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November 26, 2014
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Manor Ink: One year in the making

Gem Helper writes down story ideas on the whiteboard at the Manor Ink meeting.


The free newspaper is distributed to many places in Sullivan County, with most going to Livingston Manor. “We’re very dedicated to Livingston Manor,” said Gref. “In fact, if we can walk to the story we’re really happy.” She adds that the team does go to other places, such as Bethel Woods, and the Shandelee Music Festival, and will go to the New York State legislature after receiving an invitation from Aileen Gunther. “People are very supportive,” said Gref, “because it’s young people and they want them to have those experiences.”

Currently, the youngest on board is 11 and the oldest is 17. Some of the kids have been there since the beginning and others are just starting out, including Mia, who was there for her first meeting. Tyler Young will be a senior at Livingston Manor High School in the fall. At the meeting he was working on his monthly column about the town board meeting. His favorite story was when he interviewed the head photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine, Barry Wolman. “I remember my first interview,” said Young. “That was scary. I did all the talking.”

Helper, 14, and Sparkman, 16, along with Young, have an interest in music. When asked if he wanted to pursue journalism, Sparkman said, “No. I’m just here for fun,” and said his first passion is music and that he plays “plenty” of instruments. Young chimed in, “He can play anything you give to him; just put it that way.”

Helper will be moving to New York City soon and hopes to attend La Guardia High School of Music & Performing Arts. Helper writes a monthly column about character traits, and is working on one about honesty. “I find that writing articles also helps you write a bunch of other stuff,” she explained. “I write a variety of things; I write books and poems, I’m actually starting a screenplay, and I write songs.”

The many interests and talents of the smart young staff of Manor Ink lend to the creative, informative and attractive newspaper. The articles range from reviews, to stories about farms, to town news, to Bob Marley lyrics. Ongoing features include the Fun Page of Happiness and the Century Club, in which a staff member interviews someone who is 80 years or older (the first was 102). Leif Johansen, who started the Century Club, said the elderly people he interviews are doing really well for their age. “I interviewed a 96-year-old woman who is probably more active than all the other people I’ve interviewed combined.”