McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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Pen behind the paper 

On Student Press Freedom Day, take a look at what goes on behind MCHS’s student newspaper and how the McHenry Messenger works on more difficult stories
Rose Wenckebach
A lot goes on behind the scenes of MCHS’s school newspaper before the print and online editions are released. Each round of stories, the section editors lead a pitch day to brainstorm ideas for new articles.

A student sits in the newspaper class 287 at the Upper Campus. They are lost in the confusion. It is their first day in the newspaper and they have no idea what’s going on. They take a seat in the back of the classroom and observe. The students are all doing different things. They are writing stories, asking the teacher questions, listening to interviews and prepping the print edition of the newspaper. They now understand why it is called the McHenry Messenger.

Starting in 2019, the McHenry Messenger became the student-run newspaper at MCHS. Since the newspaper began, English teacher Dane Erbach has been the advisor. The Messenger focuses on writing stories they feel the community needs to hear about, along with arts and entertainment as well as opinion articles.

Students across grade levels join the Messenger for several different reasons, former freshmen also enjoy joining the Messenger for the first year.

“I really liked the idea of journalism,” said sophomore Grace Crockett. “I tried it out last year and I ended up really liking it.”

But incoming freshmen are not the only change to the newspaper staff this school year. For the first time, the staff has an editor in chief.

Mackenzie Sroka is the McHenry Messenger’s editor in chief for the 23-24 school year. While being chief can be exciting, it is also a lot of work.

“It’s kinda stressful, there’s a lot to do,” said Sroka. “But I worked to get the right people in the right places and so that by doing it’s definitely helped take a weight off of me.”

As the second semester rolls around, the newspaper staff have begun writing more challenging stories. These stories are challenging in a way because they are more emotional and can be things people do not really want to talk about. 

Or might not be ready to hear.

The four challenging stories were released in an issue of the McHenry Messenger called “The Big Issue.” This issue highlights the big stories written by the Messenger staff. These are the stories the staff have worked on this semester, and last semester.

Eli Frommes wrote a story about gun violence. However he was put on pause when it came to finding senators and lawmakers to answer him. Fortunately he was able to contact people and write his story for “The Big Issue.”

But Frommes is not the only journalist to run into obstacles. Another big story is this issue is a story written about Sexual Assault.

Gabe Santos and Leylah Moreno spent most of the first semester and all of the current second semester writing this story.

In efforts to tell this story correctly, the Messenger worked with administration and proceeded with caution.

“We needed to jump through so many hoops with administration before we could begin,” said Santos. 

Between several meetings, proposals, interviewing permissions, rough drafts, and countless hours, the story was published.

While Santos and Moreno are proud of their work, they wish it could have been published sooner.

Messenger Staff members Sroka and Lily Adams also ran into issues while writing their stories for this issue, including having trouble finding sources and reporting on the problem factually and correctly.

The Big Issue of BIG ISSUES, which is what the Messenger called their 11th issue this year, was far from easy to publish, the staff members of the Messenger buckled down and got it done.

“Throughout all of what we were feeling,” said Moreno, “the most important thing is that we still had the driving purpose of our story.”

“We just kept repeating to ourselves that this is important and we need to write the story,” said Santos.

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