Portola Pilot Makes History with First Newspaper Sweepstakes Award

Top Row: junior Dheeksha Bhima Reddy, junior Arnav Chandan, sophomore Kayleen Kim, junior Sidra Asif, senior Clara Ferreira Lopez, senior Michelle Kim and senior Justin Tang. Bottom row: sophomore Shaina Taebi, junior Arshia Sista, sophomore Tara Vatandoust, junior Cara Chan, senior Ryne Dunman, senior Claudia Lin and adviser Brianna Rapp. Lin believes that it was a good learning opportunity for all who attended and competed. “It’s just everyone coming together to kind of appreciate and celebrate journalism in the form of competition and also just appreciating other people’s newspapers,” Lin said. (Courtesy of Joanne McDermott)

Portola Pilot swept the competition, winning first place in Best of Show for Newspaper in Division 1, Website, Podcast and overall Sweepstakes at the Orange County Journalism Education Write-Offs hosted at Portola High on Feb. 26. Thirteen Portola Pilot students placed in the top ten in individual categories, with another five earning certificates in non-ranking categories.

“I think, for me, when we heard the first time we got first place, we were all in shock not because we didn’t believe in ourselves, but because there are so many other amazing newspapers out there,” co-editor-in-chief and senior Claudia Lin said. “Seeing us win first place in all the categories just proved to us that we are a high-quality newspaper. Sure, sometimes we will be hard on ourselves, but that’s only to push us to become better so that we can attain something like this.”

The write-offs consisted of pre-submitted and on-demand journalism entires. Competitors were given an extensive scenario and the opportunity to ask questions about the scenario. Given one hour to create a piece based on that topic, according to Portola Pilot adviser Brianna Rapp. The on-demand and individual categories included news, feature, sports, editorial, critical review, layout, photography, editorial cartoon and novice news.

“The individual [categories], there’s only so much you can do to prepare because it’s on the spot writing. It’s really about what you can apply based on your day-to-day journalism work,” Rapp said. “It’s really about the application and transfer when you’re on your own, and you don’t have three rounds of editors to tell you how to fix your story before it goes to publication.”

There were ten people who competed in news, editorial, features, and sports and eight qualified. There will be seven people who will compete in qualifying categories in the State Media Contest, which will be held in Los Angeles on March 12. This group consists of Lauren Hsu, Charlotte Cao, Justin Tang, Ryan Jung, Ryne Dunman, Grace Baek, and Arnav Chandan. Writers who did not participate in qualifying categories are still able to compete in novice news, critical review, photography and editorial cartoon.

The State Media competition will not only give an opportunity for the Portola Pilot team to improve their skills but also a chance to bond with their fellow team members, according to staff writer and sophomore Kayleen Kim.

“I want to say not only because of like building experience with a live press conference and taking notes and enacting as a real journalist, and also having opportunities to write on demand articles in such a short time,” Kim said. “I really love how I got to bond with my amazing team and spend quality time together, which is something that we don’t normally have in our classroom time.”