Gabe Fleisher is 15 years old, a freshman at a St. Louis High School, and he runs a daily, political newsletter covering political news of the day. It’s incredible.
His newsletter is called Wake Up To Politics, and he sends it out every morning, which he has done since he was 8 years old.
The New York Times ran a fantastic article about Fleisher: Homework? First I Need to Get to the Bottom of This Comey Story
This article caught my attention for multiple reasons. First, it involves student journalism. Granted, he isn’t doing this as part of a school curriculum, but he is a student and a journalist. Anything cool young journalists do excites me. It makes me even more hopeful for the news media world. Second, I am an entrepreneur, and so is Fleisher. He may not be making a living from this venture, but he is an entrepreneur in the sense he started his own venture. Money will follow a good idea, and based upon the reported response his newsletter has been getting, it is a good idea. Third, newsletters interest me. I had hoped to have my own journalism students explore such an offering, but the school year got away from me. I still hope to approach the idea in the future, though.
What’s most impressive in all of this is how Fleisher deftly breaks down the news of the day, making it comprehensible without dumbing it down. He’s clearly a political junkie, and that excites me. Our society needs more civically engaged youth because those youth will soon be the ones going to the polls to cast ballots for our elected officials . . . or maybe they will be the ones on the ballot. Either way, it is crucial for the health of our democracy for this to take place. Combine that will a vibrant press, and our country will be in good shape.
Yes. The press. We need good journalists to do good work. It’s imperative. As The Washington Post now says in their slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”
According to a Post article about the slogan, the phrase isn’t new. In fact, legendary Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, has used the phrase for some time:
. . . Woodward, who has used the phrase in reference to President Nixon for years, said he didn’t coin it; he read it some years earlier in a judicial opinion in a First Amendment case. He couldn’t recall the specifics of the case or the name of the judge who wrote the opinion.
That’s what excites me about what Fleisher is doing. He may or may not have ever heard that phrase before the Post adopted it as its mantra, especially since has been authoring the newsletter long before the slogan debuted, but he clearly gets the meaning. This is evident from the Times article, when he said:
I feel a sense of responsibility. Not everyone reads it every day, and it’s obviously not the only thing people read. But some people tell me that it is. And that’s a responsibility that I take seriously.
Fleisher should serve as an inspiration to student journalists everywhere, and even journalism advisers should take note. He is being quite innovative. Some students in my class don’t use email very heavily. They rely on social media platforms to communicate, but I know that will change as they leave the halls of high school and enter the wider world. Email has been around for a long time, and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Though email might not be a priority for students right now, it will become a key part of their professional lives. As journalists, they need to start to understand this and capitalize on the opportunities presented. After all, as this article from Poynter‘s Benjamin Mullin — How The Washington Post is using newsletters and alerts to reach readers — points out, as well “Engaged Journalism: Connecting with Digitally Empowered News Audiences” by Jake Batsell, professional media outlets are doing great things with newsletters.
Maybe a daily newsletter wouldn’t work logistically for a most high school journalism outlets, but a weekly, monthly or even quarterly offering could be the perfect foray into the world of email distribution.