Newsletter Summer 2018

NESPA hosts 70th Annual Conference

For details and procedures on membership, conference and workshop registration and entry forms, please download the PDF.

Students and teachers from around the region attended 37 sessions at the New England Scholastic Press Association’s 70th Annual Conference at Boston University’s College of Communication Friday, May 4.

Martin Nisenholtz, who helped put The New York Times on line, gave the keynote speech, “Facebook, Fake News and the Future.”

Among the other session topics were visual story telling, how to hold the powerful accountable through investigative reporting, conducting surveys and creating infographics, making your news stand out online, the First Amendment and FOI laws, news interviews, feature writing, live sports broadcasting, profile writing, public relations, round tables for editors in chief, trends in yearbook theme, design and coverage, and breaking into the news business.

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

The ceremony for All New England Awards in Scholastic Editing and Publishing along with a special award to a school administrator for his support of the scholastic press.

Also in this posting are the 70 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. 23, No. 3 of NESPA News on this site.

Accountability crucial, keynote speaker says Journalists need to regain public’s trust

by Dakota Antelman

Martin Nisenholtz, who helped The New York Times launch its online operations more than 20 years ago, discussed needed changes to the digital media marketplace.

In his keynote address, “Facebook, Fake News and the Future,” at the 70th New England Scholastic Press Association annual conference Friday, May 4, he urged listeners to learn about the business side of social media, to demand accountability from outlets and to develop better media literacy.

He linked those lessons back to Facebook and the seismic impact it has had on the news industry.

“As Facebook draws the data of over two billion users worldwide, it becomes the most effective advertising operation in history,” he said.

Journalism, Nisenholtz noted, costs money, and before Facebook, the businesses producing it were funding themselves largely through advertising sales. Facebook, however, destabilized that once thriving income source, Nisenholtz said.

On Facebook, he said, “you’re buying the audience you want and paying for that audience directly through the Facebook ad platform.

“The money is then moving out of websites that actually create things, like news reports, and onto platforms like Facebook and Google that merely aggregate that information.”

Beyond their impact on advertising, Facebook and the digital revolution it has marked have had other effects on the news industry, Nisenholtz said.

In 2016, the now infamous Russian intervention in the U.S. presidential election through fake news and Facebook advertisements exposed one of these flaws: News feeds and information aggregating platforms like Facebook often favor sensationalism over truth, Nisenholtz said.

This very bad news content is deliberately engineered to get clicks on social networks so ad dollars flow back,” he said.

Nisenholtz also said that sensationalist fake news content now appears in news feeds with the same emphasis as more reliable content like that of The New York Times. That, he said, is a danger to journalism.

Finally, Nisenholtz highlighted the pendulum swing from a media market dominated by a few network television stations and major print publications in the 1980s back to a similarly monopolistic market now dominated by Facebook.

This continued centralization of power undermines the original goals of the movement towards more diverse mass media, he said.

“We didn’t fight to open up the means of mass communication only to have it be co-opted by a few people in Silicon Valley,” he said. “That’s not a good outcome for our society.”

Having laid out his concerns about the state of digital media, Nisenholtz proposed solutions.

He said Facebook must work hard to regain public trust following the 2016 election and its privacy scandals since then.

Conversely, however, he added that consumers should learn to better identify fake news in their news feeds while investing their money in paid subscriptions to reliable publications to support the industry.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s philosophy seems to be to move fast, break things, apologize and repeat,” he said. “It’s time for you to demand that this behavior not continue.”

Dakota Antelman is an editor of The Big Red at Hudson High School in Hudson, Mass.

More key points fr0m keynote session

by Hari Narayanan and Zoe Goldstein

When Thomas Fiedler, dean of the College of Communication and former editor in chief of The Miami Herald, introduced Martin Nisenholtz, he emphasized the importance of the press.

“You can’t have a democracy unless the information people get is independent,” he said.

“The idea of putting news on paper—you’ll see that go away. But what doesn’t go away is the importance of journalism.”

After Nisenholtz’s talk, a student asked, “How should we as a community of informants evolve with the media and remain relevant?”

Nisenholtz replied, “I don’t think values of journalism have changed at all. The facts. The truth. That doesn’t change.

“What has changed is the means of communication. The only way to get good at that is to use it. Learn how to use WordPress. Work with your teachers. Start something online. But the bedrock of this is the values of journalism and that hasn’t changed since [Thomas] Jefferson.”

Among Nisenholtz’s other points:

  • “The loss of innocence in the world and the loss of innocence we are witnessing now on social media is also the loss of something much more important: The truth.”
  • “Don’t ever think that Facebook is the same as the open web. Hold them accountable.”

