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Delving into journalism


The cover of the glossy magazine depicts three teenage artists - Kamille Guinn and Jennifer Wong of Wilde Lake and Drew White of River Hill - dubbed "artists in residence." Articles inside examine how much money students spend on their proms, the hassles of balancing school and a job, and the tricked-out cars that kids drive.

The magazine, called Xchange, is written by Howard County high school students and boasts a circulation of about 15,000.

The first issue, which came out in April, was the result of more than a year of hard work and planning by Scott Gayer, who just graduated from Wilde Lake High School.

Gayer, the outgoing editor, came up with the idea for a student magazine during his junior year, while doing his "mentorship" at the Patuxent Publishing Co., which publishes several weekly papers and other publications. The mentorship is a yearlong program in which students learn about a specific industry. Gayer chose print journalism.

While working at Patuxent, Gayer noticed that students love to read about themselves and decided to publish a magazine specifically for them. Officials at Patuxent agreed to support the project, selling ads to offset the cost of production.

Gayer found students from county high schools to take photographs, write articles, design and edit. The first issue, 16 pages, included articles about students with artistic abilities, inexpensive eating places in Howard County and "local venues that fight boredom."

Though the magazine was not quite as many pages as Gayer had hoped (he wanted 24 and had to cut some stories), he hopes he has created what will become a tradition. He is leaving soon for the University of Nevada, where he will major in journalism. Taking his place as editor in chief will be Olivia Bobrowsky, who will be starting her junior year at Wilde Lake and is editor of the school paper, the Paw Print.

"I know her really well - she's awesome," Gayer said.

Bobrowsky hopes to put out two issues of the magazine next year, she said, with the first one targeted for fall or early winter. "I know it's going to be a lot of work, and it's going to be a big commitment," she said. But she thinks her job will be easier than Gayer's because he is the one who got the project off the ground.

Paul Milton, executive editor for Patuxent's Howard County division, was one of many people at Patuxent who provided editorial guidance for the project.

"From my perspective, we worked sometimes on weekends with Scott and some of his staff, helping them with the design, advising them on stories, just being advisers," Milton said.

But Gayer was the one who had the idea and made it reality, Milton emphasized. "Ninety percent was Scott and his staff," Milton said.

The students mostly worked off hours and weekends, grabbing whatever computer was available, he said. Milton came in on the occasional Saturday to work with them. "It was an hour here, an hour there," he said. "It's a good way to give back to the community, we thought.

"I'm real impressed," Milton said. "It was a great effort and one we hope to continue."

Because the magazines were distributed through the schools, Patti Caplan, director of public relations for the system, was also involved.

"Originally, Scott contacted me about distributing the magazine in the schools and how he might arrange that," she said. "I talked with him about connecting it to his mentorship, making sure that it was under the auspices of the school system. That way, I would be able to help him with dissemination."

The school system assumed ownership of the magazine, Caplan said, and reviewed the articles for accuracy and any legal issues before publication. Caplan said she did not have to change a word.

"I thought everything was just great that was submitted," she said. "In looking over the proposal and the types of things Scott hoped to include, I felt confident from the beginning there wouldn't be any conflicts."

About Gayer, she said: "He's a very impressive young man. It was just a joy working with him. He's so full of energy and he's so bright."

She, too, is glad the magazine will continue in the coming school year. "What an experience for the kids, to be able to produce something of this quality," she said.

Gayer said the important thing is that Xchange remains a magazine produced by students and for students. "One idea that I want to keep inherent in the publication is that it's all student-produced," he said.

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