Young journalists in Father Blanchet Park

Two 9-year-old boys spend their summer publishing newspaper for neighbors

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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photoSoutheast Middle Way resident Bert Sewall, 83, forks over a quarter for the latest edition of The Weekly Neighbor. Those delivery boys are also the newspaper's entire staff: Grant Myers, left, and Luke Seeley, both 9, launched the homemade publication as a summer activity.

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photo"It's fun but some people think you can easily put together a newspaper. It takes a whole lot of work, really," said Luke Seeley, 9, of his self-appointed summer job: putting together The Weekly Neighbor, a homemade publication covering Vancouver's Father Blanchet Park neighborhood.

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photoPhotos by Steven Lane/The Columbian Grant Myers, left, and Luke Seeley, both 9, assemble the final summer edition of The Weekly Neighbor, their homemade newspaper covering the Father Blanchet Park neighborhood. The Weekly Neighbor's newsroom is this clubhouse in Seeley's backyard.

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photoNine-year-old pals Grant Myers, in front, and Luke Seeley, behind, pedal Southeast Middle Way to deliver copies of The Weekly Neighbor. "I like delivering real papers," said Seeley. "You can't do a paper route if it's online."

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Up-and-coming journalists get younger and peppier all the time, darn them.

Like Grant Myers and Luke Seeley. The 9-year-old buddies spent their lazy, hazy days of summer -- when they could have been doing little to nothing -- chasing leads, conducting interviews, snapping photos, stapling pages and distributing newspapers to their neighbors. Not for free, of course. For 25 cents an issue.

"They definitely have that entrepreneurial spirit," commented Luke's mom, Kate Dyer-Seeley.

"I'd worry if I were you," Bert Sewall, 83, told a Columbian reporter who stopped by Southeast Middle Way to scope out the competition. "These boys are pretty smart. They'll scoop your stories."

The publishing history of The Weekly Neighbor began simply with school out and Grant reading the Beverly Cleary classic "Henry and the Paper Route," which describes the adventures of a young boy desperate to take on the delivery gig of his slightly older friend.

"It thought it would be so cool to make our own newspaper, and I told Luke," Grant said.

"Grant came over with a whole bunch of ideas, and we put the first issue together," said Luke.

"It was entirely their idea, and they wanted no help from parents," said Dyer-Seeley.

Wednesday became publication day. At first the boys worked in Dyer-Seeley's home office, but ultimately that room proved "too girly," she said. So the boys moved out to Luke's freestanding clubhouse in the backyard -- where they could put up circulation maps, subscriber lists and a rope-and-pulley system for newsroom messages. That's not quite as fast as e-mail, but it's so much cooler.

Also cool is the way The Weekly Neighbor has pulled the neighborhood closer together, Dyer-Seeley said. For example, Luke and his mom were biking the neighborhood when they discovered Bert Sewall working in the huge, colorful garden plot across the street from his house, which he bought to prevent from being developed, he said. That encounter turned into an in-depth interview and what appears to be a firm friendship.

"They asked many good questions. This is the most publicity I've ever gotten," Sewall said.

Grant said he would often head out to hunt for stories with a pair of binoculars as well as the more standard reportorial gear of a pencil and notepad. "I kind of learned that there are a lot things going on around here," he said. "We found a bunch of stuff we didn't realize was there before."

Like what? Like a dramatic battle between two crows and a turkey vulture in airspace right over the neighborhood. Like the wind toppling over a shelter that was being used at a nearby track camp. Like the arrival of new pets and the tragic euthanization of a beloved old one. Like tricks and tips from soccer camp and descriptions of great travel destinations like Multnomah Falls (which has ice cream) and Memaloose State Park (tetherball court, tire swing, cork screw). Like an update on seasonal fruits and voracious local squirrels. Basic Spanish lessons, homemade comics, crosswords and other puzzles round out each eight-page edition.

"It's fun, but some people think you can easily put together a newspaper. It takes a whole lot of work, really," said Luke.

Hear that? We like these kids. But with school soon to start, The Weekly Neighbor is about to do what too many newspapers have done lately: cut back on publication days. The Weekly Neighbor will soon become The Monthly Neighbor -- until next summer, that is, when the news heats up again.

"I like delivering real papers," said Seeley. "You can't do a paper route if it's online."


Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; http://facebook.com/reporterhewitt; http://twitter.com/col_nonprofits; scott.hewitt@columbian.com.