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A student's view: The journalism gauntlet


Last updated 4/13/2022 at 12:06pm

Editor's note: Austin Wright is a senior at Kamiak High School who contributes to the school's newspaper, The Gauntlet. Austin will write occasional columns for The Beacon on his experiences post-COVID from a high-school perspective. He plans to attend Western Washington University in the fall.

There is a room on the third floor of campus where the members of the Kamiak Gauntlet go each Thursday – Room 323. From within the walls, we often don't grasp the realization that our student-led newspaper publication represents a supposed dying medium. 

While for every issue we typically get caught up in trivial school matters that barely push the threshold of being newsworthy, we couldn't be happier going through the motions of what makes up this elaborate publishing process. 

It is something that all of us take pride in being a part of, and while social media corporations continue their war for our attention, we feel just as excited for each new release that the student body comes in contact with.

This despite a waiting period of a couple months accompanying the paper, which unfortunately due to COVID, delayed this year's schedule.

However, students are losing the concept of "paper" in their minds from the word "newspaper." The intention of my sentiment was never to sound like a middle-aged critic of modern society, but the internet has enabled a period in which modern and devoted publications are losing more ground. 

I doubt a vast majority of students here have been much exposed to the Gauntlet, especially underclassmen who have only this year made their first impressions of the school campus. 

As for my fellow seniors, only our freshman year of 2018-19 has passed by with a sense of "normality." Everything else has either been cut short, held remotely, or dominated by the discussion of masks in school (though now optional).

So what's next for journalism? I'm departing after nearly four years of holding office as our public relations representative. I'm often the only one in my friend groups who is considering this area to be a potential future career, besides the ones I've already made at newspaper club. In truth, it is difficult to tack on a definitive root cause of this mass decline.

In the days of old, whenever the Kamiak Gauntlet would release an issue, all of us would run around the school, dropping copies in the library, on lunch tables, and in classrooms for a wide variety of readers to find in the coming days.

Readership then, pre-COVID, was at an all-time high. But in the sweeping mess that impacted schools worldwide, we went online. Not because of strict choice, but out of necessity. 

Virtually all metrics of club success plummeted into a death-laden spiral in this window, only kept afloat by the endless hard work of my friends and peers in the club. Even through the digital transition, we were forced to make persistent online meetings that were the driving force in guaranteeing our survival.

The website by the looks of it was harmless, but it made me miss the sight of a full lunchroom reading the very words I formed a month or two ago.

All the meetings in the previous Thursdays came down to these couple days where the most people at one time would be reading the issue. Newsworthy events come and go with relevancy, but if anything, the Kamiak Gauntlet was fighting for our own relevancy.

The state of the club was a much different picture before COVID struck. Still, to this day we do receive vague inquiries as to whether or not the Gauntlet is a class or club, which on a larger scale reflects the naivety most students have about a newspaper that is supposed to be loosely representative of them. 

Of course, this is typically asked with good intentions by virtue of pure curiosity, but ideally I would love to have an entire school on the same page and aware even in the slightest about us. 

Many Mukilteans recognize The Mukilteo Beacon because of its online presence and convenient distribution to subscribers. The Kamiak Gauntlet ticks the box of online presence. But our distribution is admittedly poor, and even worse is that I don't know any quick fixes to this. 

As with everything, funds for all of Kamiak's extracurriculars have diminished. Because our entire existence for a whole year was strictly online, this subsequently pressured our distribution to improve by having to expend more effort on our Instagram (@khsgauntlet).

In a regular in-person school year, word-of-mouth of over 2,000 kids was far more helpful in contrast to a quarantined audience of maybe 30-100 people. I hold hope for the profession of journalism as I give my attempt at furthering a career in it.

It all needs to start somewhere.


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