The Man Behind Rocket News: An In-Depth Look at His Journalistic Journey

Maddie Van Zeeland and Brenden Selch

All of NHS knows senior Robert Barthell from his weekly Rocket News videos, but most never look beyond the computer screen to see his hobbies, extracurriculars and passions.

In middle school Barthell preferred video games to clubs, choosing to stay at home the majority of the day. Now, Barthell spends his senior year bouncing between several different clubs and activities. Whether it is cross country, Latino club, or practicing violin, Barthell’s schedule has no room for free time. 

Cross country started as a way for Barthell to stay healthy. To Barthell, cross country was simple exercise.  Although he claims he did not see much improvement, he says the season went well.

Growing up in a bilingual household, Barthell has spoken English and Spanish since birth, making him a perfect candidate for cultural exploration. Inspired by his home life, Barthell taught himself French and Chinese, earning fives on their respective AP tests, as confirmed by NHS foreign language teachers. While already an impressive feat, he remains the only student from Neenah to receive fives on the exams.

While learning several different languages, he also learned how to play the violin throughout middle school and high school. Currently a member of the symphony orchestra, Barthell dedicates upwards of three to five hours per week to the violin.

Although hours of Barthell’s week are filled with these different activities, he manages to find time to run the school’s news broadcast, Rocket News, which is how he gained his journalistic status at NHS. 

Rocket News has existed in some form for years, but Barthell wanted to take it to the next level. Barthell described the  previous broadcasts as “cheap slapstick clips,” filled with “little to no news content.” Inspired by the faults of the former, Barthel reinvented Rocket News, which follows proper and professional journalistic style. Prior to his takeover of Rocket News, Barthell released news videos on specific topics, which won Northeast Wisconsin Scholastic Press Association competitions.  Unfortunately, he received little to no student recognition via the school newspaper. 

While Barthell was sitting in his Art History class complaining about the lack of engagement on his news videos, a classmate gave him the advice he needed: add sports. Changed by this revelation, Barthell immediately began researching the different sports happening at NHS and interviewing different athletes. After many long, grueling hours of work Barthell had finally completed the first of many Rocket News broadcasts. The video was a success, with Barthell’s new Rocket News receiving many more views than previous videos. 

Barthell enjoys producing Rocket News because he believes it increases his social skills and makes him more comfortable talking to other people. During a recent interview on WBAY, Barthell attributes his National Speech and Debate Association’s Speaking and Service Award to his news broadcast. The award was presented to 184 students nationally out of the more than 140,000 members of the organization.

He also thinks that it will help him in the future. “Rocket News looks good on a resume.”

Barthell may be the face of Rocket News, but he also represents a determined, driven and talented person with a strong journalistic career in front of him. His videos are shown schoolwide and provide the resources students need to get involved in the school and build a community. Through trial and error, Barthell became the successful journalist he always aspired to be.