Dexter High School’s Publication The Squall Wins Spartan Award for 15th Year

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By Andy Nixon, STN Reporter

Students at Dexter High School continue their passion for award-winning journalism, adding another plaque on the wall.

English/Journalism teacher Christopher Mackinder pushes students to find their own voice by writing about their passions and interests. At Dexter, this could be investigative journalism, sports, food reviews, or even a story about shoe collectors. When asked about the journey this year, Mr. Mackinder stated “This award is a testimonial of the students’ adaptability,” he said. “With Covid, wearing masks, kind of wearing masks, and the change to block scheduling, they have dealt with many changes and still come out on top.” With block scheduling, the kids attend a class every other day, which is tough in the journalism world. Mr. Mackinder also mentioned the “push towards less and less homework, making after-school interviews and event attendance more challenging.”

Meeting two of Mr. Mackinder’s students, Aiden Naughton and Ryan Capobianco, I had a chance to learn more about the publication’s history, class goals, and what they find interesting in the journalism world. Aiden enjoys in-depth interviews with school officials and diving into real-world issues such as the labor shortage around the area. With a background in internet security, Ryan was a valuable addition to the team, handling the I.T. and web design portion of the publication. “I began learning internet security through a family friend, and I’ve stuck with it, bringing what knowledge I can to The Squall.” Thanks to Ryan’s hard work you can find many of the stories on the website – dextersquall.com.

Hosted by Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, the Spartan Critique competition allows member newspapers, magazines, and other media forms to receive feedback from national leaders in their field. Dexter was one of thirteen schools in the state to win an award. This year marked the 15th Spartan Award for The Squall, which began in the 1990s in newsletter format. In the early 2000s, the school began printing the paper, but over the past six years, the publication has been in a magazine-style format.

To offset printing costs, the students work to sell advertising space in the publication. Sales and communication are essential in many of today’s career fields, and this exercise provides a well-rounded set of skills to run a small business. Viewing the advertising section, it’s evident the students do a great job with this task. The Squall is printed four times each school year.

Mr. Mackinder’s media class is available to students after completing “introduction to journalism”, or “photojournalism”. Once the prerequisite is complete, students can then enroll and participate in the writing, editing, and publishing of The Squall. The class typically has around 60 students each semester.

Most students take the course for one year, but Mr. Mackinder notes “how much of a blessing it is for a student to remain in the class for a second year”, adding “someone who knows how the process works will help things run smoothly, without additional training.”

Writing in a clear and concise manner is a valuable life skill. Whether through email, social media, or presentations, a good writer can transform ideas and thoughts into meaningful prose. In many fields, this means conveying your ideas and vision to others. Students with or without journalism aspirations will benefit from this media course and carry the teachings to whichever career field they choose.

The next round of journalism students will have big shoes to fill after this year's seniors fulfill the next step of their journey. The class will look be looking to add yet another plaque to the wall during the upcoming school year.

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