“I want to be taken seriously. I’m sure other kids do, too.” — Hilde Lysiak
Hilde Lysiak, 13, is an American reporter and writer who publishes her own local newspaper, which she started at the age of seven. Hilde is the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists. She has been recognized for her work in The New York Times, NBC Today Show, Good Morning America, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, and thousands of other media outlets across the world including the Girl Museum’s “Incredible Girls” column and now right here at Homeschooling Teen!
Hilde was born in Brooklyn, New York, grew up in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, and currently lives in Patagonia, Arizona with her mother, father, and three sisters. An online bio states that in addition to journalism, Hilde enjoys traveling to various places, indulging in outdoor activities such as biking and hiking, and spending time with her family. She is an avid animal lover and cherishes playing with her rescue dogs in her free time. As an investigative reporter, Hilde is like a real-life Nancy Drew. In a Brit+Co interview, she told how she got started:
“I grew up traveling all around New York City with my dad while he was a crime reporter for the New York Daily News. Everything about his job excited me. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and going to different crime scenes and talking to victims and trying to put the pieces together was intense. And seeing his work the next day on the front page of the paper was amazing. It felt important. I realized quickly that it was something that I was passionate about. When my dad stopped working for the paper and moved our family out of the city, I didn’t want to stop reporting. Then, I learned the town I was moving to didn’t have its own newspaper, and I knew exactly what I had to do.”
Orange Street News
Hilde founded the Orange Street News in 2014 with her father’s assistance. Her older sister Isabel, a photographer, helps out with editing and writing an advice column, and she also helped Hilde turn her paper into a multimedia operation. Initially a family newspaper written in crayon, it grew to include a Facebook page, a website, a YouTube channel, and print subscriptions with postal delivery. Since starting her paper, Hilde has written and published hundreds of stories. She has investigated hard-hitting news including burglaries, vandalism, and even murder, as well as a drug problem at the local high school.
“It was a great story but my reporting could have been even better,” Hilde told Teen Vogue. “My sources were going to let me ride along on a heroin run to a nearby town and report how it all went down but my parents said no. It would have been good information for the people. I’m excited for the day when I don’t have to ask permission to report the news.”
Hilde is homeschooled, according The New York Times, which is how she is able to spend so much time working on her newspaper. Sometimes she gets stories from e-mailed tips, but mostly she rides around on her bike, asking people if they’ve heard of anything strange going on. Her parents gave her a two-mile-wide stomping ground. “She’d leave in the morning, and we wouldn’t see her until the afternoon,” said her father, Matthew. His wife, Bridget, wanted to make sure their daughter had a contingency plan in case her passion changed, so they balance out reporting with regular math, science and history lessons.
Nonetheless, now that she’s a teen, it appears that Hilde’s passion for journalism is here to stay. In the Brit+Co interview, she said, “I want to change the idea that reporting is only for certain people who went to fancy schools and look a certain way. I want people to understand that anyone with a passion for the truth can be a reporter. They don’t need to go to college or live in New York City. They just need a pen, paper, and a lot of curiosity. I wish there were a million kid reporters all across the world snooping around and digging up stories.”
Hilde first came to national attention when she covered a homicide on April 2, 2016. Hilde was visiting the local police station when she overheard that a murder had just happened in her town. As the editor-in-chief and sole reporter for her paper, Hilde headed straight for the crime scene. She was the only reporter to show up for several hours, and Orange Street News was the first publication to break the story. Hilde must have ruffled some feathers when she got the scoop, as there were complaints that nine-year-olds shouldn’t be covering murders.
In response to a social media debate as to whether such reporting should be left to adults rather than young upstarts, Hilde remarked, “Where are all these concerned adults? They were all just sitting at home posting rude comments on Facebook… If the adult media was doing their job, there wouldn’t be any place for the Orange Street News. If people don’t like my paper, no one is forcing them to read it.”
After all, if her parents are okay with it and she feels up to it, that’s her business. The fact is, Hilde must have inherited her dad’s passion for crime reporting. She told Brit+Co that her “favorite beat is crime. My second favorite beat is crime. And my third favorite beat is crime! Covering crime is like solving a giant moving puzzle. The job of a crime reporter might be the best job in the world.”
Hilde Meets Malala
On July 28, 2016, Hilde had the honor of interviewing Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. Hilde was so impressed with Malala that she donated a month of advertising revenue from the Orange Street News to the Malala Fund in support of global education for women. “I hope in 30 years young people are judged by their ideas, not their age or gender,” said Hilde.
Hilde in Arizona
In February 2019, Hilde travelled to Patagonia, Arizona, where she researched stories on the proposed border wall and residents’ opinions on the Border Patrol. While there, she also reported on a mountain lion sighting. Then she was stopped on her bike by the town marshal, Joseph A. Patterson, who told her that it was illegal to film him while he was on duty. When he threatened to arrest her, she stood up for her rights, noting that such filming is permitted under the First Amendment. The town later issued an apology.
Hilde has said before, “My job is to find the truth, not take sides or worry about people’s feelings.” Being a responsible journalist, she also knows that doxing is wrong. On this matter, she tweeted, “I am glad the town has ‘taken action’ but one note, I don’t believe people should spread around the Marshal’s personal information on the Internet,” she wrote on Twitter. “My focus is on protecting our First Amendment Rights. Thank you.”
Hilde and her family moved to Patagonia, Arizona, in July 2019 so now she always reports from there.
Books and TV Series
In addition to newspaper reporting, Hilde is a published book author. Hilde and her father landed a deal with Scholastic to co-write an early chapter book mystery series called Hilde Cracks the Case. “Hero Dog” is the first of six books in the series featuring Hilde; they draw significantly from her experiences chasing the news in real-life Selinsgrove. The books include definitions for terms like “deadline” and “press pass,” along with reporting tips like the six questions (Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?), which Hilde used to write on her arm in marker so she wouldn’t forget them.
Hilde’s story has also been optioned by Paramount TV and Anonymous Content for a mystery drama based on her life. The 10-episode web television series, Home Before Dark, is slated to launch on Apple TV+. Brooklynn Prince plays the part of a young girl from the big city who uncovers clues to an unsolved cold case while visiting the small lakeside town where her father came from. While there, her dogged pursuit of the truth leads her to unearth a cold case that everyone in town, including her own father, tried hard to bury. At the time of this writing, the filming is just wrapping up.
Hilde hopes to empower the next generation of influencers, activists, and leaders. She was invited to give the commencement speech at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media on May 10, 2019, making her possibly the youngest person to ever address a college graduating class. And she did it without notes!
Hilde reminded graduates to “keep your ledes tight… talk to real people,” and “most importantly of all, stay laser focused on the truth.” She said, “If you do these things, I believe that history will look back on this moment not as the last dark days before the profession of journalism died, but as the new beginning.”
Here is a brief excerpt from the commencement speech that Hilde delivered to the Reed School of Media on May 10th.
To the Class of 2019 —
Today is supposed to mark the beginning of a new life in the world, the beginning of your professional life…
WE are the generation of reporters who will choose to have our loyalty to one thing and one thing only— to the truth.
To the facts.
To uncovering corruption — wherever we find it.
. . .
WE are the generation that can restore the people’s trust.
We aren’t the pro-Trump reporters.
We aren’t the anti-Trump reporters.
We aren’t the left-wing reporters.
We aren’t the right-wing reporters.
We are the generation that will be known simply as…………REPORTERS.
Watch the speech in its entirety below: