10 years old and reporting the news

Hilde Lysiak, 10, interviews a Hurricane Maria survivor for her newspaper, The Orange Street News, in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.
Hilde Lysiak, 10, interviews a Hurricane Maria survivor for her newspaper, The Orange Street News, in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK •Hero Dog is the first of six books in a series featuring 10-year-old reporter Hilde Lysiak - they draw on her experiences chasing the news in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, where her parents give her a 3km-wide stamping ground.

The books, which Hilde works on with her father, Mr Matthew Lysiak, include definitions for terms such as "deadline" or "press pass" and reporting tips.

Bear On The Loose!, the second book in the series, was released on Tuesday. Hilde's story has also been optioned by Paramount TV and Anonymous Content for a television series.

Her experiences went viral in April last year, when she broke a story on a local homicide. A source had tipped her off on the incident a few blocks from her home and, after confirming with the police department, she immediately went to the scene, interviewing neighbours for additional information.

Her on-the-ground reporting meant her article was up hours before other news outlets had even reached the scene, prompting critical comments on her website from those who thought a little girl should be playing with dolls instead. Her story was picked up by The Washington Post and The Guardian, among other outlets.

Growing up, Hilde travelled around the country with her father, a former reporter for The New York Daily News, when he was on assignment. The family moved from New York City to Pennsylvania when she was six and, soon after, she started covering minor family events - she broke the news to her father, for instance, that her mother planned to buy a new car - writing the articles on notecards in crayon.

But she quickly realised it "wasn't getting me anywhere" and asked her dad if he could help her start a "real" newspaper. He agreed to handle the printing and the layout if she did all the writing and reporting.

She began by covering her block, then broadened the scope to the neighbourhood. Mostly she rides around on her bike, asking people if they have heard of anything strange going on.

Hilde started out charging US$1 (S$1.35) for a year's subscription and had a few dozen subscribers. Now her print circulation is close to 600 with hundreds of thousands of online views.

She uses some of this money to pay her 13-year-old sister, Izzy, US$25 a week to be her videographer. She credits her older sibling with making her paper a multimedia operation. Hilde is home-schooled.

"Our family's really big on people having free time," Mr Lysiak said. "There's so much homework in school these days and we had to make the decision about whether she'd have her paper or not. And she really wanted her paper."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2017, with the headline '10 years old and reporting the news'. Print Edition | Subscribe