The NSPA Pacemaker Fall 2012


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An overview of NSPA’s signature award, The Pacemaker, with examples from the 2011-12 finalists and winners, presented at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio, Nov. 17, 2012.

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The NSPA Pacemaker Fall 2012

  1. 1. THE PACEMAKER Recognizing excellence in student media since 1927. JEA/NSPA San Antonio Convention • Nov. 17, 2012 NATIONAL SCHOLASTIC PRESS ASSOCIATION Logan Aimone, Executive Director This presentation is available at and permission is given for educational use.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION The Pacemaker is the highest honor in scholastic journalism. For decades, it has recognized trend-setters and go-getters, effort and enterprise, achievement and talent. Today, the Pacemaker continues to recognize the best student journalism in the nation.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  3. 3. KEEP IN MIND… The images seen in this presentation are Newspaper Pacemaker Finalists from the 2011-12 academic year plus 2011 yearbooks and magazines. Newspaper winners will be announced at Saturday’s awards ceremony. Inclusion of a publication in this presentation does not indicate status as a winner. Do not read anything into whether an example was included here.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  4. 4. WHO’S JUDGING? Pacemaker judges are professionals working in media as well as a range of experts familiar with student media. Judges for the 2011-12 NSPA Pacemakers included working professionals, veteran advisers, and teams from the Alaska Quarterly Review and The Sacramento BeeWednesday, November 14, 12
  5. 5. WHO’S JUDGING? Judging is by team. We ask the media organization to compile a group with representation from various departments (writer, editor, designer, photographer, etc.). Entries are judged holistically. There is not a rubric with points attached to certain criteria. Judging is by nature somewhat subjective based on established standards of scholastic journalism.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  6. 6. HOW DO THEY JUDGE? • The number of Pacemaker finalists and winners is proportional to the number of entries. • The number is not fixed each year, but about half of the finalists will be named winners. • This is a contest, not a critique. • NSPA asks judges to provide general feedback on the finalists. Some teams are more thorough. Comments will be shared on our website as part of the winners gallery and in our book, Best of the High School Press.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  7. 7. WHAT DO THEY JUDGE? • Content • Quality of writing and editing • Presentation: Layout and design • Photography, art and graphics • Reporting: Type and depth (newspaper) • Editorial Leadership (newspaper) • Overall concept or theme (yearbook, magazine)Wednesday, November 14, 12
  8. 8. CONTENT & COVERAGE • The publication should accurately reflect all aspects of student life, from academics to sports, arts to community news. • Newspapers should localize national or regional stories for their own campus communities. Wire or reprinted copy is discouraged.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  9. 9. CONTENT & COVERAGE Localize! Top stories here are presented to show the impact on the campus and its students. Additionally, display text is used to convey information and entice the reader to enter the lead. The Oarsman Venice HS Los AngelesWednesday, November 14, 12
  10. 10. CONTENT & COVERAGE A variety of trend stories and school news pieces connect readers with the world beyond the campus. Quick reads highlight news in brief. The Broadview Convent of the Sacred Heart HS San FranciscoWednesday, November 14, 12
  11. 11. CONTENT & COVERAGE A full-page story is a big risk, but this topic has impact. It tells the story of a former student now incarcerated. Among the fundamental purposes of the newspaper is to educate the reader. Evanstonian Evanston Township HS Evanston, Ill.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  12. 12. CONTENT & COVERAGE A newsmagazine has the opportunity to dedicate multiple pages to one topic — in this case $1.2 million in wasted school funds. The Muse Dreyfoos School of the Arts West Palm Beach, Fla.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  13. 13. CONTENT & COVERAGE Cover the stories in a way that matters to your readers. In this case, the impact of a SAT rule change is explained. The students at this Jewish school take the SAT on Sunday rather than the traditional Saturday. The Boiling Point Shalhevet HS Los AngelesWednesday, November 14, 12
  14. 14. Fentonian Fenton HS Fenton, Mich. CONTENT & COVERAGE Story, images and student quotes combine to cover the start-of-school activities.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  15. 15. Lair Shawnee Mission Northwest HS Shawnee, Kan. CONTENT & COVERAGE Depth coverage about relationships and religion also has a place in the yearbook.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  16. 16. Teresian St. Teresa’s Academy Kansas City CONTENT & COVERAGE Cheating? At a private school? This book portrays the year truthfully and as it really happened.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  17. 17. WRITING & REPORTING • Writing should be crisp. Reporting must be thorough. • Copy should be clean and edited for consistent style. • Look at NSPA Story of the Year winners for examples of excellence:, November 14, 12
