Press Day: Communications wins WriteOff

2014 October 27
by amulshine

Anna Robinson, a junior at Communications High School in Monmouth County, is this year’s first place winner in the annual WriteOff contest at Fall Press Day, held today at Rutgers University.

At the 45-minute WriteOff competition at Press Day  today, from left, Isabel Medina of Bergenfield High School, Megan McGaher of Warren Hills Regional High School and Megan Mulligan of Old Bridge High School were among 15 contestants reporting on this year's keynote presentation, a panel discussion on student press rights and recent censorship cases at New Jersey high schools.

At the 45-minute WriteOff competition at Press Day today, from left, Isabel Medina of Bergenfield High School, Megan McGaher of Warren Hills Regional High School and Megan Mulligan of Old Bridge High School were among 15 contestants reporting on this year’s keynote presentation, a panel discussion on student press rights and recent censorship cases at New Jersey high schools.

Robinson was one of 15 students who wrote news stories immediately after the keynote presentation, a panel discussion on student press rights and recent incidents of censorship at student newspapers in New Jersey.

Robinson takes home a citation and a $100 award provided by The Bergen Record, which sponsors the WriteOff.

Taking second place is Lilia Wood of Glen Rock High School in Glen Rock. Winning third place was Kaitlyn Boyle of Cherry Hill High School East in Cherry Hill.

Robinson’s winning story:

Warning: this article has not been tampered with, but countless other pieces by journalism students have faced censorship.

A crowd of 732 students and 80 advisers attended the Garden State Scholastic Press Association conference Monday, representing 50 schools in New Jersey. The keynote address was presented twice and covered the topic of press rights on a school level.

GSSPA founder John Tagiareni acted as the moderator of the event, accompanied by guest speakers Kylie Sposato, Adelina Colaku, Frank LoMonte and Phil Gianficaro.

Students in the audience tweeted their questions using the hashtag gsspa2014.

According to Tagliareni, it was the first time students had been invited to a panel. Now freshmen in college, Sposato and Colaku were seniors when their articles were prohibited from publication by their school adminstrations.

Edward Jones of Cheroke High School checks his notes during the Fall Press Day WriteOff Competition. The Bergen Record sponsors the contest each year. The annual conference is held at Rutgers University’s Busch Campus Center.

“It just seems like the schools pull the blinds on them,” said Gianficaro, an award-winning columnist for Calkins Media who write columns in support of Sposato and Colaku.

Sposato, now a student at Rowan University, attended Pemberton Township High School when she wrote a piece about smoking in the bathrooms at her school. Before the article could be published, she said, the school administration cut the column.

“It’s constant. Any time you go into the bathroom, there is smoke in there,” Sposato said. She fought the school on their ruling in a legal battle and eventually won the right to publish her piece.

Colaku submitted her article, on a school administrator’s tenure charges, for prior review to her principal and was denied the right to publish the piece.

“I had to be reflective,” Colaku said as she, too, started a legal battle against her school, Northern Highlands Regional High School. Her newspaper’s adviser would lose his position if she persued this case, she said.

After a three-month legal battle, Colaku was granted the right to publish her story and her adviser lost his position.

“You’re not going to let authority figures boss you around,” Colaku said with the support of her adviser.

Both Sposato and Colaku sought legal aid for their cases. Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, helped them and other students who face a breach of their First Amendment rights.

A few minutes into the annual WriteOff competition, Peter Warren, left, of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, and Bryan Gallion of West Essex High School, get down to the writing. They were two of 15 contestants for the grand prize – a $100 award from The Bergen Record, sponsors of the competition.

A few minutes into the annual WriteOff competition, Peter Warren, left, of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, and Bryan Gallion of West Essex High School, get down to the writing. They were two of 15 contestants for the grand prize – a $100 award from The Bergen Record, sponsors of the competition.

“The foundation of journalism is truth,” said LoMonte. “When muffled, scream louder.”

LoMonte said he pushes for students to fight against school officials who try to quiet voices because, he said, “We’ll only make progress if you share it.”

