By Skyler Wolfe
Cougar News Blog
The Cactus Canyon online school newspaper, the Cougar News Blog, has won a Gold Crown Award that is given by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Winners were announced March 17 and the Cougar News Blog was one of two middle schools to earn a gold.
The award is one of the most prestigious in student journalism. About 1,100 publications were judged from junior high, high school, and college levels. Only about 250 Crowns were awarded, including just 86 gold.
The CSPA announced in November that the blog would earn a Crown, but adviser Jason Davis did not know if it would be a gold or silver. Davis was both pleased and shocked to learn that his blog had won the Gold Crown.
“I was shocked and I shouted, ‘We got a gold!’ when I heard,” Davis said. “I found out while watching the presentation on Facebook. I was pretty sure we were going to get silver, so I actually watched them call our name a few times before I heard them announce the award.”
Students were also joyed to learn that their hard work had paid off.
“I feel like my hard work has paid off because it helped make us get recognized and get the higher crown award,” eighth grader Kylee Demauro said. “It also made me more motivated to try harder so we can win again next year.”
Davis is proud of his students, but also said there is now more pressure to win again. He expects students to work even harder and to keep improving.
“Students worked very hard over the last year to earn a Crown and it is so wonderful to see all that work pay off,” Davis said. “But it’s kind of like a coach who wins the Super Bowl; you enjoy it for a little bit and then start thinking about the next one.”
Davis has been trying to strengthen the writing that is put on the blog. He only wants the best for his writers and has changed his teaching in some ways, including making new groups that include veteran and new staff members.
“It gives the students that have been around a while a chance to take a leadership role on their team and learn more about writing by teaching it,” Davis said. “Within that format, we’ve created incentives for everyone in the group to meet their deadlines and turn in their best work.”
The blog features photography from yearbook staff members and stories written by students in the advanced journalism course. Davis said he’s glad students choose to be staff members because he knows there are elective classes that are easier and more fun.
“They do incredible work,” he said. “Not a lot of junior-high students are interested in putting in the time and effort it takes to be a good student journalist, but these kids put in the work and it shows.”