Newsletter: Summer 2017

NESPA hosts 69th Annual Conference

Students and teachers from around the region attended 40 sessions at the New England Scholastic Press Association’s 69th Annual Conference at Boston University’s College of Communication Friday, May 5.

Joe Sciacca, the editor in chief of the Boston Herald, gave the keynote speech, “Reinventing journalism: Why these are the best of times.”

Among the other session topics were investigative reporting and high school journalism, blogging, podcasting, writing the personal column, making your site indispensable, covering sports with timely social media and engaging stories, freedom of the press in print and online, yearbook trends, how to get along with your administration, interviewing for print and video, conducting surveys and creating infographics, and how to get into TV news broadcasting.

Speakers included College of Communication faculty, journalism professionals from the New England region, and high school advisers and staff members.

In the afternoon, individuals received awards for distinguished service to the scholastic press in New England, and publications and productions received all New England Awards. Stories and complete listings of these awards appear in this posting.

Also in this posting are the 69 suggestions the Board of Judges has offered on how staffs can improve their work.

For Special Achievement Awards and Localizing Contest winners please see Vol. 22, No. 3 of NESPA News on this site.

Herald editor says journalism is thriving

by Alexandre Silberman

Joe Sciacca told the crowd how the newspaper business had changed overnight.

“It was a feeling of impact,” he said.

Despite those changes, Sciacca, the editor in chief of the Boston Herald, said the disturbance is positive.

“No matter what someone might tell you, or what you might have heard, these are the best of times in journalism,” he said.

The keynote speaker Friday, May 5 at the New England Scholastic Press Association’s 69th annual conference, Sciacca told students and advisers how the Herald had adapted to industry changes. The newspaper received an Innovator of the Year award in 2015 from the Associated Press Media Editors organization for its digital radio platform.

“Disruption is a good thing,” he said. “Disruption breeds creativity, and creativity breeds innovation.”

Sciacca presented a video that showed how the Boston Herald turned an old conference room into a new platform for storytelling. He said that with limited spending the newspaper has transformed into a multimedia news organization.

“The entire media model is being challenged by what people are looking for from the media,” Sciacca said. “People want to be active participants in the news process.”

News has become increasingly visual and mobile, he said. When news breaks, he said, reporters have an immediate voice.

“We need to open up our minds, and we need to embrace new technology,” he said.

Sciacca recalled covering the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986. He remembered that reporters ran to use one of the 14 payphones to call in their stories. The Herald printed a special edition. If the event took place today, information would be live from the scene, Sciacca said.

“We do know people want to be active participants, not lectured to,” he said. “News consumers are becoming increasingly news content generators.”

He affirmed that the pillars of journalism, including credibility, accuracy, verification, fairness, solid sources, maintaining credibility and shoe leather reporting are necessary, regardless of the platform.

“The need for speed does not trump the need for accuracy and credibility,” Sciacca said.

Data journalism and computer-assisted reporting can be good, he said, but there is no substitute for traditional practices.
“The most powerful thing you can do is look someone eye-to-eye and interview them,” Sciacca said. “The ability to read their faces will help you tell the story.”

He said that meaningful, high impact stories were what got him into journalism. Sciacca wrote about an asylum seeker who was mistreated by a judge, and the case was re-held the next day. He reported on a boat club on the Charles River on state land that excluded women from joining. His story helped lead to the reversal of the policy.

“Journalism is not dead,” Sciacca said. “It’s thriving.

“We need to redouble our efforts, and we need to balance those ideals with the new technology.”

He addressed the concerns of fake news and clickbait, adding that the biggest challenge is keeping faith with readers.

“Clickbait is an insult to readers,” Sciacca said. “You’re treating them like clicks instead of like humans.”

He suggested that students ingest a variety of news content, to see differences in coverage and keep pushing for transparency.

“Fight against injustice, and do it in a credible way,” he said. “The biggest challenge we have is keeping faith with our readers.”

