The Pacemaker NSPA 12a


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An overview of NSPA’s signature award, The Pacemaker, with examples from the 2010-11 finalists and winners, presented at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle, April 14, 2012.

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The Pacemaker NSPA 12a

  1. 1. THE PACEMAKER Recognizing excellence in student media since 1927. JEA/NSPA Seattle Convention • April 14, 2012 NATIONAL SCHOLASTIC PRESS ASSOCIATION Logan Aimone, Executive Director This presentation is available at and permission is given for educational use.Wednesday, April 18, 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, April 18, 12
  3. 3. KEEP IN MIND… The images seen in this presentation are Newspaper Pacemaker Finalists from the 2010-11 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, April 18, 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 2010-11 NSPA Pacemakers included working professionals, veteran advisers, and a team from the Alaska Quarterly Review.Wednesday, April 18, 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, April 18, 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, April 18, 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, April 18, 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, April 18, 12
  9. 9. CONTENT & COVERAGE The front page presents the reader with a blend of hard and softer news. It is focused primarily on campus news with one story about the community. The High Tide knows, the stories have to be local, local, local. High Tide Redondo Union HS Redondo Beach, Calif.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  10. 10. CONTENT & COVERAGE When a story with national impact also has a local facet, it deserves Page One attention. Again, the emphasis here is local. Update H.H. Dow HS Midland, Mich.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  11. 11. CONTENT & COVERAGE Another page from the same paper demonstrates good feature coverage — relevant, close to home and interesting. This one presents student and faculty opinions on the qualities of a good teacher. Update H.H. Dow HS Midland, Mich.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  12. 12. CONTENT & COVERAGE Three excellent coverage components are presented here: A hard news story about Advanced Placement tests, a local analysis of a national trend and a local connection to an international story. El Estoque Monta Vista HS Cupertino, Calif.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  13. 13. CONTENT & COVERAGE Rather than simply reporting a bunch of national statistics in a generic and unusable way, the HiLite looks in the mirror and poses the question to its audience to advance the story and bring a local perspective. Asking whether your school matches a national trend is a great localizer. HiLite Carmel HS Carmel, Ind.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  14. 14. CONTENT & COVERAGE The important question answered here is “how.” It’s not news that the budget is being cut, or maybe even the amount being cut. Telling readers how the cuts will affect the campus? That’s useful and relevant. Stampede Burges HS El Paso, TexasWednesday, April 18, 12
  15. 15. CONTENT & COVERAGE Taking aim at a popular game involving drinking alcohol, the CSPress showcases the real dangers behind the common (and likely accepted) activity. Agenda-setting is an important function of the student press. CSPress Cactus Shadows HS Cave Creek, Ariz.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  16. 16. Fentonian Fenton HS Fenton, Mich. CONTENT & COVERAGE Story, images and student quotes combine to cover the start-of-school activities.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  17. 17. Lair Shawnee Mission Northwest HS Shawnee, Kan. CONTENT & COVERAGE Depth coverage about relationships and religion also has a place in the yearbook.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  18. 18. Teresian St. Teresa’s Academy Kansas City, Mo. CONTENT & COVERAGE Cheating? At a private school? This book portrays the year truthfully and as it really happened.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  19. 19. 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:, April 18, 12
  20. 20. PRESENTATION: LAYOUT & DESIGN • The publication should have a clean and contemporary look. • Visual hierarchy is established.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  21. 21. PRESENTATION The Spartana’s traditional layout is able to deliver the reader an overview of important news items in a clear and organized way. Note the multiple points of entry and the logos that are common. Small bits of text are approachable. The Spartana Homestead HS Fort Wayne, Ind.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  22. 22. PRESENTATION In contrast, The Marshfield Times presents a contemporary look with an attention-grabbing image, bold headlines and a skinny rail on the right. Note also the discipline to color palette. The Marshfield Times Marshfield HS Coos Bay, Ore.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  23. 23. Harbinger Shawnee Mission East HS Prairie Village, Kan. PRESENTATION This inside spread breaks down a visual story into visual components. Star ratings aid the reader.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  24. 24. Laconian Salem HS Salem, Va. PRESENTATION Event coverage is grouped in modules. Type is contemporary, as are tight crops.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  25. 25. 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, April 18, 12
