National convention presents teaching, learning opportunity for staff
After spending half of the week at 88th annual Spring National Convention at Columbia University, the staff poses with their Silver Crown award, March 16. Though the staff received a Gold Crown in 2010 and 2011, they were rewarded with the Silver this year.
After working for months on writing articles, putting slideshows together, making videos and preparing for the 2012 Columbia Scholastic Press Association National Convention (CSPA), The Feather Online received a Digital News Silver Crown, March 16.
"For the last two years the color was Gold, so it is no shame to accept a Silver," adviser Greg Stobbe said. "I am amazed that a school of only 193 students can publish a paper like The Feather staff can. Feather kids are willing to outwork bigger schools to compete on a daily basis; they do not whine or complain that some staffs have over 100 kids on them. I like that commitment and passion. That is real life put into action."
The 88th annual Spring National Convention was held from March 14-16 at Columbia University. Those in attendance included student editors, staff members and faculty advisers to newspapers, yearbooks, magazines, video productions and online media from schools throughout the United States and Canada, as well as overseas schools following an American plan of education.
In 2001, Stobbe and Academic Adviser Molly Sargent took two students to the conference. Since then, Stobbe has been taking his journalism students as a group every other year.
"I love taking students to New York City every other year," Stobbe said. "For one, it builds personal confidence and independence, and two, the Columbia journalism experience is a wonderful educational learning time. The three days on the university campus with over 3,000 other students gives them the opportunity to take up to five classes a day, personalizing their sessions to match their interests."
Within each class, students are able to develop new writing skills and appreciate the techniques they already possess.
"Every time we return from New York, the staff has learned new techniques but has also gained an appreciation for what they already have and know," Stobbe said. "The Feather is a great online newspaper that they can be proud of and in turn make better."
This year, Stobbe took 23 students on the New York trip, which included journalism and yearbook students. While there, the group toured the city, including Ellis Island, Lady Liberty, the Ground Zero Memorial, the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station.
While most students attended various workshops, Multimedia Anchor Brooke Stobbe, '12, Webmaster David Casuga, '12, and Co-Editors-in-Chief Mary Hierholzer, '12, and Nick Avery, '12, were given the opportunity to teach classes.
Stobbe and Casuga gave their presentation, "Broadcast Your Voice: Learn How to Podcast," in which they shared their four years of experience in podcasting. Hierholzer and Avery presented two days in a row, sharing about the day-to-day aspects of online journalism with their classes, "Reliving the Experience With The Feather Online" and "Reporting Online."
"The convention was definitely one of the most unique experiences of my life," Avery said. "Not many people can say they've presented to a class at an Ivy League, let alone two. Overall, I believe it gave me a great understanding of where journalism is in high school and where everyone hopes it will go in the future."
"For the last two years the color was Gold, so it is no shame to accept a Silver. I am amazed that a school of only 193 students can publish a paper like The Feather ... I like that commitment and passion. That is real life put into action." --Journalism Adviser Greg Stobbe
Having gone to the convention as a sophomore, Avery knew the potential encouragement for young writers. According to Avery, several students from the FC group were inspired by the classes.
"I knew how the event has the potential to encourage young writers," Avery said. "From what I heard, a lot of students from our group were really inspired by their classes. I'm really proud of them for absorbing the knowledge presented to them and for coming back excited for student media. It's heartening to know that I'm leaving The Feather in capable hands next year."
Along with the skills that students obtain, this trip allows classmates to grow closer to each other and provides the chance for upperclassmen to pass on their knowledge to younger students.
"I love the camaraderie the trip provides the staff," Stobbe said. "They begin as a team but then they build relationships and are willing to help each other even more when we return. I see this over and over again as the seniors act as mentors to the underclassmen especially."
Although most of the group went touring around the city, Hierholzer came separately with her parents and experienced more of a business side to the trip since she and members of the staff had to find time to keep The Feather running in their absence.
"This has been the most enjoyable New York trip to date," Hierholzer said. "There wasn't a lot of time for shopping and sight-seeing for me; it was more of a business trip, in a way."
Despite a different exposure than the rest of the group, Hierholzer believes the new experience gave her fresh insights and still provided her with the chance to see her favorite Broadway productions.
In their first session, "Reporting Online," Co-Editors-in-Chief Nick Avery, left, and Mary Hierholzer, right, teach audience members about the functions of running an online newspaper, March 15. In addition to this, they taught "Reliving the Experience With The Feather Online" the following day.
"But that [business aspect] gave me the chance to experience New York in a new way, and value things in new lights," Hierholzer said. "My only real down time was for dinner and shows in the evening. It was the strongest set of shows that I have ever seen. I feel extremely blessed that I was able to see my favorite musical, play and opera."
After receiving two Gold Crowns the past two years, being awarded the Silver Crown was a bit of a let down for the staff, according to Avery.
"It would be a lie to say that the entire staff wasn't disappointed by the Silver," Avery said. "We've received the Gold Crown for the past two years and we were under the assumption that, since we worked ourselves to the bone trying to make our publication better this year, we would win again. Unfortunately, this was not the case."
Even though the Gold was hoped for, the results still gave Avery an appreciation for what the staff does and the purpose behind their work. With Mark 8:36 in mind, while awards are an honor to receive, the mission of the newspaper remains the most important, Avery said.
"However, winning isn't everything and I'm quite glad for that," Avery said. "From what I can tell, this year, more than ever, we've covered student life and activities. We've portrayed the life of our campus and that's what journalism is. We could win every award imaginable but lose the soul of our work. It kind of reminds me of Mark 8:36. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, while awards are nice, I'd much rather we continued with our mission: to capture the life of FC and its students in addition to providing news and entertainment to our readership."
Out of thousands of North American online newspapers, only a small percentage of them earn a CSPA Crown.
"I am honored that my students earned a Silver Crown from the CSPA," Stobbe said. "To put that in perspective, out of the thousands of online high school newspapers in North America, only 182 qualified to enter the competition and of those only 25 received a Crown."
As journalism adviser, Stobbe loves being able to watch the students deliver excellence to the community of FC and beyond, from August to June every year, he says.
"Their sport, journalism, is without a doubt most difficult and arduous, but at the same time so satisfying and rewarding," Stobbe said. "They embody team and that is why coaching them has been my passion."
For more information, read the March 16 article, Newsies in New York, Day 5 or contact Feather adviser Greg Stobbe.