Hari Narayan and Zoe Goldstein are editors of The Newtonite at Newton North High School in Newtonville, Mass.

Freedom to Write Award to Stephen Imbusch

Stephen Imbusch, the principal of Walpole 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.

Stephen Imbusch has worked at Walpole High School since 1997. After receiving his undergraduate degree in technology education in wood & building technology from the University of Limerick in Ireland, he came to Walpole High School to teach Computer Applications, Robotics, Architecture and Technical Drawing.

While teaching, Imbusch received his master’s in education in school administration from Rhode Island College. He became assistant principal in 2002 and principal in 2010.

According to Walpole High’s adviser to The Rebellion, Conor Cashman, current and previous Rebellion editors in chief have truly valued Imbusch’s “commitment to the community as a whole and to the journalism students in particular.”

One former editor, Andrea Traietti, chose Imbusch as her “Special Educator” at the National Honors Society ceremony in 2017.

In her speech, she said Imbusch “has done nothing except continually support my voice as a writer and as a student at Walpole High School.

“Mr. Imbusch’s genuine interest in what I had to say has had a huge impact on me. It made me realize that my voice could be influential.”

A current co-editor-in-chief, Lindsey Sullivan, put it this way:

“To us and the rest of The Rebellion staff, Mr. Imbusch goes above and beyond in fulfilling his role as an administrator.

“He has been nothing but completely supportive of us expressing our views and finding our voices as writers.”

And as Cashman has said, the Walpole High School journalism program has been fortunate to have the consistent support of Stephen Imbusch and the school.

“Whenever student staff writers need the principal’s perspective for a story,” Cashman said, “he welcomes the interviewers and provides thoughtful responses and encourages students to create real change within the community.”

All-New England Awards for 2018

Class I
WNN, Red & White, Norwich Free Academy, Norwich, Conn.
Plymouth North News, Plymouth North High School, Plymouth, Mass.
Panther TV, Plymouth South High School, Plymouth, Mass.

Class I
The Masuk Free Press, Masuk High School, Monroe, Conn.
The Lion’s Roar, Newton South High School, Newton Centre, Mass.
Class III
Tech Talk, Cape Cod Vocational Technical High School, Harwich, Mass.
The High School View, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Oak Bluffs, Mass.
Veritas, Nantucket High School, Nantucket, Mass.

Class I
Hatters Herald, Danbury High School, Danbury, Conn.
Denebola, Newton South High School, Newton Center, Mass.
The Ghostwriter, Westford Academy, Westford, Mass.
Class II
The Big Red, Hudson High School, Hudson, Mass.
Wayland Student Press Network, Wayland High School, Wayland, Mass.

Class I
The Algonquin Harbinger, Algonquin Regional High School, Northborough, Mass.
The Sagamore, Brookline High School, Brookline, Mass.
The Newtonite, Newton North High School, Newtonville, Mass.
The Rebellion, Walpole High School, Walpole, Mass.
Class II
The Register, Burlington High School, Burlington, Vt.

Class III
The SHIP, Presque Isle High School, Presque Isle, Maine


70 suggestions from NESPA judges

During the judging for Special Achievement Awards, judges offered advice on ways staffs can improve their publications and broadcasts. Judges suggested ways to improve accuracy and clarity in language, balance and emphasis in coverage, and access and direction online. In this 70th year of the New England Scholastic Press Association, here are 70 of the judges’ suggestions.

Artwork and design

  1. Give each photo and illustration its own caption.
  2. Use captions for clarity and emphasis with each photo.
  3. Credit each individual photo and piece of artwork.
  4. Black and white photos can be at least as effective as full color, and they are less work to get right in print.
  5. Photos must be more than merely illustrative. They need to be able to stand on their own. Make each photo worth more than a few words. Aim for 1,000.
  6. Crop tightly so as to avoid dead space.
  7. Show eyes.
  8. Avoid “firing line” photos. Don’t just line them up and shoot. Show action. Let each photo tell a story.
  9. Keep the chief subject—and peripheral subjects— in focus so as not to confuse the readers. Either crop the unfocused parts out, or shoot the whole image in a focused way.
  10. With informational graphics, have a clear sequence showing the relationships among images and related captions.
  11. Key word: Design. Unify pictures, illustrations, placement, white space and typography. They need not necessarily be harmonious, but they do need to be whole.
  12. Keep it simple. Don’t make the designs too busy.
  13. Leave white space between/among pictures, and use consistent internal margins.
  14. Integrate color, pull quotes, text, headlines and captions into an immediately comprehensible whole.
  15. Have levels of emphasis so as to lead the reader’s eye around the page or set of facing pages.
  16. Vary front page designs from issue to issue, emphasizing timely material of consequence to your readers.


