Reflecting on Four Years With The Eagle, Introducing New Staff

Reflecting on Four Years With The Eagle, Introducing New Staff

Hi! Though COVID-19 has meant that the end of our senior year, like so many things, has not unfolded as we had hoped, we’ve finally managed to put in place a transition plan for the leadership of the paper. Below, you can find brief parting thoughts from us three and an announcement about who will be taking our places. Thank you for reading and supporting us for these four years. Stay safe and enjoy the summer.

-The Eagle editorial team

Sam Bisno, Editor-in-Chief

I always fall back on the same story whenever I’m talking about The Eagle. It’s in my bio on the website, it’s the lede in an article I wrote two and a half years ago titled “Reflecting on a Semester as Editor-in-Chief of The Eagle,” and I tell it whenever I’m trying to sell someone on the unending opportunities for student leadership that can be found at Obama. But I think it’s a good story, so I’ll share it one final time here in brief.

Toward the end of eighth grade, I attended an orientation event for rising Obama freshmen, during which I was tasked with signing up for electives for the coming year. As I scanned the first few offerings, I became concerned. I wasn’t (and am still not) any good at art or music, and I hardly knew any of my soon-to-be-classmates, so conspiring to ensure I was put in a class with people I liked wasn’t an option. I was uncertain which to choose until my eyes settled on the last class on the list: journalism. Apart from occasionally reading the news, I had virtually no experience with the subject, but I was intrigued, and I figured I couldn’t be worse at writing articles than I was at painting, so I decided to roll with it. Now, four years later, I view working on the The Eagle as perhaps the single most challenging and fulfilling aspect of my time in high school.

For that, I have to thank Mr. Denlinger, the teacher of that freshman journalism class, the advisor of The Eagle, and a close personal mentor. It turns out I was right about not being good at any of the other electives; I made it a week into steel drums class in my sophomore year before I was begging him to create an independent study so that I could continue to work on the paper on school hours. But even as an upperclassman, when I was no longer receiving credit for writing and editing articles, I kept coming back. I loved The Eagle because Mr. Denlinger gave us the freedom to try stuff out, to make the paper our own. I, along with my fellow staff members Isaac and Daevan, who sat at my table in that journalism class and have stuck with it for as long as I have, had a vision. We wanted the paper to be more than a place for members of the Obama community to view recent sports scores and upcoming events; we wanted it to be a true platform for student voice.

In pursuit of that vision, we did a number of things, all of which would not have been possible without Mr. Denlinger’s flexibility and willingness to advise but not direct us (rare traits which so many of the incredible teachers at Obama exhibit). We expanded our opinion, creative writing, food, and entertainment sections. We interviewed prominent elected officials, journalists, and cultural figures from across the city, asking questions we felt students would care about. We experimented with a print version of the paper to increase exposure. And we were intentional about keeping our editing light so that our published pieces would closely reflect the original intentions of our authors.

I don’t think any of the three of us believes that we were always successful in executing that vision. Far from it. Our uploads were often inconsistent, our communication poor, and there’s no doubt that our catalog of articles does an inadequate job of lifting up the voices of students of color. Those are things I know we’d all like to improve given four more years.

Alas, it’s time for us to move on. I’m so, so fortunate to have been a part of such a smart, driven, and supportive team, and I’m so, so proud of the work we’ve done. To our readers, limited in number as you may be, thank you for your engagement and your constant feedback. I’m excited to see what our new staff accomplish together—to watch their collective vision unfold and, down the line, to read their reflections as they transition to the next chapters of their lives just as we are now. You can bet I’m keeping my email subscription.

Isaac Degenholtz, Website Director

First off, I want to thank Mr. Denlinger for putting up with me for the past four years. He has been an incredible teacher and friend for me, and I cannot thank him enough for the hours of conversations we have had. 

For my section, I want to share a brief history of The Eagle over the past four years and some advice for the next leaders of the paper. I remember signing up for freshman journalism class not because journalism was necessarily a passion of mine but because I knew I could write slightly better than I could keep rhythm (not at all). Initially, I remember being more interested in the movies Denlinger would show during his class than actual journalism, but this changed when, during my second semester, Denlinger offered Sam, Daevan, and I staff positions on the paper.  At this point, The Eagle became incredibly important to me. It was my first leadership position at the school as well as an outlet to share my thoughts. Starting sophomore year, Sam, Daevan, and I fully took over The Eagle, where we created a sort of editorial board. That year we wrote a lot of articles. Every day we had 40 minutes allocated just for The Eagle and we got a huge amount of writing done. But going into junior year our article count slowed down substantially. Whether it was from YaG, IB, or any other activity we had, The Eagle always seemed to fall to the bottom of our priorities list. At the end of junior year, we vowed to change this and we definitely started senior year off strong. The Eagle had its largest staff in a while, and our writing and editing were very consistent. But soon, college applications, IB, and YaG came and hit our “editorial board” like a truck. Articles slowed down, and even our energy to get people to write diminished.

This all leads me to what I would do differently. I think the biggest thing would have been to devote time out of my week to write an article. If I had planned out my weeks more I would’ve given myself that hour or an hour and a half to write something, and unfortunately, I never did. So my first piece of advice is for anyone interested in writing: devote time to that. Make sure that you are scheduling a specific time in your day or week to write. And my advice for future leaders of The Eagle: don’t undervalue this school paper. The Eagle is special. It is the best way you can share your thoughts about anything. It allows you to develop strong writing skills and teaches you how to be concise (something incredibly important for IB). Finally, it is moldable. You, the future leaders of The Eagle get to decide if you want to stay the course on our only local reporting strategy, expand to national or maybe international news, or just make The Eagle a place for students to write about the school and to share their voices. The Eagle can be a place for all of that, some of that, or none of that. And the beauty is you now get to decide what you want the paper to be! So good luck and make sure to thank Mr. Denlinger for keeping this project running!

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

Arthur Miller—The Crucible and Death of a Salesman, anyone?—once said, “a good newspaper… is a nation talking to itself.” Obama isn’t exactly a nation. But I hope that in the time we’ve managed The Eagle, we’ve done a better job of reflecting and communicating what this school is saying, doing, and thinking about—and come closer to that ideal of “a good newspaper.” The Eagle remains very much a work in progress, and will continue to be so. We were not able to handle everything we wanted to do in the time we had, and in all honesty, at times we didn’t give The Eagle the attention it deserved. There are many tasks, from increasing readership to expanding coverage, that will be the responsibility of the very capable next generation of writers and editors, and of writers and editors after them. Looking back at the four years we’ve worked on this paper, though, I believe we’ve left a solid foundation to build on. That’s not just the work of three or ten people, of course. It would have been impossible to gallivant around the city interviewing community leaders and exploring local happenings without the constant support of The Eagle’s advisor, Mr. Denlinger, from our freshman journalism class to today. Nor would it have been possible without the readers (like you) who subscribe to our updates and read our articles. Without your presence, I don’t know that any of us would have had the motivation to write the articles we have, or to pursue the stories we did. So as we step away for the last time, I hope you’ll continue to check in—frequently or infrequently—trusting that The Eagle will always strive to deliver the news and insight you want and deserve.

And now, the moment you’ve all been scrolling for: our replacements!

The Eagle will be overseen by the following students beginning, well, right now.

  • Rising senior Zoeie McKnight
  • Rising junior Arhan Badjatia
  • Rising junior Dylan Shaprio
  • Rising junior Jonah Woolley

We’re confident that they’ll do a great job. Thanks again for reading for these past four years, and please keep tuning in to see where Zoeie, Arhan, Dylan, and Jonah take the paper.