Current and former editors of The Spoke received more awards than any other high school newspaper in the nation at the Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association’s annual journalism convention in Washington, D.C.
The convention, which was held from Nov. 12-15, hosted more than 6,500 student journalists, making it one of the most heavily attended in recent history.
As a staff, The Spoke earned its first ever Pacemaker award — the highest commendation presented to a student publication by the NSPA. The award is for The Spoke’s work during the 2008-09 academic year.
Senior Seth Zweifler, current editor-in-chief, and Henry Rome, a freshman at Princeton University and former editor-in-chief, were both honored with the 2009 Courage in Student Journalism award — a level of recognition that is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious honors an individual high school reporter can receive. The award comes at the conclusion of a revision to the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District’s policy for student publications — one that Zweifler and Rome were active with during a five-month period.
“I think this award shows that students can fight back and don’t have to accept proposals that would censor their award-winning publication,” Rome said. “While the climate facing high school journalism nationwide is not always a positive one, we hope that our circumstances prove that students can produce real change.”
In addition, Zweifler and Rome were both finalists in four separate categories for the 2009 NSPA Story of the Year, the highest combined total for any pair of individuals in this year’s competition. Rome, who was a finalist in the news category (“Obligation to report,” June 2009) and the multimedia category (“On the streets”), went on to finish in first place in both categories. Rome also received the 2009 Brasler Prize, which named “Obligation to report” the best overall story in the nation.
This is the first time that any editor or staff member of The Spoke has received this level of recognition.
Zweifler, who was a finalist in the feature category (“Carrying hope,” March 2009) and diversity category (“Coming out in the classroom,” December 2008), went on to finish in first place in the feature category. He also received an honorable mention in the diversity category.
“I think we’re all a bit dumbfounded,” Zweifler said after the convention. “To be recognized for our efforts in such a large way before thousands and thousands of student journalists — that’s an incredible feeling.”
The 2009 NSPA Story of the Year competition includes six categories and sees an average of 3,000 individual entries per year.
“It’s like winning the World Series and having the Cy Young award winner and Major League Baseball batting champion on your team — and everybody is an All-Star player,” co-adviser Cyndi Hyatt said.
At the convention, co-adviser Susan Houseman was recognized as a 2009 Special Recognition journalism educator by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund.
“When I began advising [The Spoke] eight years ago, I never anticipated such a supreme recognition for both the paper as a whole and the individual writers, photographers and graphics artists,” Houseman said. “The students’ tenacity, coupled with their respect for the First Amendment freedoms, led them to this point, to this very special and deserved honor.”
The Spoke also placed third in the NSPA’s on-site Best of Show competition.
Capping off the impressive list of awards, Rome received an honorable mention in the 2009 NSPA Photo of the Year competition (news category). Junior Gabriela Epstein placed third in the 2009 NSPA Cartoon of the Year competition.