|'I didn't realize the significance of the Pacemaker Awards until I was at the convention. I was just shocked to see the excitement of so many people.' Founder of Wayland High's Student Press websites|
Top marks for high school's online 'paper'
The Wayland Student Press, which began only last year as nothing more than a "good idea," has burgeoned into an award-winning model of student journalism that was honored at the recent National Scholastic Press Association conference.
Completely managed and produced by Wayland High students, the Student Press has won a Pacemaker Award for online journalism, one of the highest national honors for student organizations.
"The Wayland students really are doing some great things," said Logan Aimone, executive director of the National Scholastic Press Association. "They represent the best of the best and are really leading the way for their counterparts in high schools around the country."
"I didn't realize the significance of the Pacemaker Awards until I was at the convention. I was just shocked to see the excitement of so many people," said Sang Byum "Robin" Kim, 17, founder and president of the Student Press and a Wayland High sophomore.
The Student Press covers school events with a mixture of text articles, photography, and original video content featuring student anchors and reporters. Recently, it forayed into town politics, with students interviewing the candidates for Board of Selectmen before the town elections on April 8.
The national recognition is a significant achievement for Wayland High School, which does not offer any journalism courses. The Student Press won the award after only one year of existence, while most of the other finalists have been established for several years.
The Student Press has drawn widespread attention from newspapers, bloggers, and journalism centers around the country.
"This site is great! There's great use of color and space. The information is easy to read, and the teasers with images are good," wrote Kelli Polson from the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank based in Florida. "I like the content, which is rich and engaging. Everything looks professional."
The Student Press offers its coverage only online, mainly at its website, WSPNLive.com. The group also has a separate video portal called WSPN.tv. Finally, WSPNOnDiet.com allows viewers to access a boiled-down version of the Student Press, with a chronological list of articles, video, and photos.
"It's great how we are able to integrate all kinds of videos and photos," said Marie Stotz, one of the students working on the project. "Average high school students might not want to read articles, but they would be content to watch three-minute videos. We must utilize multimedia to prevent traditional news sources from becoming obsolete."
"Video is the essential part of this whole thing," said Kim. At the center of the Wayland Student Press, Kim, who emigrated from South Korea four years ago, developed the idea last year. Now, he spends 40 hours or more per week plugging away at its websites. He also shoots and produces many of the videos.
Perhaps the biggest achievement for the Wayland Student Press is that it has been able to grow, produce news content, and draw national recognition with only a half-dozen student volunteers writing, photographing, recording, and programming it all.
"It's still a fledgling operation. We're really looking to expand it and get more kids involved," said Janet Karman, an English teacher at Wayland High and adviser to the Student Press. "Right now, a huge chunk of the work falls to just a couple of kids."
The Pacemaker Awards were established in 1927, with the first online awards offered in 1996. There are 10 finalists and five winners every year in the online category.
Kim said he is excited that Wayland had the chance to be at the forefront of online journalism at the conference, which was held in Anaheim, Calif., on April 19.
"Every speaker, every judge, and every student that I have met, we were all talking about how online media are affecting the print industry," he said.
"Soon more and more high school journalists are going to be publishing online. This is just the beginning of the trend."