  18. 18. PRESENTATION: LAYOUT & DESIGN • The publication should have a clean and contemporary look. • Visual hierarchy is established.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  19. 19. PRESENTATION A textbook example of modular layout with multiple entry points for the reader. The page demonstrates a clear hierarchy — emphasized by the flag along the rail. Color discipline is also evident here. The Lowell Lowell HS San FranciscoWednesday, November 14, 12
  20. 20. PRESENTATION Another strong textbook example of modular layout. This one adheres to a grid but breaks the rules in a couple of places. Initial letters to begin the stories help guide the reader’s eye to the leads. The Rock Rock Bridge HS Columbia, Mo.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  21. 21. PRESENTATION A strong illustrative visual is used effectively to convey the story about rising gas prices. The page offers multiple points of entry for the reader. tjTODAY Thomas Jefferson HS Alexandria, Va.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  22. 22. PRESENTATION With a nod to traditional design, this page looks toward a new direction and blazes a trail. This paper manages to simultaneously balance both traditional and contemporary looks — successfully. The Marshfield Times Marshfield HS Coos Bay, Ore.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  23. 23. PRESENTATION White space has impact. The boxed story and bold, simple headline set the appropriate tone for a story on bullying. The Little Hawk Iowa City HS Iowa City, IowaWednesday, November 14, 12
  24. 24. Agromeck North Carolina State University Raleigh, N.C. PRESENTATION This spread about state fair food could be in any type of print media. And, it serves the reader.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  25. 25. Laconian Salem HS Salem, Va. PRESENTATION Event coverage is grouped in modules. Type is contemporary, as are tight crops.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  26. 26. Stampede J.W. Mitchell HS New Port Richey, Fla. LAYOUT & DESIGN Traditional layout still works, and here it’s tweaked just enough to make it contemporary and fresh.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  27. 27. PHOTOGRAPHY, ART & GRAPHICS • Visuals enhance the verbal content and draw in the reader. • Quality of photos and art is technically excellent.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  28. 28. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS A large, tightly cropped dominant photo above the fold has impact on the page and conveys the emotion of the story it accompanies. Other images on the page support the storytelling. Granite Bay Gazette Granite Bay HS Granite Bay, Calif.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  29. 29. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS A clever use of Photoshop can take a challenging story and communicate the idea simply and with few, if any, words. The Communicator Community HS Ann Arbor, Mich.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  30. 30. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS Reversed text and simple graphic tell the story well in this cover illustration. Text is handled subtly and is placed to the edges to allow the image room for impact. El Estoque Monta Vista HS Cupertino, Calif.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  31. 31. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS A powerful image, technically excellent and cropped well should be the goal of every media staff. Dominant and secondary images work together to coordinate storytelling. Note the overall appearance that evokes a website. The Southerner Grady HS AtlantaWednesday, November 14, 12
  32. 32. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS Clever cover illustrations are essential in newsmagazine design as they must convey a large topic and not a single news event. The “DIY” testing concept is illustrated with a hand-folded piece of origami from a Scantron sheet, the quintessential symbol of standardized testing. HiLine Carmel HS Carmel, Ind.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  33. 33. Teleios Mount Paran Christian School Kennesaw, Ga. PHOTOGRAPHY, ART & GRAPHICS Text bubbles (repeated throughout), vertical text, halftone screens. It’s all very trendy.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  34. 34. Aerie Brentwood School Los Angeles, Calif. PHOTOGRAPHY, ART & GRAPHICS Photo from unusual angle + graphic effects = a very dynamic spread.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  35. 35. Marksmen St. Mark’s School of Texas Dallas, Texas PHOTOGRAPHY, ART & GRAPHICS The whole book is clean and understated. This environmental portrait sets a tone, too.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  36. 36. Legend Boone HS Orlando, Fla. PHOTOGRAPHY, ART & GRAPHICS Traditional layout gets kicked up a notch with a retro-cool two-tone screen in the upper left.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  37. 37. REPORTING: TYPE & DEPTH • Major stories should show evidence of multiple sources. • Series or in-depth pieces should be prominent.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  38. 38. REPORTING Enterprising news dominates Page One with stories about college tuition, student government budget and educational facilities. The Hub Davis HS Davis, Calif.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  39. 39. REPORTING Page One features stories that affect readers: the rise of bus fare and credit recovery options for students. A rail of quick-read stories helps get more news on the page. The Stagg Line A.A. Stagg HS Stockton, Calif.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  40. 40. REPORTING Exposing students to ideas and stories outside their high school world is a role of the student press. The Urban Legend brings the schools mission into focus with this story about connecting students with global educational experiences. The Urban Legend The Urban School of San Francisco San FranciscoWednesday, November 14, 12
