Leslie Sysko

What is The Rubble?

What happened to The Dial?


The Rubble is a pixelated manifestation of Tower Hill School’s motto, Multa Bene Facta, “many things done well”. Its moniker, derived from the school’s Rockford Park and tower environs, carries with it a democratic, if not anarchic, connotation: rubble is an egalitarian pile of forms, the use or meaning of which must be determined by the beholder, climber, or builder. Is rubble an apocalyptic aftermath or a creation opportunity? It’s both—within the context of Tower Hill student newspaper history.

Editors of The Dial newspaper, Tower Hill’s journalistic communications arm since its inception in 1919, have struggled mightily in recent years to motivate the newspaper’s staff. Haranguing staff members, scheduling meetings to which few attended, and working into the silent hours on an edition were typical activities for the beleaguered editor. These editors can count themselves among the few, the feisty, the talented, and the overworked; I thank them all for their contributions to school history.


Picture this: boxes of newspapers arrive from the printer, they’re pried open, and the papers are disseminated throughout the building. 300 copies representing weeks worth of work and approximately $500 of the school’s money are found later on the floor, in the garbage, or are otherwise ignored. The editor, with head in hands, whines, “Why?”. This follows an already head-scratching period of writing, editing, and layout done by just one or two people. Again, the editor might ask: Where are the staff’s articles? Why aren’t they generating ideas? How can we claim to report on “news” when it takes us weeks to process our paper?


Recent books, like Friedman’s The World is Flat and Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, about the 21st century’s media evolution attest to the notion that difficulty—compounded, unabated, and apparent—may be looked upon as a sign of necessary change. Ironically, I often find myself extolling the virtues of difficulty to my students. I remind them that hard work may be uncomfortable, but that it is, in the end, the singular path to quality. However, I encourage efficient and judicious use of one’s time: work smart, not hard. The labors associated with producing The Dial had become cumbersome beyond the pale. We were working hard, but not smart.


In this digital age, time flies; it flies with the news on its back, across screens faster than we can herald its arrival. What is the mission of a high school student newspaper if it is not to maintain relevance and train writers to think and edit critically? Sure, we could have kept writing for The Dial, fulfilling the training piece of the promise—and done it well. But, should we press on dumbly in pursuit of journalistic ideals knowing that our labors serve ourselves alone? Who were our readers? How was The Dial working to serve its community? In 2009, we began to reconsider the paradigm of the newspaper altogether.


We met with all of the relevant constituencies. They encouraged us to be creative. Dan Leininger at “Don’t Press This Button” web design in New Orleans, Louisiana did just that. He helped us design our new student forum. What we have now, after more than six months devoted to development of the website’s architectural and graphic design, was “rolled out” to the Upper School community yesterday during a Community Assembly: therubble.org.


It is everything we hoped it would be: exactly nothing without the contribution of the student body. Rather than a small staff of contributors, everyone in the school can contribute. It’s a flat organizational model and one that we hope will elicit enthusiastic participation for many years. What might you find when you visit The Rubble? Articles about current events, op/ed essays, excerpts of student academic work, schedules for community events, lists of clubs, notices from SFC, photographs, videos, cartoons, personal essays, and much, much more.


The best thing about it is that we can’t possibly anticipate all that might appear on The Rubble in the future. It’s as dynamic and positive a forum for Tower Hill’s Upper School as we could imagine. It’s about our students. Everybody’s job now is to fill it, visit it, and watch it change.


Welcome to The Rubble. Visit the site at therubble.org.



Mrs. Leslie Jones Sysko

Tower Hill English Department

Advisor, The Rubble

October 4, 2012