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Teens Launch a Newspaper for Montauk

Thu, 05/23/2024 - 11:14
The young founding editors of Montauk’s new newspaper, the Ditch Weekly, are Billy Stern, Ellis Rattray, and Teddy Rattray.
Bess Rattray

Three East Hampton Middle School students have embarked on a new project: a weekly newspaper called Ditch Weekly, chronicling all that’s happening in Montauk from a youth perspective.

In the first issue — 800 copies of which will drop today in shops and restaurants across the hamlet — readers will see restaurant reviews, interviews, photos, a hiking guide, and even a police blotter. The young publishers went out and sold advertisements — all the things a grown-up newspaper does. Look for nine more issues just like it spanning the rest of the summer.

The newspaper was the idea of Billy Stern, an eighth grader from Amagansett who comes from a community-oriented family. His older brother Charlie, who’s in high school, started an effective peer-tutoring program last year to help fellow students with math skills, and his twin brother, Wylie, volunteers for A Walk on Water and works for Corey’s Wave.

“My parents are really hard workers,” Billy said in an interview. “They wanted us to do something, with our summers especially. They want me and my brothers to jump on opportunities when we’re young.”

Billy is joined on the Ditch Weekly masthead by two friends who were already pretty familiar with the news business: Ellis Rattray, whose father, David Rattray, is the editor of The Star, and his cousin Teddy Rattray, whose mother, Bess Rattray, is the co-editor of The Star’s East magazine.

Ellis said his participation was inspired, in part, by his family’s involvement in the newspaper business. “This is my first time working with people on an actual job,” he said. “I feel like I’m becoming a better writer and getting used to newspaper style. I’d only written papers for school before.”

Teddy commented that “being a part of this newspaper really gives you the ins and outs of journalism. You learn how difficult it is.”

Along the way, the boys got some technology lessons from Matt Charron, who works on The Star’s production team handling photos and page layout. “They’re impressive,” Mr. Charron said. “They’re super motivated. Billy, especially, is so passionate about doing this.”

The boys agreed that deadlines — time management, in general — was the biggest challenge, but that working together has been a lot of fun.

Dr. Dana Stern, Billy’s mom, is proud of them and excited about the debut of Ditch Weekly. “It’s definitely been a huge undertaking, more so than anybody realized,” she said. “It encompasses so many different areas — running a business, writing, editing, and even just the experience of talking to adults and corresponding with adults.”

“There’s been a lot of ‘school-comes-first’ reminders,” Dr. Stern said, “but it’s been incredible.”

Billy said putting the first issue together was “grueling.”

“We thought an old-school newspaper would be a really cool idea,” he said. “We wanted to create something that would help us explore our passions, and I think it really has. I can’t wait to see it. It’s going to be great.”


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