Hannah Conkin and Zoe Lindsey with their awards while in the back is rest of the award winning newspaper staffers (l to r) Sara Whitley, Ron Codispoti Abby Gillenwater, Abby Lindsey and Russ Hubbard. Photo by Ned Jilton II
KINGSPORT — The Sequoyah Scribe
student newspaper at Sevier Middle School was the only middle-school paper to place in this year's Tennessee High School Press Association awards.
What's more, two Scribe writers took home first- and second-place writing awards from the 2013-14 THSPA contest.
David Flanary, newspaper adviser and eighth-grade history teacher at Sevier, said the staff of 20 worked hard this year. The reporters and editors, in turn, credited Flanary with motivating and supporting them.
Flanary said a THSPA official said this year marked the first time a middle school had placed or won in the contest for at least five years. Judges of the contest were from the University of Georgia and provided feedback to the competitors.
"The JSMS (John Sevier Middle School) student newspaper performed above and beyond my wildest dreams," Flanary said in an email. "We managed to edge out several high school newspapers in highly competitive categories."
Hannah Conkin won first place for feature articles with "A struggle with Cancer," while Zoe Lindsey won second place in columns for "Intervention/enrichment controversy. "
The paper also won honorable mentions for best newspaper; inside page design for "Point/Counterpoint;" and an editorial titled "Overcrowding a Serious Issue at Sevier" by the editorial board.
It got an overall newspaper rating of "Superior."
"I can't stress enough how competitive these categories were and how difficult it is for a middle-school student newspaper to play in the 'big leagues,' " Flanary said.
The newspaper staff watched the March 10 ceremony at David Lipscomb University in Nashville on a livestream over the Internet.
"I remember before they announced I was holding hands with Zoe and (staff writer) Jacob" Joyce, said Hannah, 13 and an eighth-grader who plans to pursue journalism at Dobyns-Bennett High School and as a career.
Her story was about a classmate, Dillon Nelms, who was diagnosed with cancer in sixth grade but has beat it and is cancer free as an eighth-grader, and Dillon's mother, who still has cancer.
Zoe, 14 an eighth-grader who is one of the editors, said her column was in support of the intervention/enrichment mini-period between the regular first- and second-period classes and how it helps students.
Ron Codispoti, an editor who is in eighth grade and 14, said all the awards are great recognition.
Other members of the staff include Sara Whitley, 13 and in eighth grade; Abby Lindsey, 11 and in sixth grade; Russ Hubbard, 13 and in seventh grade; and Abby Gillenwater, 13 and in eighth grade.
Flanary nominated the paper and students' work for the awards.
Ron said he doesn't plan to be active in journalism at D-B because of time constraints but urged rising sixth-graders coming to Sevier with an interest in journalism to try working at the paper.
Zoe and Sara said they plan to continue at D-B, which Sara described as "doing something we love."
Sara, Hannah and Ron said Flanary has done an excellent job of motivating and supporting the newspaper staff, which aside from the writing, editing and layout is in the middle of getting advertisers to support next year's editions.
Sara cited a rush of seeing her articles on the front page.
"It just takes your breath away," Sara said.
Next year, the broadcasting program at Sevier plans to enter a statewide contest, too, Flanary said. The 10 students in that program work cooperatively with the 20-member newspaper staff, but they are separate groups, Flanary said.
The online version of the paper includes an article about the future of Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee, a joint Sullivan County-Kingsport program the city is leaving at the end of the school year, as well as articles about a recurring leak in a hallway of Sevier, sports results and a look forward to D-B career and technical education through a tour Sevier students took there.
The site also allows comments on its content.
Another story online as of March 20 concerned a lack of functioning locks on bathroom stalls, particularly in the girls' bathrooms, that the article said the school system's maintenance was addressing.
The Scribe publishes a print edition six times a year, including the most recent edition that came out March 18. The fifth one is set for the second week of April and the sixth and final near the end of the school year in May.
Online, the paper is at www.sequoyahscribe.com. It also is active on Twitter @SequoyahScribe.