The NSPA Pacemaker Spring 2010


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An overview of NSPA’s signature award, The Pacemaker, with examples from the 2009-10 finalists and winners, presented at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Portland, Ore., April 2010.

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The NSPA Pacemaker Spring 2010

  1. 1. The Pacemaker Recognizing excellence in student media since 1927
  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 work in the nation.
  3. 3. Keep in mind… The images seen in this presentation are Pacemaker Finalists from the 2008-09 academic year. 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.
  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 2009 NSPA Newspaper Pacemakers included working or retired professionals from Seattle- area newspapers. • Judges for the 2010 NSPA Magazine Pacemakers were staff members from the Alaska Quarterly Review.
  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.
  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 Web site as part of the winners gallery.
  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)
  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 community. Wire or reprinted copy is discouraged.
  9. 9. Wings Arrowhead Christian Academy Redlands, Calif. Content and Coverage Tell the story of the year — even the seemingly routine or mundane. Note how the secondary elements provide smaller stories, even through photos.
  10. 10. Sentry Robinson Middle School Fairfax, Va. Content and Coverage From the opening spread, a tone is set that all aspects of the school will be covered. The copy tells the story of class activities.
  11. 11. The Clan McLean High School McLean, Va. Content and Coverage A divider page is a good place to put those topics or other bits of information that don’t fit in a traditional section but are still important to telling the story of the year.
  12. 12. Content and Coverage The national story about the economy and financial crisis is localized with a specific story about the school and its community of students and families. The Roundup Brophy College Preparatory Academy Tucson, Ariz.
  13. 13. Content and Coverage A centerpiece package on the experiences of an alumnus when the school was first integrated anchors the page. Hard news items on curriculum and state funding round out the offerings. Silver Chips Montgomery Blair High School Silver Spring, Md.
  14. 14. Content and Coverage Relevant and timely stories on Page One include election night results, school budget cuts and “dirty” dancing behaviors. Teasers complete the package. tjToday Thomas Jefferson HS for Science & Technology Alexandria, Va.
  15. 15. Content and Coverage An timely topic affecting all students — the dress code — is placed on the cover prominently and handled inside with depth coverage. The Blazer Timberline High School Lacey, Wash.
  16. 16. Quality of writing & reporting • Writing should be crisp. Reporting must be thorough. • Copy should be clean and edited for consistent style.
  17. 17. Presentation: Layout and design • The publication should have a clean and contemporary look. • Visual hierarchy is established.
  18. 18. Log Columbus North High School Columbus, Ind. Presentation: Layout and Design This classic design takes the rules and improvises: Strong dominant photo facing the gutter, headline that leads the eye, secondary elements, multiple points of entry.
  19. 19. Ash-A-Wut Gabrielino High School San Gabriel, Calif. Presentation: Layout and Design Note the strong grid used to structure the page. White space is also used exceptionally well, and the large knockout photo on the left page draws the reader’s eye and leads to the secondary elements on the page.
  20. 20. Cayuse Walnut High School Walnut, Calif. Presentation: Layout and Design A perennial spread on fashion doesn’t have to look cliché. Even the photos look natural, and the page evokes the contemporary fashion with contemporary design.
  21. 21. Presentation: Layout and Design This page demonstrates strong use of modular layout with an attention to reader entry points through sidebars and the left rail as teasers. The Nexus Westview High School San Diego, Calif.
  22. 22. Presentation: Layout and Design A strong, visual centerpiece package dominates the page. Newsier items complete the secondary placements. Good use of sidebar elements to complement the main coverage. Use of color is constrained. The Prowl Coral Glades High School Coral Springs, Fla.
  23. 23. Presentation: Layout and Design Wow. Clean and simple design that is executed perfectly makes this a supremely attractive page. It also succeeds in not being boring. Spartana Homestead High School Fort Wayne, Ind.
  24. 24. Presentation: Layout and Design Multiple entry points invite the reader. Clever illustrative solution avoids a posed photo. Mug shots break up text. The Connection John B. Connally High School Austin, Texas
  25. 25. Presentation: Layout and Design Classic example of modular layout with a centerpiece package (softer news) bracketed by harder news stories. El Estoque Monta Vista High School Cupertino, Calif.
  26. 26. Presentation: Layout and Design A model example of modular layout — descending headlines and centerpiece design with strong organization and reader- service elements. High Tide Redondo Union High School Redondo Beach, Calif.
