By Lynn West
The oldest student publication in the state, Olympia High School’s (OHS) student newspaper, The Olympus, has continued to evolve in its 100-year history. At a recent Tuesday afternoon class, Erin Snodgrass, co-editor in chief, led the 30 journalism students through the intricacies of Adobe In Design.
Olympus staffers at the turn of the 20th century would surely be mind-boggled by 21st century newspaper production methods.
The newspaper has transformed many times over the years. Formats have included a one-sheet newsletter, beautiful journals with cover art, yearbook type formats and traditional newspapers. Production has been weekly, monthly and quarterly. The current Olympus is an online publication with three or four print editions during each school year.
Brent Kabat, a journalism and social studies instructor, has been teaching and advising the Olympus staff for the past five years. He started out at Washington State University in the College of Communication, but decided that wasn’t the career path he would follow. However, what he learned in his own education, he is passing along to his students. Observing him in the classroom, it was evident that Kabat allows his student editors to lead.
“We have an exceptionally large class this year,” he told me. “Students have been paying more attention to the publication. I tell the students that they are reporting to the student body as an agent of the school and have to be critical, yet always keep fairness in mind.”
Erin Snodgrass kept this advice in mind last year when, as a staff writer, she worked on a piece about the new standardized test, The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. “It was an exciting story to write because it helped inform the student body and gave them the information they needed to make a decision on whether or not they should take the test,” she recalled. Erin, like all the student writers, anticipates mixed feedback on controversial issues.
Kabat said students always have strong opinions on relevant issues at OHS. However, after trying out The Opinionator, a full issue of opinions, the students themselves decided, “Once was enough after the feedback they received.” Kabat wants the students to keep exploring new ways to inform and entertain the Olympia High School student body, so the inclusion of more videos and new columns are common.
Lucas Schaefer, layout and online editor, was busy circling the computer classroom on the day I visited, assisting students who were formatting their first stories. Lucas is also the cartoonist for the publication. Loryn Parker, a junior at OHS, was working on her first story. “I am visiting clubs and interviewing members. So far I have notes on the Art, Pokemon and German Clubs.” Across the aisle, Dominik Parker told me he was taking the class to help him decide if a career in Communications was what he really wanted to pursue.
Leo Brine, co-editor in chief, is especially proud of a column called “loving with leo” that was pitched by last year’s editor Gabriella Capastani. “I liked writing that column because it was always something people talked about,” Leo said.
The Olympus is a publication people have talked about since 1904 according to its online masthead, and it has “over the years garnered high praise for its fine writing,” according to Jim Kainber in his book Olympia High School. A few years ago, a journalism student searched The Olympus archives for her senior project and found the earliest archived edition was published in 1914. She also organized several papers from the early 1900s. For example in 1918, the literary magazine format of the Olympus had an art nouveau cover, which according to Kainber is “one of the finest examples of cover art from the early days of the publication.”
Larry Brooke, who graduated from OHS in 1963, was glad he kept a copy of The Olympus from his senior year. “It came in handy when I chaired our 40th reunion,” he said. “I was just looking back at it recently and was reminded how extensively it covered the activities and achievements of our senior class, from academics to athletics, service to entertainment, honors to leadership.”
Larry also commented on the production of The Olympus during his high school years, “On the whole, through a lot of work by The Olympus staff who physically ‘cut and pasted’ all 28 pages of that edition, they captured the spirit of the Class of ’63 in a most memorable and enduring way.”
The physical paper copy of the 1963 Olympus newspaper is in its “yellowing state.” When the class of 2015 prepares for their reunions, they will only have to search computer files. The Olympus online editor uploads articles, as they are ready. The student body, therefore, has immediate access to current issues.
In 2015, The Olympus staff is rightfully proud of their publication, and under Brent Kabat’s leadership, they are continuing a long proud tradition.
Check out the current edition of this historical publication by visiting www.theolympus.net.