EDITORIAL: We’d bet her (future) Pulitzer on it

York Dispatch
In this September 2015, photo provided by Matthew Lysiak, Hilde Kate Lysiak poses for a photo at her home in Selinsgrove, Pa. Lysiak, a 9-year-old reporter, recently wrote about a suspected murder in her small Pennsylvania town and is defending herself after some locals lashed out about a young girl covering violent crime.

A certain beat reporter who publishes a community newspaper, The Orange Street News, in Selinsgrove has had the Internet quite abuzz of late.

We’re pretty impressed by her too.

Hilde Kate Lysiak, 9, isn’t into tea parties and playing with dolls, as some of her critics suggest she ought to be. Rather, she attends local government meetings, dashes out on her bicycle to cover breaking news and reports on crime — with or without the local police department’s cooperation.

Hilde doesn’t suffer her detractors gladly. And she has learned at a tender age how harsh those haters can be when they are responding viscerally to news that makes them uncomfortable.

9-year-old reporter defends homicide coverage after backlash

Welcome to journalism, Hilde. You are now — for better or worse — a member of the “media.” Godspeed.

Hilde made news herself this week when she posted a video telling her critics exactly what she thought of those “mean messages” that poured in after she scooped another local paper by covering a grisly murder.

Hilde was the only reporter who showed up at the murder scene. She got the tip because she was at the local cop shop chatting up the chief about some vandals who had recently been caught when he told her he had to go — he was working on a big case.

So she followed him. And beat the other paper by a day or so on the story.

Is this 8-year-old's newspaper better than yours?

Many of the messages she received following publication of the April 2 story were angry – and uninformed about the nature of breaking news. Some of them read:

  • “Hilde, I think this is appalling that u would do a story like this when all the facts are not in yet. Have some respect for all parties involved please.”
  • “9 year old girls should be playing with dolls, not trying to be reporters,”
  • “I am disgusted that this cute little girl thinks she is a real journalist. What happened to tea parties?”
  • The town’s former mayor called the story “sensationalist trash.”
  • “You are f—ing nine years old, what the f— is wrong with you?”

The website Jezebel gave Hilde a sage piece of advice many digital-age  journalists before her have followed: Never read the comments.

Hilde shot back at critics in a video produced by her older sister Izzy, who runs the advice section of The Orange Street News.“If you want me to stop covering news, then you get off your computer and do something about the news,” Hilde said. “There, is that cute enough for you?”

Kudos to Hilde’s parents (her father is a former New York City reporter who took her on assignment, which is where she apparently caught the reporting bug) for allowing her the freedom to navigate the typically safe town of Selinsgrove (population about 5,300) and build relationships with community sources.

Hilde is going to be a major force in journalism some day. We’d bet her future Pulitzer on it.

This brings to mind another star investigative reporter named Hilde — Hildy Johnson, the fictional character played by Rosalind Russell in the 1940 comedy about a New York City newsroom and its wacky inhabitants, “His Girl Friday.” Apparently, Hilde Lysiak is a fan of the fictional Hildy Johnson and keeps a “His Girl Friday” movie poster on her wall.

These two tenacious reporters named Hilde/Hildy, though more than a generation apart, share a quality that stands all good reporters in good stead: moxie.

As card-carrying members of an industry that has been working as hard as it possibly can to survive while listening to the steady drone of its premature death knell for more than two decades, we can’t help but smile when we see the future of journalism — and it looks like third-grader Hilde Kate Johnson, of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.