When Coy Pederson started his new job teaching English Language Arts at Fillmore Central last September, he noticed something. “There was no student newspaper,” he said. At one time there had been one that had been published under the guidance of teacher Gerri Nielson, but unfortunately, that had been discontinued. “So then I thought, there’s a need for some kind of outlet for parents to get to know our students and for the community to get to know our students better,” he said.
Pederson had taken journalism during his time at Cotter Schools in Winona and loved it. Now he was ready to share that love of journalism with the students at Fillmore Central. Freshly out of college and in only his first year of teaching, not just at Fillmore Central, but anywhere, Pederson took a big leap. Superintendent Heath Olstad gave Pederson the go-ahead to start an elective journalism class and things were off.
Pederson set up the online newspaper using the same vendor that his journalism class at Cotter had used. Fifteen students joined his class, 12 of whom are staff writers. The other three are the editors who run the newspaper. Pederson guides and teaches, but the students are the ones who actually operate the paper, doing everything from writing articles, layout, and more. “It’s not a traditional class…they get a little bit of theory and are taught journalistic ethics,” Pederson said. “It’s my most fun time of the day by far.” The students are also learning important skills that can be used in real life settings such as interview skills, photography, videography, critical thinking, and more. “There’s a need for students to be able to vet sources and take ownership of getting their own news and not just have it filtered throught TikTok or Snapchat,” Pederson explained.
The journalism class meets every day of the week, and Pederson is impressed with how quickly the students can turn out fresh content for the newspaper. Their enthusiasm shows in their writing. “Journalism is just really fun,” staff writer and senior Alayna Holets said.
The topics that are covered in the newspaper range from extracurricular activities, entertainment, opinion, arts, sports, and more. The Fillmore Central Falconer’s motto, “Where school news comes first” rings true. With a focus on students and their activities, the newspaper truly exhibits the spirit of the school. That doesn’t mean that events outside of school halls are ignored though. From an opinion piece on a discontinued flavor at Starbucks to an article on the recent manhunt that took place in Fountain, the newspaper truly does cover everything.
Pederson hopes to continue teaching a journalism class every year at Fillmore Central. In the future, he plans to expand the paper to include advertisements for local businesses. Not only would doing so create another learning opportunity for the students, but the revenue would be used to pay for the website subscription, making the Fillmore Central Falconer a self-sustaining newspaper.
The Fillmore Central Falconer is only available in an online format and there are no plans to expand into physical print copies. “The traditional paper format is not as popular (with students) and online is more accessible,” Pederson explained. A link to the newspaper is sent out each day at school with the morning announcements, and there is a plan to add a link to the school website as well, making it more accessible for students’ families as well. The newspaper is also now being advertised via posters that have been hung up around the school building. “We wanted them to be eye catching but easy to read,” Holets explained. Over the last month, the newspaper’s website was viewed over 300 times. “That’s a good testament to a small community, small school, and how word can travel fast,” Pederson said.
You can view the Fillmore Central Falconer at fcfalconer.org.