By Marina Hendricks
Once upon a time, The Suits at Charleston Newspapers decided to launch a section for teens. They researched the concept, created a prototype and met with local high school students to get their feedback -- and to learn more in general about teens, especially their expectations concerning news and information.
FlipSide, the source of all things teen, was launched at the beginning of the 1991-1992 school year. The first issue of this school year, which comes out Thursday, marks the start of FlipSide's 20th year of publication.
Students always have shaped the content and direction of FlipSide, beginning with the teens who attended those initial meetings in the summer of 1991. They gave an emphatic, collective thumbs down to the name initially proposed for the publication: Scoop.
"It sounds like ice cream," one said disdainfully.
They rose to the challenge of finding a new name, riffing on a list of alternatives until they came up with FlipSide. The precedent they set of teen input and involvement in FlipSide continues to this day.
Students write, take photographs and create illustrations for FlipSide. They suggest story ideas and act as sources for articles. As a result, FlipSide truly epitomizes the phrase "teen publication."
Wait a second -- make that program, not publication. In addition to the original monthly magazine distributed directly to high schools in several counties, FlipSide now includes a regular presence in the Saturday Gazette-Mail and on the web at www.wvflipside.com.
Given the rapid advancement of technology, who knows what form the FlipSide of the future will take?
Looking back, the logistics of producing FlipSide in the early years now seem as antiquated as working with quill pens and papyrus. While many correspondents were able to craft their stories on computers, some had to write them out by hand. Those with computer access were encouraged to save their work on floppy disks. Anything not on a disk had to be retyped once it arrived at the newspaper office.