The Billings Ranch News in Ashland has articles, ads, Sudoku puzzles, comics, weather forecasts and all the other features of a regular newspaper — except that it's created entirely by a group of neighborhood kids.
"We were bored one day and we wanted to do something and we started from there," says 11-year-old Olivia Leidall.
She has been running the newspaper for two months with her siblings — 8-year-old Conrad Leidall and 6-year-old Piper Leidall — and neighbors Max Reade, 9, and Charlie Reade, 11.
Ashland Middle School student Chase Tiffany also helped launch the newspaper but is now occupied with other activities.
The newspaper covers the Billings Ranch subdivision in Ashland and has become a hit with neighbors, the kids say.
Olivia recalls the reaction of one neighbor when he received a new issue of the newspaper. "He was like, 'Oh my gosh! I love it,' " she says.
"I learned that lots of people start to like it over the days and weeks and months," adds Conrad.
The kids interviewed neighbor Gretchen Hartrick, owner of the Cupcake Daily shop in Ashland, and reported that her most popular cupcake flavors are s'mores and maple bacon.
Just as regular newspapers have ads, the Billings Ranch News featured a coupon for neighbors to get $1 off a purchase at Cupcake Daily.
The kids are hoping to interview a World War II veteran and his wife for a future edition.
"It would be great to interview him because Memorial Day is coming up," says Olivia.
The newspaper features a variety of jokes, such as, "Why did the circus lion eat the tightrope walker? He wanted a well-balanced meal."
As for their weather forecasts, the kids often offer advice to their neighbors. If a frost warning is in effect, they warn neighbors to cover up their plants. Rainy? Best to stay inside and play games and tell jokes, the writers say.
The newspaper also has a serious side.
The kids wrote about their friend Jack Dorr, who is battling cancer, and netted $150 in donations.
The newspaper has spurred the kids to write more and to stick with their commitments, their parents say.
"It's been great for them," says the Leidalls' mother, Jessica. "It's really getting them writing and thinking about writing."
The Reades' father, Jeff, says he sees the kids working together like a team.
"It gave them something to be passionate about," he says. "It's fun to see them cooperating. Sometimes there are squabbles, but generally they get along."
The kids also are learning the business side of running a newspaper. After going through piles of paper and several ink cartridges to print out their editions, they began asking for donations from neighbors, who kicked in $52 to keep the operation going.
To get the newspaper out to neighbors, the kids created a map of their neighborhood, and each child was assigned a specific route. They deliver 29 papers each week.
"I really like delivering the newspaper to the houses because it's fun," says Max.
The newspaper will experience some staffing changes in the next few months because the Leidall family is moving to another state.
However, the Reade brothers plan to keep doing the newspaper and will add a new staff member — a 6-year-old who recently moved into the neighborhood.
Neighbors will continue to get all the news that's fit to print, as well as answers to riddles such as, "Why was six afraid of seven?"
The answer: "Because seven eight nine."
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or email@example.com.