  27. 27. Photography, art and graphics • Visuals enhance the verbal content and draw in the reader. • Quality of photos and art is technically excellent.
  28. 28. Odyssey Chantilly High School Chantilly, Va. Photography, Art and Graphics Strong, storytelling photos are absolutely essential in any yearbook, and this is one area where Pacemaker finalists and winners usually separate from the pack.
  29. 29. Indian Shawnee Mission North HS Overland Park, Kan. Photography, Art and Graphics Do not be afraid of using a HUGE candid as a portrait. Here, it works. Make sure you have an exceptional photo because every flaw will be amplified at that size.
  30. 30. Hawk Pleasant Grove High School Texarkana, Texas Photography, Art and Graphics This is an effect that should not be used on every image but which adds a lot of impact (and might make a marginal image better). Note the restraint — it’s not overdone.
  31. 31. Photography, Art and Graphics A creative photoillustration emphasizes one aspect and instantly conveys the story topic to readers. Strong typography helps clarify the message. Spark Lakota East High School Liberty Township, Ohio
  32. 32. Photography, Art and Graphics It’s OK to push the envelope. This story is about local kidnappings involving current and former students. The Squall Dexter High School Dexter, Mich.
  33. 33. Photography, art and graphics Wonderful and dynamic artwork can really lure in the reader. The Harbinger Shawnee Mission East High School Prairie Village, Kan.
  34. 34. Reporting: Type and depth • Major stories should show evidence of multiple sources. • Series or in-depth pieces should be prominent.
  35. 35. Titanium Antelope High School Antelope, Calif. Reporting: Type and Depth One important role of a yearbook is to document the year and to acknowledge milestones and special events. This is a spread about the school’s first-ever opening day — from Vol. 1 of the yearbook.
  36. 36. Reporting: Type and Depth Placing a story about Atheism on Page One take guts. It better be well done and thought-provoking, not sensational or biased. This one resulted in a campus dialog and response from school officials in subsequent editions. ReMarker St. Mark’s School of Texas Dallas, Texas
  37. 37. Reporting: Type and Depth Students reported on the school district’s hiring practices regarding criminal background checks. The article resulted in changed policies. This story is a finalist in NSPA’s News Story of the Year contest. Its main author is the 2009 National High School Journalist of the Year. The Spoke Conestoga High School Berwyn, Pa.
  38. 38. Reporting: Type and Depth Helping the audience discover a previously unknown problem — in this case the chaotic world of foster care — is a fundamental role of the press. The Surveyor George Washington High School Denver, Colo.
  39. 39. Reporting: Type and Depth The front page of this newspaper is dedicated to a timely topic that is presented without sensationalism and from multiple angles. The Bulletin El Toro High School Lake Forest, Calif.
  40. 40. Editorial leadership • Opinion pages should be alive with a variety of content: staff editorials, cartoons, letters and personal columns. • Content should be consequential.
  41. 41. Editorial Leadership Opinion pages can be vivid and lively, too. Display headlines, a crisp cartoon and illustrative art accompany the columns and staff editorial. The content can and should be treated visually like other pages. (2008 example) The Peninsula Outlook Peninsula High School Gig Harbor, Wash.
  42. 42. Editorial Leadership A nice blend of staff and student voices is this page’s hallmark. Staff editorial is on a timely topic (asbestos), and speak-outs, letters and columns complete the page. The First Amendment on the ear is a nice touch. (2008 example) Munsonian Muncie Central High School Muncie, Ind.
  43. 43. Overall concept or theme • Concept unifies coverage and content. • Theme is relevant to current year or issue and provides structure for storytelling.
  44. 44. 2009 Highlights • Several trends for the 2009 Pacemakers can be identified. • They experiment with quick-read and alternate story forms to convey a message. • They tackle sophisticated and timely topics. • Breaking news is included regularly, including news about the community.
  45. 45. Decahmian Del Campo High School Fair Oaks, Calif. Typography The use of a type “cloud” or using type to create an image can be useful to provide information and illustration at the same time.
  46. 46. The Edge Glacier Peak High School Snohomish, Wash. Reader Service Items Captions are presented along the right rail with small icons corresponding to the the position of each photo.
  47. 47. Lair Shawnee Mission Northwest HS Shawnee, Kan. Design trend: Diagonal line pattern Diagonal lines used as a fill or pattern to form a larger shape are super hot in 2009 and 2010. Expect to see even more of this in 2010 books and 2011 as the trend catches on and is copied.
