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By Casey Hans
Step into Tracy Rosewarne’s classroom at Ann Arbor’s Community High School in the Kerrytown area and discover a new world of news with a team of enthused student journalists.
They recently received national honors for their newsmagazine, The Communicator, and have found themselves on the cutting edge of a journalism industry in chaos, said Rosewarne, a teacher and the publications’ faculty adviser.
It’s an exciting time, she said, and one that has prompted a review how students are delivering news and features.
New this year: A revamped Web site for not only journalism contributions, but also a showcase for creative writing, photography and other student work. A new version of the Web site, found at the-communicator.org, is expected to be up and operating this month. Unlike the former online edition – which simply posted items from the print edition – the new site will be its own newsgathering operation with fresh content and a new look.
“It’s a real world application,” she said, adding that no one had anticipated how quickly the scales have tipped toward readership on the Internet.
But despite increased Web activity, “The Communicator” will not stop publishing in print, said Rosewarne, who has advised the staff for about 10 years. It will continue as a 32-page tabloid edition and the student journalism staff is larger than ever: The 60 student journalists will divide into Web and print teams – although she said students will have opportunities to work on both.
The student-run print edition is one of seven newsmagazines around the country named finalists this fall in the Newspaper Pacemaker contest, sometimes referred to as “the Pulitzer Prize of student journalism.” The annual contest is sponsored by the National Scholastic Press Association and the Newspaper Association of American Foundation.
Rosewarne said one of the reasons The Communicator is successful is that student journalists take their responsibility seriously, which helps them with decision-making skills.
“It’s important to have them go through the intellectual process,” she said. “I tell students ‘I’m not their net.’ It starts with you, then it goes to the section editor, then to the editor. These students do a great job – it really is student run.”
Rosewarne attributes the national attention to a solid group of experienced students and a redesign of the publication over the past few years with the help of design guru Tony Majeri, a former Chicago Tribune editor who is active with the Society of News Design.
“I had a lot of student strength and energy,” Rosewarne added. “It’s a very big award.”
Senior student co-editors Kayla Stoler and Julia Mogerman are returning to The Communicator staff this year. Mogerman also credits the redesign for bringing them national attention. “Our paper started to look really different,” she said. “It was a lot more consistent and focused.”
Stoler said there’s a lot of pride among the staff and that the achievement has brought them together. “We know who we are as a school. We know who our readers are and we try to keep it focused,” she said.
Winners of the contest will be announced at the Journalism Education Association/NSPA Fall National High School Journalism Convention in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14-15 and a delegation of 20 from the Ann Arbor school will attend. Rosewarne said the conference will give students new ideas for moving ahead.
The Communicator competes with student magazines in Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Georgia, Texas and California for the award. Entries were based on an overall review including coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership on the opinion page, evidence of in-depth reporting, layout and design and photography, art and graphics.
Kathy Huting, NSPA contest and critique contest coordinator, said although her organization has heard the Pacemakers referred to as the “Pulitzer of student journalists,” they don’t refer to it that way. “But it definitely represents the top high school newspapers in the country,” she said. The group has given out Pacemaker awards since 1927.
This year’s Pacemaker contest was judged by a group of professional journalists from the Seattle area. A total of 339 entries were considered in categories that included Newsmagazines, Newspapers 1-16 pages, Newspapers 17 or more pages and Jr. High/Middle School Newspapers. There are 56 finalists, and about half of those will earn Pacemaker awards, Huting added.
Casey Hans edits this e-newsletter for The Ann Arbor Public Schools. Contact her via e-mail or by calling 734-994-2090 ext. 51228.