WSS: a decade in review

Another decade came and went. A lot has gone on in the West High community, and the West Side Story has been there to cover it all. Staffers interviewed editors-in-chief from the past ten years to get the inside scoop on the history of the WSS.

2010-2011

Editor: Lilli Oetting

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

We took on a few big topics that I remember believing were quite important – bullying and diversity come to mind. Selfishly, I loved a piece we did on Obama coming to speak because the strange precedence of Iowa politics means that a high school journalist can score a press pass. 

Were there any big stories or events that happened at West the year you were EIC?

I remember there being lots of conversation in Iowa City as a whole around redistricting and budget cuts. Students made t-shirts and heavily protested the proposed layoffs of several teachers, and we all showed up to speak at school board meetings. They redrew the boundaries between City and West my senior year, which was also quite controversial at the time. Many years later (and having lived all over the country) the redistricting controversy feels somewhat sillyeveryone in Iowa City is lucky to have two such amazing public schools.

What was your best WSS moment?

I have a very specific memory of walking into the newsroom during lunch one day and stumbling on Caroline Found piercing her ears! Just sitting on a desk, piercing her ears, laughing like crazy. Very old school “Parent Trap” stylean apple slice, an ice cube, and a safety pin. We lost Caroline a few months later, and those memories really stuck with me.

2011-2012

Editor: Eleanor Marshall

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

My favorite story I wrote was on young women at West High that wore the hijab. It was one of the most personal stories I had a chance to write. The young women I interviewed were so reflective, and each with a different relationship to faith, to how they dressed, and to being Muslim in Iowa and I had the space in the article to get some depth with each one. 

What was your best WSS moment?

Man, we did some really goofy things. We had a WSS rap one time (I think it was caught on video, but have no clue if it is still around) and were always doing talent shows to send off the seniors. Once me and four friends did a rendition of “So Long, Farewell” from the Sound of Music. My senior year, our staff was also really into that internet phenom that lets you combine two people’s faces into a combo face.

Were there any big stories or events that happened at West the year you were EIC?

My senior year- when I was EIC two students died right at the beginning of the school year, Caroline Found and Raymone Bryant, in unrelated accidents. Caroline Found was on newspaper staff, and very close with several other class members. Our staff and student body really came together to support one another in healing through the trauma of the two deaths. 

 

My favorite story I wrote was on young women at West High that wore the hijab. It was one of the most personal stories I had a chance to write. The young women I interviewed were so reflective, and each with a different relationship to faith, to how they dressed, and to being Muslim in Iowa— and I had the space in the article to get some depth with each one. ”

— Eleanor Marshall

2012-2013

Editor: Juliann Skarda

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

The story I was most proud of was one that I wrote, which feels a bit narcissistic, but also that’s probably why it stands out in my memory. It was a cover story called Seeking Shelter that was investigating the prevalence of homelessness in the district and was meant to shed light on what it means to be homeless and to combat some of the negative stereotypes that accompany that term. It was eye-opening to me to realize how many students at West alone were currently or had in the past struggled with not having consistent housing. But it was also awesome to learn about all of the resources that the district and West specifically have in place to help students. I think I was in the midst of applying to colleges and feeling stressed about my future in that sense and it provided a healthy dose of perspective for me to realize how lucky I was to have never had to worry if I would have a place to sleep at night. I also had a hard time finding a student to interview for that article because, understandably, West wanted to protect the privacy of students and I ended up having a friend reach out to me and offer to be interviewed. That was really powerful for me to see them be willing to be vulnerable and talk about something so personal in order to help educate others on such an important issue.

What was your best WSS moment?

We covered the election of 2012 live. I remember someone on staff was live-Tweeting the election results when Obama was chosen for his second term and feeling involved in such an important piece of history.

Were there any big moments or events that happened at West the year you were EIC?

In the spring of 2013, there was a bunch of controversy surrounding these anonymous Twitter accounts that were targeting students and staff members. There was some debate about when the school should become involved with things that were happening on social media. I think in some ways we were kind of in uncharted waters because social media is not that old, so it was a relatively new problem to be facing. Dr. Arganbright even ended up addressing the accounts over the intercom which felt like a big deal. It was the topic of our cover story article which explored the line between free speech and when the school needs to step in and combat bullying. I remember that it felt very exciting and timely and relevant; we were constantly updating and revising that story right up to the deadline.

There was some debate about when the school should become involved with things that were happening on social media. I think in some ways we were kind of in uncharted waters because social media is not that old, so it was a relatively new problem to be facing.”

— Juliann Skarda

2013-2014

Editor: Amelia Mose

Amelia Mose was the Editor in Chief for all WSS publications during the 2013-2014 school year. During the year, the staff tackled an in-depth feature on concussions in sports, and their effects on developing brains. Additionally, the staff covered important stories such as theft at school and shifting gender norms.

2014-2015

Editor: Brittani Langlan

Brittani Langlan’s time as Editor in Chief for all publications marked the last year before the switch to an EIC for each publication. It also marked the last year with Dr. Jerry Argenbright as principal.

