For the past 50 years, Denebola has done something extraordinary. Through all of the changes that Newton South and the world around it have gone through, this newspaper has continuously published each month of the academic year for 50 years.
Now there must be a key to this success, for how else has this newspaper’s annually changing staff and leadership team managed to accomplish what they have?
Much, as one can imagine, has changed over 50 years: students, teachers, principals, and advisors. But what has remained constant is the set of traditions that Denebola‘s changing leadership have regarded so dearly – a collection of ideas about what it means to be scholastic journalists at Newton South, centering on a dual responsibility to the paper’s readers and contributors.
But fulfilling this responsibility is a tricky thing to do – just ask any of the 400+ senior editors who have sought to do so over the last half-century. It’s not always easy to balance the needs of the paper with the needs of its contributors or its readers.
It is in perpetually trying to fulfill this responsibility that Denebola‘s editors engage in experiential learning. This is learning through doing, trying things out, and making mistakes – discussing, analyzing, and solving problems as they arise. It is this never-ending process that keeps editors engaged with their work, driving them to move right along and, not only make a paper, but also build community within and outside of the walls of 9202.
In my humble opinion, it is this commitment to responsibility – and, consequently, experiential learning – that has fueled the newspaper’s staff and senior editors for the last 50 years. Each volume, diverse in both composition and style, has found a way to work together – with their staff and the larger community – to accomplish a wide array of personal, social, professional, academic, and journalistic goals.
It’s all because of learning, something we often associate with classrooms and whiteboards. But on Denebola – like with athletics, theatre, and other activities – it’s different; it’s about learning who you are and what you want to do, figuring out how you fit into the extended community that is the world around us.
This is what has kept this newspaper going for 50 years and will continue to in the future; the students who choose to participate do so much more than make a newspaper – Denebola is, above all, a didactic vehicle for exploration. No one student has the same journey, but each comes out having experienced a number of lifelong lessons.
So remember, we’re all learning¦just some more than others.]]>
I told him this surprised me because, for the most part, I really liked high school. Playing devil’s advocate, he asked me why.
This got me thinking. What about Newton South made me happy? Why did I – to some extent – look forward to coming to school for four years? The answer I came to had nothing to do with the rigorous curriculum or how much I learned; instead, I realized that, at heart, I’m a theatre kid.
Those of you that know me might find that conclusion confusing. I don’t act, sing, or dance, and I never participated in a South Stage production. What I mean is that, like how theatre kids are passionate about their work and look forward to rehearsals and performing after school, I am passionate about my own interests and activities, and that is what I looked forward to each day – that is what got me through those painful long blocks with third lunch, or a weekend dedicated to studying for a test.
To make a seemingly bold statement, I’ll assert that Denebola is my South Stage, and that doing theatre is much like making a paper.
While South Stage puts on nine productions, Denebola makes nine newspapers. South Stage has its big annual musical, while Denebola has its enormous graduation issue. And like how South Stage has student directors, Denebola has senior editors.
Yes, these comparisons are superficial and probably don’t mean anything to many of you reading this. But, in my final contribution to this newspaper, I’ll take a moment to explain why these comparisons are important, and what lessons are ultimately learned.
1 – Nine productions, nine issues. Though quality is better than quantity, nine of these time-consuming accomplishments are clearly impressive. Whether participating in nine shows or nine papers, there are certain skills that are improved through repetition, and various mistakes that are later corrected.
For my purposes, let’s take skill in acting and skill in editing. During the first production of the year, an actor may be inexperienced or out of practice. But through rehearsals, one’s skill improves. The same goes with editing; in the first issue of a volume, an editor may not catch mistakes or know the paper’s style, but through the course of nine issues they eventually figure it out.
Put simply, the lesson learned here is the clichÃƒÂ© “practice makes perfect.
2 – Big musical, big grad issue. We all hear that size doesn’t matter, but these two are pretty big. Though there are many things to learn from participating in such sizable accomplishments, there is one key value that stands out: teamwork.
With a large group of people – even though everyone is working toward the same goal – it is often difficult to communicate and cooperate successfully. By having to work closely with many people on such a large project, teamwork is not only helpful, but also imperative.
3 – Student directors, senior editors. In any organization there are leaders. In theatre they’re called directors and on the newspaper they’re called senior editors. In both cases, these students are the ones ultimately responsible for the work of their organization – for better or worse.
