Writers at The Talisman, Hayes High School’s student newspaper, have been nationally recognized for their work several times this semester.
School Newspapers Online, which operates nearly 3,000 student newspapers internationally, recently awarded four writers from The Talisman with “Best of Student Newspaper Online” designations. The designation comes with placement in the “Best of” section of SNO’s website.
Noah Sparkman, a junior, was given an award for his review of Pixar’s “Soul,” as well as an award for an opinion story called “Disney’s persistent live-action remakes are a reflection of the viewer, not the producers.” Sparkman said he’s proud to have the pieces featured and awarded.
“They were two pieces that I had a lot of passion for, and I put a lot of effort into them, so the fact that they were recognized in the way they were did make me proud,” he said.
Sparkman added receiving the award was a learning experience, and it taught him to be passionate about his work.
“The biggest thing I learned from having them shared is that even though the field of journalism does feel pretty crowded, it is possible to break through,” Sparkman said. “Passion and effort can be seen in your work, and it will get recognized if you have both of them.”
Sparkman said he’s thankful for the staff of The Talisman, who helped edit his pieces and provided “good little tips and ideas” to improve them.
“It’s super cool to me that I have a group of people around me who do that,” he said.
Amanda Stevens, a junior, was given an award for an article she wrote of the Sia film “Music,” wherein she criticized the filmmaker’s decision to cast an able-bodied actor to portray an autistic character. Stevens said she was surprised when the article was selected for an award.
“I was appalled to learn about how Sia behaved online in reaction to the autistic community’s criticism and read the various comments she made in interviews,” Stevens said. “I felt obligated to inform students about the controversy, but I didn’t feel like it was enough to simply tell people there was a problem; I needed people to understand why Sia’s decision was particularly problematic.”
Stevens said receiving the award was a rewarding experience because she had a piece not be chosen by SNO last semester.
Seniors Brynn McGrail and Andrew Bourget were honored for their feature about Willow Brook residents sharing holiday memories.
“I was overjoyed to have the Willow Brook story get a best of SNO award,” Bourget said. “I feel that me and Brynn’s work was able to make the residents in the stories feel heard, and that the readers were able to get insight into what the holidays were like in past years. Getting recognition for that is recognition of our writing but also of the importance of telling the stories of people who have so many to tell.”
Bourget said he enjoyed hearing stories from the residents and said hearing the stories made him realize “how much has changed in a relatively short period of time and to appreciate what is different now.”
Bourget added he’s planning to study music education and journalism after he graduates but has not picked a school yet.
In addition to the Willow Brook story, McGrail, The Talisman’s managing editor, was also given awards for news stories she wrote about Ohio Wesleyan cutting majors and a profile of Delaware City Schools Student Board of Education Member Mackenzie Collett.
“It’s exciting to have multiple of my stories featured for Best of SNO, and it’s set a new goal for each story I write, hoping I can hit the same marks,” McGrail said. “It feels good to be recognized for my stories that I’ve loved to work on.”
McGrail said the awards were validating after an unusual year for the paper, which was published all online instead of in a paper format. McGrail said another challenge was that Talisman staff were split across cohorts and could not regularly meet in person.
“I’ve been impressed with the commitment to continue posting interesting and quality stories,” McGrail said. “We’ve been learning how to work around many of these barriers and working to improve what we have. Becoming a Best of SNO website with multiple writers earning awards is something to be proud of, and I think those awards are on a lot of staff’s minds, so it has increased the standard of what we want to publish.”
McGrail said the year has taught her several lessons as the paper’s editor.
“Being an editor for the paper, I’ve learned about working with others on staff and building and evaluating communication skills, as well as taking leadership in helping create the vision for The Talisman,” McGrail said. “From this year in particular, we were bummed to not have our traditional print issues and for the rotation of stories to feel so different, but we took this opportunity to improve our website and have learned how it should be utilized in the future.”
She added that it was “cool to see” the separate staff still working together and encouraging each other to “improve our standard of writing.”
McGrail said she plans to study environmental science and sustainability with some journalism after she graduates.
The students’ work can be found at hayestalisman.com.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.