  26. 26. PHOTOGRAPHY, ART & GRAPHICS • Visuals enhance the verbal content and draw in the reader. • Quality of photos and art is technically excellent.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  27. 27. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS The graphic does more to convey the information to readers than most of the text. The asbestos problem is clear, and readers need to understand why school was canceled. This graphic communicates the message almost instantly. Echo Saint Louis Park HS Saint Louis Park, Minn.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  28. 28. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS A strong student illustrator is an asset. This illo is so clear, the text is almost redundant. Any staff with a good illustrator should give that student free rein. Any staff without a good illustrator should go find one. The Eagle Angle Allen HS Allen, TexasWednesday, April 18, 12
  29. 29. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS The illustration here is necessary because using a file photo of students dancing might be cliché (or unavailable). An illustration allows the focus to be on the concept, not the people in the photo. Verde Palo Alto HS Palo Alto, Calif.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  30. 30. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS The staff of H cleverly used the app icons to indicate stories within the pages of that issue. Very clever and captures the moment quite well. H Horizon HS Scottsdale, Ariz.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  31. 31. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS Another strong illustration conveys the concept of bullying. Note how the editorial text doesn’t intrude on the art or illustrative text. The color palette for the teaser boxes supports the water colors in the art. The Shield McCallum HS Austin, TexasWednesday, April 18, 12
  32. 32. PHOTO, ART & GRAPHICS An iconic image is given a new twist here. Even the use of “search for a happier meal” in the headline supports the concept. The teaser box and index don’t compete for attention, either. Fourcast The Hockaday School Dallas, TexasWednesday, April 18, 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, April 18, 12
  34. 34. Aerie Brentwood School Los Angeles, Calif. PHOTOGRAPHY, ART & GRAPHICS Photo from unusual angle + graphic effects = a very dynamic spread.Wednesday, April 18, 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, April 18, 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, April 18, 12
  37. 37. REPORTING: TYPE & DEPTH • Major stories should show evidence of multiple sources. • Series or in-depth pieces should be prominent.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  38. 38. REPORTING A couple routine school news items are sidebars to the main package on athletes drinking alcohol before practice. Only so many items can be on Page One, and they are balanced well here. Blue & Gold Findlay HS Findlay, OhioWednesday, April 18, 12
  39. 39. REPORTING At Davis HS, students with medical marijuana permits can’t have the drug on campus. The Hub staff puts the dilemma squarely before the readers in a story that earned very high praise from Pacemaker judges. The Hub Davis HS Davis, Calif.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  40. 40. REPORTING The Campanile staff not only explains the budget excess and how it might be dealt with. Rather than one comprehensive story, smaller pieces each play a role in the overall coverage. The Campanile Palo Alto HS Palo Alto, Calif.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  41. 41. REPORTING The most common story in 2010-11 was on cyberbullying, a topic which had the nation’s attention. The better coverage went beyond simply laying out a definition and rehashing national media reports to instead supply a local connection and the impact on that campus’ students. The Trojan Bluestreak Andover HS Andover, Kan.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  42. 42. ReMarker St. Mark’s School of Texas Dallas, Texas REPORTING The controversy around ADD medication is explained here.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  43. 43. EDITORIAL LEADERSHIP • Opinion pages should be alive with a variety of content: staff editorials, cartoons, letters and personal columns. • Content should be consequential.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  44. 44. 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. The Standard The American School in London London, EnglandWednesday, April 18, 12
  45. 45. 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. The Southerner Henry W. Grady HS Atlanta, Ga.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  46. 46. 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, April 18, 12
  47. 47. 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, April 18, 12
  48. 48. CONCEPT / THEME • Concept unifies coverage and content. • Theme is relevant to current year or issue and provides structure for storytelling.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  49. 49. CONCEPT/THEME Snapshots Titanian San Marino HS San Marino, Calif.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  50. 50. Titanian San Marino HS San Marino, Calif. CONCEPT/THEME Visual continuity is extended inside. White borders give the “snapshot” feel.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  51. 51. CONCEPT/THEME Where amazing happens Details Whitney HS Rocklin, Calif.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  52. 52. 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, April 18, 12
  53. 53. 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, April 18, 12
  54. 54. 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, April 18, 12
  55. 55. 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, April 18, 12
  56. 56. 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, April 18, 12
  57. 57. WHAT’S NEXT? The 2011 Pacemaker winners will be announced Saturday afternoon. Enter your student media in the 2012 contests. Watch your email and our website for deadlines and entry forms.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  58. 58. QUESTIONS? Thanks! E-mail: Online:, April 18, 12