Before we can even think about interviewing or writing, assigning or slotting stories, we have to decide what content is going to be in the newspaper. In order to create a newspaper that is as impactful for readers across our community as possible, we have to find the stories that speak to the issues affecting the current and former St. Mark’s students, faculty and staff who look to The ReMarker as an initiator for thoughtful discussion and debate across campus. And that starts weeks before anyone puts pen to paper.


STORY PITCH DAY

For each issue of the newspaper, we start fresh. Just a day after the previous newspaper is shipped to the printer, we have pitch day. For pitch day, everyone on staff, from staff writers to the editor-in-chief, must bring in one off-campus issue-driven pitch—along with potential ties to the school to create an interesting, meaningful story—and one personality pitch.

Pitch day is just as important as any other day in the cycle. It’s then that we generate a majority of our content and have our first in-depth discussions on potential story topics.

When it’s all over, I, along with other editors and staff writers, will go through them to decide which issues and personalities we want to take center stage in our next newspaper.

See the pitch day notes for our February newspaper

An example of what pitch day notes look like. Section editors will later comb through this document to pick which topics they hope to cover.

An example of what typical beats look like. While some sports will be out of season, everyone is expected to go in-depth with each of their contacts to find any stories and news that may be buried below the surface.

BEATS

In the few days that proceed pitch day, every staff member has a job to do. In order to ensure we find the stories that need to be told from every corner of campus, each writer is assigned two to three beats, groups for which they are tasked with contacting the student leader or faculty sponsor and discussing any event that may be worth covering over the course of the next cycle.

Go to the beats for our December newspaper

Over the past two years, I’ve been assigned college counseling, the athletics department, the chapel council and the strength and conditioning program.

Take a closer look at some of my beat notes from this year and last


INTERVIEWING

No matter how intriguing or thought-provoking a topic might be, the most important part of telling any story comes through the interview. Quotes make the story. The human element of each piece gives direction to the piece, teaching the reader how he or she should feel as they move on to the next word, sentence and paragraph.

During my time with The ReMarker, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to amazing people who have made a huge impact on the communities that surround them, whether through their intellect, charity or silent heroism. It takes hours of hard work to find those people and formulate the right questions. But when I do, I know they will tell the story in a way nobody else can.

Below are some of those people, paired with links to the transcripts of our conversations and the stories in which they were featured.

 

Colton Barber and Cam Lam

Then freshman Colton Barber (left) and then senior Cam Lam (right) hold pictures of their parents.

One of the most important facets of freshman journalism at St. Mark’s is the Magazine Project. The assignment is simple: write a story on an issue in your community. Even as I was worried I had bitten of more than I could chew, I decided to write on cancer, and, unfortunately, two of my schoolmates, the former a freshman and the latter a senior, had recently lost parents to pancreatic cancer. so I decided to tell their stories.

Those interviews are still some of the most difficult I’ve ever done, but their wisdom was unprecedented for two teenagers, and I knew I had to capture the emotional trials they endure every day through my writing.

Read the story.

See the interview transcription and listen to interview clips.



Matt tranchin

Matt Tranchin, a pro-gun reform activist and alumnus of my high school. (Photo courtesy Matt Tranchin)

After the shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we knew we had to cover the aftermath, particularly the student activism as an example of all that we, as high schoolers, could do in response to great tragedy. After finding that the organizer of the Dallas March for Our Lives was an alumnus of St. Mark’s, I got in touch with him and set up an interview.

Matt Tranchin ’02, who had worked at the White House in the Obama Administration and had continued to be a voice in favor of universal background checks and increased gun control, came to the story with a clear bias, but through balancing his views with those of other sources, he proved to be one of the most important expert sources we’ve used, his testimony made even more poignant by his ties to our school.

Read the story.


John Ashton and David dini

One key facet of The ReMarker and its relationship with the school community is the trust the administration has in us to do our job correctly. Often, that means interviewing administrators for important, sometimes inflammatory, stories is an indispensable part of the planning process.

For our September cover story, in which we discussed the fallout of a former teacher being accused of sexual assault before working at St. Mark’s, I, along with the editor-in-chief, spoke with the associate headmaster and headmaster to discuss how the school vets potential faculty members. The entirety of our interview with Associate Headmaster John Ashton is linked below.

Read the story.

Me with Headmaster David Dini. (Photo courtesy Dave Carden.)


lower schoolers

First grader Timmy Strauss stands in the triple threat position, ready to pass, dribble or shoot.

Sometimes, the best interviews come where you least expect them. In hopes of finding the story nobody else had as sports editor, I turned to a battle of two titans: the St. Mark’s and Good Shepherd first grade basketball teams. The game itself did not disappoint, but the post-game press conferences turned out to be the most exciting part.

Just to name one, star power forward Timmy Strauss, who came away from the game with a double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds) delivered his key takeaways from the game, chiefly, “‘I think we won that game because we scored more points than the other team in both halves.”

First-graders aren’t experts, nor do they use flowery vocabulary or complex sentence structures. But they tell the story in a way nobody else can.

Read the story.


Kent powell

American Airlines Corporate Communications Manager Kent Powell stands in front of a classic American aircraft.

In 2017, I helped create a special podcast with American Airlines employees who had been involved with sending off flight 77—which would later crash into the Pentagon, killing over 100— fromWashington Dulles International Airport in September 2001. One of those people was American Airlines Corporate Communications Manager Kent Powell.

Sixteen years later, that morning was still fresh in his mind. And while I was only six months old when 9/11 took place, the imagery he described during that interview is still vividly implanted in mine.

To listen to that episode, visit Multimedia Broadcast.