Student Journalists On the ‘Beat’ at Awards Ceremony

Tags: Currents, Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Faith, Queens, NY

By Allyson Escobar

The Tablet’s annual High School Press Awards ceremony, held May 10 at the Diocese of Brooklyn’s offices in Park Slope, honored some of the outstanding journalism in school newspapers. For the first time since the event’s inauguration, a new category was introduced to the schools – “Best Multimedia Package.” Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, took the first place title with their submission, “The Veteran’s Day Scare,” which documented an event that took place Veteran’s Day weekend, when a text message was shared throughout the student body that led some to believe that Fontbonne would be the target of violence.

Catholic high school journalists from around the diocese were invited to the annual friendly competition. They were judged on categories from Best Front Page to Best Editorial Cartoon to Best Feature Story. The Tablet’s editorial staff assessed the submissions, based on standards from design to professionalism to interesting profiles.

This year, five school publications participated: Archbishop Molloy H.S.’s The Stanner, Briarwood; Fontbonne Hall Academy’s The Folio, Bay Ridge; St. Agnes Academic H.S.’s Veritas, College Point;  Saint Saviour H.S.’s Skyline, Park Slope; and The Mary Louis Academy’s Mariel, Jamaica Estates.

An opening prayer inspired by St. Francis DeSales was led by Tablet writer Antonina Zielinska.

“St. Francis DeSales spread the truth of Jesus to everyone’s life, like you do, and no matter what truths we say, it’s always the work of God,” Zielinska said. “May we realize the power of the press, be inspired by his zeal for spreading the truth.”

A keynote address was given by the Akoto Ofori-Atta, who has worked in the media industry for years and is managing editor at The Trace, a nonprofit news organization that covers the issue of gun violence. She also oversaw and directed “Since Parkland,” The Trace’s student journalism project which covered portraits of young victims of school shootings.

““I’ve been in journalism for over 10 years, and [“Since Parkland”] is the most impactful and rewarding project I’ve ever done, meaningful and award-worthy work. The most ambitious work I ever did was when I was a student journalist,” Ofari-Atta said. “As you guys think through what you might do in your careers, think about the power of journalism and what you could do in journalism right now… and remember that there are important stories that need to be told, and not enough of us doing it.”

Student journalists were inspired by Ofori-Atta’s speech.

“Journalism is absolutely so important, because the role of the media is to inform and educate, and then advocacy comes with information,” said Lauren Kline, a senior at Molloy. “It’s a way to not only stay connected to politicians and leaders, but to stay connected to each other. Words are the most dangerous weapons – but also, the most powerful.”

Melissa Enaje, the Tablet’s youth editor, moderated the awards ceremony, in which five participating schools were honored in 13 categories, including Best Op-Ed, Best Feature, Best Sports Story and Best Column, an award named after late Tablet writer Roger Payne.

The Mary Louis Academy’s student paper took home the big win for General Excellence. The newest category, Best Multimedia Package, was awarded to Fontbonne Hall Academy.

“It’s the whole team that makes it happen, and I wouldn’t be able to make it happen without the whole team. It’s really rewarding to see all the hard work throughout the year pay off, and something to look forward to next year too – passing it down to future editors,” said Catherine Kostigan, a senior at TMLA.

Click here for a full list of the winners.