The Islander, the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) student newspaper, swept up superior and excellent ratings at the recent Washington Journalism Education Association (WJEA) state conference. Journalism teacher Chris Twombley was awarded both the Fern Valentine Freedom of Expression and Adviser of the Year awards.
Each March WJEA holds its state conference. Newspaper, yearbook and broadcast learning sessions presented by professionals and student contests in a range of journalistic skills are offered at the one-day statewide conference.
Students hear from top journalists around the region, as well as network with other high school journalism students from around the state. The write-off competitions put students in real-world scenarios, giving them the opportunity to act as on-the-scene reporters.
In addition, there are workshops taught by industry leaders on all facets of journalism including writing, editing and photography. Competitions will be judged by journalism professionals.
85 students participated in the write-off contests this year. Eleven (11) Mercer Island students went home with superior and excellent ratings. The Islanders website was also awarded an excellent in online journalism, second in the state.
Ben Capuano – Superior, Review Writing (first in state)
Lucille Shield – Superior, Newswriting (first in state)
Annie Poole – Superior, Newspaper Photography (first in state)
Ellie Gottesman – Excellent, Newspaper/Newsmagazine Layout (first in state)
Grady Short – Excellent, Editorial Writing (second in state)
Annika Bhananker – Excellent, AP Style, Headlines, and Captions (second in state)
Teddy Fischer – Excellent, Editorial Cartooning (second in state)
Hannah Whobrey – Excellent, Yearbook Feature Writing (second in state)
Lena Hardisty – Excellent, Infographic (second in state)
Ethan Preston – Honorable Mention, Sports Photography
Maya Virdell – Honorable Mention, Sports Feature
For Twombley, he said he was honored to receive both the Fern Valentine Freedom of Expression and Adviser of the Year awards.
While earning Adviser of the Year was rewarding, Twombley said earning the Fern Valentine Freedom of Expression award was more gratifying.
“They don’t give out that award every year,” he said. “The award recognizes exercising voices and students’ right to free speech, and to be recognized for that was pretty gratifying.”
The Islanders print editor-in-chief senior Grady Short said the fact the staff did so well at the WJEA conference demonstrates the well-rounded skillset the group has.
“We have a really great group here, and everyone here is really passionate about what we’re doing,” Short said. “As the years have gone by, the paper has grown with it and a big part of that is because of Twombley.”
The Islander staff will be going to the National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim, Calif. next week.