JEA names Alice Scott of Texas as 2024 Journalist of the Year

JEA names Alice Scott of Texas as 2024 Journalist of the Year

By Joe Humphrey, JEA Journalist of the Year coordinator

She got her start in theater, playing characters such as Toto, Tinker Bell and the Cheshire Cat, but the brightest spotlight for Alice Scott shined when she found her starring role as a student journalist.

Scott, co-editor of The Shield newsmagazine at McCallum High School in Austin, Texas, was honored today as the Journalism Education Association’s 2024 Journalist of the Year. She is the Lone Star State’s record-setting eighth winner of the national award, which carries a $3,000 scholarship.

Scott said she first got involved with journalism because her theater teacher also ran the news program at Kealing Middle School in Austin.

“Every week, I’d don a red blazer and trek across the school to the sixth-grade science wing where we recorded the anchor portion of the week’s news show,” she wrote in a personal narrative. “My confidence performing in front of a crowd of hundreds made talking to the camera a breeze.”

That theater background made her a better journalist. She wrote: “My understanding of the elements of an engaging plot helped me in the scriptwriting process. My hours on end practicing tongue twisters helped the flow and delivery of my voiceovers and anchor performances.”

When she got to McCallum, she expanded from anchoring to exploring other forms of storytelling such as video, podcasts and photo essays. By sophomore year, she was online co-editor in chief, spending lots of time producing and editing content. By junior year, she was co-editor in chief of The Shield, only the second 11th grader to hold that honor in veteran adviser Dave Winter’s career.

“I have been a publication adviser for a long time, 30-something years,” he said. “My former editors have gone on to become professional reporters, broadcast producers, city councilmen and presidential staff members. I have been very fortunate to work with students who have set a high bar for themselves and for those around them, including their teachers. I think Alice Scott tops them all. She’s the kind of student, the kind of editor in chief, the kind of person, who doesn’t need a teacher to motivate her to seek excellence and improvement or to set her agenda for how to achieve those things. She envisions amazing things and accomplishes them on her own.”

JOY jurors were similarly impressed.

“You’ve worked tirelessly to develop your journalism skills in so many areas. No matter where you go or what you decide to do, you’re going to be a star, and this portfolio is proof of that,” said Ava Butzu of Michigan.

“I love that your video stories function as so much more than event coverage or marketing,” said Alyssa Boehringer of Texas. “These stories are about people in your community and those are the best types of stories.”

“I wish I could spend a hundred years with your writing,” said Virginia’s Erinn Harris, MJE. “You’ve got a gift!”

Scott titled her portfolio “Stories Matter.” More time doing journalism meant less time doing theater, but Scott didn’t mind, she wrote, because theater had led her down the yellow brick road of telling the tales of others.

“When I wrote these stories, I wasn’t focused on going viral, breaking records or uncovering a great conspiracy. I wanted to share stories that matter,” Scott said. “Because all news doesn’t have to be hard-hitting. Some stories are about everyday life, and that is interesting enough.”

Scott highlighted a few of her most meaningful stories, including a profile of an alumnus who made handmade puppets at a gallery for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities, coverage that explored the challenges of students “growing up transgender in a state unsupportive of their identity” and a feature on a history teacher who has to work at a grocery store to make ends meet.

In a nominating letter, longtime journalism educator Jeanne Acton shared a story about how while judging a feature writing contest in Texas a few years ago, Scott’s work stood out. 

“There was no name on the paper, no identifying piece of information — except for her words,” Acton said. “The way she crafts her story is so unique to her. She captivates you with her heart and then imparts these beautifully woven stories of human experience.”

Added Acton: “Alice is not afraid to share her story, even the painful ones — and I think that’s why people share their stories with her. She’s authentic and real — we need a few more Alice’s in our world.”

Scott included a “closing thoughts” section of her portfolio, reflecting on the collective experiences of the Class of 2024.

“During just my time in high school, I lived through a global pandemic, an insurrection of the nation’s capital, the break out of war in Ukraine and the third most deadly school shooting in the U.S.,” she said. “But I didn’t just read about these events in news articles or hear about them on social media — I reported on them. While I couldn’t change the reality I was living through, I used my position to bring light to these situations. Whether that meant providing accurate and up-to-date information about breaking news or by sharing stories of student success that helped distract from the darkness.”

Scott plans to study journalism and minor in Spanish so she can continue telling stories. 

JEA honors finalists from England, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia

From a pool of more than 220 entries submitted to 41 state-level contests, JEA also honored four finalists with $1,000 scholarships. The Journalist of the Year scholarships are named for Sister Rita Jean Abicht, JEA’s former treasurer. 

