Note: I recently sat down with Ellie Song for an exclusive interview. When the safer-at-home orders were issued in March, Ms. Song decided her neighborhood needed a newspaper. Aside from delivering hyper-local news fresh-to-doorstep, there were other beautiful results that came from her efforts. Relationships were multiplied, connections happened, and a South Pasadena street began to form a bigger circle—all through the creativity and initiation of a fourth grader. In her spare time, Ellie monitors the parenting skills of Dan & Grace, while coaching brother Micah how to make the best slime. The following are excerpts from our time together: (Timothy Lien)
Tim: What’s driving you crazy about this quarantine?
Ellie: I guess not seeing people. And hugging, too.
T: How did you get the idea to start a newspaper?
E: “I got the idea from Kit—she’s an American Girl Doll. You see, she started a newspaper for her family. And I liked the idea, but I thought my family was too small. And then I thought about my neighbors— and that would make a bigger family. And so I made a newspaper for our street instead.”
T: What do you call your newspaper?
E: The Beech Street Newspaper. Did you know that a beech is a type of tree?
T: Do you have any employees?
E: Well, Micah [Ellie’s little brother] has helped me with the
Fun Facts part. He gives facts about animals. And mom gives me ideas for headliners. Headliners are important, because they make people want to read my newspaper.
T: Tell me about your first issue.
E: It was coronavirus related. It was the Corona Virus Report.
T: Do you have a favorite issue?
E: Well, there were some elementary school graduates on our street and we were able to feature them, because they could not have a graduation. That was a good idea. I think everyone really liked that one.
T: Have you met any new people on your street?
E: Yes. At first, we only knew people on our side of the street, but now we know people on the other side, too.
T: What have you discovered about your street?
E: There are many different personalities, and did you know there are 24 houses on my street?
T: Wow. I did not know that. Who counted all the houses?E: Me.
T: What do your neighbors think of your newspaper?
E: I think they enjoy it. It keeps people busy. And I like to see their faces when they start reading it. Sometimes families huddle around my newspaper, so I like that.
T: What tips do have for anyone who wants to start their own newspaper?
E: You need to talk about real life. And also you need to have your newspaper be about your neighbors; it makes it more interesting to them.
T: Now that school has started, what are your plans for your newspaper?
E: I think I’ll have to do it one time a month, or maybe twice a month.
T: I hear you that you like musicals. What’s your all-time favorite?
E: The Sound of Music.
T: And do you have a favorite song from The Sound of Music?
E: “I Have Confidence”
Yes, you do, Ellie, yes you do.