High school journalists earn national award

Mountain Vista news magazine features tough issues, quality work

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Mountain Vista High School journalism students don’t shy away from tough subjects.

A 2012 story in the Eagle Eye news magazine detailed the struggles of a drug-addicted student, including an admission he pawned his mother’s jewelry to help feed his habit.

Another revealed the difficulties faced by a student with epilepsy.

This year, staff members jumped into the spider web of issues facing the Douglas County School District. Students hosted a candidate forum and staff members attend every board meeting.

The National Scholastic Press Association noticed. It gave the Eagle Eye a Pacemaker Award — its highest honor — during the 2013 Fall National High School Journalism Convention.

“Our adviser always tells us, it’s all about the content,” said senior Taylor Blatchford, co-editor-in-chief. If you have great content, you can’t really go wrong there.”

The school’s journalism program, called the VISTAj, includes the yearbook, a broadcast program and the news magazine.

“We really dedicated ourselves to making our program the best comprehensive (journalism) program we could,” Blatchford said. “But the magazine was where we could really display a lot of our great, in-depth feature writing and reporting.”

Blatchford intends to pursue a career in journalism, but co-editors Wes Edwards and Dylan Ingram are leaning toward the legal field. Regardless of career choice, both the students and their adviser say the comprehensive program teaches them invaluable skills.

“The skills we are teaching in journalism are transferrable to every profession,” journalism teacher and VISTAj adviser Mark Newton said. “If they understand journalism, they understand freedom, democracy and the world. They understand that you have a voice, and if you use it responsibly, you’re going to make a difference in the world.”

Each edition of the Eagle Eye has a central theme, the students said, and stories are chosen based on quality.

“Whoever has written the best story and has the best pictures, theirs is the one that goes in,” Eagle Eye co-managing editor Dylan Ingram said. “We’re dedicated to having the best product possible.”

Co-editor-in-chief Wes Edwards said winning the award was surreal.

“Journalism is one of those things that’s taken for granted at a lot of high schools,” he said, adding it was especially rewarding “to get recognition not only from our school and district, but from a bunch of other journalists across the country who compared it to other (publications) and said, `These guys get it.’ ”

That’s not news to Newton, who won’t take credit for the award.

“I turn on the lights; I empower them and support them and advise them,” he said; the students do the rest. “They’re that good.”

Five Mountain Vista and two Legend students were separately recognized during a writing competition held at the convention.

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