While those interested in The Feather Online history can read about the staff, advisers, awards, etc. in the About us, The Feather Online history and/or Achievement sections, the following article is the second article, part 2 in the series, which attempts to recount The Feather Online history under current advisers Greg Stobbe and Kori Friesen. For part one, read The Feather: Digital transformation, Pt. 1 or The Feather Online returns with new design.
This year, The Feather Online won it’s sixth Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA)‘s Digital News Gold Crown award in March 2018 and the eighth since 2010. The Feather was one of only three digital newspapers in the U.S. to earn a Digital News Gold Crown, while 60 schools qualified for this category. However, while The Feather did not win the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA)‘s Pacemaker, they came back with a 4th place Best of Show award in hand.
The Feather has been submitting to the CSPA for print and online for 17 years. The staff and adviser Greg Stobbe has been attending the CSPA national convention at Columbia University since March 1998, often presenting and attending sessions. Stobbe has taken staff members to New York to attend CSPA conference every year since 2003, and once in 2001. Also in June of 2002, Stobbe lead a group of non-Feather on a 17-day tour of Switzerland and Germany.
In hopes of exposing the students to arguably one of the strongest journalism programs in the country, Stobbe believes that a trip to a journalism conference will help them to become more proficient writers and competent journalists.
According to Stobbe, his main focus was to enhance his student’s journalistic skills by attending class at Columbia University.
“The experience not only opened up their eyes to media and journalistic opportunities, but it also expanded my vision for journalism on campus,” Stobbe Said. “It became much more than just university classes. We learned about New York Culture, daily life, and how one can use public transportation to enhance his or her daily plans. Columbia University had a large array of talented and well-educated professors.”
“Students love to see the sights, sounds, and atmosphere of New York,” Stobbe continues. “ The conference solidifies previous student learning and gives them confidence that the things they were previously taught are accurate and can apply to the professional world.”
Anne Hierholzer, former Feather editor-in-chief from 2004 to 2005, who traveled with Stobbe to NYC in 2005, also attended the CSPA’s 80th annual journalism convention, March 13-18.
“We got to take classes from professional writers at the New York Times and meet journalism students from all over the country,” Hierholzer said. “The conference really improved my writing skills.”
According to another staff member, Randy Hill, ’04, he thought the conference reaffirmed what Stobbe had been cramming them. During Feather’s NYC trip in 2005, Feather students had opportunities to learn from the editors of national publications such as New York Times and Washington Post.
Former Feather staff, Benjamin Dang, ’08, talks about his experience of learning form professionals.
“There were a lot of professional people there,” Benjamin Dang, said. “And the one person I will never forget about is Robert Greenman, a well-known writer for the New York Times. It was a great experience for the student to learn from Robert Greenman, and education consultant for the New York Times, at the journalism conference at Columbia University.”
“He has a lot of experience in the field of publications,” Dang continues. “He taught me to really tell a story with my articles. I also learned that what adviser Greg Stobbe has instructed us: Focus on people in stories. It is actually true.”
In this April 2013 video, The Feather editors not only attended, taught sessions but also won an Online Pacemaker and won the NSPA Best of Show in San Francisco.
In 2006, The Feather Online won its first Online Pacemaker award and Print Award, in San Francisco, CA. According to adviser Stobbe, after The Feather won the Pacemaker, the team was almost starting from scratch because a lot of Feather members graduated.
Thus, Stobbe thought he needed to get the new students to New York and expose them to the highest quality editors and reporters. His strategy worked and The Feather received a CPSA’s Silver Crown in 2007, and a second NSAP Online Pacemaker on April 19, 2008, in Anaheim, CA.
“I was actually surprised that we scored as well as we did,” Stobbe said. “We focus so much of our attention on the internet paper, that the print edition took a backseat.”
Notwithstanding a focus on The Feather Online, Columbia University honored the print version, as well as Layout and Design Editor Ryan Martens, ’09. Despite the prestige of the award, Martens most appreciated the progress he made during the year.
“I do appreciate the fact that my time was paid for in the end, but the awards themselves were definitely not the goal,” Martens, said. “The main thing is that I learned something valuable through the class. The best part of the award was how I got there.”