There is no end to the role of a leader, whether settling disputes, uniting others, or making difficult decisions. Both in South Stage and on Denebola, these students work tirelessly to support their organizations. Through being leaders they learn a number of important skills and lessons, but among the most significant is responsibility.
It seems that South Stage and Denebola really aren’t that different after all. In the end, a group of students have worked together to produce an amazing product (like this 72-page graduation issue you’re reading now) and, along the way, learned about themselves, each other, and the world.
High school is only what you make of it. It is the choices you make and the experiences you have that determine your happiness and success.
And so I leave future South graduates with an important message: No matter what you like to do or what you are interested in, there is a place for you and things for you to do in this school. And if you just give it a chance, you may end up having a great time – it’s quite possible that you, too, are a theatre kid.]]>
In the midst of this current economic crisis, President Obama’s work seems awfully familiar, just as images of him seem everywhere.
It may be because, in the 1930′s, President Roosevelt had similar problems to solve. FDR called his solution the New Deal – a series of programs and policies with the goal of giving aid to the unemployed, reforming business practices, and recovering the economy. And like our current president, FDR had to build public support by informing the American public every way he could.
One program was the Farm Security Administration (FSA), initially created as the Resettlement Administration, The FSA’s purpose was to combat’€essentially’€ rural poverty by improving the life of poor farmers.
And though the FSA’s efforts are well known, one particular element has received a higher level of recognition.
The FSA photography program, aimed to portray the challenges and opportunities combating rural poverty offered. Between 1935 and 1942, a handful of photographers, some known and most not, produced a quarter million remarkable images of American life.
Stu Cohen’s The Likes of Us examines the origin, process, purpose, and – ultimately –Â the legacy of this influential “propaganda program. From the perspective of a journalist and critic with a passion for both photography and issues of social justice, Cohen brings a well-informed perspective.
This larger-format book prints its images with care on 208 typographically understated pages. It begins with a Foreword by Peter Bacon Hales, followed by Cohen’s narrative, a carefully selected – and ordered – collection of FSA photographs and accompanying/illustrative text. Photos are enhanced by the original, short FSA captions, and organized by photographer and location.
Since the 1960s there have been dozens of FSA books, the uniqueness of Cohen’s is his inclusion of strategically placed letters to and from the photographers, as well as the FSA’s Roy Stryker’s “shooting scripts at end.
Hales’ Foreword contextualizes Cohen’s preparations. It is clear how important this background is to understand ing Cohen’s contribution – specifically, the process of mining the FSA’s photo archives at the Library of Congress.
Hales explains the difficulty of finding specific photographs using reels of microfilm or, alternatively, sifting through extensive file cabinets of mounted prints. This introduces the concepts of pattern and order, both of which are significant throughout Cohen’s construction.
¦patterns emerge, pictures one might otherwise consider take on a new resonance or beauty (or both), and underlying narratives begin to emerge.
Later, in Cohen’s narrative, it is explained that, in the twenty-first century, a time of increasing digitalization, people might lose appreciation for physically handling a photograph and seeing it in a distinct order or grouping with others. The allegedly all-inclusive Internet ironically, he asserts, denies viewers this opportunity.
Cohen spent many years selecting both the photographs and information, sorting through the innumerable “files in the Library of Congress. Initially in a partnership with Beacon Press of Boston, Cohen had considerable flexibility but in time Beacon became “more than distracted after publishing the contested Pentagon Papers, and lost track of Cohen’s manuscript.
Undaunted, Cohen continued revision, but did not live to see his project published. The manuscript came to the attention of publisher of Boston’s David R. Godine, and Hales was asked to step in and shape the book, retaining its outlines and its themes and insights, while bringing the work into the present. Hales describes his rescue work as “a complex and enthralling task.
Cohen begins by explaining the role of photography – specifically, documentary photography – in the twentieth century, as contrasted with the nineteenth.
Though photography was invented in the nineteenth century, it was an “essentially literary period in which history was recorded primarily in words. In a sharp contrast, the twentieth century was a “visual, primarily photographic period during which “slices of history were recorded in images.
This is why, when one thinks of the Great Depression, they see still images. Likely, it is one of the most iconic images of its time, like Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother, which was an FSA photograph.
Cohen argues that though not all memorable photographs of the time period were taken by the FSA, many were. These photographs serve, today, as some of the most important historical marker in the United States.
The man behind the FSA’s photographic efforts (officially named the Historical Section), Roy Emerson Stryker, was, in theory and in practice, a photo editor and visual historian (Cohen goes as far as saying the “world’s greatest).
Stryker’s role as an editor was fundamental to the organization of the Historical Section.
Though the efforts of individual photographers were at the heart of the program, Stryker brought their work together and united it under a common purpose.
He also steered his photographers in the right direction in terms of what “slices needed to be recorded. This was difficult for some of the photographers (especially the more prestigious ones) who wanted more “flexibility in their work.
Having been on both sides – as an editor and as a photographer – I understand both Stryker and the photographers.
As a photographer, one wants to explore with the different ways images can be made – whether that be emphasizing the content, the method, or the circumstances. Photographers – with good reason – feel they should not be bound by strictures that impede their abilities and potential results.
As an editor, however, the logic is quite different. Though an editor wants the best results from his photographers, he does not, most of the time, have the luxury of allowing them absolute free-reign of their work. As the one responsible for either the success or failure of a given, overall project (in Stryker’s case, the publicizing and historical archiving of the FSA), an editor must do what is needed to ensure success.
For Stryker, that meant sending his photographers “shooting scripts with rather detailed assignments as to what photos to take.
In deciding what photos Stryker wanted his FSA photographers to take and how he wanted them to be taken, though, Stryker must have, at one point, asked himself what the purpose of these photos was. His motivation came from a combination of factors. Cohen explores this question in an interesting way, by discussing, in depth, the various roles that the FSA’s photo collection might have served.
The Collection as Social Documentary
More time is spent discussing this than anything else.
Cohen asserts photography was the new form of historical archiving for the twentieth century. He implies that, just as nineteenth century historians were able to manipulate the portrayal of history in their selection, documentary photographers might work to manipulate things in the same way – whether done in their own interests, that of an editor’s, or that of an organization.
Documentary photographs are meant to present the viewer with a piece of “reality. They are consciously manipulative in intent, aiming to change or reinforce a particular view of the subject in the viewer’s mind. To obtain this result the photographer might resort to some manipulation of the “reality itself.
In light of potential bias – whether intentional or unintentional – it is important to note just what –Â and who – was documented.
In creating a collection of photographs –Â as a photographer, an editor, or a publisher – one is always looking for the “best picture. Often times this means the one that will elicit a strong reaction from the viewers.
Much of the FSA’s photos were of working class people.Why? Because in the 1930s’€as with America’s middle class now’€that’s where the story was.
What is in the photo? A photo of a middle class family at a grocery store is not normally “front page material; a photo of a dust bowl refugee in California (Dorothea Lange, February 1936), however, evokes strong feelings and, therefore, strong reactions.
So all this raises the question of whether the FSA’s photos are an actual historical archive, or if they are more like propaganda.
The answer, it seems: a little of both.
The File as Socio-Historical Evidence
Cohen explains his views on this clearly and with evocative examples.
The photographers of the FSA, he writes, were not only photographers, but also anthropologists. He uses photographer John Collier as an example:
Collier’s methodology rests primarily upon the preparation of visual studies in which photographs are used to record significant details of the social and material-cultural system of a people.
Cohen also reveals that some scholars are skeptical of the “ideals and aims that motivated Stryker and his photographers.
This, one might infer, undermines the legitimacy of FSA photographs as anthropological evidence. Though the remains of a dead body and an FSA photo of the same person could both be considered items for anthropological study, bones cannot lie about a person’s history, while a photo – depending on how and when it was taken – could be quite misleading.
Cohen does a good job describing both sides.
The Photographs as Works of Art
As an editor, I often reminded my staff that a newspaper is not a work of art. An argument always followed. Something along the lines of, “But the photos and graphics are art, or “Writing’s like an art!
What they eventually learned, however, was that, though individual pieces of the newspaper are, in their own right, works of art, the newspaper as a whole is not.
According to Cohen, it seems that the Historical Section of the FSA was similar in this respect, as it had a larger, collective purpose.
Some FSA photographers thought the world of their work – and they had every right to. In some circumstances, however, this made things very difficult.
[Walker Evans] saw the FSA as an opportunity to be paid for roaming the land creating pictures that might be useful for publicizing programs to which he shared some liberal political commitment, but which were primarily expressions of his¦artistic project.
FSA photographers were not paid to make art; instead, they were paid to document rural America and dramatize through their images the (positive) changes FDR’s New Deal was helping to make to that rural America. Big difference.
