Have You Heard Of Preteen Crime Journalist Hilde Lysiak? 5 Things To Know About Her
How a kid with smarts, drive, and a self-published newspaper became the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists.
In 2016, 9-year-old Hilde Lysiak stunned the world when she broke the story of a local murder, which she published in her homemade newspaper. She got the facts hours, she said, before professional journalists alerted the public to the story.
Since then, Hilde has authored her own line of books for Scholastic and become the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Now actress Brooklynn Prince ("The Florida Project") is portraying her in the Apple TV series "Home Before Dark."
Hilde achieved all this, and more, before her 13th birthday. Here now are five facts about this remarkable young reporter who can't even be called the future of crime journalism, because she's right at the heart of it at present.
Hilde's Dad Was A New York Daily News Reporter & She Loved Accompanying Him To Work
In 2006, when Hilde was born in Brooklyn, New York, her dad, Matthew Lysiak, was working at the New York Daily News. From an early age, Hilde accompanied her dad to the newsroom where the action, he said, “hooked her on the rush of chasing news.”
When the family relocated to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, in 2014, Hilde started her own publication, which she called Orange Street News (tagline: "The ONLY Newspaper Devoted to Selinsgrove").
Hilde initially wrote Orange Street News (OSN) in crayon and covered lighthearted topics, such as the birth of her baby sister. In time, OSN expanded to a website, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and a print publication with subscribers all over the U.S.
Hilde's older sister, Isabel Rose Lysiak, co-publishes OSN and writes the "Ask Izzy" advice column. Isabel is also in charge of multimedia for the site. producing, editing, and directing the videos.
As OSN developed, Hilde accompanied her dad on major assignments. She traveled with him to Florida to watch him report on the Trayvon Martin shooting and to South Carolina, where he covered a church massacre.
Talking to The New York Times, Matthew said, "We would have conversations, but I wish I could tell you I said, 'Well, in journalism, here's what we do.'" Instead, the proud father said Hilde learned how to be a reporter by doing actual reporting. [The New York Times]
Hilde Made Headlines When She Scooped The Professional Press With a Murder Report In 2016
On April 2, 2016, Hilde was reportedly at the Selinsgrove police station inquiring about a vandalism case when she overheard the chief saying he had to leave to deal with something important.
Hilde said she picked up on the details — a woman was found dead, and officers suspected she may have been murdered with a hammer.
After speeding to the scene on her bicycle, Hilde got quotes from neighbors and law enforcement officers. With her dad's help, she posted the story on the OSN website under the banner headline: "EXCLUSIVE: MURDER ON NINTH STREET."
Hilde said she later returned to the crime scene and shot a video report, which she posted online. In doing all this, Hilde broke the story hours before the professional media outlets. [Columbia Journalism Review]
When Some Online Commenters Said Hilde Was "Too Young," She Responded By Writing An Editorial In The Guardian
Hilde's murder scoop grabbed attention all over the world. However, amid numerous voices of praise and support, some internet commenters said she was "too young" to be involved in such journalistic activities. Particularly, those regarding a gruesome homicide.
In response, Hilde penned an editorial for the UK newspaper The Guardian. It was titled, "Yes, I'm A Nine-Year-Old Girl. But I'm Still A Serious Reporter."
In it, Hilde detailed her process for newsgathering and reporting. She also directly addressed her online critics, who reportedly posted that she should leave reporting to professionals and "play with dolls."
"Yes, I am a nine-year-old girl," Hilde wrote. "But I'm a reporter, first. I report the news. And so long as there is news to report in Selinsgrove, I'm going to continue trying my best to give the people the facts. And for those of you who think I need to mind my place, I'll make you a deal. You get off your computer and do something to stop all the crime going on in my town, and I'll stop reporting on it. Until then, I'm going to keep doing my job."
Hilde also sought to inspire other youngsters to pursue their goals, stating, "I want to be taken seriously. I'm sure other kids do, too. Grownups usually treat kids like they cannot do anything great … Kids should know that if they work hard, they can do amazing things." [The Guardian]
In February 2019, Hilde Stood Up For The First Amendment When a Cop Allegedly Said It Was Illegal To Film Him (It's Not)
Three years after she made news by reporting on the news, Hilde, now 12, again became the subject of headlines.
While in Patagonia, Arizona, last winter, Hilde was reportedly chasing down a lead when Joseph Patterson, a town marshal, stopped her and asked her for identification.
Hilde said she gave Patterson her name and phone number, and told him she was a member of the media. She claims he then threatened to arrest her and throw her in a juvenile detention center. He allegedly said, "I don't want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff."
Hilde said she later reencountered Patterson and filmed the exchange. In the video, which Hilde posted online, she can be heard saying, "You stopped me earlier, and you said that I can be thrown in juvie. What exactly am I doing that's illegal?"
Patterson can be heard responding, "You taping me? You can tape me, okay, but what I'm going to tell you is if you put my face on the internet, it's against the law in Arizona."
That claim is patently untrue. After the video went viral, law enforcement higher-ups reportedly disciplined Patterson, and many commenters hailed Hilde as a hero of free speech and freedom of the press. [The Washington Post]
Hilde Is Now A Highly Honored Journalist, Book Author & The Subject Of A TV Series — & Her Favorite Topic To Cover Remains Crime
In addition to becoming the youngest member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Hilde was honored with a 2016 Tribeca Innovative Disruptor Award. She also co-authors, with her dad, a series of popular kids' books for Scholastic titled "Hilde Cracks the Case."
Hilde is also the inspiration for a new Apple TV series, "Home Before Dark."
Through it all, Hilde has maintained she has one topic she prefers to report on, stating: "I love crime. I really love crime because covering a crime story is like solving a puzzle. It's also very intense."
Elaborating on the topic, Hilde said, "My favorite beat is crime. My second favorite beat is crime. And my third favorite beat is crime! Covering crime is like solving a giant moving puzzle. The job of a crime reporter might be the best job in the world." [Brit.co]