Sciacca said that being in a room filled with emerging journalists made him feel positive about the future.

He concluded his speech by telling the crowd the best trait for young journalists:
“Passion is the one thing that I think makes a successful journalist,” he said.
Alexandre Silberman is an editor of The Register at Burlington High School in Burlington, Vt.

Daniel Sharkovitz receives Robert Baram Award

For his exemplary leadership in the region’s scholastic press, Daniel Sharkovitz received the Robert Baram Award.

The criteria for the award are as follows:

“With the Robert Baram Award the New England Scholastic Press Association honors distinguished advisers from this region who have helped students raise their sights and standards in the practice of school journalism.

“The award is named for Robert Baram, founder and for 46 years the executive director of the Association.

“Consideration for the award is based on an adviser’s
• contributions to the cause of ethical, thorough and articulate scholastic journalism in the adviser’s school and community; and
• support for school journalists in all facets of their efforts to present credible and useful material to their audience.”

Excerpts from Daniel Sharkovitz’ citation:

“For the past 25 years, Mr. Sharkovitz has advised an exemplary publication in this region’s scholastic press: The High School View.

“Back when most members of the scholastic press found it a challenge to come out monthly for a school audience, Mr. Sharkovitz’s students were coming out weekly, and for an audience of the 15,000 print readers of The Martha’s Vineyard Times—in addition now to its online audience.

“Throughout these years of challenges, Mr. Sharkovitz has stood for students’ First Amendment rights.

“He has developed a journalism course, advocated a state-of-the-art student news publication office and worked to support the students’ very special relationship with The Martha’s Vineyard Times.

“Meanwhile, he served as the high school’s English department chair.

“Mr. Sharkovitz is a graduate of Medway High School where he wrote for the paper, called The Zenger.

“He went to Northeastern and then served as a volunteer writing instructor at the Middlesex Jail and House of Correction in Billerica.

“He has a master’s from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School of English and has taught in programs for Northeastern and Cape Cod Community College.

“A member of the NESPA’s Advisory Board for the past 12 years, he became a vice president on the Board of Directors in 2013.”

Emphasizing the privilege of working with Mr. Sharkovitz, one former High School View editor said he learned from him “how to write like a pro, how to think more clearly and how to work at the highest ethical standard.”

An NESPA board member, Tom Fabian, praised Mr. Sharkovitz’ commitment and professional insight.

He recalled a time when Mr. Sharkovitz spoke in an annual conference session here “about the idea that we’re not only teaching journalism, but that we really need to be in the business of teaching our editors how to lead. I found that immensely helpful.”

“On another note,” Mr. Fabian said, “Bob Baram was my teacher at B.U. and being somewhat old school himself—a reporter’s reporter—I think he would appreciate someone as committed as Dan receiving the award.”

Freedom to Write Award to Mary Burchenal

Mary Burchenal, chair of the English department at Brookline High School, received the Freedom to Write Award.

This award honors school administrators who actively encourage and support students and their advisers in the exercise of responsible scholastic journalism.

The administrator who wins this award inspires students and faculty to use journalism as a way to participate more fully in a democratic society.

Ms. Burchenal, a former adviser of Brookline High’s The Sagamore, has a B.A. from Princeton and a master’s from Stanford. She has taught in independent schools and at Brookline since 1989. She has been department chair since 2004.

According to The Sagamore’s co-adviser, Lindsay Wise, Ms. Burchenal “was behind the creation of a journalism course linked to the school newspaper. She believed that having class space and instruction would allow more access for young journalists to learn the full scope of their craft.”

Ms. Wise also said that Ms. Burchenal made it clear that “a good newspaper must be free and independent. She wanted to guarantee that even though it was attached to a course, the newspaper would be free to print what they wanted without administration oversight.

“She has fought to give the newspaper a dedicated and exclusive room in the school and to get computers and resources as needed. She has helped the journalism program expand, fighting for new sections and pushing for updating adviser stipends. She has offered money for conferences and field trips.

