Top individual journalists honored

Reporter, Photographer, Designer, Broadcast Journalist, and Middle School Journalist of Year announced

May 2, 2017


CSMA is proud to announce the winners of our top individual awards for student journalists. A portfolio of work from the current school year was required for each award, and judging was done by nationally recognized media advisers.

Each first-place winner received a $250 prize, and each winner’s school media program also received $250. This is the first year the CSMA Board has included cash prizes, hoping to support fine student media, and encourage wider participation in these contests.


Reporter of the Year

Judged by Mitch Eden, MJE, Kirkwood HS (Mo.), DJNF Journalism Teacher of the Year, 2015

1st PlaceHannah Metzger, Rangeview HS

Hannah’s portfolio commentary, with links to her stories on the Rangeview Raider Review website

Opinion: Student Press Conference Denies Reality of APS Budget Crisis

Recently, the only thing that Aurora Public Schools have been known for is our budget crisis. It is no secret to our students or staff that the district is in trouble. When meeting with Superintendent Rico Munn to discuss the crisis, I was shocked and disappointed by his irresponsible and misinformed answers to various questions. I wrote this article to invoke a conversation about a serious issue within my community and to hold Munn accountable for his disgusting attempt to use the student journalist’s of APS as a way to gain good press without providing anything in return.


One Year Later: RHS Business Diminished But Not Destroyed
Just over one year ago, the principal of my high school made the decision to take away our business department with no notice or communication for the student body. This evoked outrage which caused the principal to “reverse” his decision. However, what many were not aware of was that the Rangeview business department was drastically decreased to the point where it nearly no longer exists. I wrote this article to point out the deceiving actions of my principal and call for the outrage that saved the business department in the first place.

 APS Debt Destroys Late-Start Wednesdays
When the APS budget deficit was first announced there was surprisingly little news coverage by local media outlets. The story that I posted was one of the first to discuss the issue, even though it only addressed a small consequence of the larger issue. I wrote this article to begin the conversation about the budget deficit and the impact it would have on our school directly.

 APS Sexual Education Reform Takes Step Towards Reality

I wrote this article covering a recent decision to reform my school district’s standard for sexual education. This article addressed the influence that sexual education has on students and the need for a change. I chose this story because I feel it is an essential topic that needs to be covered and that more people within my community should care about.

Dolmas’s Infinite Impact
I covered the story when one of my high school’s beloved staff members decided to take the next step in his life and leave Rangeview behind. I wrote this story discussing the people that have been touched by Mr. Dolmas and how his absence would affect the school as a whole. The goal of this article is to tell a story about someone who deserves recognition.

 Comments from Mitch Eden:

  • Love that you tackle tough topics (budget/department cuts) and show your reporting with quality sources adding credibility. And that you are uncovering/informing (dept cuts) your audience.
  • Your writing is clear, concise and conversational.
  • Your reporting is your strength. And reporting fuels writing. Excellent.
  • Do not need to use “I” so much in a column; it’s yours :).
  • Rather than lead with a national stat (Sleep Foundation) localize and compare the numbers at your school/your students.
  • Careful of editorializing in your news lede (APS sex ed).


2nd PlaceIsaac Bugarin, Brighton HS

Here is Isaac’s portfolio, which you can find on ISSUU, with his commentary on each spread’s reporting.

  • Loved that you jumped on the timeliness of an event (Supreme Court) and included a story in your yearbook. Moments like this are an excellent timestamp of the year.
  • You do a nice job of personalizing your ledes and finding unique angles (softball/Martinez).
  • Make sure quotes are quote-worthy.
  • Over-report; gather more than you need so you can remove the average and just keep the good. That also means not having to use everything you obtain.


3rd Place – Emma Atchison, Highlands Ranch HS

Here is Emma’s portfolio, which you can find on ISSUU, with her commentary on each story’s reporting.

  • Love the depth you give with your secondary coverage/information (cancer)
  • Strong details add depth and gives clear understanding of topics (philanthropy))
  • Informative and well-written pieces overall
  • I’d love to see the “face” of your story; put a person in your lede.
  • Don’t lead with the ordinary (soccer) and facts/statements we already know.


Overall Comments from Mitch on this competition:

  • Some entrants did not follow the directions and did not include a personal statement/short commentary.
  • Too much editorializing; opinions need attribution.
  • Many ledes read like English essay topic sentences.
  • Go deeper than the obvious. Add context.
  • Make your characters real people. Tell a little about them.
  • Such a nice variety of topics covered overall.
  • A strength was the reporting and interviewing. Strong sources.
  • Pieces followed AP Style rules well.
  • Conversational, clear language.

