2007-08 top journalists take center stage as All-State Journalism Team

SPRINGFIELD — What an afternoon! And what a time for high school journalism.

Ten Illinois high school newspaper/yearbook staff members were named to the 2007-08 IJEA All-State Journalism Team in a ceremony June 14 at the Springfield Hilton.

The All-State Journalism Team recognizes those students who have proven themselves to be indispensable to their respective school media. Illinois has several journalism contests that recognize individual “bylined” excellence. This award recognizes those students who are “most valuable players” — those students whose leadership, energy, dedication and expertise help define their publications.

Members of the team this year come predominantly from high school newspapers. Student journalists in grades 9-12 from all media were eligible to be nominated by their advisers, who must be members of the IJEA. Nominations may not exceed two students per school.

Each member of the All-State Journalism Team received a plaque at a luncheon, which was sponsored by the Illinois Press Foundation. The IPF works closely with IJEA to help provide leadership and resources for journalism students and their advisers in Illinois high schools.

Jack Brimeyer, former managing editor of the Peoria Journal Star, gave the keynote address, telling us 10 reasons it’s great to be a journalist.

Also at the luncheon, Fred Schouten, retired assistant principal at Reavis High School in Burbank, received the Administrator of the Year Award. He talked about the role of the school paper and why accuracy is so important.

Meet the 2008 All-State Team 

Sophomore Jimmy Hibsch made an impact as entertainment editor of the Pacer at Rolling Meadows High School with his initiative. Although he writes for and coordinates the entertainment section, he also proved invaluable to the news section, covering challenging stories and seeking the best sources possible, according to his adviser, Stan Zoller. Hibsch’s work samples included a story on a student who committed suicide and a piece on driving laws, with an interview with Secretary of State Jesse White. Hibsch is from Arlington Heights.

Senior Kimi Lillig, editor of The Talon Times at Lakes Community High School, has spent the past three years working behind the scenes and late at night to ensure the staff produces a quality paper. She organizes story idea and ‘Layout 101’ days, keeping the staff on task and living up to the standards set by her adviser, Kellie Doyle. Her work samples included a page layout of the school’s growth and progression and a story on a new philosophy in science education, to teach physics first. Lillig is from Lindenhurst.

Senior Sarah Parkinson’s role as editor of The Screaming Eagle at Coulterville High School is to motivate her staff and lead by example. She knows that in her small community, people rely on the publication for information, and she takes that charge seriously. Adviser Herman Albers says that Parkinson’s real strength is in her versatility. Her work samples included a piece on Title IX and one on how grant money obtained by a science teacher would be used. Parkinson is from Coulterville.

Senior Alison Peters is the special report editor at Deerprints, the newspaper at Deerfield High School. In that capacity she is responsible for creating a center spread section, leading a staff of six reporters who investigates topics that impact the student body. Her adviser, Buffy Sallee, notes that she has seen Peters’ maturation from writer who enjoyed lighter topics to one who prides herself on well-researched investigative stories. Her work samples included stories on substance abuse and music. Peters is from Deerfield.

Senior Annie Pittman, co-editor of The Tiger Tattler, takes issues to heart. Her editorials and stories are thought-provoking, including ones she wrote on her school’s violation of Title IX and its performance on achievement tests. She sees stories everywhere. Her adviser, Jim Starnes, notes that her voice on the editorial pages is moral and ethical. Pittman is from Herrin.

Senior Lena Shapiro, co-editor of The Correspondent at John Hersey High School, spent part of this year fighting the good fight, defending journalism and the First Amendment. She and her co-editor went before the school board to voice an objection to the phrase, “school publications are subjected to standards set forth in the Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier decision.” Her adviser, Janet Levine, notes that Shapiro’s maturity and presentation impressed board members. Her submitted stories included a look back at newspaper staffs of the past 40 years and a piece on shoplifting. Shapiro is from Arlington Heights.

Copy editor Emily Smoucha, a senior at Prospect High School, reads each story in The Prosector at least four times. Her adviser, Jason Block, notes that Smoucha always has her work cut out for her, as the paper runs from 18 to 22 pages per issue. She mentors young writers, reads for content and those all-important Associated Press style rules. Her samples included pieces she edited as well as a writing sample on a Prospect alumnus who was in the auditorium the day of the shooting at Northern Illinois University. Smoucha is from Arlington Heights.

Junior Jackie Wallenton acts as a catalyst for her fellow reporters in her job as lead news editor for The Viking Logue at William Fremd High School. She sometimes takes it upon herself to handle late-breaking stories, exemplified by a piece on a football controversy she covered that the sports department shied away from. She also covered the death of a recent graduate, leading her adviser, Jennifer Meils, to note that Wallenton motivates a large group of underclassmen that comprises the news department, the largest department at the paper. Wallenton is from Rolling Meadows.

Senior Liwen Xu has found her voice in photographs. With a single vision, she produced what longtime adviser Wayne Brasler calls “an extraordinary yearbook.” She was willing to break traditional yearbook design rules to produce a book styled after European fashion and rock magazines, and it paid off. “The yearbook was the talk of the place.” Xu also mentors and counsels the staff in a quiet, focused way. Xu is from Chicago.

Senior Matthew Yardley took on a daunting task: He became editor of a brand new newspaper. The North View developed as the student newspaper of Belvidere North, designed to be ready to be handed out on the first day of the new school. According to his adviser, Mike Doyle, the four-color edition of the paper was ready to go because of the efforts of Yardley, who worked to mobilize his new staff before school started, to consider the needs of the new students and to set a standard of excellence. His samples included a piece on the mandatory moment of silence. Yardley is from Belvidere.