Although Columbia bestowed their highest high school journalism honor to The Feather, the judges provided critique and advice for improvement. The examiners praised the crisp, clean layout of the paper and a commitment to its audience, but called the headlines “misleading at times” and “not always focused enough to highlight the articles”.
“There were a lot of things that the judges want us to work on this year, such as highlighting community events,” Chelsea Joy,’ 09, editor-in-chief from 2008 to 2009, said. “I think that we definitely meet these requirements and event went beyond even Columbia’s expectations. The more critiques The Feather received, the more I was driven to better the paper.”
Former Feather webmaster Andrew Rurik, ’08, older brother to the 2017-18 editor-in-chief, explained how important it was for the staff to earn a CSPA Crown but also to travel to journalism conferences.
“We were up for a Gold Crown, the trip itself was phenomenal, but we didn’t win in 2009,” Rurik, said. “After an insane amount of hours on my part, my senior year we relaunched The Feather with its new design and headed down to Anaheim to see if we would win an Online Pacemaker in 2010. There was a buzz amongst the staff. We had lost out the prior year but had strengthened our resolve to earn it the next. When we were announced as a winner, it was a fantastic moment. All that work paid off.”
Mary Kneefel, ’08, led The Feather as editor-in-chief along with Jennifer Sherfield, ’08, for two years (2006-07-2007-08)
“I was excited when Mr. Stobbe called to tell me about results of the other evaluations and contests,” Kneefel said. “After winning the Online Pacemaker, I anticipated us to also do well with our hardcopy but didn’t want to expect a Gold Crown. It was encouraging to still hear about our hard work and success of The Feather even after I graduated and left for college.”
With Kneefel, Martens and Sherfield graduated, the responsibility falls to the next group to lead The Feather as it does each year.
“I think the staff of 2008-09 was be able to recreate and possibly exceed our accomplishments from the previous year,” Kneefel said. “They showed potential and commitment to their work, and I know they made Stobbe and Fresno Christian proud. I know they fell just short but they are still a part of our legacy. But year after year, The Feather staff continues to be an award-winning paper.”
The team did not let Kneefel down; the paper was named a finalist in the 2009 NSPA Online Pacemaker contest. Meanwhile, The CSPA honored The Feather Online with a Silver Crown during its annual spring convention in New York City, March 18, 2009. This is the first time the CSPA gave this award.
In 2010, The CSPA gave The Feather Online its first Gold Crown at Columbia University in New York City on March 19. Later, The NSPA awarded a third Online Pacemaker on April 17, 2010, in Portland, OR. The Feather was the only California school to earn one. On March 18, 2011, CSPA honored The Feather Online a Gold Crown, it was The Feather’s second–one of only two awarded to California high schools.
Moreover, in 2012, CSPA honored The Feather with a second Silver Crown. Later, NSPA awarded The Feather Online its fourth Pacemaker, and Best of Show for the first time on April 14, in Seattle, WA.
“Winning the Pacemaker in Seattle was such a proud moment for us, and a huge comeback after only getting a Silver Crown at Columbia University the year before,” Hierholzer said. “It was rewarding to know that our hard work was recognized. Seattle is a beautiful city, and it was uncharacteristically sunny when we were there.”
Mary Hierholzer recalled her memory in 2012 when she was traveling with The Feather to the CSPA conference in 2012. She remembers at the very moment when the announcer said “Silver.” According to Hierholzer, she was not satisfied with Silver.
“We laugh about it now, but we were crushed and shocked, and it hurt my pride,” Mary Hierholzer said. “As they say, pride comes before the fall. Since then, I have reflected on our ‘second place’ status and have learned to make the best of criticism, and how to value my work, and how to be proud of the effort I put into it. And in the scheme of things, a Silver Crown was a huge honor!”
“The Feather had never won a best of show award,” Fries said. “And being the high achieving student that I was, I decided that we were going to compete. A Gold Crown and Pacemaker weren’t good enough for me. I wanted to win the whole conference award, too. So we stayed up until 3 a.m. editing and publishing stories, more than we normally would back at school. So we had worked so hard, and we truly didn’t know if we were going to get it if it was enough. And when they called our name, Stobbe and I both burst into tears. That was The Feather’s winningest year ever, and that felt so good.”
