Pleasant Grove 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 Charla Harris, adviser of 2016 Yearbook Pacemaker winner The Hawk, for a Q&A. The Hawk is the yearbook of Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Texas.
See the full list of 2016 Yearbook Pacemaker winners here.
NSPA: Tell us a little bit about the editors and staff of your Pacemaker-winning publication.
Charla Harris, adviser: We had four co-editors, each one mainly responsible for a different area. One editor did design, another copy edited, the third organized coverage and submitted all page/proofs, and the fourth worked on concept and theme copy and made sure every student was in the book more than once. The staff worked on teams, and because they are often in different classes, we had lots of meetings and left many notes so that everyone knew what was happening.
NSPA: How did the staff ensure the quality of the publication?
CH: Final deadline checklists were completed for every page with an editor and with the adviser to make sure we were consistent with fonts, colors, etc. and that we followed journalistic style. Every staffer had access to the “Final Consistency” folder on the server to check on those issues prior to deadline. We printed every page at 100 percent and taped them to the bulletin board to check design.
NSPA: Is there any one issue, story, photo, package, etc. that stood out during the year?
CH: The theme of the book dealt with the idea that there are people in our school that we never see, never know — even though there are only 650+ students. If we blinked, we might miss something or, more importantly, someone. We created a secondary package asking students what others might “miss” about them if they weren’t looking. By doing so, we were able to include every person in the school more than twice. The editors and staff were extremely proud of this accomplishment.
NSPA: Tell us about a hardship or obstacle you felt your staff overcame.
CH: We face the same obstacle every year — the staff is divided into different classes throughout the day. This means that the editors have to work hard on communication and getting to know all the staffers.
NSPA: What qualities will you remember the most about this Pacemaker-winning staff?
CH: This was the most cohesive group of editors I’ve worked with in 30 years. They worked with the staff to get input from everyone, shared the decision-making, encouraged and motivated the staff (and me), and they were passionate about their book and the students at our school.
NSPA: What does the Pacemaker mean to you and your staff?
CH: It means that we’re creating a publication that is not only journalistic, well designed, well written and has thorough and interesting coverage. It means we’re creating a unique book that is relevant to our students and our school but that we’re taking chances to make it our own, to try new things.
NSPA also heard from three of the four co-editors: Kenzie Glover, Lauren Davis and Lauren Allison.
NSPA: What were the goals going into last year, and how did you ensure those goals were met?
Kenzie Glover, co-editor: My goal was to get every person in the school pictured in the book twice. To do this, we had lots of organization and dedication! We made sure to get out of the classroom and find people in the school.
Lauren Davis, co-editor: We wanted to have a cohesive staff and book. We wanted everyone on the same page about expectations, theme and the level of dedication toward the book. The other editors and I met a lot and involved the staff as we made decisions. We wanted to make the creation of the book fun as well as a good reflection of the year at our school for everyone, staff and students.
Lauren Allison, co-editor: Starting out, we knew that we wanted to create a great book. We had a lot to live up to and didn’t want to be the staff to break years’ worth of winning streaks. But at the same time, we wanted to make an exceptional book that fondly reminded our students of the year’s events. Our goals became those of most staffs: meet (try to beat) deadlines, create an errorless book and incorporate every student into the book somehow. Through many lists, work nights and reminders posted around the room, we did just that. We beat almost every deadline, dedicated all of our efforts to editing proofs, and actually ended up getting every student enrolled in our high school in the book twice.
NSPA: Tell us about a moment you will remember the most about this staff.
KG: The other three editors and myself were all very good friends! Having a bond with them outside of journalism made working on our yearbook very special! My favorite moment about this staff was on a trip to NYC when we went to Columbia University to receive an award. I just remember being so excited to be able to hold our Gold Crown and seeing our hard work pay off.
LD: I will never forget the work nights. It was the times in the highest intensity that I treasure the most. Everyone was so streamlined in what they were working on. Even though everyone would be working on separate pages and the other editors and I would be hopping to computer to computer in a frenzy, everyone was working to one common goal. When someone would finish a page during one of those nights, the whole room would erupt in cheer. It was amazing to help guide and to feel a part of this process.
LA: I was really lucky to have a staff full of my friends, co-editors as best friends and an adviser that doubled as a role model. The combination of these things made for the ideal year, full of endless hard work, but also endless laughs. But if I had to choose a moment I would remember most, it would probably be on one of our deadline days. I was sitting with two of my co-editors at the computer as we chose Spotify songs. We had turned in the pages for our deadline days earlier and so this “deadline day” actually ended up being completely stress-free. We sang at the top of our lungs and designed more pages. I don’t know why that stands out to me, but it’s probably because there was so much joy in the room that day.
NSPA: What does the Pacemaker mean to you?
KG: To me, it means that someone enjoyed something that I worked so hard on. It makes me feel like the work I put into “Don’t Blink” was for a reason.
LD: The Pacemaker is a physical object representing all of the hard work put in to the book. It is so rewarding when the work of your staff gets recognized. So much gets put into the book besides just hours in front of a computer. My fellow editors and I lived and breathed the book throughout the year, from planning to submitting those final pages to the plant. The Pacemaker is so much more than an award to put on a wall, it is a documentation of what hard work and dedication can get you.
LA: We always strived to make the best book possible, it was never an option. Because the Pacemaker is such an honor to receive, it means we accomplished our goals.
NSPA: What was the toughest moment you faced last year? The most exciting/rewarding?
KG: The toughest moment was probably when deciding on a concept in the very beginning. We wanted something unique and quirky, but it was hard to completely finalize a concept. The most exciting time was when we finished our book one month before schedule! That has never been done before!
LD: The toughest moment was at the beginning of the year when the other editors and I would sit in a room and plan. We wanted the year to go so well and we wanted a phenomenal book to not only continue the legacy of our yearbook program, but something to give to the students and teachers. We spent so many hours planning before even opening an InDesign file. At the end of the year, submitting those pages and erasing the last item on the to-do list was exhilarating. Everything that we had worked so hard to produce had truly come full circle.
LA: The toughest time I faced last year was when there was a lull in the motivation of our staff. I remember this being frustrating because I was so dedicated. I actually counted up the time I spent working on Blink and realized that I spent more time working on the book than I did at home during the week. Three fourths of my school day was spent tirelessly working on our book. After reminding the staff how dedicated we were, holding a few meetings and offering some temporary incentives, my co-editors and I re-motivated our staff and got back on track. My most rewarding moment would be a toss-up between two different moments. It would either be when I sent the last page of the book to the plant or when I held the book, that I had exhausted all of my energy into, for the very first time. Both were the kind of moments the are filled with so much excitement that butterflies fill your stomach.