student newspaper, months after the security cameras were put in place. They didn’t share how they got the scoop, but they did make sure to include a quote from the superintendent confirming the presence of cameras before sending the story to print. The cameras hadn’t been activated yet by the time the news broke. Nonetheless, members of both the school staff and student body felt they should have been notified before the new security measures were enacted. The superintendent heard their concerns and promised to be more upfront about the system moving forward.


When it was revealed in 2013 that George Washington University had been dishonest about their admissions policy, the story made national news. But the facts first came to light in the campus newspaper. The staff at The GW Hatchet saw their opportunity to break the story following an administration switch-up at the admissions and financial aid offices. During an interview, then-assistant news editor Jeremy Diamond asked Laurie Koehler, the school’s new associate provost for enrollment management, how GW was able to follow a need-blind acceptance policy with its relatively small endowment. Koehler gave an answer that conflicted with statements made by her predecessors, which opened the door for students to further investigate the scandal. The final story reported that financial need had always played a bigger role in the admissions process than the school let on. Koehler responded by saying that the administration would work harder to "increase the transparency" in the future.


News reports of a tragic death led to the uncovering of a human trafficking operation when Berkeley High School students took a closer look at the story. In November 1999, a teen girl died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Berkeley, California apartment. The death was initially ruled an accident, but high school student Megan Greenwell suspected there was more to the story. "Every other Bay Area newspaper just had the story of the tragic death, but we were finding out [the victim] wasn't even going to school and she was 17," Greenwell told The San Francisco Examiner. "That made me think there was something bigger."

Greenwell and her news editor at The Jacket, Iliana Montauk, began interviewing students and teachers with connections to people involved in the incident. They gathered accounts of human trafficking taking place in the apartment where the girl had died and other apartments owned by the same local landlord. On December 10 of that year, they published an article under headline "Young Indian Immigrant Dies in Berkeley Apartment," with the subhead, "South Asian Community Says 'Indentured Servitude' May Be to Blame." A month after the story broke, the landlord was charged with smuggling young girls into the country from India.


Palo Alto High School’s newspaper The Campanile owes one of the biggest scoops in its history to an anonymous tipster. After a meeting took place between school board members in 1996, the minutes from the session found their way into the mailbox of Esther Wojcicki, a journalism teacher at the school and its newspaper's adviser. The notes revealed that the board had moved to give one administrator a $9000 raise and promotion behind closed doors. From there the student journalists dug into the story, learning that the school board’s activity may have been illegal. According to the Brown Act, all public agencies in California must conduct business in public unless they’re dealing with personnel matters. By deciding the promotion in private, The Campanile suggested that the board had possibly violated that law. Once the job opening was made known to the public, Palo Alto High School administrators redid the meeting in an open forum.

Pop Culture
The ‘Scully Effect’ Is Real: Female X-Files Fans More Likely to Go Into STEM

FBI agent Dana Scully is more than just a role model for remaining professional when a colleague won't stop talking about his vast governmental conspiracy theories. The skeptical doctor played by Gillian Anderson on The X-Files helped inspire women to go into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, according to a new report [PDF] from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which we spotted at Fast Company.

“In the world of entertainment media, where scientists are often portrayed as white men wearing white coats and working alone in labs, Scully stood out in the 1990s as the only female STEM character in a prominent, prime-time television role,” the report explains. Previously, anecdotal evidence has pointed to the existence of a “Scully effect,” in which the measured TV scientist—with her detailed note-taking, evidence-based approach, and desire to autopsy everything—inspired women to seek out their own science careers. This report provides the hard data.

The Geena Davis Institute surveyed more than 2000 women in the U.S. above the age of 25, a significant portion of whom were viewers of The X-Files (68 percent) and women who had studied for or were in STEM careers (49 percent). While the survey didn’t ask women whether watching Dana Scully on The X-Files directly influenced their decision to be a scientist, the results hint that seeing a character like her on TV regularly did affect them. Women who watched more of the show were more likely to say they were interested in STEM, more likely to have studied a STEM field in college, and more likely to have worked in a STEM field after college.

While it’s hard to draw a direct line of causation there—women who are interested in science might just be more inclined to watch a sci-fi show like The X-Files than women who grow up to be historians—viewers also tended to say Scully gave them positive impressions of women in science. More than half of respondents who were familiar with Scully’s character said she increased their confidence in succeeding in a male-dominated profession. More than 60 percent of the respondents said she increased their belief in the importance of STEM. And when asked to describe her, they were most likely to say she was “smart” and “intelligent” before any other adjective.

STEM fields are still overwhelmingly male, and governments, nonprofits, schools, activists, and some tech companies have been pushing to make the field more diverse by recruiting and retaining more female talent. While the desire to become a doctor or an engineer isn’t the only thing keeping STEM a boy’s club, women also need more role models in the fields whose success and accomplishments they can look up to. Even if some of those role models are fictional.

Now that The X-Files has returned to Fox, perhaps Dana Scully will have an opportunity to shepherd a whole new generation of women into the sciences.

[h/t Fast Company]

Yale's Insanely Popular Happiness Course Is Now Open to Everyone Online

Yale University's happiest course is giving people yet another reason to smile. After breaking registration records, "Psychology and the Good Life" has been repurposed into a free online course anyone can take, Quartz reports.

Psychology professor Laurie Santos debuted the class in the 2018 spring semester, and it's officially the most popular course in the university's 317-year history. About 1200 students, or a quarter of Yale's undergraduate student body, are currently enrolled. Now that a free version of the course has launched on Coursera, the curriculum is about to reach even more learners.

The online "Science of Well-Being" class is led by Santos from her home. Throughout the course, students will learn about happiness from a psychological perspective, including misconceptions about happiness and activities that have been proven to boost life satisfaction. "The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice," the course description reads.

Each section comes with readings, video lessons, and a quiz, as well as the chance to connect and brainstorm with classmates. After passing the assignments, students come away from the six-week course with a certificate and hopefully a broader understanding of the factors that contribute to a happy life. You can visit the course page over at Coursera to enroll.

[h/t Quartz]


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