“The last thing they want is bad publicity,” said Tagliareni, who agreed with LoMonte on fighting censorship.

“We want you guys to be freedom fighters,” said LoMonte.

The invited speakers were all recognized for their achievements. LoMonte was given a Golden Quill Award, which commends leaders against censorship.

LoMonte spoke of a previous event where he asked 60 students to raise their hands if they had ever faced censorship and 50 raised their hands.

“I asked them how many did anything about it, and 50 hands went down,” he said.




Fall Student Press Day is October 27

2014 August 25
by tmchale

Time to start planning for the GSSPA’s largest conference of the year.

The registration deadline is October 20. For a brochure with a registration form click here..

If you would like to receive a critique of your newspaper during conference, click here for a document with more information and an entry form.

More updates on the conference will be coming.

Pemberton columnist prevails at The Stinger

2014 June 6
by admin


The Pemberton High School newspaper, The Stinger, has published the revised column that was held back by school administrators during the winter. It appears that  pressure from all sides made an impact in the newspaper’s efforts to fight censorship.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines censorship as "the act of examining in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines censorship as “the act of examining in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.”

South Jersey Magazine will feature the censored students in its June issue, which will include photos of the students involved in the case, according to Bill Gurden, the adviser of The Stinger.

It started in December when Kylie Sposato submitted a column about student smoking in the school bathrooms for publication in The Stinger. It was part of her journalism class’s unit on opinion writing,

The piece included interviews with a school security guard, research about the health effects of secondhand smoke and a perspective from a classmate, along with her own criticism of the behavior.

Staff member Samantha Gregory also learned that her story about the departure of the district’s athletic director, scheduled for the same December edition, had been edited to remove two important final lines: one that said the director declined comment and another noting that the district hadn’t yet named a replacement.

The Student Press Law Center supported Sposato’s case, as did the local professional press and student press associations.

The Law Center reports that Pemberton High School Principal Ida Smith has been “honored” in the censorship case. The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has cited her with one if its 2014 Jefferson Muzzles. It is the annual award for those who “forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’”

Time to begin picking your contest entries

2014 May 6
by amulshine

Contests Deadline – July 1.



It’s time to reap rewards for this year’s hard work. Your staff members have written, designed and photographed some great content this year.

The Summer Newspaper and Yearbook contests  allow them to compete for awards in many categories. Simply follow the directions on forms available under the Contests tab at the right on this home page.

Preparing your entries is simple and quick. Out-of-state professionals are standing by to judge your work.

Newspaper members: you can enter up to 48 entries in 13 categories, or send just one entry in one category. It’s up to you. Categories include news, opinion, features and sports writing, photography, cartooning, review writing and more.

Yearbook members: An experienced judge from out of state will mark a thorough critique form and give you points in each category. Explanations and the critique will accompany each returned entry. Judges will be encouraged to write in your book, pointing out specific kudos and constructive criticisms.

Awards will be announced at Fall Press Day, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, at Rutgers’ Busch Campus Center. Questions? Contact Susan Everett at

Register now for Spring Adviser’s Conference

2014 April 23
by amulshine
The Annual Spring Conference for High School Publication Advisers is Friday, May 2, at Rutgers University, and you still have time to register for this five-hour professional development day addressing topics vital to your news or yearbook publication.
SpringConference Art
The conference offers the latest materials and techniques in writing, editing, layout and ethics for news and yearbook publications.
This year’s sessions include:  
* A Panel discussion on the roles of adviser and administrator in fostering an atmosphere for strong student publications, both print and online. The panel includes a principal and experienced advisers.
* How to teach design basics if you are a non-designer adviser * Finding resources for advising
* Taking your news publication online
The conference is your annual meeting and includes continental breakfast, learning sessions, lunch, take-home teaching materials and door prizes.
Conference registration is $30 for GSSPA members and $55 for nonmembers, which includes free parking, breakfast and lunch. Click here for a registration form.
Registration questions? Call Conference Chair Sue Everett at 201-653-5480; or e-mail her at We look forward to meeting you at the conference as we celebrate scholastic journalism.
Please consider following GSSPA on facebook at
and on Twitter at

