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On April 28th, 1976, I arrived at school and heard very disturbing news: Our school principal, Mr. Tauzer, had just died of a heart attack. I was a ninth-grader at Comstock Junior High School (a 7th – 9th-grade school) and was co-editor of the school newspaper, the Premier ’70. My journalism teacher, Mr. Stockman, told us that he wanted us to put a paper that covered the principal’s death and life.
Usually, the news of our paper was reporting on sports, student council meetings, paper drives, dances, and I would write snarky satirical articles about the faculty (usually greatly reined in by our advisor) but for this paper, we would be writing about something that actually mattered. Over several days our staff went to work reporting and writing. But on May 7, 1976, we had to put the paper out. Along with my co-editor, Rene Sanchez, I was excused from all other classes for the day as we worked to put the paper out. Our staff had interviewed staff and students and even some of the principal’s neighbors to put the stories together. But that day we had to edit those stories, do the layout, print up the paper, and distribute the paper to the sixth-period classes.
Like with real reporters, I remember some morbid humor. One of the staff sang a modified version of the Welcome Back, Kotter theme song, “You’ll not be back, your heart was your ticker out.” But most of the time we worked rather solemnly. Mr. Tauzer was a good man and for many of us, this was one of the first times someone we really knew died.
When we were done, I believed we had honored the man, and I felt proud. I think that’s what journalism is supposed to be.