  1. Localize issues relevant to your school community audience by providing unique perspectives and connections.
  2. Be sure you support your argument with evidence (research, sources, anecdotes).
  3. Use multiple sources.
  4. Don’t try to include everything about a topic. Keep to the main focus of the coverage.
  5. Use interviews that add newsworthy dimensions to your story.
  6. Use direct observations from the scene(s) of the news.
  7. Cite sources for all statistics and other researched facts.
  8. Avoid many, several and other vague terms.
  9. Find the human angle.
  10. In features about individuals, go beyond a recounting of the person’s life story. Ask questions to elicit quotes that bring out the subject’s personality.
  11. Use more than one source in profiles.
  12. Play up notable highlights with relevant anecdotes and quotes from the individuals themselves and from other sources.
  13. In profiles, make readers feel that they are being introduced to these persons in person. Help readers to feel the persons’ energy (through quotes), what moves them and how they see the world.
  14. Keep in mind the why of it all. Why is this person worthy of a story?
  15. Even with an obligatory retirement salute, go to the heart of who this person is and why readers should know about him or her.
  16. In retirement stories, don’t just say the subject was a brilliant teacher. Show how.
  17. In sports, put the future angle in the lead. Don’t wait until the end to tell readers what is about to happen.
  18. Include quotes from opposing coaches and, whenever possible, opposing players.
  19. Don’t reassure the home team about a loss: “Despite the loss, the team made the school proud.”
  20. If a player leaves due to an injury, be specific in analysis about what the teams loses. Don’t just say, “We will miss his strength.”
    Give the number of tackles, yards gained.
  21. If a student has made a major impact on a team, show how.
  22. Use story-telling quotes. Avoid “This season was great.” “It was fun.”
  23. Make the most of school arts including performances, concerts and exhibits.
  24. In reviews of student performances, keep in mind that the show or concert may be over by the time the publication comes out.
  25. In restaurant reviews, go beyond what readers can find in a quick Google search. If you’re going to list the appetizers, discuss why they’re noteworthy.

Writing and editing

  1. Make sure you have an angle and play it up.
  2. Don’t back into the lead on the when.
  3. Limit leads’ length to 25-30 words.
  4. Use grafs—one- to two-sentence units—not paragraphs.
  5. Keep to third person as a general rule, even in personal experience features and columns.
  6. Features shouldn’t read like research papers. Don’t have graf after graf of statistics, facts and quotes from published sources.
  7. “You” in feature writing is tricky to get right. In general, avoid it.
  8. In columns, the writer’s voice should be engaging. Don’t allow sources to be the primary voices. Nevertheless, keep first person in check.
  9. Use the “editorial we” correctly, to denote all members of the editorial board, not all students in the school.
  10. Attribute all opinion to specific sources.
  11. For attribution, use said. Avoid claims and other loaded words except for special emphasis in opinion pieces.
  12. Use direct quotes to give anecdotes and colorful information rather than short, quantitative responses.
  13. Don’t stack quotes. Use transitions from source to source.
  14. Keep quotations on point.
  15. Follow style on numbers. Spell below 10. Don’t begin a sentence with a numeral. Write it out.
  16. Avoid wordy verbs, such as ended up winning.
  17. Vary the sentence structures.
  18. In sports, avoid generic leads. Example: As the season begins, the team welcomes a new coach.
  19. Be consistent with apostrophes: girls’ soccer, boys’ soccer, not girl’s soccer, boys’ soccer.
  20. Use the minimum of punctuation so that it is for clarity only.


  1. Make sure links to articles work.
  2. If you use quotes from other published articles or websites (say from a celebrity or expert in the field), be sure to clearly attribute.
    Cite not only to the speaker, but also the published source/name of article so it doesn’t mislead, seeming as if you interviewed the person.
  3. Attribute before the quote itself online. Close quotes clearly and include transitions between and among sources.
  4. Use links and instagram posts to make the material more than text.
  5. Use a tripod. When you shoot with your phone, it ends up looking like you shot with your phone.
  6. Anchors and reporters need to keep their own opinions out of their coverage.
  7. News segments usually need a reporter doing stand-ups and voice-over to tell the story more efficiently.
  8. Rarely does a segment deserve more than three minutes.
  9. Use a caption and a credit for each one of the pictures in a slide show.

For a complete list of Special Achievement Awards 2018, please download the PDF.