CHS school paper a ‘Hilight’ for journalism education for almost a century

(Photo courtesy of Cullman City Schools)

CULLMAN, Ala. – In a wider landscape where understanding media literacy has arguably never been more important, Cullman High School’s decades-old student-run newspaper remains an innovative teaching tool to do just that.

Cullman High School teacher Jennifer B. Calahan, the school’s English Language Arts Department chairperson, is the current faculty sponsor for The Hilight, Cullman High’s student newspaper that dates back to 1936 when its first issue was published. The Hilight traditionally releases six editions per year, with copies available digitally as well as in print on campus and at local business sponsors. The paper currently has a staff of 13 students, though those numbers vary between 10-20 students year-to-year. Archived issues are also available at the school website.

“The Hilight is more to me than just a school newspaper. It is more to me than simply a different class I teach and supervise during the day. The Hilight is a legacy of sorts. This program allows students to work together and leave behind a recording of people, places and events,” Calahan explained. “My goals for this program each year are to allow the staff members to think critically as well as to promote creativity and collaboration with others and their work. The greatest benefits for the staff include being accountable, working under the stress of deadlines and recognizing the value of the written word.”

Calahan explained being on The Hilight staff allows students to learn something about every level of how a newspaper works, from ad sales to support the printing and release of new issues, to ethics and how reporting itself works, to laying out the paper design itself with InDesign software.

Recent issues of The Hilight have focused on everything from different holiday customs from around the globe, to local stories on the school band and the annual Cullman Oktoberfest festival.
“I teach the parts of a newspaper, journalistic ethics, interview guidelines and newspaper terminology,” she said. “This is a student produced paper for students, however we try to cover community, state, national and world events that they desire to cover. After graduation, I have had several students pursue journalism at different levels and many pursue communication careers.”