2015-2016

Editors: Kelsey Keranen and Sharon Xian

SHARON XIAN – CO-EIC

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

I helped write a story on Islamophobia and we also did a long in-depth story after the Paris attacks that was extremely meaningful.

What was your best WSS moment?

Just the random things we would do on the nights when we had to finalize the paper —  there were many HSM sing alongs that happened. Publication was also really great, because we would bring food in and just have a good bonding moment with all of the staff.

Were there any big stories or events that happened at West the year you were EIC?

Paris attacks is what comes to mind.

2016-2017

Editors: Isabelle Robles and Simran Sarin

ISABELLE ROBLES- DIGITAL EIC

In the 2016-2017 school year, the West Side Story took on many exciting articles. Two that truly stand out both relate to drug use at West high; one about vaping and one about the abuse of Adderall. One story in particular made a lasting impact: alone, a story about seclusion rooms that were in use in the ICCSD. After the article came out, the district ended the use of seclusion rooms and made permanent policy changes.

2017-2018

NINA ELKADI – PRINT EIC

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

While understanding the danger of how it looks to pick a piece I wrote, there is nothing I enjoyed working on more than my profile of Lexi Williams ’18. I was a first-year staffer and one of my assignments in the print was a 1 page profile on “guitar girl”. As much as that cliche saying that “everyone has a story” is thrown around, I think Lexi’s story really proved that to be true.

What was your best WSS moment?

Meeting Mary Beth Tinker TWICE, watching the sunset in Los Angeles, attempting to try every coffee shop in Seattle, and many things that will remain unsaid, but can be found in the “don’t quote me on this” archives. 

Were there any big stories or events that happened at West the year you were EIC?

West High celebrated 50 years of existence, everyone was vaping up a storm, the ICCSD was under fire for isolation rooms, classes started 50 minutes later than they did before, and Trump’s immigration (and many, many other) policies made students use their voices unlike ever before. 

FENNA SEMKEN – ONLINE EIC

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

I loved writing the story called “The story of a miracle” which was about a teacher’s daughter named Maren. She was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 while in utero and was not supposed to live until her birth, but she did and she was able to share some magical moments with her family. It’s a beautiful story and it was very meaningful to write and share.  

What was your best WSS moment?

My senior year I walked into the newsroom and opened the door, and when I did, the door handle just fell off into my hands. It was really funny and random, which is what makes it such a good memory. 

Were there any big stories or events that happened at West the year you were EIC?

I was EIC during the 50th anniversary of West High, and we did a lot of stories on the celebration of those years. It was a really fun time to be at West High!

I loved writing the story called “The story of a miracle” which was about a teacher’s daughter named Maren. She was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 while in utero and was not supposed to live until her birth, but she did and she was able to share some magical moments with her family. It’s a beautiful story and it was very meaningful to write and share.  ”

— Fenna Semken

2018-2019

Editors: Ian Prescott, Kara Wagankanecht and Deniz Ince

IAN PRESCOTT – BROADCAST EDITOR IN CHIEF

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

I think my favorite story was that of LGBTQ representation, the Spectrum of Perspective issue.

What was your best WSS moment?

Best WSS was probably when me and my friend Will filmed ourselves trying to make a cake without a recipe. It was a silly video and not newsworthy, but the staff reactions to our “cake” were hilarious.

2019-2020

Editors: Natalie Dunlap, Natalie Katz and Jillian Prescott

NATALIE DUNLAP- ONLINE EIC

What was your favorite story the WSS took on in your time?

So far I think one of the best stories to be published online is “Emmie Boylan: living with spina bifida.” It was a big story for Bess Frerichs, the writer, to take on since it is very personal and emotional and also involves medical terms that aren’t familiar to all our readers. It ended up being a very well written story and rich in multimedia with graphics from Gwen Watson. There are videos of Emmie communicating with John Boylan that are so touching. It’s a very moving story and without the West Side Story publishing it students wouldn’t know about this journey their English teaching was on.

Favorite WSS Moment?

One of my best memories from being on staff was our trip to Chicago in the fall of 2018 for a journalism conference. It was cool to explore the city with staffers. Our first night there we took a ghost tour that went on for way too long and we lost our interest in it after a while because we were tired and cold, but it ended up being a memorable joke. We also went to Second City as a group which was a lot of fun. From this year—this isn’t my favorite memory, but one that stands out—I sent a google form to the students for a yearbook story and misspelled the word “Hello” as “Hellow” which cause me to panic a bit and Sara had to comfort me in my embarrassment. 

Were there any big stories or events that happened at West the year you were EIC?

The day the seniors left last year, when I had just taken over as Web EIC, some students from the 2019 graduating class drove a vandalized car to Liberty High as the senior prank and the police were waiting for them when they arrived. I had been distributing WSS copies with some staffers when it happened so we drive to Liberty to cover it. I wrote a story with the news editors about the prank and it got a lot of attention. It was a very high energy situation for the first day in charge.