The Shield Online

Shield repeats as NSPA Online Pacemaker finalist

For the second year in a row, MacJournalism's website is in the running for the National Scholastic Press Association's top honor

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Shield repeats as NSPA Online Pacemaker finalist

Photo editor Gregory James and adviser David Winter celebrates with the staff of the Shield after NSPA's Facebook Live Pacemaker nomination announcement. 

Photo editor Gregory James and adviser David Winter celebrates with the staff of the Shield after NSPA's Facebook Live Pacemaker nomination announcement. 

Grace Nugent

Photo editor Gregory James and adviser David Winter celebrates with the staff of the Shield after NSPA's Facebook Live Pacemaker nomination announcement. 

Grace Nugent

Grace Nugent

Photo editor Gregory James and adviser David Winter celebrates with the staff of the Shield after NSPA's Facebook Live Pacemaker nomination announcement. 

Bella Russo, staff reporter

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Two years ago, the Shield Online could probably be best described as an afterthought.

In 2017, the site’s primary purpose was to house digital archives of print stories, an occasional photo-essay, and maybe a fluffy poll or two. Now, after two years of hard work to build a complete website, attract a loyal readership and establish its place as a trusted community news source, you can’t really call it an afterthought anymore. You can, however, called it is a national Pacemaker Award finalist.

For the second consecutive year, the Shield Online has been named a finalist for the National Scholastic Press Association’s top award. The Pacemaker Award is given annually to a number of school publications hand chosen by NSPA. Out of hundreds of submitted publications in the online category, 44 were chosen as finalists to compete for the selective 2019 Online Pacemaker Award.

“When the judges pick the Pacemakers, the sites are competing against each other.” said Gary Lundgren, associate director of NSPA. “What the judges do is talk ahead of time about things that are important to them or what they want to see, and then when the process is done they’ve picked the sites they think are the best.”

The most important quality in a Pacemaker publication, Lundgren says, is the amount of effort spent keeping the site’s content relevant and up to date.

If you’re using a website, and you’re essentially putting a print newspaper on the website, that isn’t nearly as powerful as if you’re using video and slideshows, and pushing the capabilities to the limit”

— Gary Lundgren

“I think one of the most important things is frequency. How often does that staff put relevant content on the website for its readers?” Lundgren said. “You can argue that in a digital world, if a school is only posting content on its website a couple of times a month, well, that’s not good because the best websites really do push content out daily, and if not daily certainly multiple times a week because you have to engage your readers to read the site.”

Along with frequency and relevancy of content, NSPA judges also look at writing and headline quality, social media presence, photography, how organized and easy to navigate the sites are, and if the site incorporates unique uses of media.

“If you’re using a website, and you’re essentially putting a print newspaper on the website, that isn’t nearly as powerful as if you’re using video and slideshows, and pushing the capabilities to the limit,” Lundgren said.

In 2018, NSPA awarded this website a Pacemaker Award at its spring convention in San Francisco. The website has had a short history, however, and a quick rise to the stand-alone publication it is today. Two years ago, the website served a different purpose.

“We didn’t have much of a website the first and second year I was on staff,” Shield co-editor Sophie Ryland said. “At the end of every print issue we would just kind of dump everything that was in the print issue on there just to have it online, really, but we had no online audience or presence really.”

As a rising assistant editor, Ryland’s vision for the publication was for it to stand alone from the print.

“I remember sophomore year we were doing editor interviews,” Ryland said, “and I was sitting down with Mr. Winter, and he asked me what I envisioned the future of our publication being, and I said ‘I think we need a better online presence’ and he said ‘I actually agree 100 percent with you,’ so that’s kind of the first conversation we had about it. “

That past year, the staff of the newspaper worked especially hard on improving the website, posting content from stories to polls, photo essays and videos every day, all while learning the technical ins and outs of the website. Despite all of their tireless work, the staff was still surprised to be nominated for such an important award.

“You never really expect an award nomination, especially not a Pacemaker because it’s so prestigious,” Ryland said. “It was really exciting. Mr Winter and I and the staff last year worked really hard on getting established. Last year, we were really just trying to get our foot in the door in terms of online newspapers, so everything happened really fast.” 

You never really expect an award nomination, especially not a pacemaker, because it’s so prestigious. it was really exciting”

— Sophie Ryland

In 2018-2019, the newspaper staff has continued to make the website a priority. When nominated for the 2018-19 Pacemaker Award, website editors Max Rhodes and Steven Tibbetts were not surprised, considering the work they and the members of the staff had put into creating new and relevant media for the site. Although short in history, the development of online journalism established last year still motivates the staff to continue to improve their website.

Tibbetts and Ryland both said that the staff is determined to keep pushing forward and expanding their site well past when Pacemaker winners are announced this spring. As journalism continues to push away from print and more towards online media, having a well-rounded website is more important than ever.

“Right now, most of our focus is making deadlines for the print, but I think we could start shifting over to doing whatever’s best for the website first,” Tibbetts said. “I’d say for any publication [a website] is pretty important because that’s definitely where the world of journalism is going, farther away from the print and more online.”

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “Shield repeats as NSPA Online Pacemaker finalist”

  1. Madelynn Niles on February 25th, 2019 3:52 pm

    I love the style of writing throughout the piece, and the picture of Mr. Winter is so sweet — really captures the moment. Really great story!

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