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Is This 8-Year Old's Newspaper Better Than Yours?

(Photo: Columbia Journalism Review/Joe Pompeo)

This is Hilde Lysiak, 8, the founder and chief reporter of The Orange Street News. It's a monthly newspaper and, in fact, the only newspaper for Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, a town of about 5,000 people. Hilde is and old-fashioned, gumshoe journalist who focuses on hard news. The Columbia Journalism Review followed her on the job as she investigated the effects of a local tornado strike:

An older man with an ample potbelly answered, and apologized for being shirtless. With a mix of affability and confusion, he looked down at the freckly blonde 8-year-old standing before him. She had her pen and pad in hand. Homemade press credentials dangled from her neck. “Hi. I’m Hilde from The Orange Street News, and I was wondering if you could tell me what happened a couple nights ago.”

He gestured to his neighbor’s property. “This gentleman over here got the worst of it,” he said. “It went through his house and then went out in the middle of the Susquehanna River and went to the south.” Hilde took notes. She asked the man for his name and spelled out the letters in her notebook: “B-O-B M-A-Y-H-E-W.” 

Hilde learned the trade from her father, Matt Lysiak, a former reporter for the New York Daily News. He takes care of the business end of Hilde's reporting, which is a popular source of information in the town. Residents are quite willing to pay to read her work:

Two hundred copies of each issue are distributed around town in local businesses, like a cafe where Hilde is known to hunker down on deadline with her usual toasted bagel and side of bacon. More than 40 people pay $1 to $2 a year to have Hilde hand-deliver The Orange Street News to their doors, many of whom the Lysiaks had never heard of before subscription letters began arriving in the mail. “We are very proud of you for taking on such a big project at such a young age,” wrote Mike Garinger, who enclosed an additional $5 to help with production costs.

And it's no wonder. Hilde reports on serious news topics:

In June, after Hilde’s competitors reported there had been a break-in on Orange Street, Hilde paid a visit to the police station to ask for the address. The cops wouldn’t give it out, so she went knocking on doors until she found the right house. Hilde landed an interview with its resident, who gushed that her dog, Zeus, had saved the day: “Hero Dog Thwarts Intruder!” Hilde’s headline proclaimed. As for the perpetrator, Hilde dubbed him (or her) “The Orange Street Bandit.”

-via Jeremy Barker

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