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8 Questions for Francesca Di Cristofano

TAKING THE LEAD Pelham Examiner is a news site owned and run by students. COURTESY FRANCESCA DI CRISTOFANO

Last spring, a local newspaper in Pelham, New York, shut down. A group of students decided to start their own news site, Pelham Examiner. TFK’s Brian S. McGrath spoke with the managing editor, Francesca Di Cristofano, about the challenges and rewards of running a news site.

1. How did the Examiner get started?

I was editor of the Youth Beat section of a local paper called News of Pelham. That paper shut down. But its young journalists wanted to continue reporting. So we started our own site.

2. How many students write for the Examiner?

We have 30 writers on staff. Our youngest reporter is in the sixth grade.

3. What sets the Examiner apart from other news sources in Pelham?

We publish up to three stories each day. We cover features and local sports faster than any other source. We are also free and nonprofit. Our staff is doing this because they love it and because they want to serve the public good.

4. Why is a site covering local news important?

In a democracy, it is important to have reliable news. Because of our site, people can recognize problems in our town and move toward solving them.

5. What’s one story that only the Examiner covered?

We published an opinion piece on banning plastic straws in Pelham. Another was a feature on the Pelham Boy Scouts accepting female scouts for the first time.

6. How do people in town feel about kids reporting the news?

People have been surprised. They say the writing seems like it was done by adults working in the news business.

7. What have you learned from being an editor?

You have a responsibility to give an unbiased report that abides by your philosophy. At the Examiner, we are not afraid to identify the issues that affect our town. We strive to be fearless in what we publish.

8. Any advice you would offer to budding journalists?

Get experience writing! You need to learn what questions to ask. You can only learn that by experience. You just have to go out and do it.

Stop & Think! What is bias? Why is it important for a news source to be unbiased? How can readers detect bias in reporting?