2012-05-03 / Schools
Pressed to impress
Panther Prowler a first-place winner in national journalism contest
“Newspaper writing is about being creative within the lines,” said Laabs, co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. “It’s really structured, but you still have to make it interesting.”
According to the American Scholastic Press Association, Laabs and her classmates have the right moves.
In April, ASPA named The Panther Prowler a first-place winner in its annual review and contest awards.
“We’ve never won anything like this before,” Laabs said. “We were so excited to have our hard work pay off.”
The association, founded in 1980, recognizes schools with outstanding scholastic publications and journalism advisers.
To enter the contest, NPHS’ 25-student journalism class submitted 10 issues of the Prowler, five from this year and five from last.
“Of the over 350 newspapers received this year, only 15 received first place in the category entered by Newbury Park High School,” association chairman Richard Plass said in an email. “The staff and faculty adviser, Michelle Saremi, involved with this excellent newspaper are to be commended for their tireless efforts.”
Sophie Li, the paper’s coeditor in-chief, said the paper, which comes out once every three weeks, has given her the opportunity to raise awareness about some sensitive issues.
For a recently published article about cancer, the Camarillo resident interviewed fellow student and cancer survivor Harrison King.
“He had retinoblastoma when he was 3 and has a glass eye,” Li said. “A lot of people on campus knew that he had a glass eye but didn’t know why.”
The five-part article, which focused on how Harrison is dealing with the disease, got a lot of attention, Li added.
“A couple of days ago, I was off campus, and I bumped into my photography teacher (who) said it was very touching. Coming from a teacher, that means a lot.”
The award-winning students don’t shy away from controversy.
One feature, written by Beth Ellis, addressed the alleged sexual misconduct of Newbury Park High School teacher Michael Ollins, who is currently on administrative leave while police conduct their investigation.
“It was probably the most investigative thing that we’ve done so far,” Laabs said. “(Ollins) tried to shut our paper down because of it (but) I’m really glad we printed it.”
“(Ellis) did 360 degree reporting,” Laabs added. “It turned out really well.”
“They did personal interviews (and) handled it so professionally,” said Michelle Saremi, the paper’s advisor. “That’s the kind of journalism I advocate.”
Saremi, who also teaches English at the school, said the journalism students are a team.
“We really emphasize that this is a family and we work together,” she said.
“It’s a dedicated group of kids,” she added. “It’s all student-run . . . I’m here to facilitate.”
Principal Athol Wong said she is proud of the students’ accomplishment.
“We were very excited to have their hard work validated,” she said.
Wong said the students’ professionalism is especially impressive.
“They ask questions that are incisive . . . not fluffy,” she said. “It’s clear that they’ve thought about it ahead of time.”
Like many professional journalists, the students use formatting program Adobe InDesign to lay out the paper’s content.
“They have the opportunity to use the technology they’d use in a community newspaper,” Wong said.
Working on the newspaper is a wonderful learning experience for students, she added.
“The students learn a great deal about their First Amendment rights, how to conduct a story and how to stop burying their leads . . . they understand the work that goes into making a paper,” the principal said.
The 12-page paper, which takes about three weeks to produce, usually comes out on a Friday.
It has six sections: news, opinions, features, entertainment, sports and a double-page spread, usually a feature.
Funded primarily by advertisements, each issue of the paper costs $600 to produce.
Senior Lauren Rewers is one of the paper’s two advertising managers.
“We charge $65 for a quarterpage ad,” Rewers said. “We cater to businesses that want to reach teens.”
“Winning this award was an honor,” the 18-year-old added. “It feels good to know that we’re good at our job.”
“It feels awesome,” she said. “We’ve been working towards this for a long time.”