Seniors and print editors-in-chief Katia Dahmani, Sonja Hansen and Annya Dahmani hold up the National Scholastic Press Association Best of Show Award. The Octagon won seventh place in the "newspaper tabloid (16 or fewer pages)" category. (Photo by Jacqueline Chao)

The Octagon nominated for Gold Crown, CSPA’s ‘highest recognition’

Once again, the Octagon has a chance at winning the Gold Crown Award, a prestigious award given out to “a student print or digital medium for overall excellence” from Columbia University. This year, however, the Octagon is eligible to be awarded only in the print category, as its website was down at the time of judging because it was undergoing a massive redesign.

Even though the Octagon has been named Crown finalist three times before, it has never won a Gold Crown – only Silver Crowns. After being named a Crown finalist for the fourth time in 10 years, the staff hopes to finally get their first Golden Crown.

This year, third- and fourth-year staffers of the Octagon also plan to attend the CSPA convention for the first time, which is held at Columbia University in New York City.

Each year, a panel of Crown judges assembles at Columbia University to begin judging the entries, which include middle school, high school and college publications. The CSPA (Columbia Scholastic Press Association) website states that all aspects of the entries are considered, including: “content, design or presentation, coverage, photography as well as writing and editing.”

The Octagon’s 41st volume of the print edition was nominated; its former print editors-in-chief were Annya and Katia Dahmani and Sonja Hansen, ’18. Hansen said she credits the nomination to a big change and revamp in the design of the pages.

“Design really played a big role in our success last year,” Hansen said.

“(Design chiefs seniors Allison Zhang and Mohini Rye) and all the page editors were so sensitive to creating aesthetically pleasing pages.”

Annya agreed with Hansen.

“Revamping our designs and adding a whole new section just for design editors really helped us,” Annya said.

“Our designs were way better than the year before.”

The renovated print issue had improved graphics, pictures and more relevant and important stories according to Katia.

“Allison and Mohini got better graphics and pictures, along with bigger stories to go with each,” Katia said.

“Mohini also redesigned the snippets (small design elements), folios (the small line of text across the top of the page) and bylines (a line naming the writer of the article), as well as adding more color throughout the issue.”

Annya also attributed the nomination to the quality of the stories being produced.

“We had much bigger stories about things that were happening,” Annya said.

“We had the Vegas shooting story and the sexual harassment story with the whole #MeToo movement, and we were able to relate that back to Country Day. We were able to tie a lot more current events back to Country Day.”

In addition to more impactful stories, Hansen also attributed their success last year to the size of the Octagon.

“The size of the Octagon really helped last year,” Hansen said.

“We had five editors-in-chief, such amazing page editors and one of the largest Octagon staffs.”

Hansen said having that large staff helped a lot with organization.

“Whenever conflicts arose, having more sets of eyes on a page or a story was really helpful,” she said.

Another thing that she said contributed to their success was organization.

“I really like being organized,” Hansen said.

“The Dahmanis were really good at dealing with things in the moment, whereas I would take my time and plan it out. This really helped us during paste-up.”

Although the Octagon was nominated for the Gold Crown award, it was not nominated for a Pacemaker award, which is given by the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) for “coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics.”

“We had basically a perfect score for the CSPA All American (an award given to publications that earn more than three marks of distinction), and yet we don’t get nominated for a Pacemaker,” Annya said.

“I just think that there’s something they’re doing wrong when they’re looking at our papers.

“It’s really disappointing because what we do is probably one of the best in the nation, but then again, NSPA has something against us.”

However, both Dahmanis agreed that they would rather be nominated for the CSPA award.

“I believe that the CSPA is more prestigious, and we have never won a Gold Crown before,” Annya said.

Katia agreed.

“Hopefully we can pull out the Gold Crown this year,” she said. “That would be a great accomplishment.

“It could show all the work that Annya, Sonja and I put in as editors.”

By Arjin Claire

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