The National Scholastic Press Association has honored 44 news sites for journalism excellence with the 2019 Pacemaker finalists.

The NSPA Pacemaker award has a rich tradition, and the association started presenting the award to high school newspapers a few years after the organization was founded in 1921. Throughout the years, yearbooks, magazines, online sites and broadcast programs were added to the competition.

“The Pacemaker is the association’s preeminent award,” said Laura Widmer, executive director. “NSPA is honored to recognize the best of the best.”

The state with the most sites named as finalists is California with 13 schools, and in Kansas, only two were given this award: The Guidon Online and The Harbinger Online of Shawnee Mission East High School.

“It’s considered the Pulitzer Prize of high school journalism,” HHS instructor Bill Gasper said. “Now what they’re going to do is go through and look at them again. That’s when they pick the actual winners.”

To determine finalists, judges studied approximately 200 websites from 34 states, separating online sites into two categories based on school population. Now, judges will now look online at each of the finalist’s websites to make sure they are frequently posting before the spring conference in Anaheim, Calif., on April 25 to 27.

“It’s a heck of an accomplishment,” Gasper said. “To become a Pacemaker finalist is one of the top awards you can get. It’s just a tremendous honor. We’ve won two Pacemaker finalists and one Pacemaker for the print newspaper several years ago, so it’s been a while since we’ve gotten it.”

The recognition is courtesy of all of the staff members from the fall 2018 school semester, including editor-in-chief, senior Isabelle Braun, online editor-in-chief, junior Madison Weber, associate editor, junior Allison Hillebrand, photo editor, senior Jacob Maska and sports editor, senior MacKenzie Fagan; sophomores Kalyssa Boyle, Addie Braun, Allison Brooks, Anna Brull, Alicia Feyerherm, Caitlin Leiker, McKena McBride and Alexis Pfannenstiel; juniors Dellilah Herrera and Yesenia Maldonado, and seniors Cody Conger, Brittani Park, Scout Perryman, Taylor Schiffelbein and Rebekah Porter.

“I’m just so extremely happy to be recognized,” Gasper said. “The online edition is something we’ve worked so hard on to improve the last few years to get to this point. I’m so proud of all my current and past students for all of their hard work to develop an award-winning online edition. They all should be very proud.”