Don’t Listen to Anyone Who Says You Shouldn’t Be Doing This

Hilde Lysiak started her town’s only newspaper when she was 8 years old.

Like any other town, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, had its share of interesting, attention-worthy stories — but they went untold. Then came Hilde Lysiak: 8-years-old at the time (she’s now 12), she started Orange Street News as a place for the community to come together and get the latest news, from the uplifting to the sinister. Along the way, her story caught the attention of people all over the world, leading to a six-book deal from Scholastic and an upcoming Apple show helmed by Jon M. Chu.

Hilde is still out every day, reporting the latest news from Selinsgrove — but she generously cleared a few moments from her busy schedule to chat with us about her work, the stories she loves covering the most, and the impact her newspaper has had on her hometown.

How did you decide to go out into the world and tell Selinsgrove’s stories?

Well, before I started reporting, I always felt like in my town a lot of things were going unreported and a lot of stuff that people should’ve known weren’t being known. So I wanted to do something about that. Also, I’ve always just loved journalism.

Your first story was about the birth of your younger sister — but you soon moved on to other topics.

I always knew I wanted to do more serious stuff than my sister being born. When I first started I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to do that. My first five stories were, like, my neighbor graduating college and my friend being part of the choir.

I knew I wanted to expand it, but it was a slow thing for me.

How did people first react to a then-8-year-old writing about the town?

When I first started covering these stories, I think everyone looked at me as this cute little girl who wasn’t really serious about it. When I first broke the murder story, that was when people realized that I was serious and wasn’t just some cute little girl. In a way, sometimes it makes stories and interviews easier. But it can also make them harder when people know who I am. People used to think, “oh, I’ll talk to her, it wouldn’t hurt.” Now I don’t get that as much.

Sometimes people won’t to talk to me because they don’t want what they’re saying to show up in on my website. But as I started growing my newspaper and covering vandalism, more townspeople are giving me tips and information about stories.

What kind of impact has your reporting had on Selinsgrove?

It’s changed my community in a lot of ways. I think that my newspaper is giving people the truth and access to more stories. For example, I covered a drug story because there were a lot of drugs at my local high school. Before I started reporting, it was an untold thing — something that no one really talked about. But after I reported the story, a superintendent wrote out a letter addressing the matter.

If you take yourself seriously other people should take you seriously.
Hilde Lysiak

What stories do you love reporting the most? Which are the most challenging?

My favorite kind of stories are always crime, because it’s like a mystery, a puzzle, and you have to put all the pieces together. It’s just so much fun for me — it’s such an adrenaline rush, which I love.

A lot of people think that the most challenging story I did was the murder I covered, but that was one of my easiest. I just got there, I was the first on the scene, and I just knocked on doors and asked people what was going on.

But one of the most challenging stories for me — but also my favorite, because I love being challenged — was one of the first stories I reported on, one of the first real crime stories. My first book is based on that one. I had gotten a tip that a house had been broken into on my block, but I didn’t know where it was. So I thought it would be this one house that had a screen broken in. I knocked on that door. And it took days of me going back and knocking again for them to answer. And it turned out it was the wrong house.

So then I had to knock on every door on my block until someone’s said, “Yeah, I know, it was that house over there.” So then, when I found out the house, it took a few days for them to answer. But when they did, it was this amazing story about how an intruder had broken in and their dog scared them away.

By now, people all over the U.S. — and beyond — have heard about your work and read your stories. How does it feel to be known far beyond your town?

Okay, I have to be real. I’m not really sure what people think about me. I think the people in my town, though, they read my news. A lot of people have all this information, but since it’s such a small town, they’re afraid to tell people about it. So they come to me anonymously.

What is your vision going forward for Orange Street News?

I do want to make it a lot bigger, but I definitely want to stick to my own newspaper — I know editors could change a lot of stuff and I don’t want that. I never want to be inaccurate. So I’m going to keep my own newspaper and expand it.

You’ve been publishing a newspaper for more than three years — while still in elementary school. What would you say to people with an idea they’re passionate about, but who think it might be too difficult to execute?

Don’t listen to anyone who says you shouldn’t be doing this. Just really go for it. If you take yourself seriously other people should take you seriously.

Watch Hilde’s video above, and head to Orange Street News, her newspaper, for the latest stories from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

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