BRATTLEBORO -- This fall, two seniors at Brattleboro Union High School decided to work together on the school's newspaper, and now, with a new name and a new format, the Brattleboro Beacon has published two issues. Eben Holderness, who as Editor in Chief is mainly responsible for content, and Ethan Reichsman, who took responsibility for layout and production, work closely as a team.
"Ethan is the real impetus behind getting this to where it is now," Holderness said. "My job as Editor in Chief is to be the glue as far as content is concerned, but Ethan is the person who is responsible for getting all that stuff into a format that will get people wanting to read it, and wanting to pick up the paper in the first place. All that requires a lot of effort."
"But I would say that the person who puts the most effort into it is Eben," Reichsman countered, "because there wouldn't be a paper without him lighting a fire under me and every single staff member -- lighting the Beacon."
When the school newspaper was revived 19 years ago, its staff decided to name it the Extempore; renaming it the Beacon this fall was also a staff decision, according to Holderness. He said that students found the former name confusing.
"We'd send out copies to other schools to look at, and people didn't understand it, so we decided in the spirit of clarity that a name-change might be appropriate," he said. "Everyone was in accord. We decided on it by just brainstorming on multiple names, and the Brattleboro Beacon won by one vote."
While the Extempore was published in tabloid form, the Beacon's format is full-spread. Reichsman noted that a collaboration with the journalism class at BUHS made that change possible.
"There's a very strong link to the journalism class," he said. "Journalism students often submit pieces to the Beacon. We don't have the staff to produce a full spread."
"It's quite a nice symbiosis," Holderness added. "Not that we didn't expect talent, but we found some surprisingly excellent writers, even some who didn't have any experience beyond a month in journalism class, or no experience at all, just coming into their own."
Holderness began to develop an interest in journalism in sixth grade.
"I lived abroad from sixth to eighth grade, and I was going to school in the Azores at a Portuguese-speaking school," he recalled. The computer-science teacher wrote a blog for the residents of the island, which had no newspaper.
"Then from there, I started writing my own travel blog that continued through the rest of my adventures," Holderness continued. "When I was a student at BAMS, I founded the student newspaper there -- the BAMS Beat -- with Ms. Eagan and other folks."
In high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, Holderness was news editor of the school newspaper.
"I was working 30 hours a week, and then I came here," he said.
He said that the his position on the Beacon was a new experience.
"It's the first position of power I've had," he said. "It's interesting to be looking at the paper from the organizational standpoint rather than as a writer, and guiding other fellow-staff-members through the same process that I went through, showing them the ropes. It's been a pro-active influence, getting people involved outside of the exclusively academic environments."
Reichsman also had some experience in journalism.
"I've always had a passing interest in Journalism," he said. "My parents were filmmakers; my mom used to work for ‘60 Minutes,' so it was a kind of like a family thing."
He joined Extempore his freshman year, and took a class in television production the following year.
"I quite enjoyed that, and then I heard that Eben was revitalizing the Extempore, making some major changes, and I wanted to be a part of that and get the Beacon off the ground," he said. "I've taken two years of graphic design with Ms. Trenosky, and we're trying to move to a totally student-run production, and also full-spread, so my layout abilities came in handy there."
He noted the support of Trenosky and Marilee Attley, the Beacon's faculty advisor.
"Both are absolutely invaluable," he said. "We had a rough draft on Monday morning, and by the end of the day Ms. Trenosky had polished it into a much nicer publication. And Ms. Attley is really enthusiastic."
Holderness, who interns at the Commons, said that the Jeff Potter and Randy Holhut had also been enormously helpful.
"After the first issue came out, I sat down with Jeff for multiple hours, and he went over what could have been better," Holderness said. "Without that we would not have as nice a paper."
He said that he may pursue a career in journalism, although he is considering a major in linguistics. Reichsman, who began learning Arabic at the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy and in the year-long National Security Language Initiative for Youth in Morocco, plans to continue learning Arabic and is thinking about a career in government and international relations.
But that is in the future. For now, there are deadlines to meet. The two have been known to stay up all night to meet the printer's deadline.
"When the printer says, ‘You need to get your paper in by such and such an hour or we're not going to print your paper,' there's a fair amount of pressure to perform," Holderness said.
"When I see stacks of 1000 Beacons waiting for us, and it looks really nice, it makes it all worthwhile," said Reichsman.
Maggie Cassidy teaches French at Brattleboro Union High School.