Meet the Youngest Reporter on the N.H. Primary Beat

Jan 27, 2016

Kaitlin Clark, 11 years old and from North Woodstock, has been busy this winter. She's racing on the Lin-Wood School's ski team. She's in the debate club. And now she's got a new gig, as a Kid Reporter with the Scholastic News Press Corp. 

Kaitlin won't show me the room where she writes her stories. Her older sister Jillian and father, Ben, explain. "You don't want to see her desk!" Jillian says, "she is truly the most messy person I have ever-"

"Remember," father Ben interjects, "we're talking about your sister here..."

Jillian nods and whispers, "She is horribly messy...."

Messy -- and still a little shocked, two months on, from being chosen to be a kid reporter for Scholastic News and its estimated 25 million classroom readers. 

"Sometimes it really shocks me," Kaitlin says, "I'll just think about it now and be like wow… This is kind of like...wow... Cause there are over 200 applicants and in the 30s of people who are picked so why the one girl from the tiny school in the tiny town in New Hampshire?"

Kaitlin and her reporter's notebook.

Scholastic editor Suzanne McCabe, who chose each of the 32 kid reporters, can answer that question. 

"Kaitlin really seemed to have such a natural voice and she really loves news," McCabe says, "and she said she had written for her school paper so she thought this would give a spark to her writing." 

Kaitlin not only wrote for the school newspaper, the Lin-Wood Courier; she was one if its founding members.  

"I really like to write," Kaitlin says, "so in fourth grade my friends and I started up a newspaper. We would make 150 printouts, they were printed and handed out to every kid."

So when her social studies teacher passed out the eight-page Kid Reporter application in October, Kaitlin didn't hesitate.  

"I love watching the news," she says, "and I wanted to feel the experience of being on the other side, telling the news."

So far Kaitlin has written two articles for Scholastic. Here's the opening to her first story - Snowmaking: Behind the Scenes:

Kaitlin and Loon snowmaker, Ken Mack.
Credit Courtesy Scholastic

"How can you ski if there’s no snow? When the temperature is unseasonably warm, and no snow falls from the sky, experts go out at night to make artificial snow. These people are called snowmakers. One such expert is Ken Mack, the Manager of Snowmaking at Loon Mountain Ski Resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire. Starting at the age of 10, Mack would groom the slopes of the local mountain every weekend with his Grandpa Roy. Using a specialized machine called a groomer, grandfather and grandson would move and flatten the snow to make it easier to ski."

Suzanne McCabe says that Kaitlin's stories are easy to edit.

"She's a great writer," McCabe says, "and her stories have so much charm in addition to being well-written and accurate and in a distinctive voice."

And, McCabe says, Kaitlin is one of the most politically well informed 11 year olds she's ever worked with.  She's already written a story on the New Hampshire Primary - and she's prepping for her next story on the Republican Town Hall in Nashua.

"I want to see what they want to do for the economy," she says. "So last year my social studies teacher had my friend and I go to a big constitutional meeting about the debt ceiling and what we should do about it. So that got me really interested into the economy of our nation."

Kaitlin's father Ben says news and politics are a daily part of life in the Clark household.

"My wife is a Democrat and I'm a Republican," Ben Clark says, "so she has the unique opportunity to hear both sides of most major issues and every evening at the dinner table we will go back and forth.  First, she can hear my wife's perspective, and then of course I can set Kaitlin straight after the fact."

I ask Kaitlin if she finds herself agreeing more with her mother or father.

"My mom," she says, "Definitely my mom!"

"But she's unbiased," her mother Emily adds.

Is that tricky, I wonder?

"Yeah," Kaitlin says, "I got big opinions."

Big opinions and even bigger dreams.

"When I went to Disney when I was very young, first or second grade," Kaitlin says, "and my dad wanted to go this big show about presidents and I asked where are the girls? And he said there's never been a girl president.  So since then I've always wanted to be at the president because I'm a girl."

But before she becomes the first girl president, Kaitlin Clark has to get through sixth grade - and finish her year long stint as a Kid Reporter.

Kaitlin recording her primary story.
Credit Sean Hurley

Visit Kaitlin's page on Scholastic to follow her "Kid Reporter" stories and click below to listen to Kaitlin reading her story on how New Hampshire prepares for the primaries: