Young writers at the Mott Haven’s Laboratory School of Finance and Technology (HS 223) can now call themselves “award-winning student journalists.”
Their just-launched news website, The Eagle Express, recently took home two Newsies! awards from the Baruch College High School Journalism Program.
Several students said the awards came as a surprise, and Briant DeJesus, the chief editor/writer, wrote in a recap of the ceremony that the recognition was “a pleasant awakening for the future of the paper.”
The awards came at what Eagle Express advisor David Fulco called “a critical moment” for the team, when morale was low and it seemed like their hard work was going unnoticed. The Newsies! helped the team become re-energized and remember why they do what they do.
As student reporter Daniel Rivera, 18, put it, “It’s nice to see something from the Bronx breaking into the world.”
The Eagle Express took citywide second place in the category of National/World News with a Local Lens for the October 25 story, “A Hurricane is Felt in Puerto Rico — and 1,600 Miles Away at HS 223” by Ranyeli Rodriguez.
Winners received detailed feedback from judges working in the journalism field. According to competition judge Lonnie Isabel, formerly of the Boston Globe and Newsday, Rodriguez’s story did “an excellent job of bringing home the impact of a Hurricane in Puerto Rico to students at the school” and that Rodriguez “pack[ed] the story with context.”
Rodriguez said she’s still somewhat taken aback to realize that people read her articles. “People come up to me in the hallways like, ‘Oh my God, this article was so good, it was such a good point,’ and I was like, ‘Oh right! The article that I put out,” she said, laughing.
The idea of sending work into the world is still new to Rodriguez, to the point that she was surprised to realize she’s “Googleable.”
She and her fellow reporters should start getting used to it, as the Express also received a first place Newsies! award in the Features/New Newspaper category for “From Ancient Greece to HS 223: Inside the Scramble for Recommendation Letters” by Jason Garcia.
Competition judge Amy Zimmer of Chalkbeat New York commented that Garcia’s story incorporated “quotes from students and staff, helpful data points from school faculty, and a fascinating mini-history lesson. It also has a smart conversational tone that speaks directly to its audience, grabbing the reader’s attention.”
Garcia, 17, said, “I was pretty proud, because it was the first article I published.”
REWARDING HARD WORK
The Newsies! and recognition by prominent journalists gave the team a much-needed morale boost, said Fulco.
The Eagle Express has only existed since the start of the school year, and the Herald previously reported on the challenges they faced in launching a news outlet from scratch. And the reality is that the vast majority of students — even in the media capital of the world — do not have news outlets at their schools at all.
Fulco said that as their site got started, it had “not-great circulation,” which was disheartening to students. He said they sometimes felt they were “writing just to write.” But according to Fulco, the Newsies! awards created a buzz and “outside validation that the work we were doing had an audience,” and that got the students excited again.
“The next day [after the Baruch event],” he said, “the newsroom was packed with reporters talking about what they wanted to do next.”