Once a Kid Reporter [Editor], always a Kid Reporter [Editor]

May 10, 2013
After five years and a handful of months, today is my last day at Scholastic. I never really expected to be at Scholastic this long. I moved from Pittsburgh to NYC to work for the company (as an Associate Editor on Scholastic News Online), and I thought I’d work on that website for a couple years and move on to the next thing. See, I thought SNO was just a another news website — kids were the primary readers, but otherwise it was like working on any other online news outlet. Wrong. The signal difference was that SNO had Kid Reporters, and the longer I was at Scholastic the more I got to work with this group of truly exceptional young people. Ultimately, the Kids Press Corps and SNO were split into separate entities and I moved with the Kid Reporter program. Eventually, I took over running the program, succeeding my first boss at Scholastic, Suzanne Freeman, who founded the Kid Reporter program in 2000 (and who has been a great mentor and better friend). It was the biggest challenge I’d faced, professionally: Being responsible for 60 Kid Reporters, at least one parent per kid, and the day-to-day administration of what amounts to a mid-sized daily online news outlet is not for the faint of heart. There were awkward moments (like having to correct parents who were older than me when they were in the wrong) and frustrations (don’t get me started on some of the groups that put on primary debates during a presidential election), but man was it rewarding. Not only was I a journalist, I was also a teacher and a mentor sharing my experiences with the next generation of journalists. As a professional adult — as a human being — there is no greater validation than having a group of kids tell you how much you’ve impacted their lives. But they’ve changed my life, too. I attended and helped cover the DNC and RNC, two debates, and an inauguration; visited the White House twice, once for an interview with the President; oversaw interviews with the First Lady and Steven Spielberg — all things that would have been unimaginable when I moved to NYC in 2008. But the experience of working with these kids during and after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast was perhaps the most incredible. Once they were safe and confident they could move around their communities, Kid Reporters sprang into action, bringing truly exceptional reporting about what was happening in New York and New Jersey to other kids around the country. Their work was so impressive and and so expert, I would hold it up against anything any adult reporter turned in. More to the point, though, by working with the Kid Reporters and teaching them about how to write a story and navigating ethical issues and professionalism, I was kind of reborn as a journalist.They allowed me to see journalism through fresh eyes — and reaffirmed my idealism and belief in the profession — at a time when it’s really easy to be cynical about the media. For that I’m eternally grateful. The Kids Press Corps is a unique program (applications for 2013-14 are being accepted by the way!), and I know I’ll be hard-pressed to have this kind of experience again. It was absolutely singular, and I leave Scholastic feeling extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of it. So I want to use this moment to thank not only my colleagues — all the people who write/have written for OOM, my managers, and the people who I’ve worked with in one form or fashion — who trusted me with this massive responsibility. But I also want to say “thank you” to the Kid Reporters I’ve worked with over these past five years. They made my experience at Scholastic an amazing one, and the things I learned from them will continue to resonate with me forever. Photo:Dante A. Ciampaglia with Kid Reporter Andrew Liang on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.