Letters From The Editors: Exciting news


Justin Curto and Jena Smith

Welcome back to Letters From The Editors. As we mentioned last week, J-Curt attended the spring National High School Journalism Convention in Los Angeles. When he returned, he brought some hardware too, which we’re still extremely excited about.

The biggest news is that Mill Valley News won its first-ever Pacemaker award, an honor commonly referred to as the “Pulitzer Prize of student journalism.” In four of the past five years, we’ve been Online Pacemaker finalists, which made winning this year even more important to us. When J-Curt found out at the awards ceremony, he made an inhuman scream and was shaking from excitement, before trying to FaceTime Jena. By the time Jena (who was in the car on the way to prom dinner) picked up the phone, J-Curt had already received the award, and we couldn’t hear each other, so we just smiled at each other over the phone and freaked out together.

The morning after, we found out some more big news — J-Curt was named a runner up in the National Student Journalist of the Year competition, after previously winning the state competition. J-Curt began freaking out (again) after hearing his portfolio talked about before he was announced, and Jena freaked out (again) after waking up and seeing a lot of texts about the award. This is big not only because it’s a national honor for J-Curt (with some money involved too), but because he’s the second student from the school to become a runner up, after 2012 graduate Sarah Darby.

And that wasn’t it for national awards, either. Issue five of the JagWire, which included a special section about gun violence and gun control, won a third place Best of Show award for newsmagazines, and the 2015 JAG yearbook won a 10th place Best of Show award for 233-288 page yearbooks. Also, JagWire managing editor Jillian Leiby earned an excellent in her commentary writing competition, JAG staff member Kristen Garrett earned an honorable mention in her first-year photo competition and J-Curt earned an honorable mention in his review writing competition. Needless to say, it was a fruitful week for staff and individual awards, and we’re still residually excited about everything we won.

Awards season isn’t over yet, though. This Wednesday, some staff members will head out to the Journalism Educators of Metropolitan Kansas City Awards, where our publications as a whole are up for awards, along with individual pieces of content. After that, we have the Kansas Scholastic Press Association state competition, where staff members will be competing in individual contests with hopes of bringing the school its third state title of the year. That day, we’ll also find out if the JagWire, MVTV and Mill Valley News are named All-Kansas publications.

Even though our time at the school is coming to a close, these awards are motivating us to continue working hard on the site. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, we’ll have more good news to share with you.

That’s all … for now.

Check it out: We had a lot of fun content from the JagWire to put online last week, which means we got to use fun SNO features, like grid posts. Of all the print content we put up, we’re definitely most pleased with the “Never stop …” columns. This came from an idea JagWire editor-in-chief Tori Aerni had, to have staff members write short columns that finished the statement. In the end, we ended up with six different and interesting answers, and you really need to check it out.

Lessons of the week:

J-Curt: Ever since I finalized that I’m attending Northwestern University, I’ve continued to learn how excited I am for college this fall. While in LA, and on campus a few days before, I met some awesome people who I’ll be going to college with and who I can’t wait to get to know. It’s so great to know other people as I transition into college, and I’m already excited to develop these friendships even more.

Jena: This week, it’s been hard finding a productive balance of not having a mental breakdown due to stress, but not ignoring all responsibilities. I’ve found it really helpful to “brain dump” and make lists of everything I need to get done the night before it needs to get done. It helps me sleep better at night, and I wake up knowing exactly what I need to accomplish.
Seniors Justin “J-Curt” Curto and Jena Smith are the editors-in-chief of Mill Valley News online. They appreciate captioned photos, categorized and tagged stories, staff members who don’t text about web assignments at 11 p.m., teachers and students who talk about things they read on Mill Valley News and all things multimedia.

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