The Charleston Gazette published this editorial on April 5 regarding a 12-year-old scheduled commencement speaker at West Virginia University:
The West Virginia University Reed College of Media will have the youngest person in school history - possibly U.S. history - deliver it's commencement address on May 10.
Twelve-year-old dynamo Hilde Kate Lysiak, who has been reporting on crime for her website and self-published newspaper - Orange Street News - since she was 9, will take to the podium in Morgantown next month to address the graduating class.
This is an inspiring story, but don't tell Lysiak it's "cute." This kid isn't someone you'd see on "America's Got Talent" making basketball shots from incredible distances. She's a serious journalist, mainly covering crime. She's been drawing eyes in journalistic circles for years. Her coverage of a homicide in her hometown in Pennsylvania about three years ago garnered attention across the country. She was in the headlines again more recently after refusing to stop filming a police chief in Arizona while doing an investigative piece.
WVU media school dean Maryanne Reed told The Washington Post she's been following Lysiak for a while and thought she'd make a great commencement speaker.
"It's really about bringing someone to inspire," Reed told The Post, "who's different, who's inspirational and a speaker our students will always remember."
The graduating students - and journalists everywhere, really - shouldn't see this as evidence that a kid could do their job. Lysiak, who is getting ready to launch a series of children's novels and a TV show, is incredibly gifted and hard-nosed. She also has the help (although The Post reports it's mostly hands off) of her father, who is an author and former New York Daily News reporter.
What journalists and future journalists should see is affirmation that the craft won't be stamped out by politicians who demonize the media, public officials who stonewall or hostile audiences who try to intimidate.
West Virginia has had its own little wonders in the news industry, like Frannie Salisbury, who, in 2010, was chosen to report for Time Kids Magazine when she was 10, and was a longtime writer for Flipside at the Gazette-Mail. There's also Christian Deiss, who has been covering sports for the Putnam Review and the Gazette-Mail Metro section since he was in elementary school.
What all of these kids show is that there are future generations out there who are passionate about the news, and print news in particular. That should give everyone some hope about the future of this industry.