Room 162

Katie Keller, Opinion Editor

We all want to belong somewhere. It’s how we are as humans.

My place is one that most students at Puyallup High School rarely discuss, if they even know about it: Room 162. That classroom is where the staff of Viking Student Media meet and produce content for not only the students of PHS, but for anyone who reads or watches it.

Stories like mine are probably a dime a dozen. Bullied in elementary school, friendless for most of her life, trust issues from being let down and lied to a time or two. Eventually, I found my friend group. I found people I could trust, people who hung out with me because they genuinely wanted to. People that I liked being around.

The thing about my friend group is that I’m the youngest; the only junior in a group of seniors. Suffice to say, ninth grade wasn’t fun without my friends to joke around with at lunch and me being left to float between groups of acquaintances. But with my friends, I found somewhere I belonged and I wasn’t about to let that get taken away from me.

Back in February of 2019 when all the freshmen were signing up for classes, I had somewhat of an advantage over my peers because of my friends. One friend in particular told me that there was a specific English course that I would be perfect for. It was called Sophomore English: Journalism Emphasis. 

At the time, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. I’d never really paid much attention to the news because rarely did it concern me and I wasn’t sure I was cut out for journalistic writing. But I only had to doubt my friend once to learn that doubting her was something I should never do again. So, at her insistence, I signed up.

She was right; I did love it. After my first day in that class, I knew I was in the perfect place for me. I could tell real stories that I didn’t make up and people could hear my voice. For the first time in my life, it felt like what I had to say mattered to people. 

I couldn’t sign up for the same class as a junior, so I decided to one-up myself and I signed up to become a full-fledged member of Viking Student Media. Since September, it hasn’t mattered much to me that I’m doing this mostly online. Unlike last year, the pieces that I write are being published. My voice matters to people, even if my stories only get 30 views.

My first day getting to work in the newspaper offices is one I’ll never forget for as long as I live. I was jittery, but my nerves eventually calmed down as I let my fingers fly across my keyboard to write my story. Every student has their favorite place on campus. I thought the only place I belonged at school was the music rooms until I got to sit and work in the newsroom for the first time. My heart was just as at home there as it was in the music rooms.

Telling stories isn’t just a hobby. It’s not just for big news platforms that break the Internet every time they publish content. It’s not restricted to fiction, to the fantasies that fill my head when I’m bored. It’s not always the old books that teachers make us read for no other reason than because we have to.

Telling stories is a history lesson. The myths from ancient times that explained why the sun was in the sky or how the crops grew. The folktales that tribes told to teach children lessons. The novels that were written in another era from ours, where reading the story takes you back to another time, another place, almost another world. The newspapers from different periods telling stories of different pieces of history–from the American Revolution to last year’s COVID-19 pandemic. Stories that live on because they were told when they were happening.

This is what journalism is. Newspapers are the first draft of history. Their goal is to provide raw information for readers to draw their own conclusions and form their own opinions. They are one of the best primary sources there is, aside from actually talking to the subject or the reporter themselves. They bore witness to events as they happened–as the planes crashed into New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others led the Civil Rights Movement, as the Spanish flu swept around the world in the early 1920’s, as the United States turned on itself during the Civil War, as we fought for our freedom from the British. 

Journalism is giving a voice to the voiceless. It’s telling stories free of bias because people deserve to form their own opinions. It’s bringing people the news they need to know, want to know and should know because they have a right to the facts. It’s telling stories to connect people to one another and to the world around them. It’s a form of free expression protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Viking Student Media, while not exactly the New York Times, has its own rich history. We’ve been telling stories for nearly 110 years. Generation after generation, we continue to tell stories not just from our school, but our community. We strive to be as professional as the mainstream media, despite the fact that we are a high school journalism program. We are the last surviving journalism program in the Puyallup School District and the longest running. Despite the fact that this program is in danger of being shut down, we will continue to tell stories large and small because each one matters, even if it seems like it doesn’t.

Viking Student Media is like an extra family to me. One of my peers and I trade cookie recipes all the time. I look up to my editors and listen to what they have to say to help shape my own writing and make it better. I found friendships with others and myself that I never would’ve found if it weren’t for this program. Every time I’m doing journalistic work, I’m reminded of how this class has broadened my perspectives on people, the world, life and even how I view myself.

Everybody has their own story to tell.

What’s yours?