United Spirit Association National champions. Basketball champions of the Southwest Sierra League. First place at the Caruthers District Fair Parade. While these on-campus winners sweated and worked in the gym or on the parade route, The Feather’s classroom efforts have been rewarded with a Columbia Scholastic Press Association gold medal from Columbia University.

After winning the national print award in 2006, The Feather received a silver in 2007. The 2008 NSPA Pacemaker-winning editors and staff redoubled their efforts to stand on the top of the podium again.

“I was actually surprised that we scored as well as we did,” publications adviser Greg Stobbe said. “We focus so much of our attention on the Internet paper, that the print edition takes a backseat.”

Notwithstanding a focus on The Feather Online, Columbia University of New York City honored the print version, as well as Layout and Design editor Ryan Martens, ’08, with 927 out of 1,000 points.

Despite the prestige of the award, Martens most appreciated the progress he made during the course of the year.

“I think they’re cool [awards] and I do appreciate the fact that my time was paid for in the end, but the awards themselves were definitely not the goal,” Martens said. “The main thing is that I learned something valuable through the class. The best part of the award was how I got there.”

Although Columbia bestowed their highest high school journalism honor to The Feather, the judges provided critique and advice for improvement.

The examiners praised the crisp, clean layout of the paper and a commitment to its audience, but called the headlines “misleading at times” and “not always focused enough to highlight the articles.”

“There were a lot of things that the judges want us to work on this year, such as highlighting community events,” senior Chelsea Joy, current Editor-in-chief, said. “I think that we can definitely meet these requirements and go beyond even Columbia’s expectations. The more critiques The Feather receives, the more driven I am to better the paper.”

In addition to the Columbia gold medal, the 2008 The Feather was awarded with an International First Place Award by the Quill and Scroll International Honor Society of The University of Iowa.

“The students write and edit, and they have a broad range of coverage in the school community,” Stobbe said. “Quill and Scroll is very detail-oriented, and The Feather continues to utilize their detailed analysis in order to improve.”

For staff writers required to write 20 articles per year in order to keep The Feather full of fresh material, the hard work has paid off through the awards.

“I think it is wonderful that we won this award,” staff writer Sydney Ray said. “It is like we finally?after months and months of dedication, hard work and sweat?get what we deserve: a prestigious award. The editors work so hard and support us writers so well that I am glad to see them win these awards, because we all deserve it.

“Also it proves that little people can do big things; having less than 300 students at our school has not affected our level of talent, in fact we take it to the next level.”

The competitions provided critiques from judges, in addition to recognition for The Feather’s accomplishments.

“Good variety of topics on op/ed pages. Our View provides editorial voice, try to include more topics of current interest and link to objective content elsewhere whenever possible,” wrote a Quill and Scroll evaluator.

To round out the 2007-08 awards, the National Scholastic Press Association esteemed the paper with a First Class rating with Three Marks of Distinction, the first time the staff has received the honor.

“I was really excited when Mr. Stobbe called to tell me about results of the other evaluations and contests,” ’08 alumna Mary Kneefel, 2006-08 Editor-in-chief, said. “After winning the Pacemaker, I anticipated us to also do well with our hardcopy, but didn’t want to expect a gold. It was encouraging to still hear about our hard work and success from last year, even after I graduated and left for college.”

With Kneefel, Martens and ’08 graduate and Senior editor Jennifer Sherfield graduated, the responsibility falls to the next group to lead The Feather.

“I really don’t think I’ve started a legacy. I’ve perpetuated one almost accidently,” Martens said. “I really didn’t expect a gold medal after looking at the work I had done, but I know that Elizabeth [Grossman, ’10, current Layout and Design editor] can do it. She has a good eye for the technical and even though she’s a bit rough around the edges when it comes to creating things, she’ll quickly fill the shoes.”

The NSPA Online Pacemaker competition begins Jan. 26, and the first edition of the print version of The Feather was published Sept. 26.

At the end of the school year, the editors will submit all the editions of the print paper to the three critique organizations, and await their scores yet again, hoping to achieve national recognition.

“I think the staff of 2008-09 will be able to recreate and possibly exceed our accomplishments from last year,” Kneefel said. “They show potential and commitment in their work and I know they will make Stobbe and Fresno Christian proud.”

For more information, check out the online hardcopy archives or e-mail Stobbe.