Kamira Patel, ’14, Connor Martin, ’14, sophomore Elena Lipman, Garrett Kaighn, ’14, seniors Micaela Bennett-Smith, Aishwarya Nadgauda and Grant Miner, and Octagon adviser Patricia Fels (front) display the awards won at April’s national journalism convention.

Octagon receives highest ranking from National Scholastic Press Association

Last year’s Octagon was named an All-American high-school newspaper, the highest rating given by the National Scholastic Press Association, on Sept. 18.

Former editor-in-chief Kamira Patel, ’14, attributes this partly to the design of the 2013-14 Octagon.

“We were trying to be more innovative and open to new ideas,” she said.

Critiquer Joe Humphrey felt similarly. He wrote in the critique, “For the most part, strong work of telling the big stories with art, photos, creative headlines and compelling copy.”

In addition, two stories from last year’s Octagon were nominated for the NSPA Story of the Year.

Former editor-in-chief Garrett Kaighn’s article about Bitcoin (“Sophomore strikes it rich with Bitcoin,” Feb. 18) was nominated in the news category.

And former editor-in-chief Connor Martin, ’14, was commended for his narration of his experience getting a medical marijuana license (“Doc, I’d really like some. . . marijuana,” April 29), nominated in the feature category.

Kaighn, now a freshman at Columbia University, was shocked to hear of his nomination.

“(I found out) after my physics midterm, so it really brightened my day to hear that news,” Kaighn said.

According to the NSPA’s website, judges look for stories that “show leadership, quality writing, sensitivity and fairness”  in their Story of the Year contests.

Martin was also shocked by his award because he felt his article didn’t quite fit into the feature category.

Octagon adviser Patricia Fels, however, wasn’t at all surprised by Martin’s nomination. “It was my first-choice entry for the Story of the Year Contest,” she said.

Members of the Octagon also won Gold Circle awards, which recognize “superior work by student journalists” from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.

Seniors Grant Miner and Maxwell Shukuya were awarded a Certificate of Merit in feature page design for their flowchart on holiday sweets (Dec. 10).

“It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had making a page,” Shukuya said.

Miner wrote the short reviews for each item.

Martin and Patel placed first in feature page design for the back page featuring a story on high-school boys’ dieting (April 29). The left side of this page featured a graphic of a boy lifting barbells made of cucumber slices.

Patel was also awarded a Certificate of Merit for a portfolio of her designs for Centerpoint spreads.

Finally, the CSPA awarded Martin’s medical marijuana story third place in the “first-person experience” category. The article was also highlighted in the NSPA critique. “(It) was the strongest writing. Great, conversational style,” critiquer Humphrey wrote.

Nonetheless, the Octagon was not named a finalist in the Pacemaker competition by the NSPA. The Octagon has been nominated for the Pacemaker, generally considered the “Pulitzer Prize of high-school journalism,” six times but has won only twice.

For Kaighn, not being nominated came as a shock, especially after learning of the All-American rating.

Previously published in the print edition on Oct. 28, 2014.

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