Journalism staff honored at national convention

Jackie Nichols

Junior Maria Kalaitzandonakes and journalism advisor Robin Stover share a hug right after Bearing News was named Pacemaker Winner. Photo by Rena Rong
This past weekend the staff of The Rock traveled to Seattle, Wa. to attend the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) journalism convention. For the first time in the RBHS journalism program’s existence the NSPA nominated online publication Bearing News and yearbook Flashback as Pacemaker finalists.
The NSPA has given Pacemaker awards since 1927 and a staff of a Newspaper Association of America member newspaper or journalism professionals select the finalists and winners. It is based on coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership on the opinion page, evidence of in-depth reporting, design, photography and art and graphics. Out of 15 other schools in the nation nominated for an online Pacemaker Bearing News won for the first time, after only creating the website six months ago.
“Going into the awards ceremony, I don’t think anyone was expecting us to be named Pacemaker Winner. It was already a big shock that such a young website was named a finalist; having that honor was enough,” online editor Daphne Yu said.  “Right after they named us as a winner, I couldn’t believe it. In my mind, there were constantly things we could be improving, things that we could work on. But in that moment, I just felt that all of the work [adviser Robin] Stover, the staff and I had done paid off. However, this award for me I feel is just a sign that we’re on the right track, but there’s still room to really progress, and we’re never done. I think our placement in the other contest, Best of Show, highlights this fact.”
The convention also recognizes the top 10 publications in each category at the conference. The Best of Show nomination is an accelerated process where one on-site judge selects the winners in each category. There is no panel of professionals or discussion on each publication. The journalism program placed in three categories, winning first place in special edition for its feature magazine Southpaw. The Rock also collected fifth in newspaper broadsheet category, 17-pages or more and Bearing News took ninth place in online publication.
“Winning Best of Show was a surprise. I knew what we submitted was pretty good, but I didn’t want to go into the awards ceremony feeling too cocky,” editor-in-chief Jack Schoelz said. “They list the Best of Show winners starting at number ten and then working down, so there was a brief moment after they named the second place winner that I just felt extreme disappointment and thought we hadn’t won anything at all.”
infographic by Sami Pathan
Besides winning national awards the staff attended keynote speakers Dan Savage  and Jennifer Sizemore .  Savage, founder of the “It Gets Better” video project spoke out reminding LGBT teens around the world that “it gets better.” The project asks people to create and upload short videos about their experiences with the LGBT community. Since it began millions have participated or viewed the videos, and Advertising Age named it one of the top social media campaigns of 2010.
“When we won the awards, we weren’t like the normal, reserved staffs. We rocked it Columbia style – standing on the chairs, whooping loudly, even crying a little bit. But the trip was so much more than just the awards,” junior Maria Kalaitzandonakes said. “My time in Seattle brought me so much closer with all the kids in the class, plus I got to talk to professionals who told me how to transfer my skills in journalism. The city was beautiful, the convention was superb, but winning was the icing on the cake.”
By Jackie Nichols