McCallum journalism captures 46 TAJE Best in Texas awards for outstanding COVID-19 coverage

Combined effort of Shield, Knight and photoj students earns recognition in special state competition


Evelyn Griffin

It may take some creativity to stay in touch with those we love but cannot see face to face during this pandemic, but it can be done. You just have to think outside the box you are quarantined in. Illustration by Evelyn Griffin.

Shield staff reports

The Texas Association of Journalism Advisers announced the winners in its special Best in Texas contest for COVID-19 coverage today. We are pleased to report that McCallum journalists captured 46 awards in the contest, which included COVID-19 coverage in five award categories: objective coverage, subjective coverage, multimedia, social media and welcome distraction.

In addition to winning one of McCallum’s 23 superior (highest) awards, rising junior Evelyn Griffin earned the additional distinction of being named the sole Best of the Best in Texas in the welcome distraction category for her May 13 story, Staying connected from a distance,” which explored creative ways to stay connected while on quarantine.

McCallum earned at least two superior awards in all five categories of the competition. Rising juniors Alysa Spiro, Samantha Powers and Madelynn Niles were rewarded for their consistent effort to cover COVID-19. Spiro wrote or co-wrote eight winning entries; Powers, seven, and Niles, six.

The photojournalism classes also contributed mightily to MacJournalism’s coronavirus coverage team. During the time of online classes, the photojournalism classes collaborated to produce five award-winning COVID-19 photo essays. The MacJournalism podcast team of Stella Shenkman and Julia Kay Smith produced three award-winning episodes of the The S-Word podcast that dealt with local reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This story transcends our traditional approaches to writing stories and creating content for our platforms,” adviser Dave Winter said. “I am so very proud that the staff has stepped up to the plate when it matter most to our readers and our community.”

In 2011, Lindsey Wagner was a Mac graduate set on studying to become an nurse at Stephen F. Austin University. In 2020, Wagner is a nurse battling COVID-19 on the front lines in Denver. (Images from 2011 Knight and courtesy of Lindsey Wagner.)

Objective Coverage


Lucy Marco, “What is COVID-19’s impact on the environment?” 

Anna McClellan, “Dr. Mark McClellan: There are brighter days ahead of we stay patient, vigilant, disciplined

Evelyn Griffin, “College Board pares down AP test format for 2020

Bella Russo, “District approves new grading policy, emergency procedure options in response to COVID-19

Samantha Powers, “Restaurants brace for post-COVID-19 economy

Grace Nugent COVID-10 measures put Mac sports on hold

Alysa Spiro, “First cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Austin

Ellen Fox, “Coronavirus fears affect Mac community

Samantha Powers, “In comparing pandemics, hindsight of 1918 is 2020

Madelynn Niles and Alyssa Spiro, “From the band hall to a COVID-19 hospital unit


Madelynn Niles, “Band, color guard events canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

Alysa Spiro, “Amid coronavirus fears, city cancels SXSW

Lucy Marco, “COVID-19 lockdown shorts junior’s stay in France

Anna McClellan, “COVID-19 wreaking havoc on 2020 election

Bella Russo, “City issues stay-home order to stop coronavirus spread

Elisha Scott, “Mac alums adapt to year disrupted by COVID-19

Samantha Powers, “To thwart COVID-19, AISD extends spring break as it plans to transition to distance learning

Bella Russo, “Feeding the front lines, fueling local businesses

Alex Dowd, “Spain is not itself in wake of COVID-19

Alysa Spiro, “District aims to create a level online playing field

Honorable mention

Scarlett Houser, “A coronavirus crash course

Though end-of-school-year traditions such as graduation are not officially off the table for McCallum seniors yet, it is not too early to be prepared for the possibility that AISD might follow what some schools across the nation are already doing and cancel or postpone all upcoming events.  Illustration by Bella Russo. (Bella Russo)

Subjective coverage


Mia Terminella, “Instead of learning from Italy’s coronavirus experience, the United States has replicated it

Kristen Tibbetts, “Making the best out of an unfortunate ending

TO GRANDMA’S HOUSE WE GO: At the beginning of the quarantine, my mom ordered masks online for me, herself, my dad and my grandma. We wear these masks anytime we are going outside to do anything. This picture was taken outside of my grandma’s apartment before we delivered her some groceries. Photo by Jolie Gabriel. (Jolie Gabriel)



Thea Cahoon, Scarlet Craig, Carter Eason, Olive Embry, Megan McHorse, Georgie Murray, Angus Sewell McCann, “Home (office) suite home