“In short, she has helped to maximize the experience of student journalists at the high school.”

And also, from Ms. Wise:

“Advisers know that when they go to her for advice, she will steer them towards the rights of the free press. She welcomes investigative articles—even of her own department.

“She believes advisers should advise and not tell students what to do. She believes that if journalists are going to learn their job, they need to know what it’s like to speak freely and learn the consequences of what they say. She has created the environment where student journalists are able to do just that.”

Award of Special Merit to Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman, a former editor of The Martha’s Vineyard Times, is the winner of an Award of Special Recognition.

This award honors professors and members of the professional press.

Sigelman began with The Martha’s Vineyard Times as an ad salesman. Then he worked as a columnist, news reporter, news editor, managing editor and then its editor in chief until October, 2016.

Having graduated from Boston English, he went on to U.Mass Amherst, and then, having spent time in Europe and Japan, where he taught English, he visited Martha’s Vineyard and ultimately settled there.

According to his former editor, Doug Cabral, Mr. Sigelman “asked himself always the crucial question: ‘What is the readership owed in this story and this week’s edition?”

Daniel Sharkovitz has said that during the 25 years he has advised The High School View, Mr. Sigelman “helped hundreds of our student journalists.”

“Whether he was mentoring students interning at The Times, responding to questions from our student journalists in the high school or just offering encouraging words of advice, he was always supportive of the highest standards of scholastic journalism.

“In addition, he welcomed many student interns into The Times office, where he helped and inspired them to write important stories with clarity and thoughtfulness.

“Dozens of student journalists with whom he worked went on to write for their college newspapers. Some now write professionally for news organizations.”

All-New England Awards for 2017


  • Class I
    • First place: Plymouth North News, Plymouth North High School, Plymouth, Mass., Panther TV, Plymouth South High School, Plymouth, Mass., and The Pulse, Manchester High School, Manchester, Conn.


  • Class I
    • First place: The Register, Boston Latin School, Boston, Mass.


  • Class I
    • First place: The Masuk Free Press, Masuk High School, Monroe, Conn.
    • Second place: The Little Green, Manchester Central High School, Manchester, N.H.
    • Third place: The Lion’s Roar, Newton South High School, Newton Centre, Mass.
  • Class III
    • First place: Tech Talk, Cape Cod Vocational Technical High School, Harwich, Mass. and The Independent, Manchester Essex Regional, Manchester, Mass.
    • Second place: The High School View, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Oak Bluffs, Mass.
    Third place: Veritas, Nantucket High School, Nantucket, Mass.


  • Class I
    • First place: The Ghostwriter, Westford Academy, Westford, Mass.
  • Class II
    • First place: Wayland Student Press Network, Wayland High School, Wayland, Mass.
    • Second place: The Big Red, Hudson High School, Hudson, Mass.


  • Class I
    • First place:The Algonquin Harbinger, Algonquin Regional High School, Northborough, Mass., and The Sagamore, Brookline High School, Brookline, Mass.
    • Second place: The Newtonite, Newton North High School, Newtonville, Mass.
    Third place: The Rebellion, Walpole High School, Walpole, Mass.
  • Class II
    • First place: The Register, Burlington High School, Burlington, Vt.


  • Class I
    • First place: Tripod, Thornton Academy, Saco, Maine.
  • Class III
    • First place: The SHIP, Presque Isle High School, Presque Isle, Maine
    • Second place: A Piece of Somers, Somers High School, Somers, Conn.

69 suggestions from NESPA judges

Write in a way that honors why the topic matters.

Grammar counts. So does spelling.

Use a tripod.

Match the pictures to the audio.

As judges went through submissions to the Special Achievements contests, they offered suggestions for improving print, broadcast and online journalism.

In this 69th year of the New England Scholastic Press Association, here are 69 of the judges’ tips.


