No cub reporter: Meet the 11-year-old US journalist who runs her own newspaper
Hilde Lysiak edits Orange Street News. She can report about murder or a school drug racket, or a missing zombie decoration.world Updated: Dec 05, 2017 14:48 IST
Hilde Kate Lysiak knows how to chase a story. She does her ground work, sticks to facts. After the reporting is done, she records videos and produces the monthly edition of Orange Street News.
Hilde is 11 years old and lives in the town of Selinsgrove in Pennsylvania, United States. Hilde’s first brush with journalism was when her father, Matthew Lysiak, an author and former New York Daily News journalist, took her around on his reporting assignments.
“I used to follow him all around the country, but when he stopped reporting, I didn’t want to give it up so I decided to start my own newspaper. That is how I started the Orange Street News (OSN),” Hilde told Hindustan Times in an email interview about her two-year-old newspaper.
Every OSN edition has seven or eight stories, plus an original fictional short story -- all reported and written by Hilde. Matthew used to help with the editing, but now chips in only with layout and to “occasionally tease me about using too many explanation points”. Hilde’s older sister Izzy, 14, is the paper’s only other employee and helps with videos and managing the newspaper’s website.
“My parents are great, but the best thing they’ve done is to get out of the way,” says Hilde.
Hilde’s parents let her to ride her bicycle around town to chase leads. When she began working on her paper, they allowed Hilde to be home-schooled. “Now I have more time to follow leads and report the news,” she says.
Hilde juggles her journalism career with her studies, making slime and listening to Taylor Swift albums. “I’m usually done with my reporting by 3pm unless something big is breaking, which is rare here.”
Orange Street News, like many other local American newspapers, covers every detail of every event happening on every block. ‘Vandalism on your block? OSN will investigate’, declares the OSN website.
‘Zombie Missing From Grove Graveyard, Presumed Stolen’, reads one report about a missing Halloween decoration. ‘Allegedly Drugged Out Mom Leaves Infant Inside Car Outside of Grove CVS, Charged with Child Endangerment’, says another.
In October, Hilde investigated the use of hard drugs such as heroin and meth at the local Selinsgrove High School. “I spent months working that story to confirm all my facts. I am proud of my work,” she says. Hilde spoke to students, parents and the superintendent of the school district, trying to uncover the scale of the problem.
But while she was hard on the trail of the story, Hilde’s age caught up with her. One of her sources told her she could come along on a trip to see how drugs enter the town. “That would have been good information to report to the people. But my parents wouldn’t allow me to go,” she says. “I’m excited for the day when I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to get the news to the people.”
The police won’t talk to her and magistrates won’t give her criminal complaints because she is 11, but Hilde says her age is an advantage. “Sometimes people look at me and underestimate me. They see a little girl… It sometimes works to my advantage because they think they can work me over, but end up talking a little too much,” she says.
Hilde waded into controversy last year after she broke a story of a murder that happened a few blocks from her house. She was on the scene ahead of the competition, but soon, she became the story herself. Many locals were aghast that her parents could let cover a homicide. Comments flooded her social media saying her reporting was “no longer cute”, that she should be “playing with dolls”.
In a YouTube video, a defiant Hilde defended her work. This year again, when the Selinsgrove district attorney’s office objected to a television commercial starring Hilde, she took to social media to counter the claims and lay out the facts.
“Other people have publicly called for my paper to be shut down. I know they can’t. I think they are afraid of what I might report next,” she says.
At 11, Hilde is an intrepid reporter and doesn’t budge from her convictions. After the homicide story went viral, Hilde wrote for the Guardian, saying that despite her age, she was a serious reporter. This year, Newsweek published her speech where she argues why journalism has a future.
When she’s not hard on the heels of a story, Hilde enjoys writing fiction. Hilde Cracks the Case, her book series published by Scholastic, gives a fictional turn to events, but also encourages children to become reporters and start their own newspapers.
“I’m going to keep writing fiction but my main passion is reporting the news. I want to get better. I have so much to learn,” says Hilde. “I’ve never even done a jailhouse interview yet.”