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The Pirate’s Hook Sweeps NC Scholastic Media Association Awards

Riverside High School Journalism Students and Staff

Riverside High School’s student-produced newspaper The Pirates’ Hook has been named an All-North Carolina newspaper in the NC Scholastic Media Association’s annual student media contest. The student journalists earned 14 of the more than 450 awards that were announced during the Association’s annual institute. Five of those awards were for first place.


During the summer Institute, high school journalism students and teachers from across the state participated in instructional sessions led by university faculty and featured writers, designers and journalists. Student media staff submitted their previous year’s work in broadcast, radio/podcast, literary magazine, print news, online news and yearbook categories to be judged in NCSMA’s statewide media contest. 


Students attending focused on journalism’s transition during the pandemic through reporting, writing, broadcast, design, editing and photography. Student officers chose the theme, “Journalism’s New Day.”


Journalism instructor Bryan Christopher expressed his excitement for his students’ work as a high school entity.


“We earned all-North Carolina status, the highest tier for a student publication,” he said.


Christopher said the UNC-Chapel Hill for NC Scholastic Media Institute is a significant resource for him as an instructor.


“We’re really fortunate to have it in our backyard and make it even more accessible so that we can grow and promote high school journalism,” he said.


The first place entries were on wide-ranging topics ranging from opinion columns to review pieces, he said. The stories were very well-researched, and the work amplifies their voices, said Christopher.


“The kids were willing to just keep going back and revise. It just keeps getting better every day. The more they write, the more they understand what they’re trying to say. We leveled up this year.  The success of my program is a direct result of having really talented students,” he said.


But talent must be accompanied by motivation, he said.


“There’s a lot more to being a good journalist than just writing. You have to be curious, reliable, independently motivated, and brave enough to ask strangers difficult questions. I can’t teach some of those dispositions. It’s really a fun class to have,” he said. 


Christopher said his students have participated in two other summer programs in sports writing and diversity for about five years. The Pirate’s Hook staff is also participating in the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a national organization dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color that also works to educate news organizations and journalists on how the inclusion of diverse voices can raise the caliber, impact and visibility of investigative journalism as a means of promoting transparency and good government.

Students won the following individual awards: 

First Place

Eden Mae Richman - Review (p3)

Jaden Butler - Sports Article

Isaac Janiak Stein - General/Editorial Column

Emmer Rice, Eden Mae Richman and Giovanni Varela Benitez - Editorial (p2)

Abigail Martinez - News Story (podcast)


Second Place

Jaden Butler - Sports Column

Elena Paces-Wiles - Personality Profile


Third Place

Elizabeth Williams - News story

Piper Winton - Feature Story

Emmer Rice, Jada Love and Taliyah Cooper - Front Page Design (p1)

Emmer Rice, Jada Love, Taliyah Cooper and Genesiss Smith-Lopez - Inside Page Design (p4-5)


Honorable Mention

Genesis Smith-Lopez and Mijalen Poole - Feature Story (podcast)

Dulce Flores, Jackie Larios Dominguez and Donna Diaz - News Story (p6-7)

Piper Winton - Sports Article