Letters From The Editors: It’s game time


Justin Curto and Jena Smith

Welcome back to Letters From The Editors. The journalism room has been noticeably emptier since yesterday, as many of our staff members went to Orlando, Florida, for the Fall National High School Journalism Convention. The journalism department goes to two conventions each year, one in the fall and one in the spring. This is the first convention of the school year, and we’re going to give you the rundown of what’s happening web-wise over the next few days at Orlando.

First things first, while Habs and several other staffers are in Orlando, we will be receiving a website critique. Since we can’t be there, senior Karissa Schmidt will accompany Liz during our critique with Poynter Institute faculty member Wendy Wallace to listen to her feedback and suggestions for the site. Since we have changed nearly everything in the way Mill Valley News functions, we are excited to see what Wallace has to say and how we can make the site a stronger publication.

At these conventions, we also have the opportunity to enter our publications — that is, the JAG, JagWire and Mill Valley News — into best of show competitions to be judged against other similar publications. So, we entered Mill Valley News into a competition, and we have some feels going into it.

Competitions aren’t a new thing for us. JAG, JagWire and Mill Valley News compete in local, statewide and national contests every year, both as holistic publications and individually for photos, stories and designs. So far this year, we’ve even won some awards for Of The Month through the Kansas Scholastic Press Association (including six for October that were announced yesterday).

Best of show is our first competition of the year where the entire site will be entered, though. In our competition, Mill Valley News will compete against other news websites from schools with 1,500 or fewer students who have staff members at the convention, and awards will be given to the top 10 websites. Our past results have varied: We fell short of placing at the fall 2014 convention in the District of Columbia, but we placed second — our highest placing ever — at the spring 2015 convention in Denver. After three months of working on Mill Valley News, we’re hoping our and our staff’s hard work is able to pay off when the best of show results are announced Saturday morning.

Despite some nervousness, we fully believe in ourselves and our staffs. Our reporters have been open to edits and continue to set the bar higher and higher for themselves. We’ve been wowed by the talent our photographers have, in whatever they may be shooting. It’s by far been the most rewarding as editors to see the new staffers pushing themselves as journalists and excelling in the J-room. This year, we’ve had web awards each week for our favorite story and photo(s), and it’s been hard to choose which we like best.

JagWire and JAG friends, we are so proud of you, and we’re glad you’ve made some amazing content to make us confident going into best of show.

Lessons of the week:

J-Curt: Wednesday night, as I was lying in bed, I realized that I’ve been feeling way too busy lately. On top of being an online editor-in-chief, I’m president of a club, co-vice president of NHS and a senior who is not only trying to graduate, but also trying to get into college and pay for it. As fun as working on the website may be, I’ve resolved to not let it bleed over into the other parts of my life, like doing homework and applying for colleges and scholarships. And, I’ve even decided to schedule some time for fun and relaxation into my life. Hopefully, this’ll help me to be a better editor and create better web content in the future.

Jena: Last week, J-Curt, Liz and I had a conversation about stress crying in the J-room. Looking back, the times we’ve cried are comical. It was somehow actually funny to reflect on the years we’ve been on staff and all the times we’ve been (what we thought was) the most stressed we could ever be. Then today in class, I stumbled across staff mugs from sophomore year. While most of them were laughable, I realized how much time has flown since the first day of “newspaper class” my sophomore year. While writing the last paragraph, to be blunt, I got a major case of the feels. As emotionally and physically exhausting as this job can be, I’m constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have the opportunity to work with the people I do on Mill Valley News. My two plus years on staff have been a rewarding experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

That’s all … for now.

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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