Young staff spins work into goldWith their eyes open and ears to the ground, members of the Spartan Spin staff are on the hunt for stories and art to fill the first issue of Superior High School’s student newspaper. But they will pause for an hour today to celebrate.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
With their eyes open and ears to the ground, members of the Spartan Spin staff are on the hunt for stories and art to fill the first issue of Superior High School’s student newspaper. But they will pause for an hour today to celebrate. The newspaper staff earned national recognition – a gold medalist placing and all-Columbian honors — from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association for their publications during the 2010-11 school year.
“I think I speak on behalf of last year’s entire staff when I say the award is incredibly gratifying,” said former Editor in Chief Caitlin Pendleton, now a freshman at Harvard University. “The newspaper has evolved so much over the past four years, and I’m confident that it will continue to be an upward trek.”
The student paper has been evolving since journalism/language arts teacher Andy Wolfe began advising the Spartan Spin club in 2001. A newspaper writing course was offered the next year and the publication has continued to grow. There were some setbacks. When students sent papers from their first year in for a critique, they were rejected.
“They said it wasn’t even a newspaper,” Wolfe said.
But advisers and students vowed to make it better. Winning the national all-Columbian award, Wolfe said, “isn’t just a story of last year, it’s a story of a progression of years.”
The award is presented to publications that receive very high scores on their critique. Out of a total possible 1,000 points, the paper earned 973, including 199 of 200 points for newspaper essentials. The Spartan Spin excelled in objective coverage of a variety of topics, photography techniques and mastery of design, according to the judge.
Earning the award wasn’t easy, students said.
“It took a lot of time,” said Steve Fruehauf, who worked on the staff last year and is now pursuing a journalism degree at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. “A lot of nights we stayed way past the final bell of school to put all the pieces together.”
The students built each paper from scratch – stories, pictures, illustrations and layout.
“You think about all the hard work it took, looking back, and it all paid off,” said Nathan Van Meter, a junior on the Spartan Spin staff. “It’s a national winning award. Just really nice to see your hard work recognized.”
Kate Bergum, a junior on this year’s staff, praised the leadership of Pendleton and advisers Wolfe and Linnae Bosley. They were a big reason for the award, she said. Although hearing they made all-Columbian made Wolfe feel “elated,” he said the credit belongs to the staff.
“We are as good as we are because of the kids,” he said.
Bergum, Van Meter and Macey Merling joined the Spartan Spin staff last school year. They’re back this year for more.
“I loved it,” said Merling, who is the assistant editor-in-chief. “I knew as soon as I joined I wanted to get up to a leadership position. So that’s what I went for.”
The class itself is tough, students said.
“I feel like at first I was kind of like blown away just by how much was expected of you, and it was definitely one of the most challenging classes that I had,” Bergum said. “At the same time I think I learned so much from it and because so much was expected of you, you really got a lot out of that class.”
Van Meter initially signed up for the class to shoot photographs. He ended up writing about national and international news, finding ways to connect local students with events in Libya and the death of Osama bin Laden.
The class prompts students to look outside their comfort zone and focus on others, according to Wolfe. He asks the teens to find news and “shine a light on other students, not themselves.”
“We serve others,” Wolfe said. “We need to look out, not in. We’ve gotten better and better about that.”
Students said the Spartan Spin meant more to them than a grade and that their classmates became like a family.
“I was proud of the paper and I wanted to put out the best paper that we could,” Merling said.
As they gear up for a new year of reporting, the Spartan Spin staff has set their sights high.
“We’re going to do better,” Van Meter said. “We’re going to get a lot better score than last year, I think.”
There are a lot of returning students, he said.
“We have really good people on our staff this year,” Merling said. “I think we could do it.”
Today, they’ll celebrate the national award.
“It is great for kids to see that dedication and commitment to a goal pays off,” said SHS Principal Kent Bergum. “In this case, getting recognition at the national level is a testament to the commitment of the instructors and students!”
And, Pendleton said, the skills students learn producing the Spartan Spin will help them in the future.
“… Last year’s staff recognized that working for grades alone will get you nowhere - not to happiness and certainly not to success,” she said. “They recognized the value in passionately working toward a goal and the satisfaction that comes with reaching it. I hope the veterans on this year’s staff will pass these values to the newcomers as well.”