A nine-year-old reporter in Pennsylvania was the first person to break the news of a murder on her beat. Naturally, some of the adults around her responded with hand-wringing and demands that she return to her tea parties and dolls; luckily for us, Hilde Kate Lysiak is too busy working to give a shit.
The Washington Post brings us this delightful story of Lysiak, who is in third grade and already running the best community news organization in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, a town of 5,000 people. The daughter of Matthew Lysiak, a former Daily News reporter, she writes the Orange Street News, with a little help from her older sister Izzy, a fifth grader, who runs the advice section. She frequently reports on community-based news that’s increasingly hard to find: city council meetings, vandalism, and someone shooting down a rabid skunk. (“It was walking in little circles,” a source told her.)
On Saturday afternoon, Lysiak got a tip about police activity on Ninth Street, just a few blocks from her home. She hit the scene, presumably accompanied by a parent, and learned that police were investigating a murder.
The story is responsibly and carefully written, although the details are very disturbing: Sources told Lysiak that the man is suspected of using a hammer to kill his wife. She reported that EMTs were seen taking someone out of the house on a stretcher, and that she saw the chief of police, Pennsylvania State Police, the coroner, and the District Attorney on the scene.
“The Orange Street News is withholding the name of the victim to make sure friends and family are told first,” she wrote. She was able to break the news, her dad told the Post, because of her hard work cultivating sources on previous stories:
[I]t was her tenaciousness on the vandalism story that led her to the murder scene, her father said. “She heard they’d got the vandal,” Matthew Lysiak said. “She goes down to the police department and says, ‘I heard you caught the vandal.’ The chief says, ‘I’ve got a big story, I’ve gotta go.’” Hilde began following up, and in the town of about 5,000 people, soon learned where the action was. “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.”
Lysiak’s story went up hours before the actual community paper covered the crime.
Naturally, there were concerns from community members about Lysiak’s ability to report on the story. Many of them also didn’t seem to understand what breaking news is.
“Hilde, I think this is appalling that u would do a story like this when all the facts are not in yet,” one wrote. “Have some respect for all parties involved please.”
“9 year old girls should be playing with dolls, not trying to be reporters,” another agreed. In a comment that seems to have been deleted, the town’s former mayor called the story “sensationalist trash.”
Lysiak merrily fired back at her critics in a video, above, reading some of their very mature commentary aloud (“You are nine fucking years old, what the fuck is wrong with you?”).
“If you want me to stop covering news, then you get off your computer and do something about the news,” she suggested. “There, is that cute enough for you?”
Never stop, Hilde, and whatever you do, never read the comments.