Former multimedia master, Brooke Stobbe, ’12, also talked about her experience of working in the midnight when she was in New York competing for a CSPA Gold Crown.
“I would work while I was there too, I and the other students would all come into my room in evenings and work until like 2 o’clock in the morning,” Brooke Stobbe said. “We were trying to write articles and do videos and podcast and photos and trying to get everything up every day so we could still be publishing and then between classes. We would all find a couch and sit and try to work and write do stuff, and it was crazy getting everything done, but when you have a kind of crazy times, it just ends up being fun a lot of work, and it brings people together, so it’s fun.”
During the CSPA conference, Brooke Stobbe became the first one to teach on podcasting at the seminars at Columbia University. According to Mary Hierholzer, presenting to high school journalism students and advisors at Columbia University was inspiring, and was a rare opportunity.
“It was a ‘pinch me’ moment,” Mary Hierholzer said. “But sharing our experience and knowledge was humbling because it reminded us that we benefitted from a strong legacy built before our time by Mr. Stobbe and previous staffs. We inherited an already excellent publication, and it was a large responsibility to keep up that high caliber. It provided a great perspective to share that knowledge with others seeking to improve their own newspapers.”
The Feather received its 3rd CSPA Gold Crown for the fifth year in a row in 2013. However, The Feather did not win the Pacemaker. Senior editor Ryan King was elated after hearing the news and motivated by the staff to keep up the momentum while facing the challenges this year has offered.
“I am really proud of our staff this year,” King said. “We have worked hard, and I am excited to see what is to come. With an inexperienced staff, it may seem difficult to produce as much as past years, but the challenge has proven to be an opportunity for staffers to work harder through the obstacles in front of us.”
As The Feather’s legendary continued, The CSPA awarded The Feather it’s fourth Gold Crown in March 2014, as one of only four Gold Crown awarded at the 90th CSPA convention.
In 2015, adviser Stobbe and staffs came together and transformed The Feather into a new modern design, in hopes of making the paper more competitive at the national level. For the third year in a row, The Feather earned its 5th Gold Crown at the 91st CSPA convention in March 2015. However, this was the second year that the paper did not qualified for an NSPA Pacemaker, in part due to the outdated site and the lack of digital media. The new design will provide more streamlined access to school news and innovative media for the FC community.
However, as the team continued to work hard, the Feather Online earned its 6th online NSPA Pacemaker, April 16, 2016. Moreover, the team won its sixth Gold Digital News Crown during the 92nd annual CSPA convention in New York City, March 18, 2016.
As of March 17, 2017, The Feather Online earned its fifth straight and seventh overall CSPA Gold Digital News Crown, during the 93rd annual CSPA Journalism convention at Columbia University, March 15-17, 2017. While The Feather did not earn a Pacemaker nomination in 2017, the online paper earned an NSPA First Class with Three Marks of Distinction during the annual critique in December 2016.
Kamryn Schultz, who joined The Feather in her freshman year, talked about her experience traveling to New York City with The Feather in 2017 and 2018.
“Last year when we won the Gold Crown, we all got so excited,” Schultz said. “It was really fun to receive it and take pictures outside and enjoy that moment. It was my first time to NY last year, so when I went, I had so much fun. I got to see Broadway shows, stay in Times Square, and ice skate in Central Park. I had a lot of fun.”
With another publications year nearing an end, The Feather Online earned its sixth straight (eighth overall) CSPA Gold Digital News Crown, during the 94th annual CSPA Spring Scholastic Convention, March 14-16, 2018. The Feather was further honored when the CSPA published a Feather video on its website: CSPA Spring Convention 2018 Recap.
Editor-in-chief Mariana Fikse, ‘18, appreciates the hard work staff members put into The Feather all year long.
“There is no way we could have won the Gold Crown without all of the support, dedication and hard work put in by the staffers,” Fikse said. “It is an amazing honor to represent the staff this year as an editor. I also want to thank all of the staff members who did not come with us to New York as well. there did a great job keeping up with school events while we were away and had done amazing work all year long.”
While long days in the lab, evening homework on articles via the internet, Christmas and pizza parties, The Feather is more than just a campus class. Going forward, seniors Sam Cross, Kamryn Schultz and Alexander Rurik are the 2018-19 Feather Online editor-in-chiefs. Look for more articles as August 2018.