Clara Martinez
The American School in London, England (International)

As editor-in-chief of The Standard, Clara Martinez leads a staff of more than 60 students in producing one of the world’s top student publications, one that truly lives up to its name.

“It’s evident that you are a thoughtful and dedicated editor-in-chief,” said JOY juror Brenda Field, MJE, of Illinois. “It’s great to see that you’ve taken the time to get to know your staff and fellow editors as individuals and have also been reflective about previous staff practices and made a point to find ways to improve. A lot of editors would simply carry on with what has been done in the past.” 

Adviser Louisa Avery, MJE, said in addition to being a strong leader, Martinez also finds time to contribute strong content.

“Clara always makes sure to prioritize stories that are important to her and is able to balance her editing responsibilities and her own reporting successfully,” Avery said. “She writes for all sections of the publication, but especially excels at writing timely news stories with a quick deadline.”

In a letter of recommendation, English teacher Stephan J. Potchatek compared Martinez to nearly a dozen famous authors including Didion, Dickens and Doyle, explaining how she embodies so many of the traits they exhibit.

“I can think of few students as voracious as Clara Martinez,” he wrote. “Lend her a book — or even just mention a title — and before you know it she has consumed the author’s entire output. I’m trying to figure out how to capture her quiet desire to know, how gentle it is, how seized by a respect for the world of ideas into which she is entering.”

Martinez referenced a famous author as well.

“Few people know that my favorite book is Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ she shared. “Its sepia-colored pages have remained on my nightstand since I moved to London, and its place there is well-deserved, for I have often returned to King’s advice on what to write: ‘Anything at all … as long as you tell the truth.’”

Martinez plans to study comparative literature and aspires to work as a foreign correspondent, where she can report on Latin America.

“My goal is to bring attention to stark issues like government corruption and poverty, as well as highlight the beauty and spirit of Latin culture that is often removed from Western news,” she wrote in her application. “Alongside news reporting, I would like to hone my creative writing to craft essays and profiles that serve as powerful social commentaries for literary magazines.”

Nadia Knoblauch
Hagerty High School, Oviedo, Florida

For Nadia Knoblauch, a love of people sparked a love of journalism, a love that started with writing but has grown to affection for video editing, photography and more, all ultimately rooted in telling stories.

“Reporting on difficult topics, including restrictive legislation, campus diversity and most recently, the death of a teacher on campus, I have been introduced to new groups of people and learned how to better communicate with those around me,” wrote Knoblauch, editor in chief of The BluePrint at Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida. 

Adviser Brit Taylor said one of his favorite things about Knoblauch is her willingness to learn.

“Watching her tackle new skills in my class has been even more impressive,” he wrote. “She creates engaging videos to enhance her stories, promotes social media to gain more readership than we’ve ever had, and for our first issue this year, she learned high-level Photoshop skills to create a dramatic cover and centerspread showcasing an important story, that of course, she had written. She loves learning something new, and she loves doing whatever she can to increase the quality and appeal of our publications.”

Knoblauch’s portfolio included an anecdote about how her parents always changed the TV from the Disney Channel to the news because it was important to know what was going on in the world.

“I may have found it annoying then, but now it is a statement I live by – one that we all should,” she wrote. “Without coverage of current events, we are unaware of serious issues in our society, local or global. I aim to use my writing to raise awareness of local and state events, growing my peers’ political and societal consciousness.”

Knoblauch also shared how being an editor means way more than just editing stories.

“Now, I know that being EIC doesn’t require that I turn a first-year staffer into a poet in a few months. As long as I am encouraging and aiding my staff to improve in their journalistic coverage, my job is complete,” she wrote.

Taylor, her adviser, said Knoblauch had that leadership gene from the start.

“Often, the most talented, hardest working students do not make great leaders. They get frustrated with their peers and end up wanting to do the job alone,” he wrote. “But not Nadia. As a sophomore, she was already our room trainer, leading other staff members … Nadia recognizes that as a leader, she can do even more than she can just as an individual.”

She is headed to Barnard College in New York with her eyes on Columbia’s graduate school of journalism and a future as a political correspondent. 

Ben Shapiro
Conestoga High School, Bewyn, Pennsylvania


Like fellow Pennsylvanian Taylor Swift, Ben Shapiro of Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, has exhibited that trait in his work as a reporter and leader for The Spoke newspaper.

“As a rookie staffer, Ben immediately began reporting impactful stories, and by early 2021 it was clear he was not afraid to write pieces that shed light on important issues that could be deemed ‘controversial’ for a student paper,” wrote former adviser Cyndi Crothers-Hyatt, CJE. 

His work includes reports on traffic/parking troubles on campus, a front-page story on cut-throat culture, coverage of a First Amendment challenge from parents and a piece on bus drivers not following a mask mandate.

“Ben wanted to know why,” wrote Crothers-Hyatt. “His concern for the safety of students prompted him to investigate despite possible negative repercussions from the school district. He was diligent and careful in his reporting; the story was well-balanced, timely and impactful. And it took courage to report.”

Shapiro wrote about administrative backlash to his coverage of sex education practices in his district.

“My principal was attempting to hinder my reporting and stop me from publishing,” he wrote. “She called me into her office and asked, ‘Why do you want to cover something that makes us look weak?’ Overcome with fear but trying my hardest not to show it, I replied, ‘Because it’s the truth.’”

Current Spoke adviser Laura Howard called Shapiro the “living embodiment of the values a student journalist should possess” and praised him for always seeking opportunities, like the time the president came to town.

“Ben used his networking skills to gain press credentials to the event, taking amazing live photographs at the speech and reporting on the event for our website and print issue,” Howard wrote.

A few weeks later, Shapiro was invited to conduct a one-on-one interview with Pennsylvania

Gov. Josh Shapiro (no relation) about his education agenda. 

Shapiro — Ben not Josh — plans to study journalism and pre-law at Northwestern University. 

Like all the finalists, his portfolio is rich in examples from a wide spectrum of areas, including broadcast journalism, leadership (an epic tale about navigating an administrative effort to thwart coverage) and photojournalism, led by coverage of the presidential visit.

On photography, Shapiro wrote: “”A picture is worth a thousand words,’  they say. Wrong. It’s worth more. A picture is worth a million, a billion, a trillion words. The perfect picture can tell the whole story, sometimes better than the copy can.”

Clare Kirwin
Harrisonburg (Virginia) High School

Virginia Journalist of the Year Clare Kirwin’s personal narrative was drafted as a letter from her to one of the mainstays of her life since middle school. She began it “Dear Journalism,”.

“You push me to ask the hard questions and write the hard stories,” she said. “You provide me with a platform to elevate the diverse student voices at my school, learn from other’s experiences, research current events, tap into my creative abilities and explore graphic design.”

Kirwin is head editor in chief of HHS Media at Harrisonburg High School, where adviser Val Kibler, MJE, says she is often astonished by Kirwin’s abilities as both a journalist and a leader. 

“What always amazes me about Clare is the calmness with which she approaches her job,” Kibler said. “She works beautifully with the younger staff members and takes the time to patiently teach them what they need to do to improve their writing and design. A student run staff, our HHS Media has worked hard to achieve much success both on the state and national level. A lot of that success is because of great leaders like Clare.”

JOY juror Jessica Hunziker, MJE, of Colorado praised Kirwin for using analytics to make informed decisions about content and coverage, work that helped double online traffic to HHS Media. 

Juror Sarah Nichols, MJE of California, lauded Kirwin for earning recognition from JEA in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, an optional available to those attending a series of sessions at the fall or spring National High School Journalism Convention. Kirwin said participation in those breakouts helped generate coverage ideas and shape strategies for her and the team at Harrisonburg to better covering their campus and community.

One session, Kirwin wrote, opened her eyes to a broader definition of diversity.

“My staff, when considering diversity in our coverage, almost immediately went to racial diversity 90% of the time,” she said. “I had all of my staffers complete this activity as soon as I got home from the conference. We continue to prioritize diversifying our coverage, but in a much broader sense.”

Even before attending the sessions, Kirwin prioritized the importance of telling everyone’s story, according to classmate and fellow editor Jumana Alsaadoon.

“Throughout the last four years of high school she has looked for the voices that needed that light and shined it directly on to them,” Alsaadoon wrote. “I’ve seen her take on stories about sexual assault, gun violence, suicide and more with no hesitation. She knows how important it is for our student body’s voices to be heard, and she is always there to do so.”

Kirwin is headed to Northwestern University to study journalism.

State winners

The JEA Journalist of the Year competition starts at the state level, with winners from qualifying contests in each state, Washington, D.C. and JEA members at international schools. A jury of 11 volunteers evaluated entries based on the 11 areas outlined on the competition rubric. Each candidate was nominated by a JEA member adviser.

Click on the links below to view each state winner’s portfolio.