Evie Barnard, Kate Boyle, Lily Brode, Emily Cormack, Sophia Dawson, Olivia Escalante, Anna Garcia, Ava Medina, Thomas Melina Raab, Esme Moreno, Dylan Neal, Lydia Reedy, Angus Sewell McCann, Regan Sims, Zoe Tanner, Camille Wilson, Lily Wilson, Annabel Winter, “Balancing work and family in the COVID-19 era

Ava Medina, Charlie Partheymuller, Jolie Gabriel, Megan McHorse, Noah Lawrence, Anna Nagle, Evie Barnard, Anna Garcia, Lily Prather, Josie Bradsby, Lily Wilson, Lily Brode, Dylan Neal, Maggie Provost, Theo Roe, Reagan Dias, and Camille Wilson, “Stay-home order creates chances to bond


Emmi Anderson, Steven Anzures, Sophia Dawson, Jolie Gabriel, Megan McHorse, Daniela Morrow, Charlie Partheymuller, Lydia Reedy, Liliana Rodriguez, Amelie Ruggero, Alex Seiler, Camille Wilson, “As in the comic books, these heroes wear masks

Anna Bausman, Daniela Bodoh, Josie Bradsby, Zazie Bryant, Risa Darlington-Horta, Reagan Dias, Olivia Escalante, Anna Garcia, Ava Medina, Madelynn Niles, Liliana Rodriguez, “An inside look at online classes

Stella Shenkman, Julia Kay Smith and Bella Russo, “Hosack shares details of rationale for new grading policy, steps to create equity in online learning

Stella Shenkman and Julia Kay Smith, “Hosack: Mac to launch online classes April 6

Stella Shenkman and Julia Kay Smith, “Hosack discusses COVID-19 concerns, current plan for senior class events, rest of school year

Honorable mention

Elisha Scott and Henry Winter, “A Sunday stroll on a desolate campus

Risa Darlington-Horta, “Capturing images of Austin in the COVID-19 era


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AISD BOARD SETS SPRING 2020 GRADING POLICY: At Monday night’s special @austinisd Board of Trustees session held over the Zoom conferencing app in accordance with city and state social distancing requirements, the board enacted a resolution regarding spring semester grades. The resolution establishes that grades for spring semester classes will be either pass or incomplete and that spring 2020 grades will not be used to determine class rank for seniors or grade point calculations for juniors, sophomores or freshmen. According to the resolution, regular grading policies are to return in the fall. The board meeting adjourned at 12:05 a.m. Tuesday morning. We will post a complete story about the grading policy on the Shield website later today.

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Social media


Bella Russo, Ellen Fox, Risa Darlington-Horta, Samantha Powers, Alysa Spiro, Mia Terminella, Alex Dowd, Kristen Tibbetts, “Objective and subjective coverage on MacJournalism”

Hannah Zuniga, Alysa Spiro, Samantha Powers and Staff, “Welcome distractions on MacJournalism”

Meet Zoe, Crackerjack, Clementine and Oreo, all of whom have been adopted by McCallum faculty members in the past two weeks. It’s part of a nationwide spike in dog adoption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. People have more time to take care of and train dogs, and they need the social, emotional and mental health benefits that come from pet ownership. Photos courtesy of the puppies’ parents. (Illustration by Dave Winter)

Welcome distraction

Best of the Best in Texas

Evelyn Griffin, “Staying connected from a distance


Madelynn Niles and Grace Nugent, “The essential N&N quarantine movie guide

Evelyn Griffin, “Staying connected from a distance

Alysa Spiro, “Pandemic prompts proliferation of puppy parents

Madelynn Niles, “A glorious arrival brightens a crazy time for choir

Samantha Powers, “Soph singers attack COVID-19 with humor

Lindsey Plotkin, “Extended spring break is a time of knead


Madelynn Niles, “VIdeo project preserves percussionists perspective

Samantha Powers and Alysa Spiro, “How to cure the COVID-19 quarantine blues

Honorable mention

Lindsey Plotkin, “Corona catalyzes creativity”

Lindsey Plotkin, “Breadful times”

Fearless film critics Madelynn Niles and Grace Nugent offer something for everything in this unabridged list of movies from multiple genres that can be accessed from the lockdown comfort of your own home. We humbly predict that this is the only viewing guide in cinematic history that features “Inglorious Basterds” and “Lemonade Mouth” on the same list. In addition to offering many Disney anthems, the latter movie contains this line which hits very close to the heart of all of us at MacJournalism: “I don’t want to be some random face in the yearbook. I want to be heard.” Graphic by Anna McClellan. (Anna McClellan)