Nine-Year-Old Reporter Scoops Big Newspapers With Murder Story

Hilde Kate Lysiak of the Orange Street News, a local newspaper in Selinsgrove, PA, managed to scoop the big newspapers and TV and radio news by reporting a murder. This is an impressive accomplishment for any reporter, but especially for Hilde. She’s only 9-years-old.

Hilde is a third-grader. She’s the principal reporter, editor, and publisher of the Orange Street News, a newspaper she started two years ago when her family moved to Selinsgrove. Upon learning the town did not have its own newspaper, she started one herself, with her big sister’s help and her parents’ encouragement.

As reported by the Washington Post, Hilde Lysiak got a tip from a source on Saturday, April 2, that there was “heavy police activity on Ninth Street.” She went to investigate and learned of the murder. She posted the information online, beating the Harrisburg Patriot-News, the Daily Item (serving Sunbury, PA and the Central Susquehanna Valley), and local radio and TV stations.

“I got a good tip from a source and I was able to confirm it.”

Since Saturday, Hilde has been both praised for her initiative and scolded for her unchildlike behavior. Many people have been shocked that a third-grader investigated anything as unsavory as a murder. Her parents have been criticized for permitting her to get so close to a crime scene. Sources as diverse as the Calgary Sun and New York Magazine have reported how total strangers have urged her to “play with dolls” and limit herself to age-appropriate activities like tea parties.

Hilde’s father, Matthew Lysiak, is an author and playwright. He used to be a reporter for the New York Daily News, and has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and The Today Show. His work has been published in the New York Sun, Newsweek, the Guardian, and AM New York. He often took Hilde with him as he investigated stories and let her accompany him to the offices of the New York Daily News. This early exposure to journalism led Hilde Lysiak to start her own newspaper and news website.

When Hilde began the Orange Street News, it was only for friends and family. It featured such stories as the birth of her baby sister, Juliet. However, as she and her older sister Isabel gained experience and grew more confident, the scope of their newspaper expanded. Hilde attended borough council meetings, interviewed local business owners, wrote about schools and businesses in town, and attempted to investigate crime. Selinsgrove is a fairly safe city, with little crime for Hilde to track. The Orange Street News went from the birth of Juliet Lysiak to a local teacher winning the Long Island Marathon to a vandal destroying area plants. Her father, Matthew Lysiak, explained that it was in pursuit of the plant vandal that she learned of the murder of Ann Wochley at 606 Ninth Street, Selinsgrove, PA.

“Because she’s the only one doing community news, she’s developed sources who trust her to cover the news. One of her sources contacted her, and she was able to confirm it with law enforcement. She knocked on every door, like she’d seen me do with the Daily News. There were no other reporters there.”

Hilde Lysiak broke the story of the murder on Ninth Street. Some people didn’t like the idea of a sweet, innocent child investigating a murder. There were complaints that it was inappropriate for her to do so. Some people, including Selinsgrove’s former mayor, Sean Christine, complained of sensationalism. At least one person used language that should never be used in front of a 9-year-old child, let alone directed at a child.

Hilde Lysiak may only be 9-years-old, but many older journalists could learn from her. Her articles are proofread for spelling and grammar. She has developed sources and knows to confirm their tips rather than accept them blindly. She had the journalistic ethics not to release the murder victim’s name before family and friends could be notified. Hilde Kate Lysiaiak is a reporter with a bright future ahead of her.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]