Young Reporter in the Gulf

High school editor brings story home to Detroit

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

When she first heard about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 17-year-old Caroline Shinkle knew what she was going to do for her summer vacation. The managing editor of her high school newspaper in Detroit, Michigan, quickly made plans to cover the story firsthand.

"You really cannot even begin to imagine how terrible (the spill) is until you actually go and experience it firsthand," she said in a recent interview with the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. "Watching the story unfold on the news really just doesn't give you the picture of seeing a fisherman's boat docked or seeing parking lots vacant."

Shinkle witnessed the spill in one of the hardest hit areas: Plaquemines Parish, just south of New Orleans. Her coverage from June will be included in an ongoing series she plans for her school paper. She will continue to update progress of the area's recovery.

"The implications of the spill are beyond comprehension," she said. "We will still be interviewing people about this situation many years from now."

birds in the gulf oil spill region
An oil covered pelican was just one of the many animals high school editor Caroline Shinkle of Michigan photographed on her trip to Louisiana this summer to cover the Gulf Oil Spill for her school newspaper. (Photo: Caroline Shinkle)

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser gave Shinkle an inside look at the impact this spill will have on his parish now and in the future.

"I saw miles of empty beaches, concession stands without customers, vacancy signs galore," she said. "Many restaurants that were usually packed were vacant. People are trying in every area they can to get some sort of income."

She also witnessed the efforts to help in the recovery. She interviewed many people worried about the recovery.

"There were three main concerns," she said. "First of all, how big the impact of the spill will be, how long the spill is going to take place, and then also how the use of oil dispersants is going to affect the wildlife."

Animals have been rescued by various wildlife organizations, which are caring for birds, turtles, mammals and fish until they can be released back into the wild.

"Imagine a pelican or an innocent turtle doused in oil," Shinkle said. "In many cases there is nothing anyone can do to save these innocent creatures and it is very sad and heart wrenching."

As a life-long student of journalism, Shinkle had some advice for other kids who are interested in being reporters.

"Write, write, write," she said. "Write about subjects you haven't written about before. For instance, if you've never written about sports, try writing about that."

Certainly traveling from Detroit to New Orleans to cover a major story with national and even international implications was out of this high schooler's comfort zone. Not going would probably have been harder.

"By going to the spill and experiencing it firsthand, I think I am a part of history," Shinkle said.

GULF OIL SPILL RECOVERY SPECIAL REPORT

Kid Reporters investigate how the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is being cleaned up and how the spill has impacted the people, animals, and environment of the Gulf coast. Their reports — along with other useful resources — can be found in the Gulf Oil Spill Recovery Special Report.

NEWS FOR KIDS, BY KIDS

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Scholastic Kids Press Corps

The Scholastic Kids Press Corps is a team of 32 student reporters who report "news for kids, by kids." Sports, politics, and entertainment are among the topics they cover.