Behind the Scenes of The Birdwatch


Katie Arnoult

A screenshot of the SNO site for The Birdwatch. The page shown is where a staff writer edits and publishes a story. Left: menu for other actions, from adding a new poll to approving comments.

Katie Arnoult, Editor

Within the experiences and privileges of being part of the Birdwatch staff, a great deal of time and energy goes into writing and publishing stories.

Currently, The Birdwatch has over 400 posts. It began in the 2019-2020 school year and consisted of 25 students taking the journalism elective. The next year,  Journalism joined the new Leadership class. Now, The Birdwatch is a committee within McAuliffe ASB. Click the link to learn more about the origin of The Birdwatch.

Ms. Bellendir, a history and ASB teacher at McAuliffe, has been with The Birdwatch since the beginning. “My favorite part about The Birdwatch is that students are getting the opportunity to practice vocational skills in middle school,” she explains. “It’s not just about interviewing and writing, but rather they are learning soft skills like time management, communication and problem-solving that are sometimes not taught explicitly in the classroom.”

It takes approximately two weeks to research, write and publish an article to The Birdwatch. First, the staff writer chooses a topic to write about. After the editor approves the topic, the reporter starts research; writers sometimes skip this step depending on the focus of the article. Next, the staff writer schedules an interview with someone knowledgeable about the story’s subject. In this step, the staff writer gathers information and quotes for their story. 

After gathering the information they need for the article, the journalist begins writing their first draft. They will copy and paste the finished draft into the SNO (School Newspapers Online) site with an appropriate image. Birdwatch staffers also include photographer credits, an image caption, hashtags and relevant story categories. At the end of the two-week period, the journalist contacts their editor. The editor looks over the article and make any necessary changes. Finally, when the editor and the journalist agree on the changes made to the story, they publish the article to The Birdwatch. 

SNO is a program designed to help students engage and learn in the journalism field. Using the SNO program, student journalists create and customize their own online school newspaper. This program supports the website aspect of The Birdwatch. 

Current staff writer Kai Matsumoto’s favorite thing about The Birdwatch is “getting to write stories about the events that are happening here and all around the world”. For him, the hardest part about writing an article is the interviews. “Trying to find an interviewee, thinking of the questions and having to figure out a time to meet up can be a pain in the neck sometimes,” he shares.

“My favorite story that I’ve written so far is my Soccer Intramural story,” he observes. “It was really fun being able to interview my friends who won the intramurals, and I think it was one of my best articles so far.”

Jason Khan, another staff writer this year, notes that his favorite thing about The Birdwatch is “the student life articles because it feels very fulfilling to put the spotlight on special people at our school.” He feels most proud of his Dane’s Mane Q & A article because “what [Dane] did was awesome, and I am so glad I got the opportunity to shed some spotlight on such a kind act.”

The Birdwatch gives McAuliffe students the opportunity to explore journalism, and take part in the bigger picture of being campus leaders. Bellendir reflects that “the strong and meticulous leadership of our editor and the creativity and work ethic of our reporters are what make The Birdwatch so successful.”