FSA photos are in one sense documents (anthropological documents, at that) from which information can be decoded and supported by or supporting conventional documents. Some of the photos – as photos –Â are also, works of art. Cohen writes about art exhibits that included FSA photos, he also identifies a new/old aesthetic, a particularly American quality, the vernacular.
One gallery viewer commented:
These pictures are not only works of art, but have far more social significance than any other photographs in the show.
The Photographs as Government Propaganda
One must remember that the FSA photography program was funded entirely by the United States government. It would be nice to think that the government simply wanted a photographic archive to illustrate the plight of the farmers for future generations. In reality, however, it is clear other motives were in operation.
FSA photographs served “the larger cause of the New Deal and advocated “specific responses¦in their viewers. And Cohen argues that, for the most part, this did not offend Stryker, or his photographers.
So how, specifically, were these photographs used as government propaganda?
Cohen explains that the Great Depression didn’t have the same effect on everyone:
Although the Great Depression was the worst economic calamity experienced by this nation¦it was not a constant fact of life for everybody¦Those in the cities, as a whole, lived far better than the one-third of the nation, “ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished [in the rural areas]¦
FSA photographs of poverty-stricken areas captured images of resilience and strength when viewed by the rural community. They were also used as another kind of propaganda in urban areas, showing those Americans that, though the economy was bad, cities were better off.
Unlike Nazi Germany these mostly vernacular photos enhanced an inclusive, respectful attitude. These images increased morale and joined urban-dwellers into a commonality.
This propaganda also solicited sympathy from those who were skeptical of the efforts of the FSA and other New Deal programs.
The photos illustrated the suffering that Americans in rural areas lived with and, encouraged skeptics to believe these programs were necessary, and everyone’s taxes were working to actually help the afflicted.
Cohen’s explanation of the photographs as government propaganda is not only thorough, but also insightful.
As the photographers returned to the road, the pictures themselves went into a never-complete, always-evolving and adaptable library, organized by need and by impulse, by desire and demand.
This line from the end of Cohen’s narrative summarizes the legacy of the FSA Historical Section.
The photos, an invaluable Library of Congress holding, are not to be read as textbooks, nor are they an entirely independent source of historic information. But they are texts, and they do support other documents. They remain a significant element of American historical documentation.
Not only did these photographs serve the four aforementioned purposes, but also they made photography – as a craft and an art – an increasingly respected artifact of American history and its culture.
There is no overt conclusion to Cohen’s book. On the one hand we have simply a collection of FSA photographs from a remarkable collection, only a few recognized as iconic, the bulk, virtually unknown, loosely understood as vernacular.
On the other hand, our complex interest is the implicit one, the selection and organization, the way in which these particular images have been selected and organized, and the intent behind each, that is itself The Likes of Us meaning.
Cohen does a substantive job explaining and presenting the FSA’s photography program. Even for those with limited knowledge of the FSA or the larger New Deal, his narrative (and Hale’s Foreword) provides appropriate background. The Likes of Us is certainly useful for many purposes–Â whether American history, photography, anthropology, economics, or social policy.
The enormous collection of FSA images made between 1935 and 1942 means nothing unless it tells a story. Cohen’s important contribution is to have located something like a Cineplex version, Godine Press’ contribution is to have affirmed this value and to have’€as usual with this unusual publisher’€affirmed it so handsomely.]]>
In the midst of this heavily tradition-based transition, however, it was clear that, in the spirit of Obama’s campaign, the time had also come for change. It was time to combine tradition and progressivism in order to support the new administration.
In an oddly similar parallel, Denebola is also entering a period of transition and – like the presidency – will take on a new team of leaders. Though the outgoing editors are not necessarily Republicans, nor are we from Texas (nor did we claim to find weapons of mass destruction), there are still striking similarities between the (mostly) peaceful transition of Denebola volumes and that of the White House.
What makes each volume of Denebola so special – like each presidential administration – is the way it builds on existing practices and traditions, improving an organization that is now approaching its 50th anniversary.
Since the school’s founding, Denebola has served as a reliable and entertaining center of information about the school, city, and community-at-large. From first-rate articles, to book reviews, to (outstanding) sports and drama photographs, this official publication is certainly not a kiddie newspaper (nor a Mickey Mouse operation).
