ACHS’ Theogony editors look back at a year of student journalism and activism

2023 Theogony Editors.
Front Row L to R: Zoe Sermons, James Libresco, Ermila Mazariegos, Casey Donahue.
Back Row L to R: Chloe Yokitis and Yahney-Marie Sangare

With the 2022-2023 school year coming to a close next month, it’s been another banner year for Alexandria City High School (ACHS) student newspaper Theogony.

In recent years the student newspaper has been at the forefront of stories about ACHS, from breaking the story about former Superintendent Gregory Hutchins Jr. sending one of his children to a private school rather than ACHS to publishing a study about phosphorus levels in nearby Taylor Run.

This year, the student newspaper reported extensively on issues around a program called Lunch and Learn. Lunch and Learn allowed students to use their lunch block to meet with clubs and teachers. It was shelved with the understanding it would be replaced by a new program called Titan Lunch — essentially Lunch and Learn but with more oversight and structure — but ACHS Principal Peter Balas told the community that Titan Lunch would not be implemented in the 2022-2023 school year.

The move prompted a walk-out protest by students and Theogony staff said articles about Lunch and Learn were some of the most widely read of the last year.

Theogony editor Nora Malone, who has been with the student newspaper for three years with two of those as editor, provided a look back at this year at Theogony:

ALXnow: What are some of the main “beats” at Theogony, the main issues that are of interest to the student body?

Malone: This year, of course, a lot of focus has been on Lunch and Learn, and the discussions surrounding it. But anything of that genre, big changes within the school is always a good story. We also focus on sports games a lot, especially photos from them. Spotlights on clubs and teachers are also great stories, and there’s always something new happening.

ALXnow: Are there any particular stories that have really sparked the interest or discussion within ACHS?

Malone: We’ve had a few big stories this year, one of them was about Youngkin’s new rules regarding trans students and that was one that got a lot of response, mostly positive. And anything we wrote regarding Lunch and Learn would get a lot of traction. Theogony was actually lucky enough to break the news via Twitter that Lunch and Learn was officially not coming back and that sparked lots of discussion and interaction between students, teachers, and parents.

ALXnow: Do students respond more to coverage of stories within ACHS and Alexandria or are they more interested in Theogony’s coverage or takes on events outside of ACHS?

Malone: We don’t do a lot of news that is not locally based, or if we do it’s about how it affects Alexandria or ACHS. But we know we aren’t a lot of people’s first news source, so we try to provide unique takes and information when we discuss national events.

ALXnow: Even more so than other news media, reporters at Theogony are writing about their peers. Do you find that adds an extra challenge to the job or more opportunities? I imagine it can be awkward to go to class when you’ve written something critical of an organization or an administrator.

Malone: The most difficult thing is making sure people don’t write about clubs or events they’re involved in. People often reach for topics they feel comfortable with, or people they already know, but as a newspaper that’s already full of student leaders, it’s important to not include any more bias.

ALXnow: Do you have any favorite stories that you worked on that you think highlight the role of student journalism?

Malone: We’ve had some amazing stories this year. Personally I worked on an article surrounding the walkout that took place because of the removal of Lunch and Learn. We recently published an article about the introduction of metal detectors in the school, which is another relevant topic in the school system. And of course one of the best parts of student journalism is showing the hard work of the students. We’ve had articles discussing shows from our theater department, events by our clubs, and highlights reflecting our multicultural student body identity.