JagWire newspaper and Mill Valley News online win awards at national convention

Both publications placed in the best of show contest, along with the JagWire winning its first Pacemaker award in school history


By Abigail Archibong

JagWire editors-in-chief Tori Aerni, Sarah Myers and Karissa Schmidt, Mill Valley News editor-in-chiefs Justin Curto and Jena Smith and adviser Kathy Habiger hold up the awards earned by the journalism department on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Braden Shaw, JagWire editor-in-chief

The JagWire newspaper and Mill Valley News online each received awards at the Fall National High School Journalism Convention in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, Nov. 14.

At the convention, the JagWire won its first-ever Pacemaker award for its 2014-15 edition. The Pacemaker award, given by the National Scholastic Press Association and considered the Pulitzer Prize of high school journalism, recognizes high school newspapers, websites and yearbooks across the nation for excellence in journalism. This year 59 schools were named finalists and 25 were honored with the award, four from the Kansas City metro area.

The JagWire also placed third in the National Scholastic Press Association newsmagazine best of show contest. Mill Valley News also placed seventh in the best of show category for news website for a school with 1,500 or fewer students. Best of Show winners are selected from entries from the schools attending the national convention.

Journalism adviser Kathy Habiger came into the competition with mild expectations and said she was proud of her students’ work no matter the outcome.

“I know we have great publications and I love the kids that work on them,” Habiger said. “Wherever you end up, that’s a validation of your hard work. We’ve been on the [Pacemaker finalist] list before, so the expectation is that you stay on the list. We certainly had high hopes and some of that ended up being good news.”

The convention also proved to be a learning experience for the students that went, such as senior Cassidy Doran, who actually gained a newfound love for journalism through the trip.

“I thought it was a really good convention and I learned a lot,” Doran said. “[Before the trip] I was kind of iffy on journalism this year because it’s senior year and I just wanted some free time. But after I went on the trip, I knew that it was right for me to stick with journalism and I also got so much closer with everyone.”

The main take away from the event were the awards themselves for Habiger, who was shocked to have the JagWire called as a Pacemaker award winner.

“To be completely honest, I didn’t think we’d get [a Pacemaker]. This is the first time we’ve been on the list before for newspaper,”Habiger said. “They called our name third and I just about fell out of my chair. I cried a little and I was excited. Then you kind of just don’t know what to do. We were too crazy and too excited to even listen to the rest of it. It was kind of all a blur from there.”

The awards the JagWire received were special to JagWire co-editor-in-chief Tori Aerni because they seemed to give value to the time spent working on the publication over the last year.

“It was humbling to find out that we had won a Pacemaker,” Aerni said. “The entire staff put in so much hard work and effort to everything last year. It makes it feel worth it and it makes it feel like we’re doing it for a reason. It’s nice to see that people see what we’re doing as a positive thing.”

In the end, Habiger felt that awards gave much-needed recognition to her students and will give them all motivation to strive to win more in the future.

“Certainly, any award that you get is validation of all of the hard work that the kids put in,” Habiger said. “Around the nation, schools know Mill Valley — they know our journalism, they know it’s really good. You see your name up there and you just want to keep doing what you’re doing to stay up there. As long as you love your publication and you love what you do and the students love what we produce [then it’s all worth it].”

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