Photographer of the Year

Judged by Mark Murray, Coordinator of technology systems Arlington ISD (Texas), andexecutive director of the Association of Texas Photography Instructors (ATPI)

1st PlaceConner Davis, Mountain Vista HS – Click here to see his portfolio on Flickr

2nd Place – Aidan Hicks, Smoky Hill HS – Click here to see his portfolio on Flickr

3rd Place – Kaileigh Lyons, Montrose HS – Click here to see her portfolio on Flickr

HM – Justin Hayes, Ponderosa HS – Click here to see his portfolio

HM – Sydney Warner, Montrose HS – Click here to see her portfolio

Overall comments on this competition:
The strongest portfolios had clearly identifiable subjects, captured great emotion and provided a wonderful viewing experience for the readers. The best photographs are ones that grab your attention so that you want to explore the image and see what is happening. The top portfolios definitely contained this type of photograph. Be sure to show small groups of people in your photos interacting with each other and avoid too many individual subjects unless that subject is doing something extremely compelling. It is that interaction that pulls the viewer into the moment. The top portfolio featured a wide variety of sports, which gave some nice balance to the portfolio. Be careful about showing a portfolio that looks like it was taken at the same event or of only one sport.

Designer of the Year

Judged by Lori Keekley, MJE, St. Louis Park Senior HS (Minn.), DJNF Journalism Teacher of the Year, 2016

1st Place – William Satler, Brighton HS – Click here to see his portfolio and commentary on ISSUU.

2nd Place – Lea McCaffrey, Rock Canyon HS – Click here to see her portfolio and commentary on ISSUU.

3rd Place – Kaylee Kirkwood, Highlands Ranch HS – Click here to see her portfolio and commentary on ISSUU.

Overall comments:
The best designs relied on contemporary techniques and bold typography. The winners showed mastery of white space hierarchy, consistency and reader eye flow. Winning designers also let the photography show the story instead of showy colorized graphics that dated the layout.

Broadcast Journalist of the Year

Judged by Aaron Manfull, MJE, Francis Howell North HS (Mo.), DJNF Journalism Teacher of the Year, 2011

1st PlaceGannon Rushall, Mountain Vista HS

Check out Gannon’s clips and commentary:

I chose this example because I wanted to reveal the benefits of advisement. Advisement is a class that all Mountain Vista students have on Thursday mornings and many kids do not show up, believing it not to be important, so they can sleep in. I learned that there were more benefits to advisement than I expected, and I was glad to report my findings to prove the positive aspects of the class. If I was to create another video like this, I would show more student opinions and show contrasting opinions.

Anti-Trump Protest in Indianapolis
I chose this example because I believe it demonstrates my ability to quickly report news. At the National High School Journalism Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, five students, including myself, attended an Anti-Trump rally in front of the state capitol building. We created a news package including a photo gallery, an article, and a video. The event occurred at about 7 p.m., and we had uploaded all the content at about midnight. I learned what it was like to make a content package under such a strict time constraint and what it was like to be a professional journalist in the field. I also got to experience my first political rally and how intense they can truly be. If I was to make another video like this, I would try to interview a larger variety of people to get more opinions from others.

Seattle Artists and Vendors
I chose this example because it demonstrates my ability to make a quick feature story (or rather, stories). At the National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle, Washington, I participated in a pre-convention workshop called “Team Storytelling.” In this workshop, students were put into teams from their schools to go out into the city to tell stories of people. We had several platform options to tell our story on, and we decided to create a video. Through the production of the video, I learned about the stories of artists and vendors within the Pike Place Market and how to effectively tell them. If I was to make another video like this, I would get more B-roll of crowds, use more natural sound, and maybe dig deeper into the stories of these individuals.

The Story of Issac Essien
I chose this example because I think it is an inspiring story. This story is about Issac Essien, a senior basketball player at Mountain Vista. He has a very different background from those who live in the Mountain Vista feeder area because of the fact that many Vista students come from more privileged backgrounds, so I learned about what Issac has been through and I also got the chance to get a new perspective on what people who live in urban areas are really like. If I was to make another video like this, I would like to spend some time with Issac’s family and dig a little deeper into his upbringing.

Women’s March on Denver
I chose this example because it demonstrates good news reporting. The day after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, there was a Women’s’ March in Denver to support women’s’ rights, as well as other social groups’ rights. Going to an event like this was different than my experience from the protest in Indianapolis since it was much less hostile, but it was still very powerful. If I was to make another video like this, I would interview more people to get a wider variety of opinions.

