Best high school journalism recognized at annual GSPA banquet

Recognizing the best in high school journalism throughout the state, the 2015 Georgia Scholastic Press Association Awards were distributed April 3 at the University of Georgia.

Clarke Central High School in Athens earned three “All Georgia” awards, GSPA’s top honor for publications. Clarke Central won for Odyssey Newsmagazine, as well as its news website, Odyssey Online, and literary magazine, Iliad. Henry W. Grady High School in Atlanta claimed two “All Georgia” awards, receiving top honors for its newspaper, The Southerner, and TV news broadcast show, “Grady News Network.”  Union Grove High School in McDonough earned “All Georgia” for its yearbook, Wolverscenes.

“The GSPA awards recognize the very best in student journalism in the state,” said Charles Davis, dean of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the home of GSPA. “Great scholastic journalism is made possible by bright students working with passionate advisers. We at Grady are proud to host them each year, and each year the quality of high school journalism seems to get better.”

GSPA holds its annual General Excellence competition each spring and distributes the awards during a banquet at UGA. This year, Samira Jafari, a 2002 graduate of the Grady College and an editor on The Row at CNN, gave the keynote address to the more than 200 students and teachers in attendance.

Samira Jafari, an editor on CNN’s The Row, addresses high school journalists at the 2015 GSPA awards. Empathy is the most important and powerful thing journalists can have, she said. “People are more than sources and sound bites.”

“Journalism is alive and well,” Jafari said, noting the important role journalists play in society. “You can’t phone in the truth. You need people who are dedicated, who live for finding the truth and going out and bringing it back to the rest of us.

“Finding the truth is not a gimmick, not a partisan agenda, not some plan to become famous,” she said. “It’s journalism at its core.”

This year, 73 publications entered the competition in their respective categories: literary magazine, newsmagazine, newspaper, news website, TV news broadcast or yearbook. Entries are judged by professional journalists and Grady College faculty. The top publications earn “General Excellence” status, and from those one “All-Georgia” is chosen in each category. Earning General Excellence status were the following publications:

•   Newspaper – Henry W. Grady High School (Atlanta), The Southerner

•   Newspaper – Mountain View High School (Lawrenceville), The Grizzly Gazette

•   Newsmagazine – Clarke Central High School (Athens), Odyssey

•   Newsmagazine – Decatur High School (Decatur), Carpe Diem

•   News Website – Henry W. Grady High School, The Southerner Online

•   News Website – Clarke Central High School, Odyssey Online

•   Broadcast TV news – Henry W. Grady High School, Grady News Network

•   Yearbook – Calvary Day School (Savannah), Beacon

•   Yearbook – Union Grove High School, (McDonough), Wolverscenes

•   Yearbook – Rome High School (Rome), Capitolium

•   Yearbook – Grayson High School (Grayson), Aries

•   Yearbook – Mountain View High School (Lawrenceville), The Summit

•   Literary Magazine – Clarke Central High School, Iliad

•   Literary Magazine – North Forsyth High School, Threshold

Mary Claire Morris of Henry W. Grady High School was chosen as the “Georgia Champion Journalist,” GSPA’s award for the state’s top student journalist. Morris serves as managing of her school’s publication, The Southerner, where she leads a staff of 50 students to produce the award-winning publication and website. She has written stories covering standardized testing controversy, the teaching of creationism in science class, bullying and gun violence in her school. Through her tenure at The Southerner, Morris has won several awards for her writing and has complimented her journalistic leadership with several other extracurricular pursuits, including being a leader in her school’s peer leadership program, playing violin in the school orchestra and serving as an award-winning member of her school’s debate team.

Mary Claire Morris of Henry W. Grady High School is the 2015 “Georgia Champion Journalist,” GSPA’s award for the state’s top student journalist.

“Mary Claire Morris gives hope for the future of journalism,” Joe Dennis, GSPA director, said. “She demonstrates an incredible passion for the pursuit of truth and knowledge.”

Lindsay Kovel, adviser of The Chant at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, earned GSPA’s “Adviser of the Year” award, for helping guide the school’s publication from a printed newspaper to a daily news website (

Lindsay Kovel, adviser of The Chant at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, is the 2015 GSPA “Adviser of the Year.”  She is pictured with Joe Dennis, GSPA director.

In addition to overall publication awards, GSPA distributed more than 100 individual awards in 50 different categories, recognizing the best individual journalistic pieces from students in categories focusing on writing, photography and production. A full list of winners is available online at, as well as a video featuring the awards announcement.

Founded in 1929 at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, GSPA serves more than 3,000 high school journalism teachers and students throughout the state through conferences, workshops, publications and its annual awards competition.

Date: April 9, 2015
Author:  Joe Dennis,
Contact:  Joe Dennis,