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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Letter to the Editor
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Feather pace garners national recognition

For the second time in three years, the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) named The Feather the best online newspaper in the country along with four other high school newspapers. All received the coveted Pacemaker award.

Thousands of students gathered in a ballroom, cheering, chanting and clapping that was more reminiscent of a basketball game than a journalism conference in Anaheim, April 19.

“It is really exciting to know a group of over-achievers can compete on a national stage,” Greg Stobbe, adviser, said. “This Pacemaker feels even more satisfying than the 2006 award because more students participated at a higher commitment level.”

The Feather’s staff jumped from 23 to 31 during the 2007-08 school year and competed with high school programs across the country, many of whom had nearly 10 times the student population of FC.

“I hope other schools are encouraged because even small schools are able to produce a high quality paper without superstars or large numbers in class,” Stobbe said. “All deserve recognition for their efforts.”

The NSPA believes the Pacemaker is the highest honor in scholastic journalism, equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize. The competition began in 1927, highlighting the top publications and media productions, regardless of campus size or division, in the United States. The four-day convention attracted 4,475 students, representing over 400 schools from 38 states and hundreds of advisers, judges and speakers.

Twenty Feather staff members traveled to the Anaheim Marriott alongside Stobbe for the seminars, workshops and awards ceremony in the most attended and competitive NSPA convention since 2001.

“A lot of the speakers there were covering information Stobbe taught us during our first week,” Austin Ward, ’11, staff writer, said, “but was completely new to other students.”

Lectures covered word choice, interviewing, leadership, motivational games, editing, broadcasting, news reporting, sports writing and also several yearbook seminars.

“It was a bonding experience for the staff, because we were all able to share in the victory,” Ward said. “Those who attended could physically see the rewards for our work for over the year, something else other than ‘nice job’ from Stobbe.”

FC last won the award in 2006 under the leadership of Brianna Stobbe, ’06, editor-in-chief, when Mary Kneefel was a staff reporter.

“I was so nervous waiting for the speaker to announce the winners,” Kneefel, ’08, editor-in-chief, said. “Our entire staff jumped up and screamed once we saw The Feather home page on the giant screens. I have worked two years for this and am honored we could take our second Pacemaker home to Fresno Christian.”

From January to April, The Feather competed with other online high school newspapers across the country. Online entries were judged on content, design, navigation, writing, editing, graphics and interactivity.

“The fact we launched the new website helped us win this year,” Andrew Rurik, ’09, webmaster, said. “We had the same website for three years but that and other changes contributed to easier navigation and less clutter.”

The judges for the online portion released comments regarding their selections.

“The best online entries had a few things in common,” judges said. “They effectively used multimedia (videos, photos, blogs) as a storytelling tool. They allowed users to comment on the sites. The pages were well organized. Their writing and photography stood out far above the rest.”

The four other Pacemaker winners include The Paly Voice, from Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, CA, the Grizzly Gazette Online, from Granite Hills High School in Porterville, CA, The A-Blast Online, from Annandale High School in Annandale, VA and the Wayland Student Press of Wayland High School in Wayland, MA.

“The day of the awards ceremony, we attended and contributed to a round table discussion with the editors-in-chief from some of the 10 finalists,” Jenn Sherfield, ’08, senior editor, said. “I’ve always realized the significance of the Pacemaker, but hadn’t realized the magnitude of the competition.”

Adviser Paul Kandell of the Paly Voice and conference speaker believes it is necessary for sites to constantly update with relevant content. Kandell began advising Paly in 2000 and began their five-year Pacemaker streak in 2004.

“I’ve praised your site as a model for several years now,” Kandell said. “I tell people they shouldn’t aim to do what the Voice does because we’re too big. You guys do your amazing work with a staff size that every school news publication in the country can relate to. You are the ultimate role model.”

In a press release, Marissa Dobson, NSPA contest and critique coordinator, said the online competition has become increasingly competitive over the last three years.

“The Feather has layout strength that is head and shoulders above most of the other entries,” Dobson said. “I love the banner and color scheme. I also want to say that most of the NSPA high school entries are better than most of the college papers our umbrella organization judges.”

While the editor-in-chief to replace Kneefel is yet to be named, Stobbe holds confidence that next year’s staff possesses the capability to continue with award-winning journalism.

“Our two Pacemakers were built on the backs of Feather writers over the past 11 years,” Stobbe said. “They helped to create a sense of excitement and set a standard of excellence. It takes time. With the vision of past students, today’s awards and reputation is built and thus will continue next year when a new set of editors replace the retiring five seniors. It’s up to them to determine whether or not they find it satisfying to compete at the current level of excellence.”

The online editorial team at DesMoinesRegister.com judged this year’s entries. The Des Moines Register is an award-winning publication, garnering 15 Pulitzer prizes over the years.

For a complete listing of the five Pacemaker winners and the 10 finalists, visit the NSPA contest website.

This year’s Pacemaker distinction compliments The Feather print edition as it won first place and was named the Sweepstakes winner at the San Joaquin Valley Scholastic Press Association’s annual conference at Fresno State, March 1, 2008. The Feather won the competition, beating all high schools from Lodi to Bakersfield.

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