By Maja Cannavo and Lily Grenis (Graphic by Nathan Sonnenfeld)
After 89 years as a newspaper, The Rolling Stone will have a new look late this spring when it debuts as a magazine.
The Rolling Stone was first published at Pebble Hill School in 1927. When the Manlius and Pebble Hill Schools merged in 1970 to form MPH, The Rolling Stone remained the newspaper for the new school.
The Rolling Stone’s long tradition at MPH spans 46 annual volumes. In recent years, the paper has been among the top winners at the annual Empire State Scholastic Press Association Conference, where awards are given to high-school publications across the state.
The paper has won 128 awards for writing, photography and design between 2012 and 2015. In 2015, it won 22 awards. In addition to five individual gold awards, the paper won gold for Best All-Round Publication and for Service To School for its in-depth coverage of MPH’s financial crisis last year.
“Every year that The Rolling Stone went to ESSPA, we took home an embarrassingly huge amount of awards,” said Melissa Chessher, who was the Journalism Workshop advisor from 2010 to 2014.
Even with the long tradition of excellence as a newspaper, students thought changing formats would be an exciting challenge.
Editor Debora Han, a senior, said she first entertained the idea last year. Han and fellow journalists Maddy Rieks and Spencer Krywy proposed it to advisor Jeanne Albanese this fall, and gained support from the class as well as the school administration.
“It was as if [the students] had been wanting it themselves but didn’t say anything,” Han said.
Head of Upper School John Stegeman was initially curious about the reasons behind the change, given the newspaper’s current stature and accomplishments. Despite his first reaction, he also said he welcomes the opportunity for student-driven innovation.
“That’s the way things get to be exceptional: by pushing the boundaries,” Stegeman said. “And students were behind it, so when students are behind it, I always support it.”
Han said the written content of the magazine will change only slightly, since under Chessher’s leadership the publication took on more of a magazine feel. The new look will, however, put greater emphasis on photos and design. Han said creating something new comes with challenges.
“I think it’s going to take us some time to establish ourselves in the same way that The Rolling Stone has,” she said.
During her tenure, Chessher approached the publication from a magazine-like perspective, since the paper published only four times a year. She added standard features such as “Selfie,” “Advice,” and “Big Picture,” and shifted the writing style to a more narrative one, giving the paper a unique voice.
Chessher, chair of the Magazine Department at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, said that the publication was a “magazine masquerading as a newspaper” and that “having a magazine that is both in content and appearance a magazine … is just a more authentic and exciting experience.”
Chessher has been helping guide the class through the transition, and she said she hopes the MPH community continues to take pride in the publication. She stressed the importance of student involvement as well as the administration’s support.
To encourage student input, the journalism class held a contest to help select the magazine’s new name. After the debut issue this spring, the new magazine will regularly publish twice a year.
“It’s something that we’re going to create from scratch,” Han said. “It’s going to be completely ours.”