The Octagon and Medallion staffs joined over 4,000 other high schoolers at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association National Journalism Convention in Los Angeles, April 14-17.
The online Octagon, which was nominated as a Pacemaker finalist in March, won the award, which the NSPA calls “the Pulitzer Prize of high-school journalism.”
“I was very surprised to become a finalist,” adviser Patricia Fels said. “Consequently, I had no expectations of winning a Pacemaker.”
Fels said former online editors-in-chief Ryan Ho, ‘14, and Aishwarya Nadgauda, ‘15, senior Keaton Ochoa and current online editor-in-chief Zoë Bowlus have all contributed to the win.
“I find it remarkable that we’ve come so far in such a short time,” she said. (The Octagon has been online for only four years).
But she added that Bowlus and Ochoa’s redesign of the site in January was likely responsible for winning the big prize.
“Zoë and Keaton made the site look so much more contemporary,” she said.
Students also participated in write-off contests.
Senior Madison Judd received the highest award, a Superior rating, in Newswriting for her story about mandatory vaccination at schools.
Judges praised her strong organizing, controlled objectivity, good use of quotes and logical, complete development.
Judd said as winners’ names were being read, she started to emotionally shut down.
“I was in shock when they did call my name,” she said.
Senior Amelia Fineberg had a similar reaction when she received a Superior rating in the New Editing/Headline Writing category.
After the Honorable Mention and Excellent awards had been read, she said she thought she hadn’t won.
“I was in shock for a few minutes,” she said.
Fineberg said fitting the headlines in the allotted space was a challenge.
Senior Jake Sands received an Excellent rating for his editorial cartoon.
Other students received Honorable Mentions: senior Manson Tung (Feature Writing), sophomore Katia Dahmani (Press Law and Ethics) and senior Adam Ketchum (Newspaper News/Feature Photography).
In addition to participating in the write-off contests, students attended multiple sessions on various subjects (including page design, journalistic writing, leadership and press law and ethics), heard from professionals in the field and visited the Grammy Museum.
—By Zoë Bowlus