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Best of the High School Journalism Best

High school journalists (from left) Garrett Grove, Joe Pearson, Molly Archer, Haley Berry, Livvy Cohen, Gene Crunk, Klaria Holmes, Grace Logan and Stewart McCullough were among the students honored by the Mississippi Press Association with its first All-Mississippi distinction. The honors were announced at the association’s annual convention and were headlined by Grove being named Mississippi High School Journalist of the Year and Pearson being named the Orley Hood Sports Journalist of the Year. Photo by Larry Agostinelli|Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

The state’s best and brightest young journalists converged on the University of Mississippi earlier this month for the annual Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Convention, and 10 students went home honored as the state’s most outstanding high school reporters.

For the first time, the annual convention featured – among its already robust list of awards – the All-Mississippi recognition, consisting of 10 student journalists who stood out among their peers.

“These 10 students represent the absolute best of Mississippi high school journalism,” said R.J. Morgan, MSPA director and UM assistant instructional professor of journalism. “We envision this being on the same level as being named to an all-state football team or Mississippi Lions Band.

“(These students) have made a difference in their schools and communities through the stories they’ve told and the moments they’ve helped capture.”

Topping this year’s list of exceptional journalists announced April 1 were Mississippi High School Journalist of the Year Garrett Grove and Orley Hood Award for Excellence in Sports Journalism winner Joe Pearson, both from St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison.

Grove is a senior who serves as his school’s student body president. He said that he discovered he had a “knack for journalism” as a sophomore and it has “a special place in his heart.”

Grove said St. Joseph Catholic School journalism adviser Terry Cassreino played a key role in fostering his love of the profession.

“Garrett is one of the real sharp high school journalists I have met,” Cassreino said. “He has a great future in the profession if that’s what he wants to do. He gets it. He understands how to tell a story and he understands how to communicate with people.”

Pearson is a junior who started focusing on journalism in eighth grade. He is experienced in all aspects of the craft, but his specialty is sports journalism. He not only has produced written content, but has experience doing play-by-play for his high school’s basketball team on radio and streaming TV.

Both Pearson and Grove have earned numerous awards for their work.

“Joe is a great writer, possibly one of the best high school writers I’ve come across,” Cassreino said. “When I first read his work in eighth grade, I was like, ‘Man, eighth-graders don’t write like this.’ But he also has a talent for everything else.”

The application and selection process for the journalist of the year award is so rigorous and time-consuming that MSPA wanted to find a way to honor more than one student each year, Morgan said. The All-Mississippi list was the perfect solution, he said.

“To compete in the national high school journalist of the year contest, (the Journalism Education Association) requires students in each state to put together an online portfolio highlighting all their best works from their entire high school career in a variety of different journalistic areas,” he said. “They basically have to make the case to the world that they’re an elite high school journalist who has developed significant skills and made significant contributions to their school publications during their high school tenure.

“Then the winner in each state advances to the national competition. Every (entry) we got was so great, that I felt awful having to tell any of them that the judges had chosen someone else. So, I realized we needed a mechanism at the state level that would allow us to say, ‘This is our state winner, the best of the best, but look at these other students, too, because they’re also pretty amazing.'”

Morgan and the MSPA board of advisers worked on the award process at their annual retreat and developed the All-Mississippi recognition.

Cassreino said the honor is fitting of the great work young journalists in Mississippi are producing and he is glad MSPA has chosen to honor these students.

“We have to have somebody out there pushing for high school journalism and showing people how important it is,” Cassreino said. “(MSPA) helps perpetuate the business and at the very least makes people more appreciative and aware of the value of journalism.”

Other students honored as All-Mississippi for 2019 are:

  • Molly Archer, senior, Oxford High School
  • Haley Berry, senior, George County High School
  • Livvy Cohen, senior, Oxford High School
  • Gene Crunk, senior, Madison Central High School
  • Klaria Holmes, senior, Oxford High School
  • Grace Logan, junior, Oxford High School
  • Stewart McCullough, senior, Jackson Preparatory School
  • Emily Merz, senior, Center Hill High School

By Justin Whitmore

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