Three Minneapolis siblings grab headlines with their own hyper-local community newspaper
If you were on a journalism-themed quiz (most exciting night ever, right?) And the question was “successful newspaper editors,” would you shout names like Joseph Pulitzer or William Randolph Hearst? Or Gilbert Pierce or William Murphy, who bought the Tribune (now the Star Tribune) in 1891?
May be. But true journalism nerds might win by thanking Gabriella, Cris and Lucia Olson, founding staff members of the Ewing South Post.
Since their first issue debuted in May 2020, the three siblings have chronicled notable and newsworthy actions on their street. To date, they have produced 16 informative issues, the publication of which has continued even after the trio of journalists returned to Carondelet Catholic School this fall.
ESP, whose acronym was popularized by loyal readers Cheryl and Jim Bernstein, makes life a little more enjoyable and more informed for residents of the 29 homes in this block in southern Minneapolis. Its readers certainly have more opportunities to celebrate and connect with their neighbors than other less journalistically blessed blocks (take that, Nextdoor).
ESP’s pages include articles about newly settled neighbors, profiles of new pets, and stories about neighborhood social events, like block parties and scavenger hunts. Other neighbors bring in works of art, poetry and family news. In addition to articles, the newspaper features contests, comics, polls, recipes, poetry, crossword puzzles, and video game reviews.
The newspaper’s motto, “To connect while we are apart,” reveals its pandemic origins. “It was a lonely time then, and we wanted a way to help people feel more connected,” says Gabriella, 11, a sixth-grader and editor.
How about a website or social media page instead?
“We wanted to have physical copies that people can read because it’s nice to have something you can hold and touch,” says Lucia, a 9-year-old third-grader and editor of the newspaper. “Virtual learning was happening then, and everyone was on their computers a lot, so we figured people would like to escape the technology by reading something printed on paper. “
From the start, the readership has been loyal and enthusiastic. “We would never have accomplished anything to connect the neighbors without the neighbors themselves,” said Cris, Gabriella’s twin brother and ESP’s director of business and traffic.
As well as appreciating their readers, they clearly appreciate their parents, Elaine and Eric. It was Elaine who initially suggested a block-wide journal during family discussions about how to help during the pandemic.
“Children have a strong sense of community service, rooted in our faith, and I suggested the journal as a possible idea to empower them to help in their own way and make sense of what we were going through,” she declared.
“I love that they found a way to bring joy and connectivity to our neighborhood during these times.” On a more practical level, Eric gets special recognition from broadcast director Cris for his ability to expertly unlock the home printer the numbers are printed on.
Cheryl Bernstein, the neighbor who popularized the newspaper’s catchy acronym, agrees the siblings have created something worthwhile. A resident of the neighborhood for 38 years, she says the newspaper created a sense of place and brought people together. Besides, it’s a good read. “There are a lot of fun and interesting things about ESP, and it always makes us smile,” she says.
Nanc (pronounced “Nance”) Malone, another neighbor, says she is especially grateful for the way ESP staff have welcomed the editorial ideas of her granddaughter, Mara, 7.
“There’s a regular comic called ‘The Adventures of Billy Bob’, and Gabriella used some of Mara’s ideas, which is so sweet,” she said. Recalling the days when the first issues were delivered to her door, she recalls, “It was a gift for me during the COVID lockdown, when I couldn’t even see Mara. I was alone, but the newspaper helped me learn more about the neighbors and I had thought that after a year maybe they would finish the project, but they are still doing well.
“It’s so cool that these kids did that, and I think it’s amazing.”
Kristen Hare also thinks it’s amazing. “The Ewing South Post is great because it connects a neighborhood with each other, centered on the editorial and artistic decisions of tweens,” said Hare, editor at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a nonprofit journalism school and organization. of research.
“Social media, which a lot of kids interact with, creates this cycle of post-and-wait reactions that is pretty immediate and, we know, quite addicting. What’s going on with the creation and distribution of the Ewing South Post is a slower version of that process, and one that is much healthier. “
In fact, readership increased after the lockdown. “We had requests from former neighbors who wanted to read it, so we conveyed problems to them,” Bernstein said. “People sent our problems to four different states,” Gabriella reports.
Along the way, the trio came up with lots of great ideas to fill over 20 pages of each issue. “We had interviews with a photographer, psychologist, local vet and farmer from Fulton Farmers Market,” Gabriella said.
Lucia said it was relatively easy to find newsworthy topics. “I can just walk down the block and I’ll run into someone coming out of their house to suggest a story,” she said. All three contributed to an article about their family’s summer vacation in the Black Hills.
“We each told a different part of what happened,” Cris says. The three agree on the most difficult part of the project: the deadlines. “We set the deadlines ourselves, but we have to make sure that everything we print is always on time, so we have to meet those dates,” Gabriella said.
It remains to be seen how this experience will shape their future. Cris says his favorite subject is math, and he enjoys everything about numbers, including newspaper circulation data. Gabriella, who enjoys writing and creating art, said: “I’m not totally sure what I would like to do, but I want to use words to help people and help them find their voice.”
Lucia, who enjoys science and social studies, said she would like to be a nature photographer for a magazine like National Geographic.
For now, the deadlines must be met and the siblings must focus on the release of issue 17, for which they tentatively planned a preview of a new ice cream shop in the neighborhood, an interview with ” goodbye “with a moving family and a” welcome “interview with the moving people, a tribute to Hispanic Heritage Month and an interview on children and vaccines with an expert in allergies, immunology and pediatrics (their uncle) – And much more.
Poynter’s Hare hopes they continue. “Find a way to support him financially,” she suggested.
“For example, if the local dentist can support the Little League team, they might want to advertise with you.”
Julie Kendrick is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. Follow her on Twitter @ KendrickWorks.