Pierson Students Launch Online Newspaper

Just a few of the staff members of The Hypothetical, Pierson High School’s online student newspaper, pictured with advisor Gary Schulman at far left. Christine Sampson photo

Sag Harbor’s newest team of journalists, the writers and editors behind The Hypothetical, crowded around a conference room table on a recent afternoon and became the subjects of an interview themselves.

What’s your goal?

“We really want it to be a community-based hub where we can show things off,” said Olivia Corish, a writer and administrator for the publication.

Why choose an online format?

“Since it’s online, it can be more accessible,” said Hannah Tuma, another writer and administrator. “More people can interact with it.”

And why get involved in journalism — before you’ve even graduated from high school?

“Because we’re a small school, it’s crucial to have a newspaper,” said Daniella Lejarza Estrada, the president of Pierson Middle-High School’s new newspaper club.

The Hypothetical is Pierson’s recently launched online publication, an effort born out of teacher Gary Schulman’s journalism class in 2017 that now extends into an extracurricular club involving Pierson students from all walks of life. Olivia, a senior, said The Hypothetical is an idea that was long in the making.

“We always talked about what if we started our own newspaper,” she said, recalling conversations going back to sophomore year. “Our ‘hypothetical’ newspaper, which is where the name comes from.”

The website is bursting with exactly the kind of energy one might come to expect from teenagers who have just been given a brand-new creative outlet. It can be found at thehypothetical.org. Articles range from weekly news roundups and sports recaps to artist spotlights and personal essays like one titled “What’s Wrong with High School English Class.” Warning: the latter contains spoilers for “Of Mice and Men.”

And they’re having a blast. Kathryn Powell, a junior, said she likes the aspect of creative writing outside of being graded on assignments. She recalled taking part in a newspaper club when she was in seventh grade, but it only met once.

“This one is much more fun because we get to pick what we write about and we’re much more consistent,” she said.

Mr. Schulman, the club’s advisor, said the group is still “testing the waters” to see what works and doesn’t work. But one thing that’s working is how many kids are finding the time to contribute, he said.

“As an English teacher, we’re always talking about how kids say they don’t like to write. I don’t believe that’s true,” he said. “This is an idea that has really resonated with a whole lot of kids, which is wonderful.”

During their interview, Daniella herself declared, “I’m not into writing.” Yet she said she found inspiration to write anyway — by discussing her passions, for example, in a recent article about what it means to live a minimalist and zero-waste lifestyle.

“It gave me an opportunity to practice something I never thought I would,” she said.

Victoria Dudek-Tipton, a junior and the copy editor of the online publication, said she’s enjoying seeing her peers’ raw ideas and what they turn into in the end. “It’s insight you normally wouldn’t see,” she said. “I wouldn’t say the school censors us in any way, but there was not really a platform for people to voice their opinions, and now there is.”

Pierson High School principal Jeff Nichols said he thinks the students are doing a really good job.

“I’ve read the pieces and I like the initiative they showed to set this up and put the work in,” he said.

Pierson also has a newspaper called Folio in partnership with The Sag Harbor Express, which last appeared in June of 2018.

“I think [The Hypothetical] provides and opportunity for them to address things they find of interest to them in a forum that others can read and comment on, so that’s a good thing,” Mr. Nichols said. “It also provides an opportunity for them to get their feet wet in an area that they perhaps may have future aspirations in, whether it’s writing or anything to do with this kind of endeavor. Those two things are pretty positive.”

Olivia and Hannah, who is also a senior, did a lot of the heavy lifting to get The Hypothetical off the ground. They are working hard to set the publication up for success not just this year, but in years to come, too.

“I think it’s really amazing to be part of something I know is going to have a lasting impact on Pierson after I graduate,” Hannah said. “I also love how it’s so inclusive. It’s not like another club where you have to join — it’s open to the whole school so the whole school can have a voice.”

“We didn’t think this was going to happen, but we got it together,” Olivia said. “To see something that we’ve talked about come to fruition is really exciting.”