October 4, 2018 / Podcasts

Ask Mike: Why should I join NSPA?

Written by Sarah Scott

School is underway throughout the country and yearbook staffs are gearing up for their first big deadline. Now is the perfect time to join the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA)!

In the newest episode of Ask Mike, host Mike Taylor, CJE, talks to Gary Lundgren, associate director of the NSPA, about what his organization does and the benefits it provides to yearbook staffs.

What they do

The JEA/NSPA Convention in Chicago is coming soon, followed by the spring convention in Anaheim. Next summer, yearbook staffs will have the opportunity to participate in the Gloria Shields/NSPA workshop in Texas.

However, since not every staff is able to travel, NSPA offers many other benefits to members. Most staffs choose to have their yearbook critiqued.

“That is an excellent opportunity to grow and evolve,” said Lundgren.

NSPA also offers contests for individual students and staffs as a whole. The individual categories include design, photographs and the newly-added “portfolio of the year” category. The Pacemaker is a highly-sought award for outstanding newspapers, yearbooks, magazines, websites and broadcasts.

“Those are really recognized as the top award a scholastic media outlet or publication could earn,” said Lundgren.

NSPA also offers consulting sessions to their members through Google Hangouts or Skype.

The critique

How is a critique different from a contest? It’s a question Lundgren frequently receives. The answer: they are two entirely different offerings.

When a publication is submitted for a critique, the judge will spend quality time reviewing the book and scoring it against a rubric. They’ll typically offer suggestions to that staff.

The very highest rating you can get for your yearbook is an all-American rating. There’s a numerical cutoff, with four or five marks of distinction in each key area.

“An all-American rating is a pretty big deal,” said Lundgren. “And I think over the years it’s lost a little of its prestige because the Pacemaker is such a big deal. But for a staff to get an all-American, or even a first place, that is a significant achievement.”

The contest

Staffs who enter their book in the Pacemaker contest either hear nothing back, become a finalist or win the Pacemaker award. Anyone can enter.

“What makes it different from a critique is there’s no scoring or written critique that comes back,” explained Lundgren.

In a contest, the yearbooks are competing against each other. A Pacemaker award means the judges found it to be one of the best of the year.

Six judges are brought in every year, chosen for the recognition they’ve earned from the yearbooks at their school. The judges are always current advisers, but operate in two independent teams so they won’t review their own book.

“I feel very confident in saying that every yearbook that is submitted gets its time in front of the judges. It starts with a clean slate,” said Lundgren.

The critique and the contest are two completely separate reviews, and one does not affect the other.

Becoming a better adviser

Taylor and Lundgren both believe in the value of critiquing other books. Any interested NSPA member can contact Lundgren at gary@studentpress.org.

“That is a nice progression in the professional development of an adviser,” said Lundgren. “Because after you have been advising a few  years and you’ve got your program going, being able to sit down with a newspaper or a yearbook or a website and score it and provide suggestions for the staff really is your next evolution as an adviser. And I think it really helps you with your own students.”

Another key step in building skills is presenting at a convention.

“That is a fun new challenge, also, if an adviser hasn’t done that,” said Lundgren. “I think that that is also another huge step forward in expanding your journalistic world view.”

Coming up

Lundgren and the NSPA staff are preparing for the 2018 convention in Chicago, which starts Nov. 1. Speaking of the Chicago session, you can see Taylor present. He’ll do a session with Sarah Lerner, of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and Leland Mallett, of Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas. The 2018 JEA/NSPA Convention starts Nov. 1.

There’s more!

Yearbook staffs can learn more about joining NSPA at studentpress.org. You can find many more Ask Mike podcast episodes at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or on your favorite podcast platform.

Be sure to stick around to the end of the episode for Taylor and Lundgren’s take on the great In-N-Out versus Whataburger debate.

Sarah Scott
Sarah Scott

Sarah Scott is a content writer for Walsworth, specializing in blog posts, eBooks and case studies for the web. She’s been writing most of her life, and previously worked as a radio journalist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.