Hilde Lysiak, whose doggedness as a 9-year-old investigative reporter made her a star of journalism, tells her own story.
Hilde on the Record: Memoir of a Kid Crime Reporter by Hilde Lysiak. Chicago Review Press, 2022, 159 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 12-15
Get the story
If your dad is a star reporter for the New York Daily News, what do you do? Tag along on his reporting gigs, of course. Hilde Lysiak, second daughter to Matt and Bridget, thought this made perfect sense, even though she was only four at the time. Her dad decided there wouldn’t be any harm in taking her along to cover a West Indian festival in Brooklyn, but that story was cut short when he was called to cover a gang shooting. With no time to take Hilde home, she went along and got her first taste of what it takes to track down a story: going from one bodega to another, pressing in to talk to a distraught mother, paying just enough attention to the police. Soon after, Dad was one of the first on the scene of the Sandy Hook school shooting, a traumatic story he was later able to expand into a book.
With a generous advance check, the family was able to move from Brooklyn to rural Pennsylvania, where Hilde was inspired to start her own paper, the Orange Street News. With a natural writing gift and professional consultant in the same house, she was able to transform a childhood project into a going concern. But when, at the tender age of nine, she broke a story about a local murder (much to the consternation of the police), her video reporting went viral and the OSN became a national phenomenon, even inspiring a dramatic series on Apple TV.
The price of fame
She was a free-speech champion before turning 10. It didn’t make her popular with the police or city government, but no jurisdiction is too small to demonstrate one of our founding principles: “Not everyone agrees with me on this point, but . . . it is dangerous for the government to have any kind of control of the news.” On this, she has the backing of both parents. “Word have so much power, Hilds,” her mother told her after a run-in with an irate source. “Just keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to change anything you want, just by telling the truth.”
Early fame has its downside, and Hilde is honest about her rough road into adolescence. At 13 she hit a wall of binge-eating and depression that put her at odds with her parents, especially her father. At 14, though, she’s beginning to regain some control. Though she’s taking a (perhaps permanent) break from reporting, we can wish her well for the future and respect the talent, persistence, and old-fashioned moxie that propelled her into reporting in the first place. Young teens with journalistic ambitions could learn a lot from her.
Hilde’s family appears to have no religious convictions and she hints in the Afterward to bisexual leanings.
Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
Worldview/moral value: 3.5Artistic/literary value: 4
Read more about our ratings here.
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