Yearbook adviser loses chance — twice — to personally accept awards at national journalism conventions in New York, Nashville because of growing threat of COVID-19

Upon+sending+out+emails+to+journalism+advisers+the+morning+of+March+17%2C+the+National+Scholastic+Press+Association+uploaded+this+image+on+its+spring+convention+page+further+notifying+visitors+to+the+website+of+the+event%27s+cancellation.+Sunny+Hills+yearbook+adviser+Lindsay+Safe+was+among+those+who+had+registered+to+attend+the+venue.+Image+posted+with+permission+from+Ron+Johnson.

Upon sending out emails to journalism advisers the morning of March 17, the National Scholastic Press Association uploaded this image on its spring convention page further notifying visitors to the website of the event's cancellation. Sunny Hills yearbook adviser Lindsay Safe was among those who had registered to attend the venue. Image posted with permission from Ron Johnson.

Michelle Sheen

Upon sending out emails to journalism advisers the morning of March 17, the National Scholastic Press Association [NSPA] uploaded this image on its spring convention page further notifying visitors to the website of the event’s cancellation. Sunny Hills yearbook adviser Lindsay Safe was among those who had registered to attend the venue. Image posted with permission from the NSPA’s Ron Johnson.

It started March 6 during Period 6 when Sunny Hills yearbook adviser Lindsay Safe received an email from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association [CSPA] about the cancellation of its March 18-20 national journalism convention in New York.

More than a week later on March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day and the second day of school closure — the National Scholastic Press Association [NSPA] notified journalism advisers through email that its April 16-18 national journalism convention in Nashville would also be canceled.

Safe had planned to attend both events to accept the Crown finalist award at the CSPA convention and the Pacemaker finalist plaque at the NSPA convention. For the NSPA convention, she was also scheduled to teach a preconvention workshop with her friend.

However, the growing spread of COVID-19 nationwide ended her chances to travel for the first time to the Big Apple and the Music City.

“I was bummed because I was really looking forward to teaching, learning, connecting and celebrating,” Safe said.

For the 96th annual CSPA convention held at Columbia University, principal Allen Whitten had made arrangements for the school to fund transportation and hotel costs for Safe and her two co-yearbook editor-in-chiefs as well as for The Accolade newspaper adviser Tommy Li and three of his top editors.

“I remember we got the email [about CSPA’s cancellation] in class and almost cried,” said senior Olivia Hur, one of the co-editor in chiefs of the Helios yearbook. “We couldn’t really focus the rest of class that day.”

Although Safe didn’t have to worry about canceling airfare and hotel reservations for the New York trip, she had to focus on what to do about the Nashville convention because she had paid for the airfare on her own.

The NSPA spring convention — held at various cities each year — is one of the largest gatherings for high school journalists and their advisers, according to studentpress.org, the NSPA’s website. Besides the Pacemaker awards ceremony at the end of the convention, attendees are able to participate in learning sessions and receive critiques from experts in the journalism field.

Safe’s preconvention workshop on April 16 titled, “Leadership: Building a Successful Staff Culture,” would have been her first time co-teaching such a session.

“I was disappointed because I was looking forward to it and teaching with my friend, Carrie,” she said. “It would’ve been a wonderful experience.” 

Since the NSPA awards ceremony will now take place online, all award winners will be recognized on April 17 in a live presentation broadcast from Minnesota, the home of the Journalism Education Association, which co-sponsors the convention with NSPA.

Besides receiving the Pacemaker finalist plaque, which will eventually arrive by mail after the coronavirus pandemic dies down, Helios could also receive the NSPA’s highest honor — a Pacemaker distinction.

Safe plans to watch the live awards ceremony with her other adviser friends online as she did for the CSPA awards ceremony, while the yearbook editors say they plan on calling each other through Zoom, an online video communication platform.

“I’m excited to see how we’ll do and glad [to] be able to watch it with the other editors,” said senior Kaylee Kim, the other co-editor in chief of Helios.

Safe expressed her disappointment in not being able to participate in this year’s convention as she was also looking forward to meeting yearbook advisers from different schools. 

“Because we all live in different states, we only see each other in person a handful of times a year,” she said. “Connecting with them, taking classes and just talking yearbook really fires me up to keep going.”

In terms of the airfare, Safe said upon contacting American Airlines, she was able to obtain credit toward a future flight, which she plans to take once the coronavirus pandemic dies down. Because she was co-teaching a preconvention workshop, the NSPA covered for her registration and hotel stay costs.

“My heart goes out to the convention committee,” she said. “They’ve been planning and organizing for more than a year.”