  1. Avoid research paper/term paper journalism. If you want to write about topics happening far away, find local sources to interview and quote.
  2. Write about your own school’s sports and athletes, not pro sports. Cover opponents’ specific strengths and weaknesses relative to your own school teams’.
  3. Cover performances and exhibits in your own school.
  4. In reviews, don’t use overly detailed plot summaries.

Writing and editing

  1. Use short leads, rarely going over 30 words.
  2. Don’t start with a date.
  3. Don’t start with a quote.
  4. Use grafs—one- to two-sentence units. Full-length paragraphs lose readers, in print and especially on line.
  5. Play up the future angle. Don’t leave it until the last graf.
  6. Pay attention to the order of grafs. Answer the 5 Ws and H in the lead first and, if necessary, the second graf. Don’t bury what your reader needs to know.
  7. When writing about a series of topics in a story, set the direction by covering them in the sequence first listed.
  8. Stay in third person.
  9. Avoid many and several. Say exactly how many.
  10. Don’t use Q and A. Instead, tell a story.
  11. Use said, not “shared.” Don’t use says unless you are quoting from published material. Don’t use “thinks” as an attributive verb.
  12. Attribute at the beginning of a quote online. In print, attribute at the end of the first quoted sentence in a single- or multi-sentence quote.
  13. Use transitions going from quote to quote and source to source.
  14. If you use a quote from an online source, i.e., someone else’s article or interview, make clear where it’s from.
  15. Don’t close a quote until the speaker has finished.
  16. Indent after closing a quote.
  17. Set off sections of stories with subheads in parallel structure.
  18. Follow the same style of identifying faculty members.
  19. Overuse of quotes in editorials can make them start to look more like features.
  20. Set a word limit of 300 for a full-length editorial. Try some editorial briefs.
  21. Never byline an editorial. Let the editorial speak for the whole editorial board.
  22. Use the “editorial we” correctly to denote all members of the editorial board, not all students in the school.
  23. Use a byline with a column. Don’t overuse “I” in columns.
  24. Don’t syllabicate headlines.
  25. Use single, not double quotes in headlines.
  26. In captions, identify all whose faces are visible.
  27. Say what people in the picture are doing.
  28. For sports captions, get the opposing team roster so as to be able to identify all players.
  29. After editing and before publishing, proofread. Try working with a partner with one person reading out loud and the other marking errors to correct.


  1. Keep stories short. If a single story is longer than three minutes, it can probably be trimmed.
  2. Avoid letting the reporters themselves become too prominent.
  3. Don’t use background music—especially generic background music—unless it adds to the piece.
  4. Avoid distracting background noise and poor audio with interviews.
  5. B-roll should support the voiceover.
  6. When interviewing someone, show the person’s facial expression.
  7. Make sure lighting is adequate.


  1. Emphasize the most newsworthy elements.
  2. Structure pages so that you draw in the reader.
  3. Use headline and picture sizes to decrease emphasis down the page and set of facing pages.
  4. Have a clear visual path.
  5. Avoid overuse of jumps, especially on inside pages.
  6. Don’t use squint-sized body type.
  7. Avoid running body type over a dark tone.
  8. Put captions right under or beside related photos.
  9. Credit all photos and all artwork.
  10. Crop tightly.
  11. Avoid posed pictures.
  12. Use action pictures.
  13. Show faces, not backs.
  14. Run a caption with every photo.


  1. For the home page, use your own pictures.
  2. URLs should go to a specific piece, not your whole site.
  3. Match the pictures to the audio.
  4. Combine different kinds of student work, i.e., pictures and graphics.
  5. Don’t cover one part of a graphic with another part of the graphic.
  6. Present a clear sequence of pictures in slide shows so as to tell a story.
  7. Include thorough captions.
  8. Use a caption for each picture.
  9. Don’t submit unedited video.
  10. Avoid blurry photos in montages.
  11. Don’t use shaky, handheld video.
  12. Use subheads and bullets to keep the reader’s attention.
  13. Use sound, not just pictures.
  14. Update the home page often.
  15. Include links.

For a complete list of Special Achievement Awards 2017, please download the PDF.