Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spoke among top papers in country; Editors accept "Courage" awards; "Obligation to Report" best article in nation; "Carrying hope" best feature story

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.”

The award is co-sponsored by the Student Press Law Center, the National Scholastic Press Association and Kent State University.

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.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spoke heads to Washington

WASHINGTON — About a dozen Spoke staffers arrived here today for the annual Journalism Education Association/National Scholastic Press Association's fall conference. Editors will have the opportunity to take seminars from award-winning journalists in areas from writing to design to photography. Also, current and former staffers will accept, and are finalists in, national awards that will be presented on Saturday night.

COURAGE IN STUDENT JOURNALISM AWARD. Friends of The Spoke founders Henry Rome and Seth Zweifler will accept the Student Press Law Center’s “Courage in Student Journalism” award for their work in defending student press rights at Conestoga. Click here for the press release.

Click the "Awards" tab to read about the finalists:
  • FINALIST, NATIONAL DIVERSITY STORY OF THE YEAR. "Coming out in the classroom." December 2008 - The Spoke takes an inside look at the lives of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) high school students--at their struggles, their hopes and their courage--and at how sexual orientation influences our school as a whole. By Seth Zweifler.
  • FINALIST, NATIONAL FEATURE STORY OF THE YEAR. "Carrying Hope." March 2009 - The Spoke takes an inside look at the life of one 17-year-old mother, and explores how the issue of teen pregnancy plays a role within the Conestoga community. By Seth Zweifler.
  • FINALIST, NATIONAL NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR. "Obligation to Report." June 2009 - When an elementary school custodian was arrested in connection with two local bank robberies, The Spoke began examining court documents, police records and district employment logs, piecing together a picture of a system that state and local officials say need changing. By Henry Rome.
  • FINALIST, NATIONAL MULTIMEDIA STORY OF THE YEAR. "On the streets." Multimedia category - June 2009 - A behind-the-scenes look at a Saturday morning patrol with Tredyffrin police, from vehicle stops to a retail theft in progress, along with exclusive photos and video. By Henry Rome.
  • FINALIST, NATIONAL NEWS PHOTO OF THE YEAR. "Phillies World Series Victory Parade." By Henry Rome.
We'll update this site on Saturday with the results.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Welcome to the new home of Friends of The Spoke

The organization dedicated to defending the rights of student journalists at The Spoke, and nationwide, now has a new home. Welcome to the new Web site of Friends of The Spoke.

The site was re-designed to recognize our new role — after the district changed its proposal that would have led to censorship of The Spoke (click "History" for more), the organization is now focused on defending The Spoke by keeping the community informed of the latest news at the paper, and making our resources available to student journalists nationwide who are facing censorship.

Among the changes:
  • A new design that makes it easy to find exactly what you're looking for.
  • Read more about "who we are" and our goals.
  • Read details about the organization's history and read old news stories about the campaign.
  • Spoke alumni can now be more connected than ever to what's going on back at their old paper with "latest news."
  • An expanded special reports section details other special coverage and photo galleries.
  • An updated awards section.
  • Fan us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  • And, our biggest change: students whose newspaper is facing censorship can easily get to dedicated pages filled with resources about our campaign.
The new Web site is a work in progress, and we hope to roll out new features in the coming months. If you have any comments, concerns or ideas, please e-mail us.

Henry Rome
Editor in Chief 2008-09 News Director 2008-09
Webmaster, Friends of The Spoke