2022 Innovation Pacemakers

NSPA honors innovation

New Pacemaker competition encourages out-of-the-box thinking and rewards student media for the courage to take chances to improve service to their school community

April 9, 2022

LOS ANGELES — Honoring the nation’s best, National Scholastic Press Association awarded four high school media programs with an Innovation Pacemaker in the first year of the competition. 

The innovation winners, plus the 2021 Literary Arts Magazine Pacemaker, 2022 Online Pacemaker and 2021 Yearbook Pacemaker winners, were announced for the first time during the closing awards ceremony of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention on April 9.

On March 3, NSPA announced eight 2022 Innovation Pacemaker finalists.

After the Pacemaker finalists were selected by a judging panel of scholastic journalism experts, these were the judges for the final round —

Erinn Harris, Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology (Virginia)
Bradley Wilson, Midwestern State University (Texas)

The NSPA Pacemaker, one of the oldest awards for scholastic journalism, has a rich tradition. The association started presenting the prestigious award to high school newspapers soon after the organization was founded in 1921. Throughout the years, yearbooks, magazines, online sites and broadcast programs were added to the competition. The organization is celebrating its 100th birthday.

The Innovation Pacemaker is designed to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and reward student media for the courage to take chances to improve service to their customers, readers and communities.

“Student media is rapidly changing and top programs are finding innovative ways to deliver content to their readers while building unified and converged teams,” associate director Gary Lundgren said. “Print is now just one component — there is far more to a successful student media program than publishing the campus newspaper and yearbook.”

“The Pacemaker is the association’s preeminent award,” Executive Director Laura Widmer said. “NSPA is honored to recognize the best of the best.”

To celebrate its centennial, NSPA compiled the Pacemaker 100 — its top 100 Pacemaker winners.

Best of Show
Spring National High School Journalism Convention
Los Angeles
April 9, 2022

2022 Innovation Pacemaker winners

Central Times

Naperville Central High School, Naperville, Illinois
Leaders: Cameron Rozek, Calvin Comstock-Fisher, Daniel Wu, Brian Lu
Adviser: Keith Carlson

Always looking for ways to improve audience engagement, the Central Times built an easy-to-use custom app to distribute their content to mobile devices. 

Google analytics revealed 70 percent of their users came from mobile devices, yet their website was primarily targeted to desktop users. 

After exploring commercial offerings, the students decided to create a custom  app specifically for the Central Times to differentiate themselves from other school newspapers. 

To learn more about the Central Times app, watch the video featuring the Central Times editor and three leaders of their app development team.

Seamless Productions

Maize Career Academy, Maize, Kansas
Leaders: McKenna Ellis, Andrew Percival, Eli Staver, Lakin Zamorano
Adviser: Spencer O’Daniel

As the OneMaize broadcast team received a growing number of requests to produce videos for clients, Seamless Productions was born.

This fall the Seamless Productions class was created acting as a video creative agency to craft special documentaries, sports hype, public-service announcements, demonstrations and a wide array of different visual projects for district clients and patrons.

Seamless Productions charges clients for its services with broadcast students earning 40 percent and more than half the funds being used to purchase equipment.

To learn more about Seamless Productions, watch the video featuring the editors.

Examples of Seamless Productions projects —

Maize USD 266 virtual tour
Maize South girls basketball hype
Moxi Junction commercial spot
USD 266 Board of Education forum
“One Look Down Can Change Your Life” PSA

The City Voice

City High Middle School, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Leaders: Declan Bradley, Jonathan Hoffman, Maya Oeverman, Sparsh Aiyar, Vishnu Mano
Adviser: Philip Beckwith

Embracing a collaborative approach to journalism, The City Voice used the expertise of City High Middle School’s Environmental Systems and Societies class and the Environmental Club to inform their community during Earth Week 2021.

The City Voice writers and Environmental Systems and Societies students collaborated to write a series of editorials on the importance of protecting the environment, which were published throughout Earth Week 2021 and promoted on social media.

Earth Week 2021 culminated in an “Earth Day Live” livestream — the first live broadcast by The City Voice media team. 

Broadcast journalists provided the platform for student leaders from the E-Club and adult experts to connect with students directly, engaging the community by inviting students to ask questions as part of the live Q&A panel. The live broadcast attracted 279 viewers and greatly increased interest in the City Voice TV YouTube channel.

FHN Media

Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Missouri
Leaders: Kyle Button, Marina Williams
Adviser: Aaron Manfull

After observing many companies and brands using TikTok, the FHNtoday media staff set out to use the platform to engage their student audience, to promote content published on the website and to increase diversity in their content.

In the first seven months, the FHNtoday TikTok grew from 88 followers to more than 2,000, by providing news, interviews, sports and promotional videos. 

Many videos have received more than 10,000 views with comment engagement from around the country.

By using a business account, the FHNtoday media staff could view engagement and see what their followers enjoyed seeing the most.

In addition to continuing to increase engagement, moving forward the journalists are planning a weekly news show for the platform.