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The Roundup Boasts 3 Finalists in The Dallas Morning News High School Journalism Day Contest

The Roundup Boasts 3 Finalists in The Dallas Morning News High School Journalism Day Contest

Every year, The Dallas Morning News hosts a High School Journalism Day. Among the activities at Journalism Day, an award ceremony rewards the top high school reporters, photographers, and filmmakers from across the DFW metroplex.

Last year, Jesuit writers took home several DMN awards, including Best Video and Best Editorial. This year, The Roundup staff have three finalists: Best Website, Best News Reporting, and Best Review.

The Dallas Morning News reporters judged hundreds of submissions and selected a select few in each category as finalists. These categories include Newspaper, Website, News Reporting, Editorial, Review, Portfolio: Columns, Long Feature, Short Feature, Sports Reporting, Sports Feature, News Photo, Sports Photo, Feature Photo, Video, Portfolio: Photos, Portfolio: Headlines, Portfolio: Design, Portfolio: Illustrations/Cartoons, and Portfolio: Graphics. At Journalism Day on Thursday, March 26, the winners will be announced from among the finalists.

Four years ago in Fall 2011, The Roundup switched from a physical paper newspaper to a completely digital online format. Behind the new site was Jesuit math teacher Mr. Joseph Nava ’02, who designed the layout through WordPress. “It makes me happy to be recognized and acknowledged with all the work that’s been put in by everybody,” said Nava. “The students are the ones who make the content and I’m just helping make sure he content gets out there. I’m glad we can get recognized for our content to be accessible and fast.”

After the decision was made to transition to digital, the initial website was just a default template. That was when Nava stepped in. “If we’re gonna put our stuff out there, we have to make it look legit,” he thought, and the rest is history.

Moving from print to digital completely revolutionized the newspaper at Jesuit. Larger audiences, more content, increased participation, and  more benefits accompanied the change. Nava emphasized “the broad, global reach that we have. People who are coming to our site are coming from all over the place. The things we get linked to are interesting, whether on social media or in random articles. I also like the archive and everything being digital and organized.”

He then reminisced about his own high school experience with the paper: “when I was a student, we only published a paper four times a year, which only students and faculty would see. Now, students are contributing to the student voice for future generations.”

The two The Roundup individual finalists were Managing Editor Michael Lanham ’15 and Arts & Entertainment Editor Jon Birondo ’15. Lanham’s piece “Earsing Completes Ice Bucket Challenge, Inspired by Father Fitzgerald, S.J.” is a finalist for Best News Reporting, while Birondo’s article “Flying Lotus Explores the Mysteries of Death, and Beyond, on You’re Dead” is finalist for Best Review.

Lanham explained that he is “honored to be a TDMN competition finalist. It’s been fun writing for the newspaper all these years, and it’s awesome to see my work recognized outside the community. It was a privilege to be able to share this story with the community and just fun to write.”

Lanham’s piece detailed Jesuit President Mr. Mike Earsing’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which he dedicated to Jesuit priest Father Fitzgerald, a longtime friend.

“While this piece was assigned to me just like any other, I had a good feeling about it,” said Michael. “Sometimes a piece just comes together better than you expect. Things will flow naturally once you have all your information and interviews together for some pieces, and you’re done before you know it.”

Meanwhile, Jon Birondo’s piece reviewed Flying Lotus’s album “You’re Dead,” a track list of experimental electronica and jazz music.

Birondo is “proud” to have won, calling it “an honor to have been named finalist for this contest. I’ve been writing music reviews for a year now and it’s cool to have a publication such as the DMN hold one of my pieces in such high regard. What astounds me even more is how much bigger this pool of students this year is. If I were to win I think it’d be incredible.”

In the past, TDMN contest was divided into two divisions based on school size. With only 1,200 or so students, Jesuit was classified into Division II with small public schools and other private schools, like St. Marks, Hockaday, Ursuline, etc. Division I consisted of giant pubic schools, like Allen, Rockwall, and Coppell. This year, for the first, time, the TDMN removed the size divisions, placing all schools into one category.

The Roundup moderator Dr. Michael Degen reflected on the change: “I think that the lack of school divisions verifies even more that our site is one of the best in the DFW areas, that we can compete with the top journalism programs in the city even though we have no formal program, except the genius of Mr. Nava.”

Additionally, most schools have journalism programs that meet in a class every week, and are taught the proper article structure and writing process. However, Jesuit has no such class; all reporters write on their own time, and are not graded for their work or for meeting deadlines. Nonetheless, The Roundup has three finalists that have met or exceeded the high standards of the other schools.

Dr. Degen noted that “it speaks to the dedication and intelligence of the writers who have mostly self taught themselves newspaper writing skills. And I think these writers were able to achieve this success because they have been part of an aggressive four year writing program at Jesuit.”

In a couple weeks, Michael Lanham, Jon Birondo, and the remainder of The Roundup staff will learn if they have been chosen as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Honorable Mention in their prospective categories. Win or lose, The Roundup is proud to once again have their work recognized by The Dallas Morning News.

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Dominic is currently Editor-in-Chief in his third year working for The Roundup, having served previously as a Reporter and Junior Associate Editor. He is President, Brass Captain, and Low Brass Lieutenant of the Jesuit-Ursuline Ranger Band, a tenor trombone. He plays in the Jesuit Basketball Association (JBA) league, and his other school involvement includes Eucharistic Ministry, Freshman and Kairos Retreat Leadership, ESPN Club, National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, Big Brothers, and Entrepreneurship Club. Dom enjoys spending time with friends and family and watching his favorite sports teams: the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Mavericks. He lives with his parents, younger brother and sister, and two dogs. His favorite TV shows are Sportscenter, SpongeBob, and The Office. Some of his hobbies include collecting sports memorabilia, reading, and golfing. Someday, he hopes to have a career in the business or medical field.