School newspaper celebrates 50 years of publication


  The staff of the student newspaper The Wildcat is celebrating 50 years of publishing student news this school year.

    “This is a very special accomplishment considering that not many small town schools make it this far,” former newspaper adviser Anita Campbell said.

   Campbell was the adviser of The Wildcat from 1976-2007. She was a very big part of the newspaper’s growth and left a big influence on the department. The newspaper has had only five advisers over 50 years. Mary Ruth Kahl started the program in 1971. Beverly Esser advised in the 1973-74 school year. Brenda Craven was the adviser in 1974-76.  According to Campbell, prior to 1971, a student newsletter called Wildcat Tales was printed and passed out in the school. Campbell is a 1971 WHS graduate.

   There are many smaller schools that do not get the opportunity to spread messages, entertain, and inform the public with a student-produced newspaper. Many people in the school and community enjoy reading the newspaper since The Wildcat is distributed within the school and published as an eight-page tab in the Benton County Enterprise.

  “This allows people in our community and outside of the school, to read about school news produced by our own students,” current  journalism adviser of 14 years Amanda Adler said.

   The student newspaper has a long tradition of circulating with the Enterprise. 

   “The role of journalism and a community’s newspaper is to inform, educate and entertain. In a sense journalism and the newspaper are part of the glue that holds a town together and creates a sense of belonging,” editor and publisher of the Benton County Enterprise James White said. “This is as true today as it was two hundred years ago. At the Enterprise we’ve always operated with the idea that all news is local and everything local is news.”

   “This is a unique opportunity to show off our student work while keeping a close connection with the community that supports us. We have a good working relationship with the Benton County Enterprise and they are extremely supportive of our program and see real value in scholastic journalism,” Adler said.

     Over the past 50 years the newspaper has changed immensely. 

   The staff would go to the Enterprise office on Saturdays and lay out the paper using the typesetting machine after typing articles on a manual typewriter. In the 1990’s the department got computers. 

   “We were the first classroom in the school to have a computer, a Macintosh classic,” Campbell said.

   The newspaper started as one page in the local paper. It was expanded to two pages in Fall of 1981. The tabloid-size paper was started in Fall of 1993. Under Adler’s discretion, The Wildcat changed their publication from bi-monthly to monthly and increased the page number from four to eight in 2009.

   “The biggest change, however, was the addition of the student news website The Wildcat Online in 2014. Most students consume news online these days and we wanted to reach students where they are,” Adler said. “We also want to expand more into social media reporting as well. This is a digital generation and we must reach our audience.”

   Adler took over the position of journalism adviser because she felt inspired by her mother, Anita Campbell. 

   The newspaper is about more than informing students and the community about events and issues of the high school. The former teachers, editors and staff members recognize the role that journalism education has played in their lives. They found that being a part of journalism affected their future and created many great memories. 

   ”I always felt that my staff worked hard and played hard. The environment was really conducive to getting work done and getting it done correctly, but we always had each other’s best interest at heart,” 2015-2017 editor-in-chief Makayla Mais said.  “After going to college, majoring in journalism and hearing the experience that some of my friends had as the editors of their high school publications, I realized that wasn’t always the case. My staff would get into arguments and tensions could be high on occasion, yes, but I was really glad at the end of the day that we could all come together as a group and and be there for each other and put  together a publication that our community seems to really enjoy. It’s something I’ve grown to be more thankful for after highschool than during, but everyone always says ‘hindsight is 20/20.’” 

   Mais recently graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in journalism. 

   “I would say [newspaper] helped with my confidence a lot by having me work outside of my comfort zone,” 2008-2010 editor-in-chief Raini Ward said. “Also being the editor made me hone in on my organizational skills which helped through college and my career, as well as teaching me to work by a deadline.” Ward teaches third grade at Warsaw North Elementary.

   Other past writers for The Wildcat have pursued education or a career that involves a lot of writing. 

   “Being a member of The Wildcat staff was the jump start to my career,” 1989 WHS graduate Heather Hoflander said. “It was in that WHS classroom that I discovered my love and desire to be a journalist. After spending many years as a reporter and editor for several newspapers from college to community, I gravitated toward the convenience that PR and communications gave me while simultaneously raising a family. I will always be grateful however, for my time at The Wildcat under Mrs. C. and the foundation it gave me.” Hofflander is the communications specialist for West Central Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Higginsville.

   “The paper is an educational tool. Students put much time and effort into producing a publication that actually gets read by their teachers, peers, parents and even people in the community. They learn that what they have to say matters and that gives students a sense of power and authenticity that they don’t get anywhere else in their educational journeys,” Adler said. “It is a tradition that gives me much pride.”