GSSPA supports Pemberton High School against censorship

2014 March 26
by admin


The GSSPA Executive Board has voted to support the staff and adviser of the Pemberton High School newspaper, The Stinger, after their newspaper was censored and the students’ First Amendment Rights were violated by the unwarranted actions of their school administrators.pemberton

For background on this story, a link has been provided with permission of the Burlington County Times for an article written by Steven Hart and a link has been provided with permission of the Student Press Law Center, to an article written by Casey McDermott.

The GSSPA is very encouraged by the support of Phil Gianficaro, of The Burlington County Times,  who wrote an outstanding column, “This Policy Needs a Rewrite.” He expressed his support for the students at Pemberton High School and scholastic journalists nationally.The link to his column is also provided with the permission of The Burlington County Times.

The GSSPA actively promotes student press rights In New Jersey. Many students and advisers have had their rights violated, even though New Jersey State Constitution has one of the strongest First Amendment protections in the United States and a court precedent has upheld these rights.

The NJ Constitution and the precedent on the books, Desilits V. Clearview Regional Board of Education protects student journalists against the Hazelwood Decision. We hope that administrators will reconsider their positions when they understand the implications of their actions. As a number of legal experts from the SPLC have explained, NJ students could use this case in court and win.

In the case, the courts all ruled for a middle school student, Brian Desilits,  including the NJ Supreme Court. In that case, the principal invoked Hazelwood when he told the student that he could not publish reviews of two films, “Mississippi Burning” and “Rain Man,” because they were R rated movies. The court ruled in the student’s favor and noted that the school had no publications code, that students had written reviews of R rated movies in the past, that “Mississippi  Burning” had been shown in social studies classes, and that the film was also available in the school library.



Deadline extended to Feb. 18 for Kilgore, Stevens scholarships

2014 February 6
by amulshine

The New Jersey Press Foundation has extended the application deadline for both the Stevens and Kilgore scholarships. Due to school closings, applications must now be postmarked by Tuesday, Feb. 18. Click on the links in this paragraph to download rules and application.

Bernard Kilgore

Bernard Kilgore

The Kilgore scholarship – valued at $5,000 – is awarded by New Jersey Press Foundation, which administers the Bernard Kilgore Memorial Scholarship Fund. The recipient also is named GSSPA’s New Jersey High School Journalist of the Year and is entered in a competition for the National High School Journalist of the Year, operated by the Journalism Education Association.

The scholarship recipient is selected by a panel of New Jersey newspaper editors. Selection criteria include the student’s intent to major in journalism in college. Applicants must have at least two years of experience on their high school newspaper. Applicants must submit at least three letters of recommendations with their applications and at least three samples of writing published in the high school or community newspaper. Because applicants must have at least a 3.0 grade point average out of 4.0, a current high school transcript must be enclosed with the application package.

The Bob Stevens Memorial Scholarship, valued at $2,000, is awarded to an outstanding journalism student who has demonstrated dedication to his or her school newspaper or yearbook. This scholarship does not require that the recipient major in journalism in college or pursue a career. Applications will be judged by a panel of independent judges, chosen from the many professional journalists employed in New Jersey.

The scholarship is awarded by the Garden State Scholastic Press Association. The winner of the award is announced at GSSPA’s Spring Advisers’ Conference in May.

Bob Stevens was a dedicated teacher at Highland Park High School for many years, where he served as the adviser to the Highland Fling, the student newspaper.

He was a founding member of GSSPA and served as the first president of the organization. After his death, GSSPA started this scholarship to honor his memory and to help aspiring journalists.

The student’s school newspaper adviser must be a member of the GSSPA in order to be eligible for the award. The membership fee is $25 per year.


