Hilde Lysiak is only 11 years old, but she’s proving that you’re never too young to find your passion in life.
About four years ago, Hilde decided to start her own monthly newspaper in her small town of Selinesgrove, Pennsylvania, providing community news to subscribers for $2 per year.
Hilde said that she was inspired to pursue her passion by her father, Matthew, who worked as a reporter for the New York Daily News before the Lysiak family moved to Pennsylvania.
For her paper, the Orange Street News, Hilde covers the town of about 5,000 people, doing all the writing and taking all the pictures. Matthew helps his daughter by printing the final product.
We recently caught up with Hilde to talk about how she steels herself to ask tough questions and shake off criticism from those who might not welcome the presence of a freckle-faced blonde with a nose for news.
Now that you’ve been reporting and writing stories for The Orange Street News for four years, what do you think are qualities you need to be a good reporter?
I think that a good reporter is curious, persistent and has thick skin.
Were you born with it or is a thick skin something you had to develop?
Well, it’s kind of like grown. The more you do things, it gets easier and easier.
Are you scared to go into certain situations where maybe people don’t want to talk to you? Do you have to psych yourself up for that?
When I first started my newspaper, I used to have to do that a little bit, but now, not really.
Do you have any tips for a reporter just starting out who might be a bit nervous to ask people tough questions?
I’d say, stay positive. What’s really going to happen, you know?
Like, think of the worst possible scenario? Then you realize, how bad could it be?
Do you have any heroes? People that you look up to?
My dad and [19th-century pioneering journalist] Nellie Bly.
Why these two?
Nellie Bly because she had to act insane in a mental hospital to get the story. It’s so incredibly inspiring. And my dad is the one who taught me how to report, so he really inspires me a lot too. When I first started my newspaper, I went to him and told him I wanted to start a real newspaper, and he helped me a lot in that in the beginning.
The Orange Street News started as a handmade paper for your family. Now it’s an online news site as well as a monthly print paper with paid subscribers. What’s the biggest challenge for you these days?
I think maybe the hardest part would be getting information out of people. When I first started my newspaper, people would think, “Oh, OK, this isn’t going anywhere, it’s just a 10-year-old.” But now, more people know about my newspaper, so it’s harder getting information out of people, because sometimes they don’t want whatever they were going to say to end up in the paper.
You made headlines last year after reporting an alleged murder in your town. What did you learn from that situation?
I learned not to judge things from their first appearance. When I first reported the story, it seemed like there was this terrible, terrible guy who murdered his wife and it was awful. But when I looked into it more, the man had a stroke, which changed his behavior. It was such a tragic incident. It taught me not to judge things from first impressions.
Your older sister Izzy writes a column for the paper and shoots video. Do you work well together?
Most of the time.
What do you love about being a reporter?
Like most kids, I get bored really, really easily. When you’re reporting, I never really know where a story will take me.