Knight Errant wins fourth consecutive NSPA Online Pacemaker Award
At the final ceremony for the Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle on April 15, the Knight Errant won its fourth consecutive Online Pacemaker Award from the National Scholastic Press Association. The Online Pacemaker is awarded for excellence in high school journalism and is known by many as the “Pulitzer prize for student journalism.”
In order to win the Online Pacemaker Award, the Knight Errant was evaluated professional news journalists in a series of visits. “The judges check out all of the student news websites [entered for the Pacemaker] over six weeks and they come back to the sites repeatedly,” said Mr. Wallestad, journalism advisor. “They most likely look for content being updated every day so the website isn’t just a repository for the news organization.”
Throughout the school year, the newspaper’s online editor-in-chief senior Emma Eldred worked to continually update the styles and layout of the website, and this proved successful come competition time. “I really work to keep the content updated on the website all the time. Sometimes that is just getting a new picture or story for a top box, but sometimes it’s actually changing the look of the website,” said Eldred.
A few specific changes to the Knight Errant website stood out for viewers and most drastically changed the look of the website throughout the year. “Our website used to be in a block style layout and each category had its own red box, but…we needed more white space so we took out a lot of borders and red boxes to change this,” said Eldred. We also got a new top stories box and…a quick look feature to make it easier to navigate through the content of the site.”
Despite the changes to the design of the website, both Eldred and Mr. Wallestad agree that the Knight Errant’s Jack Jablonski coverage played a significant role in the newspaper’s success during the Pacemaker evaluation. “They look for the quality of the writing on a website––a school doesn’t win because of the flashiness of their website but underneath all of it you need to have good stories,” said Mr. Wallestad. “I think one of the ways that we did this was through our coverage of Jack Jablonski because of our frequency and quality of stories.”
Through winning the award, the Knight Errant staff know that they took leadership of the paper and that their own work is truly up to national standards. “I would say that Emma took more of a leadership role for the website than any of my online editors-in-chief in the past,” said Mr. Wallestad. “[The fact that we won the Pacemaker with such student leadership] makes it a testament to her and the staff. That’s the part I’m most proud of.”
Even though they are excited to win the Pacemaker again, the staff is also grateful to just have the opportunity to share what they do with the school and community. “We don’t do what we do for the awards, but it’s really nice to get recognized for our work,” said Eldred.