Nomen Omen

Every single hand raised.  That is what I saw as I scanned Ms. Farrell’s classroom at 2:30 one Wednesday afternoon, my own hand raised high above my head.  One may wonder what question, put to a vote, had elicited such a strong reaction from the members of the newly formed Newspaper Club.  The question was whether or not to change the paper’s name.  The answer was a unanimous “yes.”  Before I delve more deeply into the reasons behind the changing of Spin’s name, however, let’s step back in time for a look at the history of WHS Journalism.

  A recent interview with Ms. Schilling, former co-advisor of Spin, shed light on the past of the Wakefield High School newspaper.  In the 1970s, as the U.S. experienced the presidency of Richard Nixon and the end of the Vietnam War, the paper that WHS students turned to for information was The Lookout.  Shortly after, interest in the paper declined, only to be revived in the late 1980s by Pat Curley and Andrea McCarty under the rearranged title, The Outlook.  Proving the mutable nature of not only the news, but also the name under which it is published, the paper became more sports-centered in the 1990s – a shift reflected in yet another new title: The Warrior Times.  Spin, as WHS students of today know it, was born at the advent of the millennium — a new name for a new century. 

  The most recent attempt to change Spin’s name came in 2006, when two students took it upon themselves to completely revamp the WHS paper. The school year had just started, and Chris Morrill and Ben Tan, former journalism students and constant contributors to Spin themselves, had plans for the paper, plans which included a new name, but more importantly, a new direction.  They “wanted to make pieces [in Spin] less opinionated and more news-based,” said Ms. Tinker, the other former Spin advisor, in a recent interview.  Morrill and Tan spearheaded the idea, but Ms. Tinker and Ms. Schilling decided that input on the subject was needed from all of those who contributed to Spin.  A survey was given to Journalism students, the results of which were detailed in an article by Samantha Nakhoul in the November 2006 issue of Spin.  The results were a far cry from the impromptu vote taken that afternoon in Ms. Farrell’s room. An overwhelming 19 votes out of 25 were in favor of keeping the name Spin. Despite the outcome of that previous vote, students this year expressed qualms about keeping the word “Spin” in the title. These qualms were a major factor in making the 2008 vote very different from the 2006 vote. Why?

In Journalism, it is not particularly desirable to be known for putting a “spin” on the news, a word that suggests tainted information, even listed in an English Thesauruses as a synonym for “bias.” This was neither lost upon Journalism students in 2006 nor is it now.  In Nakhoul’s November 2006 article, Ben Tan suggested that with a different name, the paper could keep the idea of broad coverage of the news minus “the negative connotations.”  The members of this year’s Newspaper Club have a similar aim.  It is imperative to us that all students not only feel comfortable contributing to the paper, but also take pride in it.

  As a student of Latin last year, I often heard my teacher, Ms. Durkin, pepper her lessons with famous Latin phrases; one of the first that she taught us was “nomen omen.” This literally means “the name is a sign,” and it applies perfectly to the new name chosen to replace Spin.  Sarah Mullen, the freshman Journalism student who came up with the paper’s new title, The WHS ExPRESS, says that the idea struck her one day while she was “surfing the web.”  She liked the idea of “express” as a name not only because it has “press” in it (therefore suggesting all things newsworthy), but also because it encompasses free expression and creativity — a view which is shared by the members of the Newspaper Club.  The new name truly is a “sign” of the paper’s values because one of the main goals of the Newspaper Club this year, even before a new name had been chosen, was to make the paper more student-centered.  We as students are involved in every aspect of the paper, from writing and editing to laying out and fund-raising.  This level of involvement means that the paper belongs uniquely to the WHS student body. So whether you are interested in news, sports, entertainment, photography, publishing — or if you have a story to tell or an opinion to share — come to a Thursday afternoon meeting of Newspaper Club in Room 1217 or simply contribute an article or photo to The WHS ExPRESS on occasion. After all, as a member of the Wakefield High School student body, this paper is your voice.  It’s time to be heard.