The intrepid reporter who, at the age of 9, scooped competitors on a murder story for her self-published neighborhood newspaper is still pounding the pavement three years later. Now a seasoned journalist at 12 years old, Hilde Kate Lysiak will offer this year’s graduation commencement speech at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media. When she delivers her address next month, Lysiak will become the youngest commencement speaker in the school’s history.
Three years ago, Lysiak broke the story of a suspected murder in her hometown in her newspaper, the Orange Street News, which she founded for “letting people know all the information.” After she and her family faced criticism for covering the decidedly adult topic, Lysiak made it clear that what she did and didn’t report on was for her to decide.
“If you want me to stop covering news, then you get off your computers and do something about the news. There, is that cute enough for you?” she told critics in a video posted to her website.
More recently, the 12-year-old journalist earned national attention when a local police chief in Patagonia, Arizona, threatened her with arrest for filming him while he was on duty. After video of her confrontation with the officer went viral, the town issued her an apology and reaffirmed that members of the public were legally allowed to film officers.
Maryanne Reed, dean of the Reed College of Media, said that she was impressed by Lysiak’s journalistic professionalism in handling the incident with the police chief.
“What an amazing person to relate to future journalists and communicators. If you want inspiration, look to somebody who’s just starting out, but who is so concerned and passionate about what she does,” Reed told the Washington Post. “She’s the youngest person in the Society of Professional Journalists. She is not your typical commencement speaker, but she’s extraordinary and she represents the future of journalism, and isn’t that what we represent at the university?”
Lysiak told the Post she was “shocked” to be invited, but that she was “really excited” about the opportunity.
“It doesn’t intimidate me,” she said. “I just look at it as a new challenge.”
Interested in this topic? Hear from some of the world’s most intrepid journalists at the 10th annual Women in the World Summit, April 10-12, at our panels “Warriors for Truth” and “Journalists on the Front Lines.” See the full agenda here, and get your tickets here.
Read the full story at the Washington Post.