For one ambitious kid, the solution to newspapers' woes is to skew younger
Jon DuVarney: on a mission.
In recent times, a lot has been made of a newspaper market that seems to be slowly collapsing into itself -- a prospect that hit home in Denver like a rock to the head when the Rocky Mountain News shut down last year (interestingly, you can still browse around the website, which hasn't been updated since the closure -- it's like the world's most depressing time capsule). But that isn't deterring one kid. His name is Jonathan DuVarney, he's 12 years old, and he is on a mission to start a newspaper.
The newspaper in question is tentatively titled the Golden Writers Project, and DuVarney is billing it as "a newspaper by kids, for kids in Golden." That's where he's coming from, by the way -- he's a seventh-grader at Bell Middle School there.
"I've always been into reading and writing, and so have the kids who are working with me," he says. But what really sparked his interest in writing was a lesson his teacher did in the fourth grade called "What does it mean to read like a writer?" What it meant, says DuVarney, is that you cull style cues from the writer you're reading, pick up things you like, try to use those things in your own writing. "So I started trying to do that," he says.
But it wasn't until fifth grade that he really got into the craft with a class project that involved creating a newspaper. That was when he and a cadre of other writers in his class banded together to make that into something bigger. By the end of sixth grade, they'd turned it into a newspaper for the whole grade with a print run of 200 issues. "A lot of teachers and faculty were really interested in it, and a lot of the younger kids picked it up, too. You could say a lot of the school was reading it."
DuVarney wanted to turn it into a paper for the whole school from there, but, as it often happens, "Our time ran short," he says. Elementary school was over, and it was time to go to a different school.
Now, DuVarney is trying to take it citywide -- at least in Golden. He tried first to get his project into a more established newspaper, as a section, perhaps, but didn't manage to stir up much interest. And printing his own paper presents its own set of problems -- like, for example, how much money would it take?
"To the best of my middle-schooler ability," he says, "I've been able to get my hands on a little bit of information on how much it would cost. I called up some newspapers and tried to ask them -- they weren't very helpful -- but I did some other research and got an idea of it. I can't remember off the top of my head exactly what the numbers were. But it was a lot."
In the meantime, he's looking into getting some funding from Jeffco and possibly the PTA, and he's fielding the idea with some members of his school's administration as well. And when he gets it going, DuVarney is confident it's going to take off.
"You know, I've thought about how newspapers are struggling and what happened with the Rocky," he muses, "and that's actually one of our key points, is it's always the same adult writers with the same adult points of view. I think kids would be able to offer some fresh perspective, and I think that would be really interesting for people to read."
But what happens when he grows up?
"Yeah, my sister asked me the same thing," he says. "We're looking into getting some high school kids to be advisors, so as I go along into high school, I would probably do that. And then if it really takes off, I guess when I'm an adult I can kind of just oversee it."
Which might violate some child-labor laws, but then again, over here at Westword, they only pay us in whatever bagels Accounting doesn't eat, and that's probably not legal, either. Whatever the case, it's certain that journalism is a profession constantly in need of new blood -- and whatever happens with the Golden Writers Project, it'll be enterprising young folks like DuVarney that keep the dream alive.
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