RIVERSIDE – The “digital natives” at Riverside Brookfield High School earned their generation’s moniker earlier this year.
Members of The Clarion, the school’s student-run newspaper, earned several journalism awards for their work. The National Scholastic Press Association named The Clarion one of the recipients of its Online Pacemaker Award.
In addition, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association gave The Clarion a Gold Medal ranking and named several students as recipients of its Gold Circle awards. Students honored by the CSPA were Katie Maxwell and Renee Miedlar, who won third place in the Non-Fiction Interview for Digital Media category for their interview with MT Anderson; Christine Vassos, who won third place in the Photo and Audio Slideshow for Digital Media category for her slideshow of the Best Buddies trip to Sonny Acres farm; and Carey Torres, who won first place in the Comic Cartoons category for “Carey’s Comix No. 6: RB’s Financial Future.”
The paper publishes printed editions while school is in session. But The Clarion has become primarily an online newspaper, said RBHS Principal Pam Bylsma.
“The students who work at the paper are trying to communicate the way students communicate today, so they have incorporated interactive aspects to The Clarion,” Bylsma said. “The Clarion was one of the first student newspapers to go online, so they have been a model for other schools.”
Staff members of The Clarion have incorporated interactive features online and social media tools to reach the paper’s audience, Bylsma said. A blog was maintained during the Academy Awards, for example, and staffers also have used Facebook to engage students, Bylsma said.
Of the 255 entries for the Online Pacemaker Award, 55 newspapers were nominated, Bylsma said. The Clarion was one of 23 newspapers to win the award and the only Illinois newspaper in the Small School category to receive the award, she said.
“They take this very seriously. They’re journalists; they talk about ethics involved,” Bylsma said. “The [recognition by journalism groups] is an amazing tribute to their creativity and determination.”
Dan Mancoff, the faculty adviser to The Clarion, said the publication has been online since the 2008-09 academic year. He worked with students to learn coding to post stories online, he said.
But this proved too time consuming, so staff members changed to a content management system called School Newspapers Online in the 2009-10 school year, Mancoff said. Students could spend more time focusing on developing their stories than trying to figure out coding, he said. The Clarion first won the Online Pacemaker Award in 2010, Mancoff said.
“It’s the day-after instances. Kids want to go online and relive an event,” Mancoff said when asked what students enjoy most about The Clarion’s online content. “It’s the immediacy of it all. When you can post stories and photos from homecoming or some other event the next day, there’s a high interest in that.”
The Clarion is a club and class, Mancoff said. Content is updated virtually every day throughout the school year, he said.