Power of the pen: My senior reflection on journalism


Photo by Stephanie Berk

Senior Ben Shoykhet holds a sleepy chicken from his family’s small farm, where they use regenerative agriculture to help spread awareness about environmental farming practices. Their farm also donates eggs and produce to local food pantries, to help reduce food insecurity. Every individual has the power to help combat the issues our communities face, even from their own homes.

The past four years of my class’s high school have been like no other, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We lost almost the entire first two years to online schooling. When we returned for junior year, the world’s issues had become much more apparent as social justice movements and pandemic struggles became focal points for governments and smaller communities alike. Everything from racial disparities and economic wealth gaps to niche issues for minuscule fields has seen an increase in representation in the news.

But this is good. These issues, although exacerbated by the lockdown, did exist before COVID-19. Now, they come into the limelight and finally receive the attention and effort they deserve. And here I see the crux of true journalism: provoking and demanding action. From these last two years of being on this newspaper, I’ve had the opportunity to address some of these issues with my own articles, and hopefully have a beneficial impact on them and their related topics. Through my experience with journalism, and writing on Common Sense, I was finally able to attempt to solve and make known the problems I, my friends and my community face.

The efforts we can make in journalism expand far further than just presenting issues. We can also use this opportunity of exposure to disseminate important information. Over the course of my time as a writer for this newspaper, I’ve written about sports, war stories and academics, providing coverage of multiple subtopics within each. The ability to clarify for and educate our peers via a publication with a readership of thousands of people is one to be both cherished and respected. It is an experience and a privilege, I would recommend it to everyone at this school who wishes to make a difference in the areas of local, societal and political justice.

Every fight, every effort, needs its frontline workers. However, progress isn’t possible without public knowledge and support. The coverage from media and publications is crucial in order to make a difference. The job of the reporter, the job of the writer, is to gather and distribute as much of the information on the scene as possible. It is through this that governments are kept in check, the public’s opinions are represented and wrongdoings are exposed and able to be repaired. Though it may have felt small at the time, the magnitude and impact my writing had was far greater than I knew.

One of my favorite experiences was having people come up to me in the halls, to congratulate me on writing a strong article and to discuss some of the contents with me. Sometimes it was friends, other times people I barely knew. That is how I knew that my writing was important and that the effort that I put into researching topics important to our community was well spent.

Journalism is a profession, an art and a tool. It is far more than a class and a grade, and can be personalized to each individual. If you are looking to change your community, your society, and possibly even the world, writing for a newspaper or other publication is a pathway I recommend. It is an experience that can change your, and your readers’, lives.