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Our Intrepid Reporter—from the Eighth Grade

Time magazine is one of the oldest and most respected publications in the United States. The 101-year-old periodical has published interviews with presidents and kings. It has covered thousands of stories, publishing the work of thousands of journalists. For the past year, a Rowland Hall student has been among them.

Eighth grader Sophia Z. is one of eight students from across the country who was selected this year to be a reporter for Time for Kids (TFK), an offshoot of Time magazine aimed at young readers. She caught the eye of the selection committee with an article asking, and answering, an intriguing question: Would an epic winter with a historical snowpack in 2023 save the Great Salt Lake from dying? This piece of investigative journalism was inspired by Rowland Hall’s seventh-grade Great Salt Lake project, where Sophia was introduced to the issue of ecological crisis facing the Great Salt Lake, and previously presented to the United Nations’ 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“This is a critical crisis to Utah because if the Great Salt Lake dries up, there will be toxins in the air and our snow-based tourism industry will decline because of the lake effect on snow,” said Sophia about some of the many negative impacts of a drying Great Salt Lake. “We cannot rest upon wet winters; taking actions to conserve water and shepherd water to the lake is the key to save the lake,” she emphasized.

In her role as a TFK reporter, Sophia has interviewed a wide array of people, from the stars of movies like The Tiger’s Apprentice and Avatar: The Last Airbender to Maurice Ashley, the first Black chess grandmaster and author of many books on the sport. One of her favorite stories, though, was the one closest to home: an interview with a Utah teen working to make robotics more accessible to underrepresented communities.

“I really hoped sharing this story would not only inspire kids in STEM, but inspire them to inspire others,” Sophia said. “They can help expand STEM education just by doing STEM activities that they really, really enjoy.”

While Sophia is used to being the interviewer, we thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about being a TFK reporter. The following interview has been lightly edited.


What was the best part of being a journalist for Time for Kids?

I’ve realized that I really enjoy talking to people about their interesting experiences and inspiring opinions. I also really enjoy retelling those stories in my words and further passing those messages onto my readers. Meeting amazing people and listening to their inspiring stories do not only enrich my own life but also help me to convey my interviewees’ wisdom to my readers and enrich their lives.

Meeting amazing people and listening to their inspiring stories do not only enrich my own life but also help me to convey my interviewees’ wisdom to my readers and enrich their lives.—Sophia Z., class of 2028

How did this experience help you become a better journalist and writer?

I learned to write for certain audiences. Writing for the second graders is so different from writing for the fifth and sixth graders. My mentor at TFK taught me to know my readers, keep their interests in mind, adjust my writing style accordingly, and deliver the story in the language that they would understand and relate to.

I also learned that interviewing isn’t just about asking questions and taking notes of what my interviewees said; it’s a conversation. Conversations are never one-sided. Of course, a reporter always prepares for a set of questions before an interview; however, she does not need to strictly follow those questions. One of my questions could stimulate my interviewee to share a piece of experience, memory, opinion, or suggestion, which could inspire me to ask a follow-up question. Engaging with the conservation is more essential and fun than completing a set of prepared questions.

What was your greatest challenge?

When I started to conduct investigative journalism in the summer of 2023 for the TFK contest, I was nervous. I worried that I would not be able to nail down any interviews with adult professionals, such as scholars and government officials. I doubted whether those busy adults would talk with a seventh-grade kid. Then I feared that I would mess up with those important interviews by missing the key questions or important information. So I prepared a lot by doing more research on the topic of the Great Salt Lake. To my surprise, all of the professionals I talked with were so patient in answering my questions and so nice in recommending other professionals to me. Interviews were carried on and became easier and easier, with each interview adding pieces, helping me to solve the puzzle. Now when I look back at it, there is nothing special about journalism. Curiosity makes one ask meaningful and relevant questions to the right persons. Conversation drives the questioning and answering and drives the direction of the story. It is similar to having a conversation with one’s friends and family. Just get a meaningful conversation starting and going.

What is your dream assignment as a young journalist? 

I have many dream assignments! I would love to go to the Olympic Games and interview the top US swimmers, since I am a swimmer. I would love to go to NASA and interview NASA employees about the Artemis mission, since I really love space and want to be an aerospace engineer when I grow up. I would love to go to the World Chess Championship, interview both the current world champion and his challenger, and record their aspirations, excitement, and stresses.

