Student journalists receive top honors

Evan Barber

Wayland students in Portland, Oregon shortly after receiving the Pacemaker Award and Best in Show from the National Scholastic Press Association. (From left to right: Brianna Fay, Matthew Gutschenritter, advisor Janet Karman, David Ryan, Andrew Herstine) (Courtesy Photo: Bill Ryan)

While most Wayland High School students were catching up on their sleep during their first few days of vacation, four members of the WSPN staff, along with adviser Janet Karman, traveled to Portland, Oregon for the National Scholastic Press Association’s (NSPA) National High School journalism convention. Students attended sessions and workshops to learn more about all aspects of journalism ethics, writing, and new media.

In January,  WSPN was nominated for an NSPA Pacemaker Award, which was to be announced on April 19th at the convention. The Pacemaker nomination marked the third nomination for the three-year-old WSPN program, which received the Online Pacemaker award the previous two years under the leadership of WSPN founder Robin Kim.

This year, under new editorship, WSPN received the award for the third year in a row.

Last June, when Kim announced his resignation, many people thought that WSPN would falter with the loss. Four people didn’t. Dave Ryan and Melanie Wang, current editors-in-chief, took on the task of filling Kim’s shoes. Janet Karman and Mary Barber, advisers for the news site, stood by their sides, and supported them through the transition.

“It’s very humbling to sit at the awards ceremony and look around and see close to 3,000 people all hoping for the same award.” – David Ryan”

“I knew that Robin would be a hard act to follow, but I had 100% confidence that David would be able to re-design the site, and put his own spin into it, and put the management of WSPN into Melanie and his hands,” says Barber, “Robin had groomed them well.”

Saturday, just hours after winning an Online Pacemaker, WSPN raised the bar a little higher. The news site took first place in the Best of Show competition, its highest placement to date.

“It’s very humbling to sit at the awards ceremony and look around and see close to 3,000 people all hoping for the same award. To achieve our goal and take the top spot was amazing,” explains co-editor in chief Dave Ryan.

Last June under the leadership of Kim, WSPN won the “People’s Choice Award” against stiff competition. The Webby Awards, presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, are often considered the Internet’s highest honor. Past winners include Jimmy Fallon, Seth MacFarlane, Twitter, and the New York Times. In their category, the publication faced competitors like the University of California Berkeley Journalism School, Columbia University School of Journalism, Boston University, and the University of North Carolina.

This year WSPN entered the Webbys again, and although they were not nominated for the award, they were recognized as Official Honorees in both the Student and School/University categories. Less than 15% of nearly 10,000 applicants were recognized with this honor. Others recognized in the same categories as WSPN include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University, as well as two other online high school publications.

Each year, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) gives out Gold and Silver Crown Awards to student publications at their national convention at Columbia University. This year, Ryan and Wang led WSPN to their second straight CSPA Gold Crown Award. Throughout the country only 11 online high school publications received this honor. Last year was the first year that the CSPA gave out Crown Awards in the online category. WSPN is one of two schools to have received a Gold Crown both years.

“Hearing about winning all these awards is becoming less and less of a surprise, and its becoming less of a surprise because when you look at the quality of the work every single day that the writers, the photographers, the videographers, do for WSPN you know that it’s quality.” exclaims Principal Pat Tutwiler, “That work deserves to be recognized in the way that it has been.

Winning a Gold Crown as well as a Pacemaker in the same year puts a publication in the top .02% of high school journalism publications. Eleven of  27 finalists won the Gold Crown, 12 of 26 finalists won the Pacemaker, and only four high school publications received both.