  • ALABAMA: Meh’Quira Malone, Sparkman High School (adviser Erin Coggins, MJE)
  • ARIZONA: Tiffany Hutcheson, Apache Junction High School (adviser Jason “JD” Davis, CJE)
  • ARKANSAS: Nevaeh Suit, Bryant High School (adviser Michael Westbrook)
  • CALIFORNIA: Annabel Chia, Carlmont High School (adviser Justin Raisner)
  • COLORADO: Claire Bauer, Rock Canyon High School (adviser Kristi Rathbun, MJE)
  • CONNECTICUT: Olivia Salai, adviser Joseph A. Foran High School (adviser Lisa Farrell)
  • FLORIDA: Nadia Knoblauch, Hagerty High School (adviser Brit Taylor)
  • GEORGIA: Molly Harwell, Clarke Central High School (adviser David Ragsdale, CJE)
  • HAWAII: Devin Panalal, Iolani School (adviser Lindsey Combs)
  • ILLINOIS: Jake Pfeiffer, Naperville Central High School (adviser Keith Carlson, CJE)
  • INDIANA: Salsabil Qaddoura, North Central High School (adviser Tom Gayda)
  • INTERNATIONAL (ENGLAND): Clara Martinez, The American School in London (adviser Louisa Avery, MJE)
  • IOWA: Alisyn Parkhurst, Waterloo West High School (adviser Nicole Goodman)
  • KANSAS: Maya Smith, Lawrence High School (adviser Barb Tholen, MJE)
  • KENTUCKY: Gracie Whitworth, Bullitt East High School (adviser Larry Steinmetz, MJE)
  • MARYLAND: Allison Xu, Walter Johnson High School (adviser Wendy Borrelli)
  • MASSACHUSETTS: Bella Ishanyan, Newton South High School (adviser Ashley Chapman)
  • MICHIGAN: Natalie Garwood, Utica High School (adviser Stacy Smale)
  • MINNESOTA: Rita Li, St.Paul Academy & Summit School (adviser Kathryn Campbell, CJE)
  • MISSISSIPPI: Caroline Berry, Oxford High School (adviser Diala Chaney)
  • MISSOURI: Elizabeth Franklin, Parkway West High School (adviser Lindsey Katz)
  • MONTANA: Ila Bell, Hellgate High School (adviser Jill Derryberry)
  • NEBRASKA: Quinn N. Burton, Millard West High School (adviser Mark Hilburn, MJE)
  • NEVADA: Elyse Gamiao, Green Valley High School (adviser Eric Johnston, CJE)
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE: Kelly Egan, Londonderry High School (adviser Mary DeWinkeleer)
  • NEW JERSEY: Gia Gupta, Cherry Hill High School East (adviser Greg Gagliardi, CJE)
  • NEW YORK: Kiran Yeh, Brooklyn Technical High School (adviser Tom Wentworth)
  • NORTH CAROLINA: Elena Paces-Wiles, Durham Riverside High School (adviser Bryan Christopher)
  • OHIO: Andrew Little, William Mason High School (adviser Dale Conner)
  • OREGON: Joseph Murphy, West Linn High School (adviser Glenn Krake, CJE)
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Ben Shapiro, Conestoga High School (adviser Laura Howard)
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: Morgan Cook, Wando High School (adviser Phillip Caston, CJE)
  • SOUTH DAKOTA: Reese Duncan, Lincoln High School (adviser Katie Kroeze)
  • TENNESSEE: Margot Ross, University School of Nashville (adviser Justin Karpinos)
  • TEXAS: Alice Scott, McCallum High School (adviser Dave Winter)
  • VIRGINIA: Clare Kirwan, Harrisonburg High School (adviser Val Kibler, MJE)
  • WASHINGTON: Rosalie Vera Johnson, Central Kitsap High School (adviser Katherine Miller)
  • WASHINGTON, D.C.: Naomi Breuer, Washington International School (adviser Alexandra Wilding)
  • WEST VIRGINIA: Kaelan Lovett, Elkins High School (adviser Andrew Carroll)
  • WISCONSIN: Eiman Mir, Brookfield East High School (adviser Tyler Saxton)
  • WYOMING: Emma Johnson, Powell High School (adviser Amy Moore) 

State winners and finalists were honored April 4 at the Spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. The JEA Journalist of the Year was named April 6 at the convention. Links to portfolios were active as of April 3, but are maintained by the winners.

Founded in 1924, JEA supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, promoting professionalism, encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and an atmosphere which encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

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