NSPA names West Side Story an Online Pacemaker finalist

Pacemaker competition recognizes wsspaper.com for journalistic excellence


WSS ONLINE STAFF Front row: Hanah Kitamoto, Camille Gretter, Zoe Smith, Alaina Greenlee, Ijin Shim, Vivian Polgreen Middle row: Kailey Gee, Lucybelle Gerlieb, Cassie Michaels, Renee Gould, Tessa Gibson, Paige Albright, Mohana Sunkara, Mishka Mohamed Nour, Eleanor Weitz Back row: Sophie Richardson, Nicole Lee, Laney Prelle, Audrey Parrish, Samuel Rosenthal, Jack Harris, Thayer Abu-Hijleh, Owen Aanestad, Barry Diallo Not pictured: Maddy Smith, Bella Tisdale, Helena Wa Kalala

The nation’s top scholastic news sites were recognized March 2 by the National Scholastic Press Association, which announced 47 finalists in its annual Pacemaker competition. West Side Story’s wsspaper.com is one of two Iowa news sites recognized. Owen Aanestad ’22 is the WSS online editor-in-chief.

While the judges have named the Pacemaker finalists, the Pacemaker winners have not been selected.

“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 47 schools we are naming as finalists today, the competition is still happening in real time.”

Pacemaker finalists will be honored during the opening ceremony of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Los Angeles. A group of WSS staffers will be in attendance.

Pacemaker winners will be announced for the first time at the convention’s awards ceremony April 9.

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. The organization is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

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

The 47 Pacemaker finalists represent 16 states. California led with 12 finalists, followed by Texas with five and Illinois with four.

To select the Pacemaker finalists, judges carefully studied approximately 140 sites submitted from 31 states and three countries.

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, 91 sites were companions to print newspapers and newsmagazines and 44 were online-only products.

A separate 2021 NSPA Newspaper/Newsmagazine Pacemaker competition recognized 66 print news publications and specialty magazines in November, including the WSS print publication.