“I keep my ears and eyes open, and if I hear about something going on, I see if it’s true,” he said. “If there are sirens going off, I try to figure out what it is.”
Davis doesn’t have a lot of competition. He’s the only newspaper reporter in the town of 900. And he’s just 12 years old.
Believe it or not, he’s a veteran. Davis started the The Annawan News three years ago, when he was just 9. Since then it has evolved into The Annawan Times, a weekly publication complete with a Web site and advertisements.
“We don’t have a paper in town, and the ones around us don’t really cover a lot of local news,” the seventh-grader said. “I had to start it so we can have that kind of news.”
This is no cow-poke journal, however. The Annawan Times is certified. Davis was recently granted entry into the Illinois Press Association, a distinction that puts him on the level with some of the most prestigious publications in the state.
It wasn’t easy. Davis petitioned the organization numerous times, but few people took the young reporter seriously, until his story made it to the upper echelons of the organization.
“Our executive director said that he was doing a really good thing and wanted to make him an honorary member,” said David Porter, communication and marketing director for the IPA. “He’s a great kid. A really great kid.”
After he was inducted Davis received a box full of IPA materials, including an IPA card and sticker and a letter notifying him of his acceptance. As an honorary member, Davis gets all the benefits of regular membership, without the responsibility of paying dues.
“I didn’t know if they would make me a member, but when they did, they gave me a bunch of stuff,” Keith said. “Press cards, notepads, pens, posters… I didn’t think I’d get all that.”
Full membership in the IPA requires an examination of the publication, making sure the paper meets legal requirements and other criteria such as content and length, but the IPA decided to give him a pass for now.
“We didn’t get to the point of examining the paper for qualifications,” Porter said. “We decided it didn’t matter. As long as he’s putting out legitimate news products, he should have the same privileges assigned to those credentials. We wanted to welcome him into our organization.”
Keith covers everything from sports to local news, but he is most passionate about weather, a section that is always included in the eight-page publication.
“I like winter stories,” Keith said. “My favorite one was about a snowstorm that happened on Christmas Day. It delayed all the holiday travels, and I got to report about it.”
Keith does all the reporting and editing himself, with occasional help from his friends.
“They help out sometimes, but they don’t enjoy it as much as I do,” Keith said. “So I do most of it by myself.”
After all, what other kid has the budding potential and enviable work ethic that Keith has? The seventh-grader works hard on his paper, getting up early in the mornings to update his site and picking up the published paper every week, even mailing copies to his three subscribers.
“I work on the content for a week’s paper the week before,” he said. “I get the order to the printer each Tuesday, so they’ll be ready to be sold every Thursday.”
The Annawan Times has advertisers for both the paper and the Web site, but Davis makes no money for his hard work.
“What he’s doing, this is the basics of what we do," Porter said. "And he’s been doing it for two years on a regular basis. I think that speaks for itself.”