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Accolades for the Spokesman Student Newspaper
Accolades for the Spokesman Student Newspaper

It's been another year of countless production hours for the Spokesman student newspaper editorial staff and especially the Editors in Chief (EICs), including veteran editors Eric Leung '20 and Megha Thomas '20, and Spencer Knerr '20 (new to the position this year). As the the Spokesman's chief PR staffer, Zoe Rivera '20 recently stated, "All members of the Spokesman have worked INCREDIBLY hard to provide our community with quality student-curated content that is both hilarious and informative...Featured articles that are written by some of your peers range from saucy commentary on current events such as the college admission scandal ... to humorously analytical 'hot-takes' on our beloved faculty members."

Earlier this year, the Spokesman's faculty co-advisor, history teacher Michael Friedman, sent Vol. 54 of the paper to the American Scholastic Press Association for their assessment and rating (Joe Reilly '19 was part of the EIC crew for the Fall issue). This spring, the results came back: the Spokesman earned a score of 805 on a scale of 1000 points, garnering a Second Place Award from the ASPA.

"It was very inspiring to see how well we scored in the Scholastic Press awards, says Eric. "I feel that we have improved a great deal in just the past few months since we submitted the issues that were evaluated. While taking on the role of EIC in our sophomore year, Megha and I had to learn the ropes and the expansive demands of the position. Coming into Volume 55, we both were familiar enough that we were able to delineate our roles to be more specific, such as Print EICs for Spencer and Megha, and Online EIC for me. However, these positions are not exclusive and we still very much communicate with each other for everything because at the end of the day, our responsibility is the Spokesman as a whole."

2019 Goal: Increase Student Engagement

A major priority this year has been to engage more staff members for the Spokesman website and create opportunities to diversify and increase the amount of content. Eric shares that he "held several meetings where I created Wordpress accounts for Online editors and taught them how to post content themselves and organize the website. Since then, we have had a noticeable increase of articles as well as multimedia content like photo galleries and polls." To help ensure success, the editors also reshaped one of the staff positions to focus on helping check in with writers and send follow-up emails to keep everyone on schedule and moving forward. Eric concludes, "As everyone becomes more familiar with their roles, I am confident that the online edition will become a more relevant and regular part of the PDS community."

EIC Megha Thomas shared that one of her key goals this year was to do more with the paper to highlight life at PDS and give readers even more reasons to get engaged with the Spokesman. "Through the addition of our 'Spokesfun' section and more PDS-centric articles, we have definitely seen improvements in overall reception of the paper. We have even created a Spokesman instagram page and expanded PR," Megha explained.

"Keeping track of all the articles in every section and the progress made on each one has always been a challenge,"Megha continued. "This year, we have been constantly checking in with editors to ensure that all the pieces are running smoothly."

Similarly, EIC Spencer Knerr has been committed this year to "finding ways to involve the whole community, both while we're producing the Spokesman and when it's ready to be read." One solution that worked well this year: the EICs assigned Spokesman PR reps to each grade to make announcements about getting involved in articles in progress and promoting upcoming issues and themes. "We also added more contributing writers who add new and interesting perspectives," Spencer notes. "One thing that most people don't realize about the Spokesman is how many moving parts there are -- all of the communication between staff members, the several rounds of edits before the articles are ready to print, and the often-tedious process of laying out the paper with a program we use called Adobe InDesign. There really isn't enough credit given to all the writers, editors and faculty who are involved" for the major investment of time and care that they give to each issue, he observed.

Compelling and Relevant News and Views

Among the many news highlights reported on by the Spokesman this spring: a compelling chronicle of the radically re-envisioned Upper School Day of Service Learning in March, highlights from the Peer Group retreat with senior leaders and their freshmen mentees, a wonderful story on the photography students' photo-exploration trip to New York City, great coverage of global programs spring break travel, along with thought-provoking pieces on mindfulness practices in the classroom and the potential power of online classes.

Both Mr. Friedman and co-advisor Amy Matlack issued a statement in praise of the goals and efforts of the Spokesman and its loyal crew. "In an age when media is becoming increasingly ephemeral, it is at once both important and challenging to produce a tangible record of the students' life and thoughts at PDS. Ms. Matlack and I have pushed our editors-in-chief not only to keep the proverbial trains running on time, but also to think about how they hope to grow the paper for the longer-term," they stated. "We are quite proud of the Spokesman team for receiving this Scholastic Press Association award," they shared, concluding, "It was heartening and validating to see their efforts acknowledged in this way, and we hope it inspires our staff to continue building on the legacy of the paper for years to come."

Congratulations, Spokesman team!

Photo: From left to right, former Spokesman Editor-in-Chief Joe Reilly '19 with EICs Eric Leung '20, Spencer Knerr '20 and Megha Thomas '20