Former Octagon editor-in-chief Sonja Hansen, ’18, and seniors Chardonnay Needler and Harrison Moon recently received commendations from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) for their work during the 2017-18 school year.
All three won gold circle awards, which recognize superior work by student journalists. The contest attracted 5,309 digital media and yearbook entries in 91 categories.
Hansen received second place and honorable mention for blogs in general or humor commentary.
Hansen said the inspiration for the second-place story, “Little sister shows supernatural inclinations,” came from her fifth-grade sister, Morgan, and her interest in spooky TV shows and books.
“She’s a big part of my life,” Hansen said.
Hansen earned honorable mention for “Senior’s a sick straw sleuth,” about a time straws mysteriously appeared in her shower.
“As soon as (the straws appeared), I knew I had to write about it,” Hansen said.
Hansen said she wrote most of the story the day it happened. “It was such a crazy thing,” she said.
Hansen recalled submitting the blogs at end of the 2017-18 school year.
“I went through deciding which of my blogs we were going to turn in, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’d be great if I win,’” she said.
Hansen said she hadn’t read other entries submitted from across the nation.
“I didn’t really know what to compare myself to,” she said. “But I knew the CPSA is notoriously hard and very competitive, so I had no expectations going into it.”
Needler earned two gold circles. The first was an honorable mention for a November 2017 news story entitled “Drop in enrollment delays budget release, frustrating elective teachers.”
Although Needler had won a gold circle for page design, she said she was surprised the elective story won. She added that it was validating to be recognized at a high level.
“I don’t (write) news that much because I’m a feature writer,” Needler said. “I did a lot of interviewing (for the story). It wasn’t the most I’ve done, but it was a big story.”
Needler and Moon earned honorable mention for a video they filmed covering the paste-up (page design) process, “What’s up with paste-up? Editors explain the monthly phenomenon.”
Needler said she was complimented for her narration.
“But (Moon) really won that award,” Needler said. “I was just the reporter who read the script.”
Moon said he was surprised the video won.
“I didn’t even know my video was (submitted),” Moon said.
Moon said he thought the video was “pretty strong” compared to others he had filmed.
“(But) when you realize it’s on a national level, I find it really surprising I got recognized for it,” he said.
—By Ethan Monasa