RF Must Resist Complacency, Foster Community Connection

Grace Ramsdell, Editor-in-Chief

Leading the Register Forum has felt like a balancing act: Between putting out the best product that we can each month and engaging our contributors in a learning experience; between asking tough questions—in our coverage, and about our coverage—and sharing light-hearted stories with our community; between honoring the traditions of over a century of student journalism in Cambridge and pursuing innovation. The biggest threat to this balancing act has been, and always will be, complacency.

All of us at this school, students and staff alike, can do more to resist complacency and support our colleagues who are actively trying to make our community better. For students, our time in high school is transitory, but the work that we do here does not have to be. I am grateful for the endurance of the RF, but we, too, need to be ever vigilant against quiescence. That is what will render our newspaper obsolete—not new technology or breaking from tradition, but failing to seek out new voices, new audiences, and new platforms so that the RF reflects the state of CRLS and our community, as well as current journalistic practices.

All of us at this school, students and staff alike, can do more to resist complacency and support our colleagues who are actively trying to make our community better.”

I don’t feel like I work for the same paper today that I joined almost four years ago. In the past, although perhaps unwittingly, leaders looked in other directions as the paper grew more and more insular and was produced by a small, homogenous group. If you’d asked me when I joined, I probably would have told you that there wasn’t a place for me at the Register Forum. Without Paloma O’Connor ’16, I would not be where I am today. When I met her my sophomore fall, her quiet leadership and unwavering support opened the door to the RF for me, and this experience shaped my outlook on making the RF more welcoming and more connected to our community.

Our paper has made progress over the past few years as we shifted all production to after school and developed an entirely student-driven workflow. This year, we recruited writers, artists, designers, editors, photographers—students of all different skill-sets—to the paper, printed only original visuals (save for the occasional courtesy image), added a copyedit team, and worked to elevate all contributors’ work. These days, our reporters are not only sitting down with teachers and students at our school, but also higher-ups in our school district, local government officials, and experts in the broader community. In short, we have made progress towards harnessing the many talents of Rindge students to increase the legitimacy of our paper and its potential as a resource for the city beyond our school.

This year’s team at the RF understands the irony of being isolated while also being an organization based on communication. In addition to focusing coverage on local events and interacting with more local media outlets and student journalists from nearby schools this year, earlier this month, members of the RF attended the New England Scholastic Press Association’s annual conference. We received twelve awards for our work this year from NESPA, and being surrounded by fellow student journalists from all over the region was inspiring.

While the NESPA conference exposed us to the wider world of student journalism, the conference seemed to mirror what we see at CRLS in terms of who is involved in journalism. The majority of the conference attendees—the journalists of tomorrow—were white students. This was a reminder that the RF must do its part to bring more students of color—and students of diverse opinions, backgrounds, and identities—into the journalism industry, which is one of many issues that the RF is poised to address next year and in years to come.

The medium might evolve, but the fundamental mission of student journalism doesn’t, which is why we must continue to find and employ the most effective ways of reporting stories to our community. There is no formula for this. As we grow our online platform, the RF is equipped to tell stories in ways other than a standard 600 word write-up when that is what will best serve our audience.

A clear step for the RF is to work much more closely with CRLS’ Media Arts Studio, which next year’s leadership intends to do. Planning to bring back section editors to help with the distribution of editing labor and attention to detail in our coverage also puts the RF on the right track for next year.

Online editor Vera Targoff ’19 and Isabelle Agee-Jacobson ’20—who has gone above and beyond in her role as a contributor this year—have been instrumental in this year’s successes. Working with managing editors Cecilia Barron ’19 and Sun-Jung Yum ’19 has been a joy, and I am proud to announce that they will succeed me as editors-in-chief. These four young women have inspired me every day, as have all of our contributors this year. Each student who contributes to the Register Forum impresses me with their unique talents and dedication to our paper, to which they give countless hours of completely voluntary work.

This year would not have been what it was without adult guidance, too. I want to thank Ms. Hart and Ms. FitzGerald for supporting me as I worked to bring our paper online, Ms. Brisk for thinking outside the box about elevating student voices, Ms. Lozada for giving us a space to brainstorm about our new motto, Mr. Dua for engaging with me in discussions about how to make our coverage and club more accessible to students of color, Ms. Milligan for supporting the paper’s photographic endeavors this year, and Archy LaSalle for being a reminder to me that we can always push ourselves to be better—personally and professionally. Our work this year would also not have been possible without Mr. Matteo allowing us access to his classroom. Finally, I owe so much to my fellow student journalists at Brookline High School for their insights into running a print/online hybrid paper.

I believe that this work matters. We preserve the legacy of the Register Forum by actively contributing new layers to it. We have the resources to make a difference in our community, and media literacy lessons learned through reporting for the paper or reading it are here for the taking.

These are lessons I truly believe will continue to serve us—both readers and contributors—many years after leaving Rindge. If you agree that there are things we can do better, join us. If you decide not to, keep telling us what you think we’re doing right, and what you think we can do better. Journalists or not, we should all be asking a lot more questions.

This piece also appears in our May print edition.