Read all over: Spectator wins Best High School Newspaper award

Students from Fredonia High School’s student newspaper, the Spectator, recently visited the NYPA conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. Pictured from left to right: Michael Hahn, Sports Editor; Owyn Darrell-Sterbak, Co-Editor in Chief; Ava Hartung, Assistant Editor; Abigail Joy, Feature Editor; and Isaac Williams, Co-Editor in Chief.

Fredonia High School has plenty of stellar programs that rank among the best of the best in the state. From a renowned music program, to athletic success across many sports, to award winning teachers recognized by the state, Fredonia is quite familiar with receiving awards. Those who tell their stories are also on the list of excellence.

The Spectator, Fredonia’s student newspaper, was recently named the 2023 Best High School Newspaper at the New York Press Association (NYPA) conference at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

The award was given to Fredonia because of its overwhelming success through multiple departments, including four first place awards.

On hand to receive the NYPA awards were Co-Editors in Chief Isaac Williams and Owyn Darrell-Sterbak, along with Sports Editor Michael Hahn, Feature Editor Abigail Joy, and Assistant Editor Ava Hartung. They were accompanied on the trip by High School Principal Darrin Paschke and Co-Adviser Lisa Reinhardt. Dadie Sedota assists Reinhardt with the production of the paper as Co-Adviser.

The Spectator won the most prestigious award of all, the title of General Excellence, for its overall success throughout all aspects of the paper. The Spectator was defined by NYPA as “a beautiful example of what student newspapers should be.”

Submitted Photos The Spectator, Fredonia High School’s student newspaper, took home several awards at the recent NYPA awards ceremony. Pictured are members of the Spectator staff.

Reinhardt was particularly fond of the comments offered in support of the paper as a whole for its efforts to support all facets of journalism and production. “Each year we try to improve and we set new goals, but the fact that their comment was about how it is a well-rounded paper, that made me feel good because that’s what we’re always striving for,” Reinhardt said.

“Winning the Best Overall Newspaper award and the General Excellence award is something that we can say to the staff … everybody contributed to it,” Sedota said. “… If two or three of them weren’t there, we just wouldn’t be the same. That’s why the general awards are even more relevant than the individual awards because it belongs to everybody.”

In addition to the top two prizes, three other first place awards were awarded to the Spectator. The staff took first place for Design, while two individuals took home top honors: Emma Putney won Best Sports Story and Isaac Williams won the top prize in Photography. Two others won second place awards: Owyn Darrell-Sterbak for Best Column and Angelina May for Best Sports Story. Alexander Weiss took third place in the Best Column category, while Williams won another award for Photography in third place, along with his first place win. Hailey Hood received Honorable Mention for Photography, while Ben Feit received Honorable Mention for Best News story.

“It’s very exciting, especially when you see a student actually win an award at a conference. The way their faces light up, it’s a cool thing,” Sedota said.

In all, Fredonia had the top two finishers in Best Sports story, two of the top three in Photography plus an Honorable Mention, and two of the top three Best Column winners, on top of its Best Design, General Excellence, and Best High School Newspaper overall awards.

“I’m happy about all the awards because I’m happy to win anything, but it’s more about the kids. It’s for them to see … that you have journalists who are judging this, who are working in the field, saying that your paper is good, that gives it some credibility,” Reinhardt said.

Reinhardt was once in the shoes of her students, working on the paper as a student herself. Looking back on that experience, she said, “It’s very rewarding for me because I was a student and I know how important it was to me when I was in high school. Now to see students feel the same way and be proud of what they do, it makes me really happy because they see the value in it. … I’m so proud of them, and I love that they are proud of themselves.”

When she was a student, Reinhardt’s faculty adviser was Sedota. Now in their tenth year working together with the Spectator as co-advisers, Sedota appreciates the support their program receives from the school community as a whole. “It’s such a community accomplishment because this program has been around since the 80s,” Sedota said. “… We’ve had so much support from the administration, from the community, from the Board of Education, and not every school gets excited about a student newspaper.”

Approximately 80 students are involved in the production of the paper, through in-class copy editing and discussions, along after school production work and event coverage. Sedota was proud to highlight that the Spectator caters to a wide range of students, with ways to utilize skills in many different aspects of the production of the paper.

“We do have the Valedictorian and the Salutatorian, but we also have many kids who aren’t the stereotypical high achievers. Sometimes those are the kids that come up with the new ideas or the humor. It’s kind of cool because it’s not like they have to pass a test to get into the class. It’s an open door sort of program,” Sedota said.

The recent awards were far from the first for the Spectator, which received 16 awards from the Empire State School Press Association at a recent awards ceremony last fall. The honors included four Gold Awards, including Best Overall Newspaper and Service to School – an award that measures the impact of the publication on the school community.

After receiving those awards last fall, Williams said, “I’m really proud of our staff for winning all these awards, and I think we can continue to win awards.”

He was obviously right.


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