Kirkwood High School
Each year, the National Scholastic Press Association recognizes excellence in student media with scholastic journalism’s preeminent award, the Pacemaker. Pacemakers are awarded in each category of publication — online, newspaper, yearbook, magazine and broadcast.
Teams of media professionals judge entries based on the following criteria: coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics.
NSPA contacted Mitch Eden, adviser of 2015 Yearbook Pacemaker winner Pioneer, for a Q&A. Pioneer is the yearbook of Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri. NSPA also heard from Claire Hubert, Pioneer’s co-editor-in-chief.
See the full list of 2015 Yearbook Pacemaker winners here.
NSPA: Tell us a little bit about the editors and staff of your Pacemaker-winning publication.
Mitch Eden, adviser: Dillon Hodges and Claire Hubert, co-editors in chief, led the Pioneer staff last year in compiling the ’15 Pioneer. They were amazing leaders who did not micromanage yet were able to push the staff and maximize the talents of a very diverse staff of just under 70.
NSPA: How did the staff ensure the quality of the publication?
ME: A thorough editing process of photos, writing and design. They key was the coaching and editing during the process not just on the finished spreads. The writing, in particular, went through several revisions before producing a final product.
NSPA: What were the goals going into last year and how did you ensure those goals were met?
Claire Hubert, co-editor-in-chief: Going into the year, the editorial staff knew that we wanted to create something that had never been done before, both in terms of the content of the Book and but also in the way we wanted to foster a newsroom culture where every staffer had an equal voice and equal say in the direction our book was going.
Before any permanent decision was made about the cover, the layout of the mugs or senior ad section, the theme pages or section table of contents, we would get the staff all together and vote. Every photo on the theme pages and table of contents are the photos that the staff chose — even if the Editorial Board wanted a different one.
Furthermore, the staff decided together what expectations and consequences for deadlines would be so we’d all be on the same page when things got hectic.
NSPA: Is there any one issue, story, photo or package that stood out during the year?
ME: The full spread photos featured on the divider spreads were breathtaking and was the vision of the staff from the book’s inception. Also, the profiles throughout the Pioneer featured some of the best writing I have read in my 20 years advising yearbooks.
NSPA: Tell us about a moment you will remember most about this staff.
CH: Last winter, there was a period during the middle of January when we all lost focus. Spreads weren’t quite up to par, the editorial staff lost motivation and everything was just kind of mediocre. One Monday we sat everyone down and gave the staff a sort of come-to-Jesus talk to regain focus. And man, did everyone kick into gear. The spreads for the next deadline were incredible.
We were blown away by the creativity and professionalism we saw in every spread that was turned in and how every team rose to the challenge. At the end of the deadline, we had a “blow off steam” day where we planned a bunch of Minute-to-Win-It challenges, but only ended up doing the “Face the Cookie” challenge. After three weeks of intense work, there was no better remedy than the hilarity of watching everyone on staff try to get an Oreo from their forehead to their mouth without using their hands. The stress of the past couple of weeks just melted away.
NSPA: What was the most rewarding moment you had last year?
CH: The most rewarding experience was for sure distribution day. Pioneer staff always jokes that we only get one day of recognition a year, while our newspaper staff gets almost ten. Distribution day is always amazing, but this year it was particularly rewarding because even after people got their books, the gym was still packed.
Our photographers caught some great shots of students fixed in place, all huddled around their books, trying to find themselves on the cover made of student-submitted photos. It was incredible to see the student body really getting excited and appreciating all of the work we had done behind the scenes for nine months.
NSPA: What does the Pacemaker mean to you and your staff?
ME: It is an incredible honor for my staff. The yearbook staff works just as hard as the newsmagazine and website staff but do not get the reward every day (website) or every three weeks (newsmag).
CH: This Pacemaker is truly the icing on the cake for our staff. We always say that we don’t make the yearbook for the awards; we make it for our student body. Distribution day showed us that the yearbook won over Kirkwood’s student body in every way, but they don’t always acknowledge the finesse of a spread’s spacing or the choice of a beautiful, well-balanced serif font.
It’s an incredible honor to be recognized and affirmed by NSPA for the content, design, photography and overall vision of our yearbook. I can’t speak for the rest of the staff, but I know I keep pinching myself because it’s so surreal this honor has been bestowed on our labor of love.