March 25, 2020 / Level Up

Level Up school winner’s Editor-in-chief named 2020 Arkansas Journalist of the Year

Written by Jenica Hallman, CJE

Our Level Up contest winners, Har-Ber High School and Meridian High School, are busier than ever finding new ways to level up. Turning on the news these days may feel depressing at times, but Har-Ber High School has some great news to share – Editor-in-chief Madelyn Stout was just named the 2020 Arkansas Journalist of the Year by the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association.

Stout has been editor of The Wildcat at Har-Ber for two years and consistently produces excellent work. Her character, work ethic and leadership make her a natural choice for this prestigious award. Har-Ber yearbook adviser Karla Sprague has seen that first-hand through working with Stout.

“For the past three years, Maddy has accepted every challenge that has been put in front of her and excelled,” Sprague said. “As editor, she views the yearbook as a reflection of who she is and what she values. Her goal was to include as many people in the book as possible …, to be reflective of our diverse student body and to tell the complete story of the year. Every single caption, every story, every spread has her touch in it. Her attention to detail is unparalleled. She empowers her staff to excel because that’s what she expects of herself. She holds them accountable but shows empathy to those who are struggling.”

Walsworth special consultant Jim Jordan has worked with Stout at Elite Weekends for two years and in the classroom as part of their Level Up prize package. He recognized something special in her when he first met her and said he feels privileged to know her.

“Maddy is a natural designer and leader – you can see her leadership skills in action by how well her staff is organized and how much she supports her adviser, Karla Sprague,” Jordan said. “She is that special type of kid we get once in a career. She makes things happen and her million-dollar smile makes you want to be a part of whatever she is doing. Her design sense is amazing. She can create beauty on every spread she touches. I got to coach her, but she has the talent. I can’t wait to see her book when it comes out and, even more importantly, where her future will take her.”

Walsworth sales representative Jenny Olson, CJE, works with Har-Ber and Stout closely to produce their yearbook. Olson has witnessed Stout’s growth as a journalist and her leadership skills, noting how much trust the staff puts in her.

“When I first met Madelyn three years ago, I saw this shy, quiet girl who was so sweet and friendly. Little did I know that behind that quiet demeanor was a girl who had a fierce determination to be successful at anything she put her mind to. I got to know Madelyn even better at one of the journalism conventions and can say without a doubt that she has what it takes to be a successful journalist,” Olson said. “Last year, she was the co-editor and led the staff with determination and grace. This year, she took on the whole staff all by herself and the book has never been better. Her leadership skills have helped the yearbook staff come together and create a beautiful book.”

Stout sits with her writers to go over their stories. She takes the time to meet with each editor and personally explain her edits. Olson says it’s a big part of how the staff has grown in their writing abilities and why she has garnered so much respect from her peers.

Stout’s commitment to journalistic excellence is obvious in the classroom and outside of it. She boldly goes the extra mile and never stops in her personal growth journey.

“She stands up for what she believes and exemplifies the principles and values of a journalist,” Sprague said. “Her work ethic is unmatched. Her dedication to the book and our purpose is unrivaled. She spoke to our school board about the limitations of prior review and the censorship of our publications. She testified at the state Capitol in front of the education committee during the 2019 legislative session of the Arkansas general assembly. She contributes to the student newspaper at HBHS and collaborates with student editors to improve coverage of events that happen at our school. She strives to improve and grow as a journalist. She’s never afraid to tackle tough issues or to cover sensitive topics.”

Stout has certainly demonstrated her talent for journalism, but Olson knows there’s so much more ahead for her.

“Madelyn is an impressive young woman. She is mature, engaged, passionate, driven and strives to be her best self,” Olson said. “Madelyn’s dream is to be a screenwriter for Disney—she has the skills and the determination to land that dream job. She plans on crafting her journalism abilities by majoring in journalism at the University of Missouri, one of the best journalist schools in the country. I have no doubt that Madelyn will continue her success there as one of the top students in her class.”

Now that Stout has won a state journalist of the year award, she is eligible to apply for the National Journalist of the Year through JEA. The winner will be announced in April. Stay tuned to hear more updates on Stout and our Level Up winners!

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Jenica Hallman, CJE
Jenica Hallman, CJE

Jenica Hallman, CJE, is an Associate Copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks. Yearbooks got into her blood in high school, and she has been pursuing them ever since. She has worked in various capacities as a high school and college yearbook editor, an adviser, sales representative, plant customer service representative and now in marketing, her favorite role to date. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mass media communications from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.