THE GREAT SCHOOL NEWSPAPER COUP OF ’96 / OH COMELY

My lust for power began on a Monday morning, just before maths. The reading options at my primary school were limited: there wasn’t a library, and our class had a single bookcase stocked seemingly at random. It was somehow fitting for a place that used to be a Victorian hospital and looked like a workhouse. Every morning we’d have a short reading session. Once we’d finished a book we had to go to the bookcase and select another, so inevitably everyone would end up reading the same things. It was quite wonderful, like a proto-book club: a friend would fall for a book and you’d excitedly wait for them to finish it so you could have it next.

This was how the trouble began, in the form of a frizzy-haired boy called Harmick. Sardonic, musical and intelligent, Harmick seemed impossibly exotic: he could speak Armenian and introduced me to pizza. I was in awe of him. In spite of myself, we became best friends.

Harmick was the first in our class to read a book called Young Reporters. He loved it, which was rare. I didn’t even let him put it back on the shelf. Devouring it in a single sitting over the weekend, I too loved its tale of young reporters doing young reportage.

At some point on the trudge to school, an idea came to mind, one that would gift me an empire and bring me ruin. I would start my own newspaper. It would be so simple. I’d be the Editor, Harmick my trusted Deputy, and together we’d enlist the rest of the class to write about their areas of expertise. I even had a brilliant, wholly original name for our publication: Young Reporters.

Our first issue – illustrated with images cut from magazines and the occasional handwritten article – was half zine, half ransom note. Many of the commissioned pieces had failed to materialise, but we didn’t mind too much because we still had the soap recipe, a review of a board game, and a pretty good quiz.

I got permission to sell copies in the schoolyard at lunch and Harmick sourced some sweets to sell. It wasn’t long before we realised that our peers were only interested in buying sweets. Shrewd capitalists that we were, we amended our sales policy so that sweets could only be bought along with a copy of the newspaper. By the end of the hour we’d completely sold out, heading back to class with a few pounds and a newfound taste for publishing.

Like all 10-year-olds, my messy exterior masked the ice-cold heart of a dictator. Wary of what had happened with the first issue, I ensured that everyone kept to deadline and actually submitted their work. Young Reporters became more professional, or at least as professional as a newspaper created by children and founded on the profits of cutprice sweets can be. The team complained from time to time, but there was little they could do: I was the editor, and Young Reporters was mine.

Harmick’s authority grew as the collage-based aesthetic of the first issue was supplanted by his superior design skills. I would still head over to his house to work with him, but there wasn’t as much for me to do any more. Perhaps sensing the shift in power, the other contributors started approaching him for editorial input. I wasn’t that perturbed; I was naturally suited to being Harmick’s sidekick. We published five issues, culminating in a fashion special, and Harmick’s influence grew in correlation with the amount of clip art we employed. The coup came shortly after that.

Led by Harmick, the team asked if we could have an editorial meeting. We met in the classroom at lunch. The broad consensus was that it was unfair for one person to be in charge of what was a group effort. I’d somehow made myself into a symbol of tyranny. I felt more disappointed than betrayed, believing that I probably had it coming. It was agreed that I would step down as the editor, and that the newspaper would be run collectively. My reign of terror was over.

The fashion special was the last issue of Young Reporters ever produced. I didn’t mind too much; my heart had gone from the endeavour. A little while later Harmick formed a band called Elements – he’d got the name from his shampoo. Having a tragic deficit of musical ability, I couldn’t join, but Harmick asked me to be the manager. I accepted. It was that sort of time.

Published in Oh Comely Issue Fourteen. To read the original article click here.

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