The Newsies for 2014 were announced December 11 by the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative, based at Baruch College. This is the only citywide journalism contest, judged by working journalists and journalism faculty at colleges and universities in New York. McCourt News won in two categories:
Best New Newspaper : First Place
Best Feature Article: Runner Up
Here’s What the Judges Said
Click on graphics for the full articles
McCourt News: Full Critique
The McCourt News was the best entry in the category “new newspaper” by far. The issues the judges reviewed included news that was extremely relevant to the school community. They also provided a great mix of fun, engaging features and clever outreach for participation by readers. Furthermore, the editors did an excellent job of combining articles with relevant photos. Text and images really complemented each other – together, they made for an extremely appealing read. The judges were also impressed with the writing style of many editors. Variety is the spice of life, and that goes for writing, too. For instance, an article is made much more lively if writers don’t stick to just quoting people they interviewed, or only paraphrase them, but alternate between the two options. A good example is the following paragraph in the article “A Day without Cursing”:
One student was Anjewel Nacel, a 12th grader who is a part of Student Government, and helped come about with the ideas of Wellness Week. When I asked her whether or not she found the day to be successful she said, “Yes, because a lot of people participated and found good in the day.” She said she personally felt good after participating in this day “because it was nice to be around people who were positive and nice all day.” Also, she didn’t find the day to be very difficult because she doesn’t curse that much regularly.
Another sign of mature writing is the skillful and thoughtful use of different sources. The McCourt News offers plenty of great examples. In the article “Storing Your Phone: What are the Options?” the authors have clearly done their homework and cite not only the experiences and opinions of students and store employees, but also mention the New York Times and relevant websites. In “Is there Ever going to be a Girls Locker Room?” both students and staff get to have their say on the matter, and there is additional investigative reporting on locker rooms at the different school at the Brandeis Campus.
Other articles in the issues the judges reviewed exhibit a similar style of thoughtful, well-researched writing. Examples that come to mind are the piece on Nelson Mandela and the in-depth interviews with candidates for the student body president.
The only thing the judges feel the editors of the McCourt News can improve on is the use of leads. In the issues we reviewed, there are few leads to speak of, which is a shame as certainly the longer articles warrant their use. For your features, try to write an opening paragraph that contains the most important talking points of your piece and clearly state why your piece will appeal to readers. Make the lead visually stand out from the rest of your article, for instance by putting it in bold or in a different color. This way, you will tempt even more people to read on!
Series on Kaplan SAT Prep Classes by Emily Ren
This package of stories delved into complaints with Kaplan SAT test prep classes, reporting out the nature of the problems and Kaplan’s promise to make refunds. The first story took on a contentious issue and put the tough questions to Kaplan, its instructors and others with persistence and guts. The entry was also fair-minded, reflecting that some students who took the prep classes said they had benefitted from them. When a Kaplan official responded to questions too late to be published with the original story, the reporter followed up with his answers in a separate piece. Good solid journalism.