This is why I love journalism. My in-depths usually start with a compelling issue — death due to gun violence, family-administration issues within a school district, how teens experienced separate lives on social media than in real life over the last decade — and are finished amongst a flurry of documents, interview transcripts and coffee cups strewn about (along with very little sleep).
One dead in Kansas City. Another 22 dead in El Paso. Then ten more in Dayton. This was the first weekend of August — a weekend that prompted massive gun reform support with little legislative action to match.
This story briefs the reader on how everyone responded — in state and national government, in schools, in the Shawnee Mission School District, in community meetings and beyond. It spanned three pages of text as The Harbinger's Issue 1 2019 cover story.
*First place KSPA Monthly Contest News Story (August/September 2019)
The Hidden Price of Admission
On this story, another Harbinger editor and I found out how far a dollar — or rather, thousands of them — go for East students in their college admissions process.
We talked to students, parents, ACT tutors, SME staff and district officials to see the ways in which money helps a student through the process and the ways in which schools are trying to bridge the gap between high-income families and families less inclined or unable to pay for outside help.
We re-marketed this story after its main release, considering it was published six days before the University of Southern California college admissions scandal was unearthed.
*National Scholastic Press Association 2019 News Story of the Year, Finalist/Honorable Mention
This story focuses on what the Shawnee MIssion School District was doing to improve upon past special education problems, what parents and professionals saw as necessary changes and how the issues were impacting involved students.
I interviewed over 35 sources for the story,19 of which I couldn't quote due to legal accusations that were still pending at the time.
This was the hardest story of my life, considering how many personal accounts I couldn't include given the time I had to write and the position of publishing I was in. I learned the importance of working with what you have and carrying the story as far as possible.
*First place KSPA Monthly Contest News Story (April 2019)
TikTok. Was. Everywhere.
SM East students who didn't have the app were few and far between. And given the new potential risks behind the app — and a federal investigation into the app bolstered by U.S. senatorial support — this story outlines potential risks and how East students responded.
The short answer? TikTok seemed innocent enough for students to ignore the risk. En masse, they didn't really care.
Worth the Risk?
*First place KSPA Monthly Contest News Story (November 2019)
The Shawnee Mission School District had been negotiating contracts with the teachers union for over nine months. I'd covered the situation as it developed — from teachers forming silent protests in the mornings to heated board meetings with over an hour of public comments supporting increased teacher pay and reduced workload.
After negotiations were unsuccesful, the SMSD moved to a unilateral three-year contract, which had never been implemented in district history.
This story covers the immediate response at SM East — the student-led walkout for nearly an hour, the absence of over a dozen teachers from school the day after the contract was approved and the damage control that the SMSD conducted to tame the fire.
*Second place KSPA Monthly Contest News Story (February 2020)
In keeping with my passion for localizing national stories, this story explained how Kansans — East parents, students, public officials and others — felt the impact of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
From band equipment being shipped in weeks late because of understaffed airports to paychecks received late by East parents; this story gave readers a glimpse of local impact.
There was a small hiccup as the article published, though — a few days after the story was sent to our printer, President Donald Trump announced the government shutdown to be over. Since our printing agreement includes we send in our print issues by the Thursday before we publish on Monday, the print edition that came out did not include that the shutdown had ended. To ensure readers were updated, I wrote an altered version to be published online and notified readers of the change.
Decade Lacking Reality
It was evident at SME that people lived separate lives on social media than they did in reality. This story explores why so many students live a posh, problem-free, edited and filtered version of themselves on social media that didn't parallel reality.
As part of the 2010's Project, an online interactive special-section package I created that included over a dozen stories and two podcasts from staffers, this story delineates the reasoning behind students' heavy media intake and why a misleading online persona can be advantageous for some.
I was a little frightened taking this story on considering it was the first in-depth cover story I'd ever written. But the nervous steps I took with the reporting process ended up sticking, and have built up my approach to any story I take on.
After taking the idea, I blanket-emailed every affiliated individual I could think of. The story itself aims to touch on the lack of medical research on the effect of media on children and teenagers, as well as a new U.S. House bill that would allocate funds to the question.
It opened my eyes to the level of hard work that in-depth stories require, but more so showed me how gratifying they are to complete.