Falcon editor wins honorable mention for NSPA Writer of the Year award

December 6, 2022 — by Mitchell Chen and Skyler Mao
Photo by Anamika Anand
Chang received the NSPA honorable mention award for her impactful journalism portfolio.
Senior Christina Chang’s National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) award demonstrates her journalistic abilities as well as journalism’s power to spread awareness and understand viewpoints.

Searching through her past work, senior Christina Chang, one of four editors-in-chief of The Falcon this year, carefully selected five of her most impactful stories to submit to the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), the leading organization supporting scholastic journalism in the nation. She wanted to participate in the contest and take a shot at winning an award, but she wasn’t extremely confident about her prospects since many students from all over the nation participate in the contest.

In November, Chang received an honorable mention from the NSPA under the Individual Awards Writer of the Year category for her journalism portfolio. She compiled the portfolio as well as a personal statement describing the process and experience of writing the stories.

NSPA is well known for sponsoring the prestigious Pacemaker Award for various publications. It promotes the standards and ethics of good journalism, and recognizes students for their best journalism work.

During her sophomore year, Chang was curious about the organization and looked at their site. She found that they held contests to recognize student work and spent a couple hours looking through other students’ stories, layouts, graphics and photos in hopes of learning and improving her own work.

This led to Chang previously winning the Honorable Mention for the NSPA’s Clips and Clicks 2020-21 contest under the News Story category, which inspired her to apply for the Portfolio award at the end of her junior year.

“I believe I submitted the day it was due and did so simply because my mom encouraged me to try my shot at it,” Chang said. “I honestly didn’t expect anything out of it so I was really shocked when they announced I was one of the seven finalists.”

Looking back on her first experience with NSPA, Chang feels that she has come a long way with her current award. She said seeing her own work published on the NSPA website felt “crazy” and like a “full circle” moment.

Chang’s five stories in her portfolio cover many experiences and events, encapsulating different viewpoints and ideas.

The first story — unpublished and featured in a Falcon print issue only — was on a student and her experience with sexual assault and the reopening of her case. The original purpose of the story was to cover the school’s Culture of Consent rally. But during the rally, several different speakers spoke about their experiences, and Chang believed that covering one specific person on their experience would be more impactful. 

“The story was important to me because it redefined my purpose as a journalist,” Chang said. “It’s not only about informing readers of current events, but also about helping people share their own stories and becoming an advocate for people and causes I care about.”

The second story in the portfolio took on a more lighthearted tone. It discussed the bookshelves that inhabited the walls of English classrooms.

Focusing on English teachers Amy Keys and Suzanne Herzman, Chang’s story looked at the role of these books in helping them share their love for literature with their students.

“This story was pretty interesting because it’s taking something that seems ordinary and writing a story to share that with people who don’t know that’s part of our everyday lives,” Chang said.

Chang wrote the third story with senior Atrey Desai on the unexpected death of World Geography teacher Todd Dwyer near the end of 2021. They wrote an obituary on Dwyer’s life.

By sharing bits of his life that students didn’t know, Chang helped students learn more about the person that he was. This was impactful as, afterwards, the two received a letter from Dwyer’s sister on behalf of his 93-year-old mother, who was really thankful that they were able to share Dwyer’s passions.

Chang’s fourth story was a profile on Class of ‘22 alumna Anouk Yeh. She was inaugurated Santa Clara County’s first Youth Poet Laureate, and Chang covered her actions and experience as her one-year term came to an end.

Finally, Chang co-wrote a story with junior Lynn Dai covering a city planning commissioner’s resignation due to statements widely seen as xenophobic.

“There were a ton of people who were really mad about things she was saying,” said Chang. “The challenge of that story was covering both sides, our main job was to remain objective as journalists.”

Chang’s portfolio not only demonstrates her journalistic abilities, but also shows the power of journalism in learning about different perspectives and spreading awareness on key issues.

“Journalism is important because I’m able to speak with a lot of different sources, learn their perspectives and inhabit their viewpoints,” Chang said. “And that’s a good life skill because I’m able to expand my worldview and appreciate views that don’t align with my own.”

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