More than 600 high school journalists attend 2014 GSPA fall conference

The 2014 Georgia Scholastic Press Association (GSPA) Fall Conference attracted 634 journalism students and teachers from 42 high schools-the largest group ever to attend in the program's history.

Held Oct. 2-3 at The Classic Center in downtown Athens, Georgia, the conference boasted 50 journalism sessions led by presenters from Georgia and around the country. It also coincided with the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication's Centennial kick-off celebration, which featured an educational concert by nationally-renowned group Freedom Sings.

“Although this is statewide conference, it certainly had a national feel,” said Joe Dennis, GSPA director. “With Freedom Sings, Selwyn Crawford (ABJ '81), Laynie Rose (ABJ '12) and Don Goble all traveling from out of state to be a part of the conference, our students benefitted from a wide variety of voices they normally would get only at a national conference.”

The conference offered a variety of classes for students to take based on their publication and interest. These ranged from yearbook, newspaper and broadcast classes to classes specifically focused on using Adobe products, learning how to interview and even classed for advises on how to better manage and help their staffs.

“As a first-time attendee, my staff and I were thrilled to have this opportunity,” said Eli Dillard, adviser from Calvary Day School. “This is only the second year our school has had a newspaper, and my second year as adviser, so just about every workshop had something we did not already know.”

Dillard said she also gleaned valuable tips from the other advisers.

“As an added bonus, I think the conference provided context for my students, allowing them to see that there are other kids with the same passions as them,” she said. “Being in a journalism-dense environment also increased their momentum and gave them a new life and new drive to be the voice of their school.”

Also offered at the conference were a number of competitions and critique opportunities for staffs and individual students. Grady College faculty member Cecil Bentley critiqued newspapers and newsmagazines with one-on-one meetings with advisers and students from the publications.

GSPA hosted the First-Issue Competition, where staffs could submit their first issue of the year to be judged. Winning best overall was Northview High School's The Messenger.

“We were very honored to win the first-issue contest at the GSPA Fall Conference,” said Chris Yarbrough, adviser from Northview High School. “The students worked extremely hard to get the issue done, and it is always great to see their hard work pay off.”

Other competition winners were:

· News Coverage: Ola High School, Hoof Print
· Feature Coverage: The King's Academy, The Verve
· Opinion Coverage: Dacula High School, The Talon
· Sports Coverage: Lassiter High School, The Laureate
· Front Page: Northview High School, The Messenger
· Design: North Cobb High School,


Winners of the on-the-spot photo competitions — where students submitted photos taken during the GSPA conference and at the Freedom Sings concert — were Jessica Phillips of Ola High School and Lin Hui of Northview High School.

“This year's conference confirmed what I had been noticing — high quality journalism is on the rise in Georgia, and students and their advisers are eager to develop new skills and to grow their school's programs,” said Jon Reese, adviser at Decatur High School, conference presenter and member of the GSPA Advisory Board. “Sessions were provided for all levels and all types of programs, and the Classic Center beautifully accommodated the large turnout. Connecting to the Grady College celebration was a perfect tie-in as well. I brought 40 students, and even those who had attended before were impressed with this year's conference.”

Founded in 1929 by Grady College faculty, the Georgia Scholastic Press Association serves high school journalists and teachers in the state of Georgia. The organization hosts an annual fall conference, a spring awards ceremony, a residential summer workshop and a summer teacher's workshop. For more information about GSPA, visit

Date: October 23, 2014
Author:  Stephanie Moreno,
Contact:  Joe Dennis,