1997 "Keepin' It Real" Marshall High School Newspaper

When it appeared in 1997, "Keepin' It Real" was only school newspaper that Marshall High School had had in the past 30 years. That's thirty years without a school paper to put students in touch with each other and instill school pride at Marshall. Only one issue of the paper was published. But this single issue was unique and had a unique, community-wide impact because 3,000 addtional copies were printed and distributed throughout the Marshall High service area (a community which itself had no community newspaper). The full 16-page paper is here, published and distributed by THE VOICE NEWSPAPERS, publisher of the THE AUSTIN VOICE.  It's full of photographs.

On page 1, Marshall Principal Don Pittman sets the tone with a letter stressing the academic and cultural strides Marshall has made towards lifting itself up from the Probationary Status that the Chicago Public School administrators had placed it. Page 2 reports scores of "Thank a Teacher" messages from students to favorite teachers. Then come 14 pages news and sports stories, opinion pieces, poems and even a short story, written by Marshall students. You'll find paid advertisements that were secured by students - even a classified advertising section.

"Keepin' It Real" Takes Shape. It was Marshall Principal Don Pittman who granted Steve Sewall of Chicago Civic Media full access to the school for six weeks late April to jump start the paper. Pittman gave Sewall access to the school's pubic address system to inform and challenge Marshall student to step up and give Marshall a publication that would students would be proud to call their own. Sewall's job was to assemble and guide the team of student editors and writers who would develop the story ideas and find the student talent to fill the paper with content of interest to all Marshall students. Editors held a schoolwide vote in which hundreds of Marshall students selected "Keepin' It Real" as the title for their paper.

The result was surprising.
In early June 1200 copies of the paper were distributed to Marshall students at graduation, with 3000 more copies distributed throughout the Marshall High student attendance area. Predictably, students were thrilled with it. But entirely unexpected was the considerable response from the Marshall community. When asked to account for a sharp 200-student increase in new enrollments to Marshall for the 1997-98 school year, Principal Pittman gave Keepin' It Real as reason for the enrollment increase.

Here's an astonishing poem, "Undiscovered Iz Me", that exemplifies the spirit that informed this paper and school spirit it engendered. It's by Marshall Sophomore Shannon Phillips. Appearing separately here, it also appears on page 11 of Keepin' It Rule.

But that's not the end of the story. Keepin' It Real could have had an extended life at Marshall High. But it didn't. Here's why, according to Michael Miner of the Chicago Reader.
  • Dec 12  Chicago Reader. In his "Hot Type"; column "Who Killed Marshall High's Newspaper," media writer Michael Miner describes "Keepin' It Real" as "a blessing to a troubled school". 
  • Jan 1998 Chicago Reader cover story by Grant Pick, "Black and White and Feared All Over", on AUSTIN VOICE editor Brad Cummings asserts that "Keepin' It Real" delighted both the Marshall administration and its student writers and editors."