Behind the Scenes: The Tower Review

by Mike Schutsky

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The Tower Review is an interesting and exciting elective offered at RFH.  It is not a typical class: there are no textbooks, there is no weekly test, and your assignments are publicized to the world.  This is also not your average high school newspaper.  It is not printed on paper, it does not cover the same old school topics, and it has a larger viewership than school newspaper reporters could imagine. This is a unique publication, and this article will take a look at the inner workings of the Tower Review.

The 2010-2011 Tower Review 'Family'

Unlike a regular high school newspaper, the topics of articles are endless. It all starts with an idea. And that idea is developed by thirteen talented students gathered together, brainstorming topics varying from school events to national and economic issues, from poetry and short stories to pop culture. These ideas are presented by each individual in a proposal, and discussed with the rest of the class to iron out specifics.

“The editorial board meetings are always interesting because you get to pick each other’s brains and get a good idea from the other writers,” says sophomore writer Caleigh Farragher.

However, the work isn’t done yet.  After spending a few days in the library researching, interviewing, and composing drafts, the staff reconvenes to present their work to the class and conduct a workshop.  It takes much effort and focus, but the staff recognizes the importance of the tireless pursuit of perfection.  When suggestions have been made and errors weeded out, the staff returns to the drafts and revises them, bettering them for publication.

What also makes the Tower Review an interesting and dynamic class is the publication process. It is actually composed on a very complex blogging mechanism called WordPress. On WordPress, the staff uploads articles and from there writers can add pictures, embed links, and change the font and formatting. The students upload their pieces in three segments called “waves.”  Then at the end of the quarter, all of their articles are published.  Each is accessible through the home page, which includes an interactive table of contents with hyperlinks to each student piece.

Senior Annie Hendrick sums it up best by saying, “It is wild to think that at such a young age we are posting our articles and thoughts to a website that many people read.”

Many people do read the Tower Review. In fact, the number of hits before this most recent edition is climbing past 39,500 since its first publication in January 2010. Similarly, WordPress allows its readers to make comments.  This in turn gives readers an opportunity to provide feedback and interact with the staff and content.  This popularity speaks volumes for the success of the Tower Review, and a contributing factor toward this is the class community that has developed throughout the academic year.

Miss Howard, who teachers the Tower Review, says, “It’s fun and slightly comical how we refer to ourselves as a family.  The kids really are brothers and sisters to each other.”

Junior Pete Lyden further enforces this statement by saying, “Miss Howard has really brought the family-like environment to the class which makes everyone feel comfortable with one another, and can help us all do our best work.” The close-knit group brings out the best in the writers and the comfortable environment leads to great articles.

The Tower Review is truly an interesting class and it is amazing that thirteen students in a small, cramped classroom in Rumson, New Jersey can create a website that touches people around the world. We hope you will enjoy the Tower Review and the all of the behind the scenes work to make it possible!

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