NSPA names West Side Story an Online Pacemaker finalist

The National Scholastic Press Association will announce Pacemaker winners April 10


The National Scholastic Press Association named the West Side Story staff an Online Pacemaker finalist for 2021. Alex Carlon ’21 is the online editor-in-chief.

The NSPA Pacemaker, one of the oldest awards for scholastic journalism, has a rich tradition. The association started presenting the prestigious award to high school newspapers soon after the organization was founded in 1921. Throughout the years, yearbooks, magazines, online sites and broadcast programs were added to the competition.

NSPA named 43 scholastic news sites as finalists in its prestigious Pacemaker competition.

“The judging teams will now continue to study the sites named as Pacemaker finalists on a frequent basis,” said Gary Lundgren, associate director and coordinator of the Pacemaker competition. “The Pacemaker winners will be selected shortly before they are named in April, so for the 43 schools we are naming as finalists today, the competition is still happening in real time.”

Pacemaker winners will be announced at 1 p.m. Central Saturday, April 10, as part of the virtual JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention.

“The Pacemaker is the association’s preeminent award,” Executive Director Laura Widmer said. “NSPA is honored to recognize the best of the best.”

The 43 Pacemaker finalists represent 17 states and the United Kingdom. California led with nine finalists, followed by Texas with six and Missouri with four.

To select the Pacemaker finalists, judges carefully studied approximately 160 sites submitted from 30 states and three countries. The number of entries dropped slightly from 2020 when approximately 180 sites completed.

Lundgren noted that while the number of entries dropped slightly, the quality of the sites was dramatically stronger.

“Because of the logistical challenges of producing and distributing print news publications, with so many students learning remotely during the pandemic, many staffs really focused on their online products and delivered very strong content,” he said.

The online sites competed in two different categories based on school population. Two teams of three judges studied every entry, analyzing its strengths. The status of each entry was agreed upon by at least two of the three judges.

In this competition, only the online news product was judged. The news sites were either digital companions to print newspapers and newsmagazines or online-only products. In all, 98 sites were companions to print newspapers and newsmagazines and 62 were online-only products.

A separate NSPA Newspaper/Newsmagazine Pacemaker competition recognizes print news publications annually in November.