Hi’s Eye top moments of 2019-2020

Emma Karp, R1 Features Editor

Behind the scenes of the student-run Hi’s Eye newspaper an array of activities go on at once: brainstorming, interviewing, writing, editing, designing, and photography. In room 111, the journalism room at WHS, everyone is always doing something and working together to publish a well-made paper each Friday. This year, WHS experienced an exorbitant number of stories that received recognition and backlash within the Westfield community.

Sierra Byrne, the commentary page editor for the Iris edition and Claudia Millwater, the R1 news editor wrote “College visits: Are students abusing the privilege?,” a piece about WHS students abusing their privilege to go to in-school college visits.

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I was not expecting the story to receive so much backlash but I knew that despite the fact there were [classmates] who were mad at me for the story, there were way more people who appreciated the fact I wrote about an issue within WHS that needed to be addressed”

— Sierra Byrne

“The experience was definitely overwhelming, to say the least. I was not expecting the story to receive so much backlash but I knew that despite the fact there were [classmates] who were mad at me for the story, there were way more people who appreciated the fact I wrote about an issue within WHS that needed to be addressed,” said Byrne.  

Her passion and pride for writing this article were clear as she added that, “I received positive recognition from the administration, teachers and my classmates, and that made all the harsh, negative comments disappear.” This recognition also came in the form of a policy change regarding college visits.

Byrne shared that when writing the piece, she was extremely hesitant about publishing her name as the byline and had second thoughts when she decided to keep her name on the story. Once she decided to do it, It not only gave her more confidence in writing more éxpose pieces, but it taught her what journalism is really about: “Writing the truth when it does and does not want to be heard.” 

Another story that resonated with the WHS community was “Misleading teacher salary reports lead to controversy” written by Greta McLaughlin, Zach Rever and Colin Sumner, which revealed a controversial issue reported in the Westfield Patch about teachers’ salaries. WHS teachers were upset with the Patch article because they claimed that the salaries listed were actually incorrect. 

The Hi’s Eye staff set out to find out how the misreporting could have happened. This was a difficult one to write as the writers were often met with resistance and unwilling interviewees. McLaughlin recalls, “We only had a couple of days to collect all of our information, and we had to put complete faith in our sources. This was the most rewarding article I’ve written because the teachers were so grateful that we had set the record straight, and it made me remember why I enjoyed journalism in the first place.” 

“Highlighting Westfield’s minority experiences” was an important story written by R2 features editor Kathryn Bartlett, which gained recognition and praise. Bartlett said that it was very challenging to write due to the “sensitive subject matter.”

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I find it’s rewarding still being able to publish online every week because it really shows how we’re able to rise to the occasion and get it done no matter how hard the obstacles make it seem”

— Grace Sacco

 “Obviously no two people had the same experience in Westfield schools,” Bartlett said, “and I would have never wanted to imply that I was speaking for everyone, so I had to conduct as many different interviews as possible and take a lot of care when choosing my words as I wrote.” Her article was spread around social media and sparked many conversations, which is something that Bartlett is very proud of.

The R3 Editor-In-Chief, Jessi Schlewitt, and co-writer Bartlett, created a podcast called “Goo Goo Dolls frontman joins Hi’s Eye for podcast” interviewing Johnny Rzeznik, the lead singer and guitarist of The Goo Goo Dolls, a popular group from the 90s. This podcast gained recognition from the Westfield Community and from Reznick superfans alike. As both girls are fans of the band, this was a big highlight of their journalism careers. 

“Johnny was so down to earth and honest, and our discussion didn’t feel like an interview but rather a conversation, and a very eye-opening one,” Schlewitt said. “We also recorded the podcast just before quarantine, so publishing it just as quarantine began gave our readers something interesting to listen to that was different from our other Goo Goo Dolls interviews. Many of our topics of discussion revolved around Westfield life, which resonated with our local readers.” The Goo Goo Dolls’ amazing fan base is a significant reason that this article gained the recognition it did with over 1,000 hits in just two days. 

Recently, due to the coronavirus, Hi’s Eye was forced to make the decision to halt print publication and publish exclusively online. This was a change that no one had expected but the Hi’s Eye staff was committed to their readers and community. After many discussions, Hi’s Eye agreed that in a time like this, providing online content was the best way to stay in touch with Westfield and the school. Now, readers can find any article written from this year all with the click of a few buttons. 

R2 News Editor Grace Sacco said that the temporary transition from print to online has been difficult as many of us are lacking the motivation to write stories due to this change in our lives. Sacco said, “It’s sad not being able to layout a last page and have a last celebration with my rotation, but I find it’s rewarding still being able to publish online every week because it really shows how we’re able to rise to the occasion and get it done no matter how hard the obstacles make it seem.”

What goes on in Room 111 has revealed to journalism students what it takes to be a journalist. It takes determination, willpower, and the motivation to gather all the information in order to make the story the best and most truthful it can be. With this being said, there are still plenty of stories to come and we can’t wait to see what next year’s Hi’s Eye staff has in store for our readers.