NSPA honors staff with national recognition
The National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) awarded The Feather with their fourth Pacemaker award at the NSPA and Journalism Education Association (JEA) High School Journalism Conference, April 14.
In a room filled with about 3,200 attendees representing over 600 schools, distractions disappeared when the announcement of the Pacemaker winners echoed through the awards room of the Washington State Convention Center, April 14. For the fourth time in a span of seven years, The Feather Online received an Online Pacemaker Award from the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA).
Six students and Adviser Greg Stobbe traveled to Seattle, WA, where they attended the National High School Journalism Convention sponsored by the NSPA and the Journalism Education Association (JEA). During the conference, four of the students taught classes on both online journalism and podcasting.
Despite the disappointment of failing to receive a finalist award for the 2010-11 school year, The Feather gained both a finalist nomination and the award. The Feather is one of eight in the online small-school category, and the only small school to win in California.
According to the NSPA website, "Entries were judged holistically based on content, design, writing and editing, rich media and breaking news."
The award serves as an equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize for high school journalism. Along with the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Crown Awards, the Pacemaker represents the most prestigious honors for journalism.
"The Feather staffers regrouped after the disappointment of not being selected for the 2011 Pacemaker," Stobbe said. "They used this as an opportunity to set a new standard of excellence not only for themselves for next year's online publication. This is a case that their disappointments helped create opportunities for greater accomplishments."
"Everything went by second-by-second until we actually got closer to the stage. More than anything, this award pretty much summed up hours of work, persistance and patience." -- Senior Nick Avery, Co-Editor-in-Chief
According to The Feather's Co-Editor-in-Chief, senior Nick Avery, he did not expect to win because the publication only received a Silver Crown from the CSPA.
"When we missed the Gold Crown last month, I figured we were out of the running for Pacemaker," Avery said. "However, that was not the case, and we actually came back to win a Pacemaker for the first time in two years, despite our lack of success with the CSPA."
This year, the staff regrouped to add more media, including podcasts, videos and slideshows in order to increase their chances against much bigger staffs. Co-Editor-in-Chief Mary Hierholzer, '12, encouraged the staff to step up their output.
"Last year showed us that we had to step up our game to succeed this year," Hierholzer said. "We pushed the staff to bring media to the next level. For the most part, critics all said that our content was unbeatable, but that we lacked media. That was our weak spot, so that is where we put a big focus."
Along with pushing the staff to work hard, the website underwent changes to feature more media. Webmaster and Media Specialist David Casuga, '12, worked to establish needed, new aspects to the site.
To end the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) and Journalism Education Association (JEA) Highs School Journalism Conference held in Seattle, WA, The Feather was awarded the highest award given by the NSPA along with 15 other online newspapers, April 14.
"Other than normal maintenance done to the site, my biggest changes were on the media sidebar located on the right," Casuga said. "I revamped the entire space so that it would be more appealing aesthetically and technically with readers."
Both Avery and Hierholzer, created a different approach than previous years, choosing to delegate tasks in order to utilize the staff.
"We sorted out specific jobs and made sure that a team of people were able to do complicated, time-consuming tasks like slideshows," Heirholzer said. "Because of this, we were able to produce a greater quantity of these features, and perfect each individual project."
As the names were read off, the six attendees slowly began to celebrate as the reality sunk in. For Avery, the award is proof of all the hours and energy spent working.
"Everything went by second-by-second until we actually got closer to the stage," Avery said. "More than anything, this award pretty much summed up hours of work, persistance and patience. As a staff, we've worked so hard for so long, and it's awesome to receive something tangible for that. The Pacemaker will always hold a special place in my heart."
Though the staff has won three Pacemakers previously (2006, 2008, 2010), all of the achievements are equally satisfying due to the work completed.
"The fourth Pacemaker is just a satisfying as the first," Stobbe said. "This group has successfully made the switch to including multimedia to the paper and expect this part of the online edition to become even more integrated."
For more information, read the Feb. 29 article BREAKING: The Feather clinches Pacemaker nomination.