Sinatra Wins at Journalism Conference
It may not be a Tony, an Oscar, a Grammy, or an Emmy, but for high school journalists, it’s the next best thing. Select students from Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) recently attended the 11th NYC High School Journalism Conference at Baruch College and won a Newsie Award for the school in the process. Hundreds of high school journalism students from all over the city attended the conference to represent their school newspaper and hopefully win for their school the top prize in a given category. FSSA took home the Newsie for best Entertainment / Arts story. The winning story was, “Sir Paul Graces FSSA with his Presence,” written during the last school year by Lucie Pierre-Louis, a 2014 graduate.
Though the main reason why all of the journalists were there was because of the Newsies, the conference was also a time for the students and their advisors to participate in journalism workshops to help broaden their knowledge in different ways.
The day started off with Katina Paron, Director of the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative, talking to the entire group about live tweeting the event and how social media is now a great tool for journalists to use. The screens behind the presenter buzzed as tweets from different tables and schools began showing up on the live-feed.
A keynote speaker, Tanzina Vega from The New York Times, then spoke to the group. Born and raised in the projects of the Lower East Side, Vega figured out journalism was for her when she started traveling to countries like Spain, China, and Korea teaching English. Since joining The New York Times in 2006, she has written about the subjects of race, ethnicity, technology, and media for the business and national sections. Vega mentioned how she was proud to be a graduate of a public school system since day one, and that her career as a journalist came as a shock.
“I didn’t expect to end up at The New York Times. It just happened,” said Vega. “I followed journalism and I followed writing.”
Once she finished speaking, every student and teacher made their way to the workshops of their choice. Everyone got a chance to sit in three workshops, each 55 minutes in length. The workshops were taught by journalists from different newspapers, journalism teachers, reporters, editors, and other notable people from the field. The workshop classes ranged from photojournalism to fashion writing to smart phone reporting. One of the more interesting workshops was one titled, “So you wanna be a Film Critic,” with Newsday film critic Rafer Guzman at the helm of the discussion. He talked to the class about how he used to be the rock music critic at Newsday, but then, when the position was available, he took on the job as the paper’s movie critic. Guzman mentioned how reviewing music and reviewing movies is almost the same thing.
“For music, even if you aren’t a fan of a particular artist, you have to know all about the singer, you have to know all of their songs, and you have to determine if their new music will draw in a crowd. For movies, even if you don’t particularly like a certain actor, you still need to know all about them, what other movies they were in, and you need to determine if their fan base will like or dislike them in this movie compared to others,” said Guzman.
Guzman then went on to say that he sees 5-6 movies a week and that he doesn’t get to pick the movies that he wants to review.
“Hollywood picks what I review,” says Guzman, meaning that he has to review Hollywood’s big blockbuster films that will become instant hits, to Hollywood’s small films that may take a while for them to catch on.
Once the three workshops were completed, the Newsies Award Ceremony began. The ceremony was hosted by Arthur Browne, editorial page editor at the New York Daily News. He was the one to announce the categories for each award, the competitors in each category, and who the winners were. FSSA’s news story beat out two other stories in the Entertainment / Arts category. The stories were, “These 5 Albums Represent the Best Music of 2013,” by Zahir Byam, Hillcrest High School; and “Tupac Comes to Broadway,” by Roberta Nin Feliz, Manhattan Center for Science & Math. As members of the Journalism Class of 2015, the students who attended the conference accepted the award on Lucie Pierre-Louis’ behalf. All of the winners of this year’s ceremony were announced in the Daily News.
Although FSSA didn’t end up getting nominated for or winning the two most prestigious awards, Dow Jones Best Overall Online News Site and Dow Jones Best Overall Print Newspaper, our school did take first place in a category where we shine: Entertainment and Art.
Mr. Scheiner, the journalism teacher at FSSA, told the students who went to the conference, “Don’t worry. We’ll get ‘em next year.”
“I am so proud of the work we’ve done in the journalism class,” says Mr. Scheiner. “I took over last year and I vowed to make The Bennett an award-winning high school newspaper. Through the efforts and dedication of our amazing students, we have succeeded and I couldn’t be more proud.”
For next year’s conference, Mr. Scheiner will enter stories written by this year’s journalism students, meaning that this year’s class may end up winning a Newsie Award in the future.
– by Bradley Clarke ’15