First Day of School 2016-2017
I chose this example because I wanted to introduce the freshmen to the Mountain Vista community. I filmed and interviewed people throughout the entire first day of school for the new students. I showed the connection between the Link Crew leaders and the new students and how that connection impacts people in a positive way on both sides. I also experimented with Adobe After Effects to create the introduction to the video. I got a chance to look back and remember my first day as well as document the class of 2020’s first day. If I was to make another video like this, I would interview a wider variety of freshmen to see different opinions.

Indiana Repertory Theater
I chose this example because it demonstrates good camera work. This video was made at the National High School Journalism Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, during our pre-convention workshop called “Broadcast Boot Camp.” During this workshop, we were given a topic and we went out to the city to make a broadcast package about that certain topic. We found this interesting and unique building in the middle of the city, called the Indiana Repertory Theater. I was able to express my creativity in videography and got some incredible shots from inside the building. Although I got those shots, I felt like I did not get enough footage to make the video more interesting. I learned more about the culture of Indianapolis through this experience. If I was to make another video like this, I would use better microphones, interview more people, and get more B-roll.

From Aaron: Nice job here, Gannon, of covering a variety of timely, relevant topics well. From your portfolio entries, it’s evident you work well as a team and can handle being a one-man-band. You have a nice variety of entries in your portfolio, ranging from nice school features to large-scale community events. You did a good job of covering each in a professional manner. You also did a nice, thorough job with the explanations you included with your entries. To take your work to the next level, I would tell you to follow the advice you gave yourself in the explanation and keep finding and telling stories that matter.


2nd Place – Matthew Bornhorst, Regis Jesuit HS

Check out Matthew’s portfolio of work right here.

Comments from Aaron: Really nice variety of work here with your portfolio entry, Matthew. Really great to see you in a variety of roles from from handling the camera and editing to announcing and producing. Your entries reflect a similar amount of diversity. Your passion for broadcast journalism comes through in your copy. A couple of the videos seemed to have descriptions on your portfolio site, but there wasn’t a corresponding video to go along with the copy. Also, it would have been helpful to answer all of the prompts in your video descriptions.


3rd Place – Kendra Hardin, Rampart HS

Check out Kendra’s portfolio of work right here, and then read her commentary below.

Written Segment Explanations

All music is from stock music and used by permission

Foreign Exchange
I chose this example because it highlights my passion for diversity and truly represents my style as a journalist. I firmly believe that everyone has a story, and in my work I strive to learn about the people around me. As such, the foreign exchange student segment was the perfect opportunity to see our school through the eyes of international students, and bring to life their stories and experiences here in the United States. I planned, filmed and edited this segment with the help of three other students as well as lead the interviews, and scripted and recorded the voice overs. This is one of my favorite segments because I not only had the opportunity to learn about countries and cultures other than my own, but I also gained a new perspective on the power of journalism. In this segment, I was able to bring to light some remarkable stories in our school and share them with the rest of the student body. For this reason, I was able to feel as though my work played a small part in making Rampart High School a more accepting, welcoming place. In the future, I would take more time to fine-tune the sound on the interviews as well as go further in-depth with the stories of our foreign exchange students by interviewing their host families, and asking about how hosting a foreign exchange student is not only impactful for international students, but also for the families here at home.

Red Cross
I chose to include this segment as an example because it illustrates my ability to balance information with story. While the segment is journalistically sound, it also touches on the founding of the club and the caring spirit of the students involved. When I first started working on this segment, I knew next to nothing about the Red Cross club. Therefore, in creating the segment, I learned about the accomplishments of the Red Cross club, and came to appreciate their sense of charity. It was truly an honor to highlight the accomplishments of students who had too long gone unrecognized. From a journalistic standpoint, I learned to go beyond the surface level when covering a topic. Few people, including myself, knew much about this club prior to the segment, and the coverage could have easily been vague. However, I learned that there is always more to a story than it seems when I found out about the group’s many community service events, and the passion of the students in the club. In this segment, I lead my group through planning and editing and interviewing. I also scripted and recorded the voice overs. In the future, I would like to follow the Red Cross club through more of their charity events in order to better illustrate the community outreach side of the club. I would also like to get more specific cover footage through filming some of their events, and filming specific students such as the club executives. Making these changes would strengthen the story side of the segment, as well as draw in the audience with more interesting, unique coverage.

