The Patriot, Online

Prospect 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 Mark Ionescu, adviser of 2016 Online Pacemaker recipient The Patriot, for a Q&A. The Patriot is the online newspaper of The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland.

See the full list of 2016 Online Pacemaker winners here.

NSPA: Tell us a little bit about the editors and staff of your Pacemaker-winning publication.

Mark Ionescu, adviser: They work long hours to cover the news of the school in the most professional way possible — a challenging task given the many conflicting obligations they have with classes, other activities and home life.

NSPA: How did the staff ensure the quality of the publication?

MI: Setting high standards for themselves was key to their success — they made the decision to aim for a high-quality publication, and they worked together to help one another achieve and maintain that standard.

NSPA: Is there any one issue, story, photo, package, etc. that stood out during the year?

MI: Sadly, the issue that came out after the tragic death of a student in a car accident. I thought the students did an amazing job of covering the story with professionalism and capturing the reality of the event, despite the great challenge and the emotional struggles they were going through along with their peers.

NSPA: Tell us about a hardship or obstacle you felt your staff overcame.

MI: Early in the year, the school proposed instituting a policy of prior review that would have dramatically affected the students’ ability to cover breaking news, as well as their ability to function with any editorial independence. The newspaper leadership responded professionally in objecting to the policy, and luckily the school withdrew the suggestion without changing the newspaper’s operation.

NSPA: What qualities will you remember the most about this Pacemaker-winning staff?

MI: The way they united a myriad of personalities and backgrounds to come together as a team and, as they have described it, a family that supports each member and does its best to help each member succeed.

NSPA: What does the Pacemaker mean to you and your staff?

MI: It’s an enormously happy surprise and a tremendous validation of the hours and hours of hard work and sacrifice by the students on staff — most of which is not obvious or recognized by observers and peers — that go into creating a newspaper and covering the news as actively as they do. I’m thrilled to see such an exceptional group of students recognized for their contributions to the school and the community.

NSPA also heard from Alyssa Kraus, copy editor, and Paige Alban, in-focus editor.

NSPA: What were the goals going into last year and how did you ensure those goals were met?

Alyssa Kraus, copy editor: My goals were to write as much as possible, and, when doing so, to write about important topics. I wanted to cover things that mattered to me and get them published in our paper so it reached a large audience. So I wrote about women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and more. Another goal for The Patriot was to be as informative as possible for John Carroll. A newspaper is all about making the public aware of what is going on, so our staff achieved this by staying updated and on top of daily situations.

Paige Alban, in-focus editor: To be the best staff we could be. To try our hardest to win the most awards and grow closer as a strong staff.

NSPA: Tell us about a moment you will remember the most about this staff.

AK: I think I will remember the late-night layouts until 11 p.m., when everyone is tired but still together and working on the print edition of the paper. The conversations we had late at night are some of the funniest I’ve ever had.

PA: The late nights we spent working together and the final moments when we sent in the paper together and had the sense of accomplishment.

NSPA: What does the Pacemaker mean to you?

AK: The Pacemaker means a great deal to me because it is a prestigious award that recognizes all of the staff’s hard work. Creating a newspaper that is constantly on top of school news, not only through articles but also media, is not an easy task, so being recognized for the dedication and love for journalism gives me a lot of pride.

PA: The Pacemaker was more than an award. It was us being recognized for our hard work and having a sense of accomplishment for all the times we stayed late.

NSPA: What was the toughest moment you faced last year? The most exciting/rewarding?

AK: The toughest moment was writing about the tragedies of our school. John Carroll lost a student named Josh Hamer this year, so the editor in chief and I decided to cover his death and a baseball game in his memory. Interviewing his parents and speaking with his closest friends was difficult because the death of a student is such an emotional topic.

The most exciting or rewarding moment was becoming part of a family who loves to do the same thing I do. I found an amazing group of people who dedicate their time to journalism and people that I will keep in touch with in the future.

PA: The toughest thing I faced was having to dedicate my life to one single thing, creating the patriot. This was also the most rewarding because we were recognized throughout the country and our own community.