Hilde Kate Lysiak, the editor and founder of Orange Street News, gave the West Virginia University commencement speech for the Reed College of Media graduation on May 10. Lysiak never went to college, which isn’t unlike many speakers at ceremonies happening around the nation each May.
Unlike many commencement speakers, Lysiak hasn’t been to college because she’s been busy completing the sixth grade and running a news website as a 12-year-old reporter.
Orange Street News, founded in 2014, serves Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania “and wherever else” Lysiak travels.
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In her address, Lysiak provided advice on how to be a good reporter as though she’s a seasoned vet, which she kind of is. At 9-years-old, Lysiak gained national attention when she was the first to report about a homicide in her hometown.
She made headlines again in February when she got into a confrontation with an Arizona marshal who threatened to arrest her for filming him while he was on duty, according to the Associated Press.
Lysiak addressed the concerns that she imagined some of the soon-to-be-graduates were probably having at that very moment.
“First, let me address a few thoughts that I’m sure are going through many of your heads right now,” Lysiak said. “I’m $80,000 in debt and my school can’t even afford a full-grown human to give the commencement speech…is this some kind of scam?”
Lysiak started off cracking jokes, but her tone turned serious fast.
“It seems that everywhere we turn we see bad news about the news,” Lysiak said. “A week doesn’t go by where someone doesn’t tell me that I shouldn’t just find another job…one with a future.”
The reporter knew she had some wisdom to shed, so she didn’t hold back.
“As someone who developed a devoted readership that spans all across the world, I have a few ideas on how we can create a bridge to the future,” Lysiak said.
Advice for journalists from a 12-year-old reporter
1. Keep your ledes tight.
2. Talk to real people.
3. Trust no one.
4. Get away from your desk.
5. Always bring a pencil…pens stop working when it gets cold outside.
6. Don’t forget who you work for. (The public)
7. Ignore the comments.
8. Don’t forget a reporter’s superpower. (Fact and truth)
9. Don’t mix politics and reporting.
Lysiak urged that the future reporters in WVU’s 2019 class stay “laser-focused to the truth.”
“The crisis we are facing is one of trust,” Lysiak said. “People don’t trust what they’re reading anymore.”
As a typical member of a younger generation, she blamed the generation that came before her for the lack of trust in the news media.
“You’re inheriting a world where people are more increasingly only talking to themselves or to people who already think the same way,” Lysiak said.
She also asked some pretty big questions to the class of 2019.
“Without new information, how can people grow?”
Lysiak tasked the soon-to-be grads, and herself, with the duty of restoring the public’s trust in reporters.
“If you do these things, I believe that history will look back on this moment not as the last dark days when the reporter profession or journalism died, but as the new beginning when this generation, the class of 2019, didn’t just save the news, but ushered it into a new golden era of fact-based information that shines a light so bright it touches every corner of the globe,” Lysiak said.
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