Homeschool graduate explains her childhood fascination with community journalism

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Editor’s note: I originally wrote this Q&A for the newspaper where I worked right after college. This column never made it into print, but I loved the interview so much that I’m posting it here, thanks to a suggestion from one of my journalism professors. 

Julia Kitchen has been reading local news since she was about 8 years old. One of the first newspaper she started reading was The Examiner. She’s a passionate and informed college freshman who graduated from her homeschool co-op last year, but she’s also been to public school.

Her mom started out homeschooling her in kindergarten and first grade, but she went to Beaumont ISD schools from second grade to seventh grade.

We sat down with Julia and asked her a few questions about how she started reading the news and how journalism can continue to be relevant in the digital age.

Q: When did your family move to Southeast Texas?

Julia: “We used to live in North Texas, and we moved to Houston and [then] Orange before second grade [in 2006]. We moved to Beaumont in 2007.”

Q: When did you start reading The Examiner?

Julia: “When I was 8-9 years old. I remember reading it in my room and being so enamoured, because this was like investigative, rather than just general articles about life. It was just like reading Nancy Drew but in real life.”

Q: Did you continue reading growing up?

Julia: “[My family] never subscribed, but whenever I could, I did.

“In like 2010, 2011, around that time when we had all the BISD scandals, I was really interested because I was a BISD student and I didn’t realize all that had been going on. I just remember sitting there before my bus came to pick me up in elementary and middle school and reading those articles and being so excited. My grandma used to save [copies] for me actually.”

“At one point, I really got into the entertainment section, specifically because I went to a Coldplay concert in Houston when I was 11. And I wanted to see if they’d like talked about that.

They did and that’s how I learned that Houston is 88 miles west [because of] the section … 88 miles west for the Houston concerts.”

Q: What are some other features that stood out to you?

Julia: “I remember reading a lot of Dear Annie … and also those Doonesbury comics that were like a full page. They never made sense to me but I was so intrigued.

“I [mostly] remember the various back and forth with the BISD and the TEA, how much they fought. Occasionally I would see figures from the community that I knew pop up in the articles which only made me want to read more.”

Q: Did you feel like you could comprehend any of it at that age?

Julia: “I think I had a tenuous grasp on things, but it was a lot for an 11 years old. I think I was more enamored with it than understanding what was going on.”

Q: How do you feel like newspapers can continue to reach your generation?

Julia: “Raising their profile online I think only helps. I think younger readers are more likely to click on an article online than they are to pick up a physical newspaper. I think the best thing that newspapers can do is make themselves the first thing that young readers would want to click.”

Q: Where do you get your breaking news right now?

Julia: “We only got CBS and Fox on antenna before my family got cable. Finally I figured out what time CBS [came on], and I would stay up and watch the evening news, and I still do that.”

“I have a Google news feed [app] that pops up with articles that it thinks I would like, so all that combined is how I get my news.”

Q: What else made you interested in news growing up?

“I think it’s really because my mom raised me to be aware of politics… I’ve always been interested in it from a young age. I was more in talking to adults than other kids. Also, I wrote a letter to President Obama when I was 9.”

Q: What drew you to The Examiner over other local media?

Julia: “I think the fact that it was local, it was investigative, and it gave the whole story for you to be able to choose and read. You can always watch the local news, but that’s what they want to give you. It gave you a lot of information in one sitting and I really liked that. You really get to see the whole thing and not just snippets. The other newspapers around, they don’t really give that full story, it’s a different kind of paper.

“I think when you’re a little kid that’s what pulls you in–that’s what you read about in novels. That’s the thing you read about in books and think oh, I want to be a journalist one day.”

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