  41. 41. REPORTING Tackling an issue that is commonly known but rarely reported, the Highlights staff prominently puts plagiarism front and center. Highlights Beverly Hills HS Beverly Hills, Calif.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  42. 42. EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP • Opinion pages should be alive with a variety of content: staff editorials, cartoons, letters and personal columns. • Content should be consequential.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  43. 43. EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP In addition to the strong coverage of the issue of parenting, what stands out here is the teaser for the staff editorial — the thesis is presented on Page One with the full story teased inside. That’s innovative and gives prominence to the staff ’s view. 2011 WINNER The Standard The American School in London London, EnglandWednesday, November 14, 12
  44. 44. EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP A pro-con piece is presented well. In this case, the topic is relevant and has two distinct viewpoints. Consider adding a section where each student writer offers rebuttal to the other’s argument. 2011 WINNER The Southerner Henry W. Grady HS Atlanta, Ga.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  45. 45. 2010 WINNER The Falconer Torrey Pines HS San Diego, Calif. EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP A variety of art (cartoons and illustrations) as well as mugs break up these pages of text.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  46. 46. 2010 WINNER The Stagg Line A.A. Stagg HS Stockton, Calif. EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP A praise editorial is a nice change of pace. Many student voices are evident.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  47. 47. CONCEPT / THEME • Concept unifies coverage and content. • Theme is relevant to current year or issue and provides structure for storytelling.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  48. 48. CONCEPT/THEME Snapshots Titanian San Marino HS San Marino, Calif.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  49. 49. Titanian San Marino HS San Marino, Calif. CONCEPT/THEME Visual continuity is extended inside. White borders give the “snapshot” feel.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  50. 50. CONCEPT/THEME Where amazing happens Details Whitney HS Rocklin, Calif.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  51. 51. Details Whitney HS Rocklin, Calif. CONCEPT/THEME Type and color is on trend. A “5W’s” idea of “what” and “who” extends the theme.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  52. 52. SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER • Does your publication provide a sense of place? • When reading the publication, does the reader learn about the campus, the culture, the students and faculty? • Or, does the coverage feel generic?Wednesday, November 14, 12
  53. 53. SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER • Does the work feel contemporary? • The publication ought to look like it was produced this year. • Don’t start over each year, but the type and graphics need to evolve. • Look to trend-setting magazines, advertisements and other current printed materials for inspiration.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  54. 54. SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER • Do the stories matter? • Place the stories in context for the reader. • Set the agenda through investigations and enterprise pieces. • Localize regional, national and international stories. Focus on the campus.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  55. 55. SOME WAYS TO IMPROVE • Work on the content. Dig around your campus and community for real stories. Don’t overplay or sensationalize. Cover all aspects and all groups. • Pay attention to photography and graphics. These two areas help your publication stand out from others. Think of the best way to tell a story for readers to read and understand.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  56. 56. SOME WAYS TO IMPROVE • Details make the difference. Typography, white space, style — these are what set Pacemakers apart. • Have a strong editorial voice. Make the editorial pages a lively forum on substantive topics.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  57. 57. SOME WAYS TO IMPROVE • Make every story polished. Write tight. Readers will read long if it’s good. Put columnists on a word count diet. • Take your own photos or use common works. Find images to use under a Creative Commons license or similar permission to use. Attribute correctly. WikiCommons and Flickr both have free images.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  58. 58. SOME WAYS TO IMPROVE • Consider the alternatives. Look to alternate story forms in addition to the traditional story or copy block. Not only will your content attract more readers, the stories that need traditional treatment will stand out, too. • Don’t just copy the leaders. They aren’t copying you. They’re finding a new and innovative ways to present information. They’re setting the pace.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  59. 59. WHAT’S NEXT? The 2012 Pacemaker winners will be announced Saturday afternoon. Enter your student media in the 2012-13 contests. Watch your email and our website for deadlines and entry forms.Wednesday, November 14, 12
  60. 60. QUESTIONS? Thanks! E-mail: Online:, November 14, 12