But as well as maintaining the level of quality that Denebola strives for, a new volume’s editors must make the paper their own by developing unique characteristics in style and content. Volume 48 certainly put this intangible advice into practice in a number of ways.
Like how Obama appointed his own cabinet, Volume 48′s senior editors appointed their own staff, organizing this distinctive journey. Beyond that, though, Volume 48 created its own community – fostering its own set of values and beliefs – and, in doing so, set the stage for an even more unique opportunity for its members, as well as an outstanding product.
As you read this, our next transition is happening. After publishing 260 pages and approximately 780,000 words, Volume 48′s senior editors are throwing in their towels and – for the most part – retiring from the high school press.
This time next month, you will be reading another issue of Denebola – the main difference being the leadership behind its production. Volume 49 will carry on the traditions of Denebola while, at the same time, creating its own unique parts of both the process and product.
Some things, of course, will never change – and that is part of what’s so great about it. Twenty years from now Denebola might still not be a work of art, but it will certainly give Newton South’s students the opportunity to be part of an inclusive and rewarding community, fulfilling the true meaning of being a “family newspaper.”]]>
So while Denebola has, numerous times, caused each of us a combination of frustration, misery, and pain, we canÃƒÂt imagine what our high school careers would have been- and will bewithout it. Winston Churchill once said that “success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.Â
Over the course of our last eight issues, we have experienced ups and downs that would boggle a pogo stick champion’s mind (blame Dan for the poor analogies), but I think that all four of us can safely give Denebola credit for teaching us how to deal with our biggest accomplishments, as well as some downright failures.
One good legacy Volume 47 left us with was the hugely useful position of Senior Administrative Assistant. Dan will pay someone $10 if they can explain what that means.
Jagress spent the majority of his time telling people he was sorry and saying “no, no at times that generally made no sense. He made up for it, though, by single-handedly managing business each month. Oh, and he’s the only kid at South who can claim to be an expert at bulk mailing.
Shakti spent the majority of her time with no shoes on (much to Mr. White’s dismay) and taking the brunt of countless Indian jokes. For the record, she would like to inform the ignorant Denebola staff that India is not an inferno year round and “Because you’re Indian is an explanation that only functions within the walls of 9202.
Our staff members helped us through the good and the bad. Julia Lytle threw a legendary party that even Mr. White couldn’t help but make fun of her for. Her fellow Features editor, Claire, alternated between obsessing over a pink plastic pig and hiding Dan’s belongings. At one point, she even convinced Dan to call Antoine and accuse him of stealing his keys.
The Tye family used to nearly single-handedly sponsor the paper, but they took a hit when the Schwartz family made a bid on the other back page. Andrew, however, more than made up for it with his colorful language (Denebola is not a locker room!), unparalleled laying abilities, and good looks.
It’s possible that Global, a questionable section at the best of times, could not have been less productive. Between Christine dedicating her time to posting photos on her wall of beautiful men and Amrita attempting to straighten her hair, only to disconnect the Edits computer and two hours worth of work (none of us have heard Ben growl louder than when that happened), it’s a wonder they managed to finish their strenuous page and a half section each month. We would also like to shout out to DGabes who miraculously graduated high school after his junior year and brought piece to the Middle East.
Arts staff became so close that we, at times, had difficulty distinguishing between them (thereÃƒÂs definitely a Julia, Emily, Erica, and Diana, but which is which?). Nicole Repina somehow drew every graphic for the newspaper while simultaneously juggling about ten AP classes.
Becca wins National Speech Tournaments in her free time, and brings a mastery of Photoshop to the table that might even rival JKuo’s. And Nate and Dan discovered much of Newton while driving around, attempting to take pictures for that whole override deal. Where was the other news editor, you might ask? He was color-coding the recycling (at least it wasn’t shoes this year, Dhan!).
We learned the hard way that the Denebola room has far too many malfunctioning computers, and we were all surprised to learn that Mr. White is now a German Ambassador. The staff as a whole became experts in ordering hundreds of medium caramel iced coffees with cream and sugar (thank you Dan), and, over the course of the volume, we have ordered enough scallion pancakes to clog all the arteries of a small country.
So as we pass on the torch to a group of young (yes, we aged a lot over these past months), fresh juniors, we can’t help but admit that we will miss this. We will miss stern talks from our Advisor and days when we don’t get home until 11p.m.Â And even though we pretend like we don’t care, there will doubtlessly be a gaping hole in all our lives where Denebola once was.]]>