Each year, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association rates high school and college newspapers nationwide. With a completely new website since September 2015, and multiple new editors, staffers understood the challenge they faced this past semester.
However despite these obstacles, The Feather was able to overcome and earned a CSPA Gold Medal Critique for the fourth year in a row. This honor is in addition to the earlier announcement that The Feather Online earned a CSPA Digital 2016 Crown finalist nomination as one of the top scholastic newspapers.
The staff was applauded for the new platform, visually appealing pages, editorial policies, photography, video and social media coverage. While the judges praised the scope of coverage, blogs, and columns, features, writing and editing, the staff needs to improve its caption and lead writing and has some issues with bias in too many articles.
One of the areas that needs improvement is the quality of photo captions within articles. Because this is one of the most examined aspects of an article, a caption must be active, give the reader background of the photo and information about the people or place.
Along with improving captioning, Feather staffers must make an extra effort to grasp readers’ attention in the first paragraph of each article. Too often writers and editors alike tend to intertwine their personal opinions into articles which should remain purely unbiased.
The Feather staff will be addressing these issues by first determining journalistic standards, and applying them to a daily routine. The editors met with staffers, according to an improved standard, through a series of meetings and discussions. Meanwhile, the editorial staff will endeavor to more competently examine captions and leads to captivate readers.
Editor-in-Chief of the Feather Rees Roggenstein, ’16, hopes that the staff can take positive criticisms from the review.
“Criticism is always welcome,” Roggenstein said. “Constructive criticism is the first step to producing a well-rounded newspaper. Through these comments we can better assess our shortcomings and move forward to new realms of success. Despite any negative feedback, I hope that our staff diligently works to correct these errors.”
Criticism is always welcome. Constructive criticism is the first step to producing a well-rounded newspaper. Through these comments we can better assess our shortcomings and move forward to new realms of success. Despite any negative feedback, I hope that our staff diligently works to correct these errors. — Rees Roggenstein
The CSPA scores out of 1,000 points, then categorizes schools into three categories; Bronze (0-599), Silver (600-799), and Gold (800-1,000). This year, the Feather was honored to receive a score of 978/1000, meriting a spot in the gold sector. While there were many positives in the review, the Feather staff still has a lot to work on.
Due to the brand new website layout, Feather staffers operated under a new level of discipline in order to help the website flourish, undeterred by the daunting task of starting a website from scratch.
The media portion of the website must always aspire to keep up with the ever-evolving standards of the digital realm. To maintain a competitive position among our fellow high school publications, the Feather seeks to keep our media services (podcasts, slideshows, videos, etc.) up to date.
First year staffer Phillip Christopher, ’17, was excited to read the CSPA’s review. Christopher believes that when the staff works better together as a team, they can improve their score even more.
“When I read the critique, I was excited,” Christopher said. “The Feather hasn’t received a review this good in quit a while. I think that if we continue to work together and grow as a staff, we can still improve. Then we can ultimately reach our goal of winning the Gold Crown from Columbia in March.”
The Feather staff acknowledges the time and energy spent by the CSPAA Committee on Judging Standards, and are thankful for the review. In the coming weeks, the suggestions will be considered, expect there will be changes. The hope is that 10 staff members will attend the CSPA Spring Convention in March. The Spring Convention will be held at Columbia University during March from the 16-18.
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