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By STEVEN NALLEY
For Bailey Brocato, quality writing isnât about awards or acclaim.
The Mississippi Scholastic Press Association named Brocato, a senior at Starkville High School, the Mississippi High School Journalist of the Year and Mississippi Yearbook Editor of the Year. The first award allows Brocato to compete at the national level for a $5,000 scholarship.
Brocato said she was shocked and grateful for the recognition. She said she believes it will help her future pursuits, but throughout the year she did not have the MSPA awards on her mind.
âI work as hard as I can,â Brocato said. âI push my staff to work as hard as we can, because weâre not doing it for a grade; weâre not doing it for a teacher. Weâre doing it because we love what we do, and weâre doing it because we want to be proud of what weâre putting out.â
Brocatoâs awards are among 31 the SHS journalism program received at the MSPA convention in Oxford March 30, including 10 first-place awards.
R.J. Morgan, journalism adviser at SHS, won Newspaper Advisor of the Year; Merve Karan, news section editor of SHSâs Jacket Buzz, was named MSPA Newspaper Staff Member of the Year; and SHS principal Keith Fennell won MSPA administrator of the year for supporting the program.
Jacket Buzz sports editor Christine Mazzola won Best Sports Feature for a retrospective on the integration of the SHS football team, as well as second place in Individual Sports Writing.
Tyler Griffis placed second in Editorial Writing, Barrett Higginbotham and George Bennett placed third in the state in Sports Photography and Cartoons respectively, and Jacket Buzz editor Cullom McCormick received an honorable mention in Depth Reporting.
âTo say Iâm proud is an understatement,â Morgan said. âItâs been a joy to see these kids grow in both ability and maturity this year, and many thanks to (everyone) who offered suggestions or encouragement along the way. We will be producing one more edition in early May, but it will be mostly senior-oriented.â
McCormick said SHSâs journalism program has gotten better every year, improving from 23 awards received last year to 31 this year. Each successive staff benefits from the previous staffâs experimentation, he said, giving them better understandings of what does and does not work.
âOne thing thatâs really important that a lot of the writers love doing when they get feature stories ... is to capture more of the human side when we can and not just do a news story like we have to do a lot of the time,â McCormick said.
âI know one thatâs really important to me; I did a story on Tim Read getting back from Afghanistan.
Our Black History paper was just filled with feature stories with human interest issues on the black history of Starkville, and all the writers just loved doing that.â
McCormick said the program owed a lot of success to staff like Karan, Mazzola and Brocato as well as Morganâs journalism experience.
âHe basically plays the administrator and mediator in the classroom,â McCormick said. âHe genuinely loves his job, which weâre very grateful for. It really shows in his work because often times we end up staying here as late as 8 p.m. or later on deadline nights to put out the paper, and he stays with us every step of the way.â
Morgan said the SHS journalism program also won four awards for one of its newest creations: âMy Morning Jacket,â a television news program developed this year.
âRex Amesâs package on the JROTC program won fest feature segment in the state, and John Gavin Buffingtonâs tribute to retiring baseball coach Danny Carlisle placed second in sports,â Morgan said. ââMy Morning Jacketâ also placed second in the state in video editing and third overall in general excellence.â
Buffington, editor of âMy Morning Jacket,â said Morgan came up with the idea after seeing other schools around the state develop television news programs. The awards were a surprise, he said, and he could only attribute them to the strength of the students involved.
âTheyâre all really good,â Buffington said. âWe have good anchors (and) good directors. Even though it was their first year, they knew exactly what they were doing.â