Ohio Journalist of the Year and Runner-Up Hail from East

Ohio Journalist of the Year and Runner-Up Hail from East
As if managing the production of an 80-plus-page student publication every month isn’t enough, Lakota East senior and Spark magazine co-editor Maddie Weikel also finds time to write for it.

In fact, it’s something she manages to do often enough, and well enough, that she earned the distinctive honor of this year’s “Ohio Journalist of the Year” from the Journalism Education Association (JEA).

“She’s very insightful. She sees the big picture and is able to connect it back to her peers and our school, and that’s what makes her stand out,” said Spark adviser Dean Hume.

To even be considered for the award, Maddie and her statewide competition had to compile a sizeable portfolio of their work. It certainly didn’t represent all that she’s done during her three years in East’s award-winning journalism program, but Maddie’s portfolio included 32 pages of her best work.

According to Hume, over the years this award has put more emphasis on the electronic media use. But Hume pointed out that the judges’ comments commended the mechanics of Maddie’s writing, reporting and coverage, saying it went well beyond the scope of any other candidate’s portfolio, even those with extensive electronic coverage.

“What’s not showing up in Maddie’s portfolio is how well she excels beyond her ability to report on tough issues,” Hume said. “It takes a certain kind of person to be an editor. She’s constantly working with our package editors to set up all the angles, source the stories and create a seamless connection among all the stories under one common theme.”

“She’s basically helping produce another paper within the paper and teaching other kids how to do that,” Hume continued. “And that’s something that no portfolio shows.”

As the fourth consecutive Spark editor to win this honor, she joins a long line of 10 East winners over the program’s 23-year history. Even more impressive is that fellow co-editor Brittany Meister earned this year’s spot as runner-up in the state competition.

“Brittany writes some heavy stories and she’s one of those people who makes sources feel so comfortable that they open up and help her tell a great story,” Hume said.

Recognitions and awards for the Spark’s complete portfolio of publications are abundant, too. For the ninth straight year, it was named a “Gold Crown” winner by the JEA; only 15 high school publications nationally receive this honor.

Spark was also the recipient of the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists’ first-ever “Blue and Gold Award.” Only three are awarded nationally, and last year’s complete Spark portfolio earned the distinction for “best writing and editing.”  

Lakota East High School seniors and Spark Magazine co-editors Maddie Weikel and Brittany Meister (left to right) were winner and runner-up, respectively, in the Journalism Education Association’s “Ohio Journalist of the Year” competition. They are joined by 23-year adviser Dean Hume.