The Oarsman Places Sixth in National Best of Show Contest


Athena Koon, Features Editor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Just as Venice students began trickling into school at 7 a.m. on April 25, four editors from The Oarsman were ready to leave for the National High School Journalism Convention in Anaheim. Student editors Sonya Curiel, Julia Escobar, Athena Koon and editor-in-chief Julissa Ventureno arrived at the Hilton hotel with their adviser Nancy Zubiri with luggage in hand for the next three days.

On April 26, the four editors, joined by editor-in-chief Alicia Valenciana that evening, all participated in write-offs held by the Journalism Education Association.

For the second time since 2014, The Oarsman took home the National Scholastic Press Association’s Best of Show award for tabloids of 16-pages or fewer, placing sixth out of over 40 submissions from schools all across the nation. Koon also won Honorable Mention in Feature Writing.

“When I saw that The Oarsman got sixth place in Best of Show, I was so happy,” said Ventureno. “I teared up a bit because I put a lot of effort into every issue. Sixth place does not sound like much, but considering that we haven’t had Best of Show since 2014 and that there were literally hundreds of other school newspapers that were there, that is very good.”

Although she didn’t place in the Sports Photography category this year, Escobar has high hopes for herself and The Oarsman next spring. Escobar is the only underclassman editor on the team who is returning next year.

“I hope to get Honorable Mention in Sports Photography next year, and I learned a lot of tips during the critique session,” said Escobar. “I hope we can get another Best of Show Award or even try to get the Pacemaker Award, which will be tough but I think we can do it.”

The editors were able to attend a handful of hands-on workshops and exclusive classes that invited attendees to improve on how they run their journalism team, spanning from topics such as advanced tricks on Adobe InDesign to working the camera in a better and more creative way.

“The morning workshop I went to with Julia was the most memorable for me,” Curiel said about the creative design workshop. “It was really fun because we got to use our creativity to make anything whether it was a drawing or photography. I got to go around the hotel trying to find certain things to take photos of. I want to apply the creativity exercises I learned from the workshop to graphic design and animation classes I want to take in college.”

Besides attending workshops, convention-goers were invited to keynote speaker Sonia Nazario’s evening presentation. The author’s Pulitzer Prize-winning publication, “Enrique’s Journey,” which she originally wrote for the Los Angeles Times was the highlight of Nazario’s presentation. As she walked the audience through her enduring journalistic research and achievements, Nazario encouraged the young journalists in the room to one day consider becoming activists for the betterment of all people.

Valenciana and Ventureno also presented a workshop on how they developed their monthly Oarsman feature, “Humans of Venice.” Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s widely-read “Humans of New York,” the two seniors decided to start their own column at Venice High in 2017. Over 50 student journalists and advisers listened to Valenciana and Ventureno as they walked through the entire process of interviewing strangers on campus, in order to get their interviewees to open up and relate their personal stories.

“I thought there was going to be like five people attending our workshop but it was more like 50. Once I got in there, I didn’t feel nervous anymore,” Valenciana said. “I felt proud of what we created in 2017 and that we got to help other students create ‘Humans’ at their school. ‘Humans’ is such a beautiful and emotional thing that should be spread throughout the world because it really does make a difference in people’s lives.”