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The Newspaper Day, which took place on March 15, is an annual event, sponsored by The TES and Acorn Computers, and organised by Cleveland Educational Computing Centre. Schools put together, largely in a single day, their own newspapers with international, national and local features.
Agency stories are supplied as to any evening paper by UK News, part of the Northcliffe Newspapers Group, and sent via electronic mail to Cleveland, where this year a team of sixth formers from Prior Pursglove College, Guisborough, sifted out the most interesting stories and sent them to the schools by e-mail, on Campus 2000 and the Internet, or by fax. Over 430 schools and an estimated 20,000 pupils took part across the three categories of primary, secondary and overseas, with entries received from as far afield as Kuwait and Japan.
It was the concept of the total package that clinched the prize for Whitby Community College in the hotly-contested senior category. Its paper, Apollo, was a distinguished product and good value for money at 25p. A quality broadsheet in style, with strong local interest, it gained a special touch of class from having a separate arts magazine and a remarkably strong sense of design. It also benefited from a healthy amount of advertising.
In addition to the news agency copy which all the papers had to use (lead stories included Southampton goalkeeper Bruce Grobelaar's arrest, with features on Red Nose Day and a conservation survey), the 85-strong Apollo team of 14 to 18-year-olds produced excellent stories of their own. They interviewed local artist William Tillyer and Heartbeat actor Bill Simons (Sergeant Ventress).
The layout of the pages was clean, with good use of typefaces, tinted panels of text, and a bold and sophisticated handling of photographs, many of them large, some with superimposed headlines, one even reversed out in white.
At the awards ceremony at the Palace of Westminster on Monday, school librarian Philippa Thomas said the key to the whole production had been the Acorn Risc PC in the library, running Computer Concepts' Impression Publisher. Pupils had started planning and researching features a month before publication, looking for stories that would be newsworthy on the day, and going out to interview local figures of national interest. At the same time a team of seven worked on advertising, bringing crucial display ads which, together with the 25p cover price and circulation of 500, enabled the paper to run into profit. They were also helped by the loan of a Rank Xerox photocopier.
The decision to give the prize to Apollo was in the end overwhelming, but only after a heated debate among the judges; In Tuition, from Parrs Wood High School in Manchester, was a tough rival. Another quality "broadsheet" with a lot of original material produced by an editorial team of 12 16 to 17-year-olds supported by 85 11 to 16-year-olds, the level of writing was mature and professional. A centre-spread on the youth of Europe was considered the best feature of the competition, and demonstrated excellent use of information technology both in research and layout.
Forty letters were sent to European schools by reporter Ruth Harper, asking what a United Europe actually means to young people. Having trawled the Internet to find lists of schools and colleges on the continent, she wrote and invited them to reply via e-mail, the Internet or fax. Answers came from France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Greece, Russia and Poland. The creative layout of the spread, showing a map of Europe with passport-size mugshots of the Europeans alongside their responses, did full credit to the writing.
In Tuition was produced on IBM PCs using Aldus PageMaker, Microsoft Works, Photofinish and Transsend. It was very well edited with a clear and logical running order, but in the end the judges felt it was let down by a dearth of advertising and lack of appreciation of newspapers as commercial enterprises.
Front pages on the whole were disappointing, but the best of all was The King's Herald from King's School, Worcester, the second runner-up in this category. It joined in the newspaper price war with a dual sense of commercialism and wit that appealed to the judges "PRICE WAR HITS HERALD! New low price: 10p".
The primary category was much easier to judge and more fun. Although struggling with limited photocopying facilities that often led to a less convincing A4 format, and drowning occasionally in agency copy that they didn't fully understand, the younger entrants clearly enjoyed themselves, with cartoon pages, jokes and drawings aplenty.
A tabloid touch was more popular, with the younger writers perhaps closer in reading age to their target audience. "300-year-old leg found in city church", ran one headline in the City Red Express, produced by 105 6 to 11-year-olds at the City of London School for Girls. This was a riveting read, as was the shock horror story on the opposite page of an incredible 8 million children in this country abused in their homes, and 75 million suffering abuse, rejection and attempted murder! The A3 paper was produced on Acorn and RM computers, using EasyTech Writer, Wordz (for the masthead) and Microsoft Creative Writer.
But the winner, for the second time in a row, was The Chirpy Times from Churwell Primary in Morley, Yorkshire. This was very readable, with a particularly good sports page, and well laid out with good use of photographs, diagrams and cartoons. The judges were particularly taken with the headers at the top of each page, highlighting the main stories. The paper was produced by children in Years 4-6 on Archimedes 3000 and 3020 computers and on a Risc PC (which they won last year), running Impression Publisher and PenDown.
The international category was won by The Ulricianum Times, from Gymnasium Ulricianum in Aurich, Germany, with a level of English writing higher than many of the UK entries. It had especially good features on Northern Ireland and on "why you're not pregnant".
Winners in each category received an Acorn Risc PC computer; runners-up got Acorn Pocket Books.
For information about next year's TES Newspaper Day, contact Brian Robinson, Cleveland Educational Computing Centre, Prissick Base Marton Road, Middlesbrough TS4 3RZ