Great work, Sophia! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

Student Voices

Our Intrepid Reporter—from the Eighth Grade

Time magazine is one of the oldest and most respected publications in the United States. The 101-year-old periodical has published interviews with presidents and kings. It has covered thousands of stories, publishing the work of thousands of journalists. For the past year, a Rowland Hall student has been among them.

Eighth grader Sophia Z. is one of eight students from across the country who was selected this year to be a reporter for Time for Kids (TFK), an offshoot of Time magazine aimed at young readers. She caught the eye of the selection committee with an article asking, and answering, an intriguing question: Would an epic winter with a historical snowpack in 2023 save the Great Salt Lake from dying? This piece of investigative journalism was inspired by Rowland Hall’s seventh-grade Great Salt Lake project, where Sophia was introduced to the issue of ecological crisis facing the Great Salt Lake, and previously presented to the United Nations’ 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

“This is a critical crisis to Utah because if the Great Salt Lake dries up, there will be toxins in the air and our snow-based tourism industry will decline because of the lake effect on snow,” said Sophia about some of the many negative impacts of a drying Great Salt Lake. “We cannot rest upon wet winters; taking actions to conserve water and shepherd water to the lake is the key to save the lake,” she emphasized.

In her role as a TFK reporter, Sophia has interviewed a wide array of people, from the stars of movies like The Tiger’s Apprentice and Avatar: The Last Airbender to Maurice Ashley, the first Black chess grandmaster and author of many books on the sport. One of her favorite stories, though, was the one closest to home: an interview with a Utah teen working to make robotics more accessible to underrepresented communities.

“I really hoped sharing this story would not only inspire kids in STEM, but inspire them to inspire others,” Sophia said. “They can help expand STEM education just by doing STEM activities that they really, really enjoy.”

While Sophia is used to being the interviewer, we thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about being a TFK reporter. The following interview has been lightly edited.


What was the best part of being a journalist for Time for Kids?

I’ve realized that I really enjoy talking to people about their interesting experiences and inspiring opinions. I also really enjoy retelling those stories in my words and further passing those messages onto my readers. Meeting amazing people and listening to their inspiring stories do not only enrich my own life but also help me to convey my interviewees’ wisdom to my readers and enrich their lives.

Meeting amazing people and listening to their inspiring stories do not only enrich my own life but also help me to convey my interviewees’ wisdom to my readers and enrich their lives.—Sophia Z., class of 2028

How did this experience help you become a better journalist and writer?

I learned to write for certain audiences. Writing for the second graders is so different from writing for the fifth and sixth graders. My mentor at TFK taught me to know my readers, keep their interests in mind, adjust my writing style accordingly, and deliver the story in the language that they would understand and relate to.

I also learned that interviewing isn’t just about asking questions and taking notes of what my interviewees said; it’s a conversation. Conversations are never one-sided. Of course, a reporter always prepares for a set of questions before an interview; however, she does not need to strictly follow those questions. One of my questions could stimulate my interviewee to share a piece of experience, memory, opinion, or suggestion, which could inspire me to ask a follow-up question. Engaging with the conservation is more essential and fun than completing a set of prepared questions.

What was your greatest challenge?

When I started to conduct investigative journalism in the summer of 2023 for the TFK contest, I was nervous. I worried that I would not be able to nail down any interviews with adult professionals, such as scholars and government officials. I doubted whether those busy adults would talk with a seventh-grade kid. Then I feared that I would mess up with those important interviews by missing the key questions or important information. So I prepared a lot by doing more research on the topic of the Great Salt Lake. To my surprise, all of the professionals I talked with were so patient in answering my questions and so nice in recommending other professionals to me. Interviews were carried on and became easier and easier, with each interview adding pieces, helping me to solve the puzzle. Now when I look back at it, there is nothing special about journalism. Curiosity makes one ask meaningful and relevant questions to the right persons. Conversation drives the questioning and answering and drives the direction of the story. It is similar to having a conversation with one’s friends and family. Just get a meaningful conversation starting and going.

What is your dream assignment as a young journalist? 

I have many dream assignments! I would love to go to the Olympic Games and interview the top US swimmers, since I am a swimmer. I would love to go to NASA and interview NASA employees about the Artemis mission, since I really love space and want to be an aerospace engineer when I grow up. I would love to go to the World Chess Championship, interview both the current world champion and his challenger, and record their aspirations, excitement, and stresses.

Great work, Sophia! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

Student Voices

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