HUNTLEY – Less than six months after it went live, Huntley High School’s online newspaper has been named a national Pacemaker finalist by the National Scholastic Press Association.
The Voice Online was one of two school sites in the state and one of 31 nationally to be named as a finalist for the award.
“I’m amazed we’re finalists for this,” said junior Michael Geheren, Voice Online editor-in-chief.
The school’s online newspaper actually got its start during and after the blizzard in February 2011. Geheren said he was “bored” during snow days and started creating the site. He bought the domain name HuntleyVoice.com.
Journalism adviser and teacher Dennis Brown said he was reluctant at first about a digital school newspaper.
“I didn’t want to do something online unless I thought it was good.” Brown said. “Michael’s website looked very good.”
Brown attended a workshop about online journalism instruction over the summer, and a proposed change to Brown’s newspaper production class to include an online paper was approved by the School District 158 board in September.
“We went live in October,” Brown said.
Brown said the site was redesigned after he and several students attended online journalism sessions at a convention in November in Minneapolis. They entered HuntleyVoice.com in the NSPA contest in January.
“I am as surprised and thrilled as anybody the website is a national finalist,” Brown said. “Like the name Pacemaker suggests, you’re setting the pace for this particular form of journalism, whether it’s print or yearbook or online.
He said all 32 students in his class contribute to the website in some way.
The staff includes managing online editor Joe Cristo, and online editors Holly Baldacci, Yazmin Dominguez and Kierra Renwick.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Brown said. “Truly an amazing achievement, especially given that this is our first year online.”
Geheren and Brown will attend the National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle on April 14, when the Pacemaker winners will be announced.
The NSPA Online Pacemaker contest entries are judged on content, design, writing and editing, rich media and breaking news.
“Nothing I’ve taken has prepared me for life like this class has,” Geheren said. He said he hopes someday to be a television producer.
“So much hard work was put into this,” he said. “It shows the staff how good they are. They’re passionate about it.”
The Voice Online gets 600 views a day. “That’s crazy for a high school news site,” Geheren said.
“We’re learning skills we can take with us.”