Shoreham-Wading River School District

SWR student paper cleans up in journalism awards

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The student journalism award winners in Shoreham-Wading River include (back row, from left) editor-in-chief Giavanna Verdi, Barbara Ferentinos, editor-in-chief Ashlyan Vicari, (front row) managing editor Shannon Steimel, news editor Gabrielle Bruno and Kelly Granzen.

Shoreham-Wading River journalism student Giavanna Verdi wants to tell you a story about the real person behind a character in the 1992 hit movie, “A League of Their Own.”

The Betty Spaghetti character is based on Giavanna’s great-great-aunt Betty Trezza, who was known by friends, family and fans as “Moe.”

“Betty was often referred to as ‘Moe’ on the diamond,” Giavanna wrote in an article — printed in the shape of a baseball diamond — for her student newspaper, Wildcat Pause, of which she is co-editor-in-chief.

“She had trouble remembering her teammates’ names when first playing for the Racine Belles. If she wanted to get someone’s attention, she would yell ‘Moe!’ So, as a team joke, her teammates and eventually her fans called her ‘Moe.’ ”

Giavanna’s feature won two awards — third place, format buster and an honorable mention in the sports feature category — at the Long Island Press High School Journalism Awards ceremony May 22 at Hofstra University, where more than 1,200 submissions were judged.

Her awards were among the 33 total that Wildcat Pause took home from the competition.

This was the paper’s best year for awards, said student newspaper adviser Jean Branna.

“[The students] are very dedicated,” she said. “They really care about what appears in the paper and work hard. They really think through what they’re doing, and I think that’s one of the reasons why they are so successful.”

Another successful submission was Kelly Granzen’s “Small Town Teens,” which won first place in the serious feature category. She also won second place for news illustration, third place for informational feature and third place for a feature-local story.

Kelly said she was able to get a local teen drug abuse story after she agreed to keep her student sources anonymous. Asked by a reporter if she was worried that students weren’t telling her the truth, since they could hide behind anonymity, Kelly said she wasn’t concerned.

“Most of their stories were already known, so I knew they were being honest,” she said. “I was scared to ask them if I could use their names because I felt they would back out of the whole interview. I told them that we wouldn’t use their names and they agreed to speak.”

One award Ms. Branna said she was wasn’t expecting was the first place for layout/overall, since the district uses an obsolete layout program called PageMaker.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” she said, adding that the paper’s software will be updated to InDesign this summer. “[The students] really care. They come in after school and adjust any layout things that have to be adjusted. Sometimes we get a little obsessed with things that the reader isn’t even going to notice. [Graphics editor Paul Whitbeck] did a great job. He can do anything.”

As six of the paper’s 46 staff members reminisced last week about the school year’s top stories, co-editor-in-chief Ashlyn Vicari said she’s most proud of how the paper tackled the stickiest issues of abortion, gay rights and gun control.

“I’m really proud of everybody,” she said. “Everyone did an amazing job.”

Ashlyn, a senior, earned three first place awards: reporting on Newtown, for “Newtown Reawakens Ideas for Stricter Gun Control”; entertainment & lifestyle, for “Students Can’t Shake Their Hillbilly Bone”; and layout/single page, for “Like This Article if You Agree.” She also won this year’s Riverhead News-Review journalism award and plans to major in journalism and minor in economics at St. John’s University.

News editor Gabrielle Bruno said she’s also interested in pursuing journalism and enjoys being able to write about any topic she’s interested in.

“I think writing something that you’re passionate about and seeing it all come together is very rewarding,” she said.

Gabrielle won four awards, including first place, food commentary, for “All I Want for Christmas is … Food?”; second place, social commentary – general, for “Keep the Fashion Trend Out of Religion”; third place, opinion, for “Celebrities Catch a Case of Obsessive Teens”; and honorable mention, news story, for “Triumphant Wildcats Share Homecoming Spotlight.”

Barbara Ferentinos’s article on the district’s capital improvement proposals won a second place award for a school news story. Barbara also earned a third place award in the serious feature category for her story about tattoo and piercing trends.

Barbara said she enjoyed conducting interviews and found school administrators’ comments added more reliable information to her stories than did student comments.

“Administrators put thought into what they are saying whereas students just say whatever they feel like,” she said.

Shannon Steimel said she enjoyed writing a narrative about being a twin, as well as her feature about teens living double lives. She received honorable mentions for both stories.

Here’s a summary of the other Wildcat Pause award winners:

Lauren Lustgarten, second place, non-deadline news, “School Security Ups Student Safety Procedures.”

Tom Cummings, second place, entertainment & lifestyle, “Energy Drinks & Caffeine – The Truth Behind Labels” and honorable mention, student profile, “Corey Cairo Plays with Pros.”

Tim Haggerty, second place, reviews/criticism, “What’s Cooking for Helsenberg?”

James Kuczewski, third place, arts review – film, “Caped Crusader” and third place, layout/single page, “Initiate Phase Two: The Avengers Reassembles in 2015.”

Spring Yu, third place, arts & entertainment, “Psy Says ‘Dress Classy & Dance Cheesy.’ ”

Emily Kulesa, honorable mention, first person, “Eat Haggis & Ceilidh,” and honorable mention, first person, “Students Panic … Lost APs.”

Michael Julian, honorable mention, student profile, “Rotanz Improving Already Stellar Career.”

Casey DePalma, honorable mention, opinion piece – school, “Bullying Behind the Monitor.”

Carolyn Rogers, honorable mention, arts review – art, “Media Students Display ‘Best in Show’ Talent.”

Thomas Kirby, honorable mention, sports feature, “Amputees Dribble Down Wildcat Court.”

Joseph Whelan, honorable mention, political/local feature, “Minimum Wage: Beneficial for Whom?”

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