A statewide panel has selected Kellen Browning, a senior at Davis Senior High School in Davis, as California’s Journalist of the Year. Browning is website editor-in-chief of The Hub (Kelly Wilkerson, adviser). He is also a paid staff writer for his local newspaper, The Davis Enterprise.
Four portfolios were submitted and the competition for the top spot was strong. Alina Abidi, co-editor-in-chief of the El Estoque student news website and a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino (Michelle Balmeo, adviser), won 2nd place. Runners-up Hannah Holzer of Granite Bay High School (Karl Grubaugh, adviser) and Shawna Chen of Gunn High School in Palo Alto (Kristy Blackburn, adviser) also submitted excellent portfolios.
As did all contestants, Browning submitted personal materials, including three recommendations and a self-analytical essay, along with a digital portfolio showcasing work in 11 areas, from news gathering and editing to law, ethics and leadership. Kellen’s work included breaking news, profiles, features and video on a wide range of topics, from the arrest of a teacher for sexual battery, to a district decision to demolish a multipurpose room used intensively by disabled students, literally leaving them out in the rain.
Browning’s reporting prompted the district to fast-track the building of a new MPR and resulted in a JEA Student Impact Award.
“My reaction to the real reporting, the real writing, the real editing and the real impact of Kellen’s work is … wow,” said JEA State Chair and contest coordinator Beatrice Motamedi. “Covering sexual battery, state facilities’ standards for disabled students, and community programs aimed at lifting kids out of poverty and into meaningful lives is impactful, meaningful, life-changing journalism.”
Judge Jan Ewell, a JEA Medal of Merit winner representing Southern California, said that Browning’s work “showed fluency in language, photo and design, and great news judgment.” Judge Betsy Snow, photo teacher and magazine adviser at Menlo-Atherton High School, pointed to Browning’s “mature understanding of the journalistic relationships that go along with doing stories that don’t necessarily please your audience.”
Second-place winner Alina Abidi also received praise. Judge Taylor Blatchford, the 2014 Missouri and national JOY, said Abidi’s portfolio showed an especially strong combination of writing and multimedia. Judges cited several examples of “long, thoughtful storytelling,” plus recommendations that attested to her “mature and skillful newsroom leadership.”
Browning’s digital portfolio has also won a $1,000 scholarship from The Sacramento Bee as a result of a competition sponsored by the Sacramento Journalism Network, part of the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative.
See all of the submitted portfolios on the California JEA website.
Thanks to Blatchford, Ewell and Snow, who with Motamedi spent hours reading and ranking portfolios and coming to a consensus decision.
Browning now moves to the national competition, with results to be announced April 16 at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Los Angeles. Congratulations and good luck to our California JOY!
—Think you may be or may be teaching the next California JOY? Come to the California JEA advisers’ meetup at the JEA/NSPA convention in Los Angeles. Judges Jan Ewell, Betsy Snow and Beatrice Motamedi will talk about how the contest works, how to start preparing your students to submit work next year, and what a winning portfolio looks like. The meetup will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 16, in Wilshire Suite A, 3rd Level at the Westin Bonaventure (convention hotel).