It’s time for journalist Ryan Stoltz to retire. Over his career, he’s interviewed the likes of Jay Leno, Amy Klobuchar and Malala Yousafzai; covered two Super Bowls; and reported from the White House Rose Garden. As his career comes to a close, he’s ready for his next step: high school.
Ryan, 14, has been a reporter for Scholastic News Kids Press Corps for four years. In 2015, he started off small, for him, by covering the Starkey Hearing annual gala, which Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush attended, reporting from the red carpet before entering the gala.
“I was only 10 back then,” he recalled. “I’ve learned so much as I’ve gone from story to story.”
His most recent trip was to Washington, D.C., to report on the first anniversary of the Be Best campaign by First Lady Melania Trump. He got a chance to go behind the scenes and see the White House briefing room and the offices where news networks work in the White House.
“I’ll be honest, it was really small,” Ryan said. “On TV, it looks absolutely massive.”
Ryan pitches his stories to a New York-based editor at Scholastic Kids Press Corps and sends them to her for feedback before they’re published online and in Scholastic’s classroom materials. Students all over the country and world write about the same issues that are covered in national and international news, including six Midwest reporters.
“When you’re watching the news every day, you don’t get things from a kid’s perspective,” Ryan said. Scholastic’s reporters deliver news that’s “not only by kids, but for kids as well,” he added.
Writing his own stories gives Ryan the chance to add to and change the narrative that he sees in other news outlets.
“I feel like, as I’m watching the news, we’re almost focusing too much on the negatives in the world,” he explained. “I want that to be different.”
Even in stories about challenging topics, like climate change, he tries to make his message: “This is a bad thing, but here’s what you can do,” he said.
Even with access to celebrities that would dazzle many people — Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers, the band Imagine Dragons — it’s not always easy being a young person with a job. People have sometimes dismissed Ryan at events, he said, simply because he’s young.
“It’s rather disappointing in how they do that,” he said.
Ryan’s parents and older brothers help get him where he needs to be and will help by holding a camera while Ryan conducts interviews, but they’re a supporting cast to Ryan’s main character.
Even with preparation beforehand, there’s plenty that Ryan learns on the job. Some lessons have been how to manage a microphone and record audio in the field and how to get access to an interview subject. When Ryan covered U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s snowy launch of her presidential campaign on Feb. 10, he spotted an area where he thought the senator would leave the stage and set up camp there after her speech. When she emerged from her tent, he was the only one standing there, and she gave him an interview, he said.
“I yelled and she was like, ‘Oh yeah, sure,’” he said. “I guess that’s what you get when you’re a true Minnesotan.”
Reporting has kept him busy, but Ryan finds time for a life outside of the newsroom: He’s a member of Central Middle School’s Unified Club, sings in several choirs and is well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout with Scouts BSA. His Eagle project recently took him to Mexico, where he worked with the Starkey Foundation to assemble and fit people with hearing aids.
While the Scholastic Press Corps program ends at age 14, Ryan isn’t done with news. He’s interested in becoming a sports reporter and covering his favorite sport, football.
“I don’t want to drop journalism,” he said. “Kids have a lot of power in our society, and they need to be involved.”