Register Now for the Spring Adviser’s Conference

2014 January 25
by tmchale

Click here for the registration form and send it in by April 24th. The Spring Adviser’s Conference will be held on Friday, May 2.

Fall Press Day: Bergenfield wins Write-Off

2013 October 29
by amulshine

Nisha Desai of Bergenfield High School won the annual Write-Off competition at Fall Press Day today at Rutgers, beating 17 other contestants and winning a plaque and $100 from sponsoring newspaper The Bergen Record.

notebookDesai is a member of the staff of the Bear Facts student newspaper at Bergenfield High School, advised by Warren Heede. Desai and the other contestants covered the keynote speech of Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Amy Ellis Nutt of the Star-Ledger. Nutt spoke about news coverage of Hurricane Sandy, both as it affected the oceanfront and the forgotten Delaware Bay shore of New Jersey.

The second place award went to Victoria Agrifolio of West Essex High School in North Caldwell, whose adviser is Cassie Lo. Third place went to Cecilia McGuinness of Warren Hills Regional High School in Washington. Her adviser is Mary Ann McKinney. They will receive awards of $75 and $50, respectively.

The girls were among 809 students who attended Fall Press Day at the Busch Campus Center of Rutgers University. Also in attendance were 91 publication advisers representing 56 schools.

Here is Desai’s first-place story:


Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt
of the Star-Ledger shares her experiences
in covering Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath.
gsspa photos

“Everyone has a story to tell and it’s your job to ask them,” is the advice Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amy Ellis Nutt gave to high school journalists during the Garden State Scholastic Press Association’s annual Fall Press Day.

Nut, who is an enterprise writer for the Star-Ledger, addressed 809 students at Rutgers University on Oct. 28 on the trials and tribulations of reporting on Hurricame Sandy, the largest hurricane in Atlantic history.

“Over the next two weeks, we got very little sleep. We were on call 24/7,” said Nutt. The ensuing power crises made reporting difficult, with Nutt and fellow journalists camping out in the newsroom and writing by flashlight. Despite the state of disarray, the vast majority of the state was in, Mutt and her colleagues didn’t cease their reporting.

“We kept reporting from Sandy Hook to Seaside Heights, from Cape May to Ocean City,” Nutt said.

The majority of the coverage was directed toward the barrier islands and boardwalk towns along the Eastern Shore, until a reader brought the town of Grandy’s Beach near the Delaware coast to Nutt’s attention.

Gandy’s Beach, located in Cumberland County, lies at the south of the state. The county, the second poorest in New Jersey, was devastated by the storm, but received very little media attention.

“The Delaware coast is 95 miles of coastline we never write about or talk about,” said Nutt. Intrigued, Nutt began her coverage of an area of the state that had been neglected by both the media and its government.

“No one cared. Not the governor and not the media,” said Nutt. One citizen of “Down Jersey,” what locals refer to the Western shore as, had a similar lament; “Trenton listens, but nothing gets done.”

Although in some towns, 60 percent of the property was destroyed, as a county, Cumberland missed federal guidelines for aid. While Cumberland County is home to the second largest estuary in the county after the Chesapeake Bay, it only received $600,000 in government money a year to the Chesapeake’s $2 million, despite the large volume of industries that call the Western shore home.

To this day, the Western shore is struggling to rebuild. In a recent article, Nutt writes, “Along the Western shore, it’s like Sandy never moved on at all.” While Governor Christie has organized 32 beach and dune projects along the New Jersey coastline, none of them are in Cumberland County. One year on, Nutt hopes to bring attention to Cumberland County.

“There’s no one to help them. There’s no one there who has the governor’s ear,” said Nutt.

Nutt, who spent eight months reporting on Cumberland County, has treasured the experience.

“This is what being a journalist is. It means understanding people’s lives and  their challenges,” Nutt said in her closing remarks.

Fall Press Day Booklet and Grid

2013 October 26
by tmchale

Plan your day with this booklet and grid of Fall Press Day workshops, contests, critiques and awards. They contain everything you need to know about GSSPA’s 34th annual conference.

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