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Fifth Graders Prepare for Newspaper Project

Andres David Lopez
Several of our fifth graders have parents who work in magazines. Many also said they have family members who consume the news through newspaper subscriptions or TV. One thing Anick Pleven ‘75, a production manager for The New York Times Magazine, noticed when she spoke to them was a sense they had questions about the dichotomy between good news and bad news.
“For kids it’s really hard to process certain traumatic things like war, and murder, and death,” Anick said. “But they all really seemed to enjoy telling their stories. And they told me about the project they're going to do.”
For their first major writing unit of the year, the fifth-grade newspaper, our fifth graders faced a Friday deadline for submitting a story topic to their teachers, Bea and Katie. After winter break they will work on the format for their stories, which experts they will interview, what questions to ask, and how to get past the editing process.
Bea and Katie encouraged students to stay close to their community in deciding on story ideas. Sacha, in fifth-grade Norte, plans to interview a Holocaust survivor, a friend's grandfather. Molly will explore the world of musical theater.
Jay, our librarian, and Paul, our technology teacher, will be available to help students do background research, but Bea and Katie are asking students to base their stories on original interviews.  
The visit from Anick and another from Ashley Fetters Maloy, a feature reporter for The Washington Post, helped students prepare for their project. 

When students asked Ashley about her career reporting and writing stories they asked her about being nervous before interviews, and about having to report on difficult subjects. 

Daphne, in fifth-grade Sur, expressed interest in reporting on the Israel-Hamas war, especially because her mother works at NBC News. Ashley encouraged Daphne to consider a more focused angle on how leadership at NBC News decides who to send to the Middle East and how to keep them safe, instead of taking on such a broad and complex subject. 

As a feature reporter Ashley has worked primarily in pop culture and fashion, and she shared about reporting on fun stories such as the cornhole world championships in South Carolina, but she also admitted to working darker assignments, such as the Britney Spears conservatorship case. 

Ashley also explained that the most common newspaper story structure places the most important information at the top. And that details the writer adds to the story should strive to “surprise or delight” the reader. 

“I hope they learned a little bit about how to do the craft of it, but come away with a sense that there is always a story everywhere,” she said.  

Understanding how the news works is a critical life skill, Ashley said, and the newspaper project will help MCS fifth graders get a sense for what they are interested in writing, reading, and discussing. 

“I think this is awesome,” she said. “I just think it’s such a good idea.”

At The New York Times Magazine, Anick works closely with the photo and art departments on the magazine’s visuals, but she also keeps track of deadlines to make sure they go to print on time. 

Anick came to MCS in the 1970s from what she describes as a stricter school. 

“I felt more free,” she said. “Kids just seemed more free to express themselves.” 

She said MCS encouraged her to be open-minded and curious. 

“With this inclusiveness and diversity it really makes you be this open person,” she said. 

Farm chores instilled in her a sense of responsibility and community, Anick said. Fiber arts class, milking a cow, and waking up at 4 a.m. to watch another give birth, are all strong memories. 

“My experience at the farm was a big part of what I think makes Manhattan Country School unique,” she said.
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