Going into competition—why that’s important

Nothing is quite as much fun as seeing more than 200 high school journalists in a 8 a.m. Saturday morning “casting call” for the best in the area at one of the regional writeoff competitions. Their spirit is contagious and if you’ve never been to a competition like this, try it next year. Whether you have two students interested or 20, show up and give it a first-time try this month—three meet last Saturday, Feb. 27 (see below) and the South Bay group will meet this Saturday, March 5.

Award-winning yearbook/feature photo from the OCJEA 2016 writeoffs by Keeyum Jackie Nam, Sage Hill School.
Award-winning yearbook/feature photo from the OCJEA 2016 writeoffs by Keeyum Jackie Nam, Sage Hill School.

My theory is that student journalists work all year to help the student body at their schools become informed and entertained. These writeoff competitions, sponsored by regions of the Journalism Education Association, are the first time students can win awards for themselves—as writers, editors, photographers, designers—in both newspapers and yearbook. The cost of competition is small and the value is to also enroll as a member ofthe local JEA group and its nationwide parent organization.

The Orange County JEA competition is usually at Fullerton College and the NLAJEA competition at Cal State Northridge. Redondo Union High School is the South Bay location. For other writeoff information, go to www.socaljea.org and look at their list of 2016 writeoff locations.

I’ll give you an example of what happens from last year’s OCJEA competition that Iattended with 15 of my Sage Hill School students.—

  • newswriters, cartoonists and editorial writers heard a live presentation from former Sen. Gloria Romero and a Fullerton high school assistant principal on the two sides of the initiation of the Parent Trigger (school choice) Law at Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim and how parent advocacy impacts educational rights.
  • feature writers heard a former People Magazine online site manager on how tech is changing the face of journalism content
  • critical reviewers saw the pilot episode of a 25-year-old comedy, “The Wonder Years,” which was being re-released the next month on T.V.

. . .and that is how it goes. Each writing area has a speaker or presentation to “cover”and then write about in one hour!

  • Photographers roam and take shots and upload their two best after two hours. Both yearbook and newspaper designers complete create layouts from selected materials in two hours.

It’s fast and it’s fun and then you wait.

While the “competition part” is over by 11:30 a.m. the professional judges do not finish until around 3:30 p.m. when everyone reassembles after leisurely lunches, touring the campus or surrounding areas or going home and returning for the awards presentation.

Awards are given in all categories—most with 10 honors—and the top 10 in news, sports, features and editorials are eligible to go on to the state competition, this year on March 12 at Rancho Dominguez High School.

Students in the other categories may sign up for the state competition without prequalifiying—critical review, yearbook (two teams of two) and novice news writers are all invited. There is still time to enter these.

Top photo:  Award-winning news photo from the OCJEA 2016 writeoffs by Sahar Emtiaz, Sage Hill School.