For the third straight year, Sunny Hills High School’s The Accolade newspaper won the Best of Show award at a March 2 writeoff contest at Fullerton College, defeating five other schools’ newspaper programs in Orange County.
“It’s an amazing winning streak,” said newspaper adviser Tommy Li. “More than ever, we are facing more up-and-coming journalism programs to compete against us, so this represents a big challenge for us in the years to come. Nevertheless, this year’s staff members deserve kudos for their dedication to publish a quality product for readers.”
As part of the Orange County Journalism Education Association [OCJEA] writeoff contest, a total of six Orange County schools competed in the Best of Show Division 1 category (tabloid publications 16 pages or more) and submitted one newspaper issue published between Aug. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2019, said Lindsay Safe, OCJEA president and contest coordinator.
At the March 2 awards ceremony, Safe announced that Best of Show entries were judged by Konnie Krislock, a retired journalism adviser, and Gary Metzker, a former Los Angeles Times page designer and journalism professor at California State University, Long Beach.
“Theme pages on colleges well done,” Krislock wrote in her evaluation of the Oct. 26 Accolade. “Great front page! Graphics.”
Of 100 points possible, judges gave The Accolade an 86.5, only a half-point higher than the second-place publication, The Eagle Eye of Santa Margarita Catholic High School.
Titled “New Perspectives,” the issue features four “special sections” pages of articles and columns to help readers become better informed about their decisions when applying for college admissions.
“We wanted to focus on college-related stories so readers could be informed about the things that could possibly affect them in the future,” Accolade editor-in-chief senior Noah Somphone said.
Somphone first joined the staff as a sophomore when English teacher Tommy Li returned to advise The Accolade after a nearly decade-long break. That was also the same time when the staff started its initial run of winning Best of Show in Division 1 at the local writeoffs.
“It’s crazy that we’ve won best of show again — all that hard work we put in paid off, and so far, our staff since 2016 has never gotten anything less than first,” said Somphone, who also won a second-place trophy at the writeoffs in the editorial writing category. “I just tried to be witty [in my editorial] and write like I talk in real life.”
Besides Somphone, two Accolade staffers won a first-place trophy: copy editor senior Christine Choi in feature writing and graphics editor senior Jaime Park in editorial cartoon.
“It was definitely something I didn’t expect,” said Choi, who placed eighth in feature writing in her first year competing at the writeoffs in 2018. “I gave it my all and tried my best, and I guess the outcome reflected how much effort I put into it.”
Park, who earned a second-place trophy in editorial cartoon at last year’s writeoffs, overcame a 104-degree fever in producing her award-winning drawing.
“I’m really surprised and grateful because I was feeling really ill that morning so I didn’t really expect to do that well,” she said.
To round off the top awards, photo editor junior Megan Shin took home a second-place trophy in photography.
”I honestly wasn’t expecting to place this high, but I am grateful for the opportunity to win for my school,” Shin said. “I just wanted to beat a few of the other photographers because they seemed to really know what they are doing.”
Li said the results of the writeoffs this year shows that the journalism program is moving in the right direction, especially since no one won any trophies in his first year back as adviser in 2017, and only Park took home a trophy in 2018.
“We also finally cracked the Top 5 by placing fourth in the Newspaper Sweepstakes category,” he said. “Hopefully, we can continue to move up a spot or two in subsequent years.”