Spanish Club
I have included the Spanish Club segment as an example because it highlights my ability to cover a wide range of events, clubs and organizations around our school without losing student interest. Spanish club is a group which is often highlighted in our news program. However, it can be difficult to garner student interest for the club, as the group is small and more academically based than other clubs at our school. Therefore, when creating this segment, I strove to add a more personal tone to the piece, and to draw the audience into the people involved in the club. As in all of my segments, I lead my group through planning and editing the segment. I also filmed the cover footage and scripted the voice overs. In highlighting the Spanish club, I learned that there are no small segments. Despite the Spanish club being a fairly small organization in our school, I was still able to make an informative, entertaining, and journalistically sound piece. Even though the club gains little recognition around the school, I was able to highlight the club in a way which brought attention to the work of not only the Spanish club, but of Spanish National Honors Society as well. In the future, I would like to make the coverage more focused by interviewing the members about specific events and accomplishments of the club. I would like to show what the club has done, and what the club plans to do in the near future to encourage both a sense of appreciation for the club’s work as well as incentive to join the club for those who are not already members.

Rampart Positivity Challenge:
This is one of my stronger pieces this year as it has a variety of interviews, solid script writing, and is highly professional and informative, while maintaining the energy that appeals most to our captive audience. For these reasons, I have included this example because it highlights my strengths as a journalist. Additionally, the Rampart Positivity Challenge is a new initiative at our school, making the segment unique and never-before-seen. Therefore, this segment highlights my ability to cover a wide range of topics. In this segment, I lead my group through filming, editing and interviews, as well as scripted and recorded the voice overs. This segment, as well as the Rampart Positivity Challenge in general, was especially important to me as it taught me how to use journalism to make a difference. I chose this assignment because I believe in spreading positivity, especially in a high school environment. Through creating this segment, I saw that it is possible to combine my passion for film with my determination to make a difference. This segment taught me to use film and journalism as a voice for myself, and for those hoping to make positive change in the lives of others. However, there are a few things I would change if I were to create a segment like this in the future. From a technical standpoint, I would frame the interviews more according to the rule of thirds, and I would fine-tune the sound on a few of the interviews. From a journalistic standpoint, I would like to interview some of the people who were given special recognition throughout the Rampart positivity challenge. I would like to speak to them about their emotions after being recognized by someone else in the school in order to better capture the impact of the initiative.

I chose this segment because it highlights my ability to add a new spin on an old topic. Every year, our broadcast journalism class covers the 2D and 3D arts classes, usually interviewing the teachers and students on the benefits of taking an art class at Rampart. However, I chose to take the segment in a slightly different direction. By interviewing some of our more passionate art students at our school about their love of the class, I added a more personal, in depth tone to the piece. Also, by choosing to focus on the students, rather than the teachers, I created a more focused piece which recognizes the accomplishments of some very devoted students at our school. In creating this segment, I learned the importance of finding the story behind a more general topic. If a journalism team covers the same topic every year, then the piece should always have a new, unexpected angle in order to maintain audience interest. Furthermore, this method would ensure that every editor has a chance to add his/her own touch to the segment. In this piece, I lead my group through editing, filming and interviewing. I also scripted and recorded the voice overs. In the future, I would fix a few of the technical elements of the segment. For example, I would film the interviews in better light, with more interesting framing, as well as get more colorful, interesting cover footage. The segment is on the arts, so ultimately, I would like to make the tone of the piece a little more artistic. I would also spend more time with the artists, and get footage of their work to give the segment a more personal feel.

Comments from Aaron: It’s evident from your portfolio, Kendra, that you are a well-rounded broadcast journalist as you filmed, edited and served as the lead script writer for those pieces. It was nice to see a variety of sources used in your stories and some nice b-roll to go along with your packages. You seem to have a very strong overall foundation in the broadcast field. To take the next step, I’d love to see you tackle some more diverse, impactful stories.

Middle School Journalist of the Year


1st Place – Grace Stebbins, Sierra MS

Grace is currently a member of the Sierra Middle School Yearbook staff. She has been on this staff the last two years and has decided to apply for the Journalist of the Year award. During the first year on staff, she completed two spreads and one sidebar. Now during this second year on staff, as Co-Editor In Chief, she completed four spreads and is responsible for proofing. Throughout the two years, the yearbook staff has been granted multiple awards. During these two years she also had multiple photographic responsibilities.

As well as her co-curricular work on yearbook staff, she participated in extracurricular activities. She has been a part of all four theatrical productions offered in her two years at Sierra. she is part of National Junior Honor Society and she also qualified for the regional competition of National History Day. On top of this she enjoys volunteering in various places around the community as well as multiple babysitting jobs.

You can browse Grace’s online portfolio here.

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