East, West journalism programs earn state awards

Results are in after high school students submitted work in May for this year’s Nebraska High School Press Association competition. Bellevue East and Bellevue West have earned top awards.

East’s Tom Tom newspaper won The Cornhusker (the highest award for journalistic excellence) and received a Golden Kernel for coverage and photos. The school’s yearbook won a Superior award and a Golden Kernel for its headlines and photo captions.

West’s website, thethunderbeat.org, ranked as Superior, and earned a Golden Kernal for its excellent use of social media and showcased personalities.

The school’s West Wind newspaper won an Award of Distinction and a Golden Kernel for having a good variety of stories on important topics and the yearbook won an Award of Distinction and a Golden Kernel for strong story sourcing.

Bellevue East junior Samantha Collision said she hopes more people realize how real their publications are.

“Real people buy real ads and people read everything we put out, so it makes it all the more real,” Collison said. “A lot of high school is inconsequential, but with this, real people depend on your work.

“I was scared and overwhelmed to report on real topics like transgenders, the Chieftain mascot or standardized testing, but we seek truth and report it.”

News editor Nia Booth, a sophomore, said big things happening in the world have to be reported.

“You have to realize it’s your job to tell a story,” Booth said.

Sophomore Megan Miller’s passion and career direction is set, thanks to her job as the schools’ sports editor, she said.

“It helps us be able to talk to people and learn to sell — those skills help us in life,” Miller said.

Yearbook editors Kaylie Dengel and Caylynn Lane, both seniors, agreed.

“This year, especially,” Dengel said, “we’ve had a huge communication eye-opener. Instead of being dull about what we’re saying, we have to make sure every contributor knows specifically what their roles are.”

Lane said they want everyone to be proud of the yearbook because they’ll look at it years later.

Bellevue East journalism advisor Stephenie Conley said her goal is for students to know that real journalism is about reporting truth.

“They have a stronger understanding of what journalists deal with now,” Conley said.

“Investigation and research, writing, designing and photography — all those things require a synthesis of putting skills together into a comprehensive whole.”

Bellevue West journalism advisor Julie Rowse expects students to understand the power of language and how words can change things for good or ill.

“I hope they take away that as citizens they have a voice and they don’t minimize that power,” Rowse said.

“You see your peers working hard to put out a nice product for viewers, so when it comes to fruition, it’s a nice feeling — it makes you want to cry,” said junior Christian Hiltbrunner, who is the broadcasting manager for live website video.

Having strong personalities in the group is a key ingredient to their success, he said.

West’s Rae Rangel, a senior and managing editor of news and the index editor of the yearbook, feels the pressure of producing a quality product inside of a deadline.

“It’s stressful — really stressful, actually, but I don’t mind. There’s something about stressing over it then seeing it come together,” Rangel said.

Michael Begley, a junior who serves as the production manager and web master said he is confident his team will win the highest award next year.

Erin Chance, a senior, is a yearbook co-director and said she’s learned how to manage time and ask clear questions.

“Everyone in Nebraska works just as hard, so the fact that our product was worthy of the award is really nice to know, especially when we’re all working with the same passion,” Chance said.

Lexy Burroughs, a senior is also a yearbook co-director and said she’s happy that journalism has brought her out of her shell.

“We’re all opinionated with strong personalities, so it’s interesting to see what we come up with to collaborate and how much can come from a classroom – it becomes like a family,” Burroughs said.

Emily Brandon, a senior, is the newspaper and yearbook editor in chief.

“The publication group is one of the hardest-working I’ve seen,” Brandon said. “We’re always giving recognition so it’s good to be the ones to receive it.

“It’s validating and fun, but we wouldn’t have done any of this without our advisors [Rowse and Aaron Stueve]. They’re here for us in any possible way, not just journalism. They’re our school mom and dad.”

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