  48. 48. Design trend: Diagonal line pattern Diagonal lines are all over this book, starting on the cover. Fentonian Fenton High School Fenton, Mich.
  49. 49. Details Whitney High School Rocklin, Calif. Design trend: Diagonal color bars Diagonal color bars over text are popular in 2009 and 2010. It’s even more effective with a limited palette, such as over black- and-white photos here.
  50. 50. Prowler Pioneer Middle School Tustin, Calif. Design trend: Hand-drawn art Hand-drawn art continues to be a huge trend from 2009 and into 2010.
  51. 51. Jag Mill Valley High School Shawnee, Kan. Photoillustration Clever photoillustrations help give the book a magazine feel. This photoillustration is appropriately labeled as such in the lower right corner.
  52. 52. Hard News A major story in the region was an outbreak of HIV at a nearby school, resulting in testing and community concern. The Kirkwood Call Kirkwood High School Kirkwood, Mo.
  53. 53. Tough Topic Sexting was the “hot topic” of 2008-09, and many papers covered the issue as a national trend with specific problems in their communities. The Lance Omaha Westside High School Omaha, Neb.
  54. 54. Tough Topic In-depth coverage regarding the death of a student. The Network Marian High School Omaha, Neb.
  55. 55. Hard News One hard news story would be enough for most issues in most papers, but this page has three: community rejection of the budget proposal, students caught drinking on a field trip, and the swine flu scare. The Highland Fling Northern Highlands Regional High School N.J.
  56. 56. 2009 Design of the Year • Finalists in Illustration, Infographic and Page One categories
  57. 57. Illustration Finalist: Lauren Cox Redwood Bark Redwood High School Larkspur, Calif.
  58. 58. Illustration Finalist: Noah Sneider The Viking Palo Alto High School Palo Alto, Calif.
  59. 59. Illustration Finalist: Jolene Xie The Nexus Westview High School San Diego, Calif.
  60. 60. Illustration Finalist: Mattie Nobles The Rock Rock Canyon High School Highlands Ranch, Colo.
  61. 61. Illustration Finalist: Dillon Kogle Chieftain Montrose High School Montrose, Colo.
  62. 62. Illustration Finalist: Lindsay Shores, Laura Seach, Alia Huffman, John Husak Marquee Dreyfoos School of the Arts West Palm Beach, Fla.
  63. 63. Infographic Finalist: Alice Lee El Estoque Monta Vista High School Cupertino, Calif.
  64. 64. Infographic Finalist: Erin Schrode The Voice Marin Academy San Rafael, Calif.
  65. 65. Infographic Finalist: Tara Gracer, Jeff Lerman, Victor Rudo Deerprints Deerfield High School Deerfield, Ill.
  66. 66. Infographic Finalist: Christopher Hsing Silver Chips Montgomery Blair High School Silver Spring, Md.
  67. 67. Infographic Finalist: Kevin Li, Rohan Kusre Spark Lakota East High School Liberty Township, Ohio
  68. 68. Newspaper Page One Finalist: Jamie Hausman Statesman Stevenson High School Lincolnshire, Ill.
  69. 69. Newspaper Page One Finalist: Kirsten Robinson The Express Blue Valley Northwest High School Overland Park, Kan.
  70. 70. Newspaper Page One Finalist: Cami Wade North Star Francis Howell North High School St. Charles, Mo.
  71. 71. Newspaper Page One Finalist: Rohan Kusre Spark Lakota East High School Liberty Township, Ohio
  72. 72. Newspaper Page One Finalist: Mike Barnes, Katie Arquiette The Growl Massaponax High School Fredericksburg, Va.
  73. 73. 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. • Go in-depth when the story merits. Don’t give a story a double-truck unless the story is worth that much space. Be proportional.
  74. 74. Some ways to improve • Details make the difference. Typography, white space, color palette, style — these are what set Pacemakers apart. Be disciplined. • Have a strong editorial voice. Make the editorial pages a lively forum on substantive topics. • Make every story polished. Write tight. Readers will read long if it’s good. Put columnists on a word count diet.
  75. 75. What’s next? • The 2009 Pacemaker and individual contest winners will be announced Saturday afternoon. • Enter your student media in the 2010 contests. Watch your e-mail and our Web site for deadlines and entry forms.
  76. 76. Want a copy of this show? • No, I won’t e-mail it to you. • However, you can view and download it from SlideShare at • There’s also a link from
  77. 77. Questions? • You can e-mail me at