(Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.)
May 10, 1999
Tattoo's teen writers win awards in national journalism contest
By STEVE COLLINS
The Bristol Press
BRISTOL -- A half dozen student reporters recently
won National Gold Key writing prizes from the
nation's top high school journalism contest for work
published in The Bristol Press.
The news stories and columns named as winners in
the annual contest sponsored by the National
Newspaper Association and the Quill and Scroll
International Honorary Society for High School
Journalists were all printed by The Tattoo, the
newspaper's showcase for teen-age journalists.
The two Bristol Central High School award-winners --
seniors Amanda Lehmert and Collin Seguin -- have
each won the contest before. Lehmert is a four-time
Four students from Bristol Eastern High School won
for the first time this year --
juniors Hila Yosafi, Joe Wilbur, Jessica Norton and
In a recent ceremony at Manross Library, former Press
publisher E. Bartlett Barnes congratulated the students
on their award-winning stories and praised The Tattoo
for providing them the opportunity to write.
Lehmert captured a prize for in-depth individual
coverage for her investigative story last fall that raised
disturbing questions about whether construction at the
school was kicking up so much dust that it was
making people sick.
"I try to keep my eyes and ears open," Lehmert said.
"I learned there was a serious problem with the
construction from kids and teachers. They're the best
sources. They really know what's going on."
"The administrators and school officials are just there
for public relations. They don't want to tell you the
bad stuff," Lehmert said.
Lehmert also shared in the in-depth coverage award
with two Eastern students -- Yosafi and Norton -- for
their story about a local teen who hung himself in a
park last summer.
Norton said the story was "one of the most difficult
things I ever had to do, to talk to this woman who just
lost her son. It was really hard not to cry."
Norton said the story needed to be done because the
boy, 18-year-old Scott Henalt, was a son, a friend and
a kid whose loss meant something to many.
"Out of all the stories I've ever done," Norton said, "I
probably learned the most and got the most experience
from this one."
Yosafi called the story about Henalt "a difficult piece,
but the message had to come out" and perhaps keep
other teens from killing themselves.
"I'm glad I got the opportunity through The Tattoo to
write stories like these for teens," Yosafi said.
Seguin won his second sportswriting award from Quill
and Scroll for a column he wrote shortly after Roger
Maris' home run record fell. In it, he talked about
following the home run chase on television "how it
was meant to be watched -- with my father."
Mastropiero won in the news category for a story --
"ABCs don't make the grade" -- that exposed the
failings of the high schools' new computer system,
which still doesn't work right.
Mastropiero said she learned that "the topic doesn't
make the story. The writing does."
"If you think you have a boring topic," Mastropiero
said, "you can still make a good story out of it."
Wilbur nabbed a column writing award for a piece he
did called "Boys in dresses flirt with school rules," in
the wake of a controversy in Middletown.
In his column, Wilbur wrote, "I say if a kid wants to
wear a dress, let him figure out which shoes he can't
match it with after Labor Day. The bigger problem
here, I think, is the horrid generation gap we've let
develop between our students and administration.
These people have cable, don't they? A dress is
nothing fellas, trust me on this one."
Wilbur said that he typically speaks "frequently and
loudly about things that interest me. I certainly didn't
expect to be rewarded for putting it all down on paper
and passing it around town."
In the contest, there were 3,744 entries in 12 divisions,
of which 244 were selected as national winners.
The Tattoo is a student-written page published in The
Press on occasional Mondays, including this school
year's 15th issue, printed today on Page B6.
Lehmert, who is planning to study journalism at
Emerson College in Boston in the fall, said The Tattoo
"is creating opportunities for teenagers that the schools
can't give them. It's the best real world experience
some of us have gotten."
During his address to The Tattoo's students and their
parents, the 91-year-old Barnes related a few tales
from his many years in Connecticut journalism.
One that hit home for many was his account of the
1955 flood, where he managed to write a story for the
Associated Press about conditions in the Mum City.
Barnes waded through the water between the Press and
the phone company to use the only available phone
line in town. The story ran all over the country,
including the Boston Globe, but it mistakenly carried
his brother's byline. It said something powerful about
the profession that the error still bothered him 44 years
Barnes singled out for praise the most recent Tattoo
edition, which carried seven students' opinions of the
Colorado massacre as well as a news story citing the
reactions of many more people to the tragedy. It ran
the Monday after the shootings.
The Tattoo group, which is free to join, works under
the supervision of volunteer advisors Steve Collins and
Jackie Majerus, both veteran reporters for The Press. It
is in its fifth year.
The Tattoo meets at 6 p.m. each Wednesday at the
paper. Any teens interested in writing, graphics or
photography (especially anyone with a talent for taking
pictures!) are invited to come.
Even teens who can't make the meetings can
participate if they have e-mail.
Questions or comments about The Tattoo should be
directed to Majerus or Collins at 589-5316 or via
e-mail to SteveJackie@prodigy.net.
The winning stories, along with many other Tattoo
pieces, can be seen on the Internet at:
To read Amanda Lehmert's school construction story, please click here
To read the 'ABCs don't make the grade' story by Merissa Mastropiero, please click here
To read the teen suicide story written by Amanda Lehmert, Hila Yosafi and Jessica Norton, please click here
To read Collin Seguin's 'Slugfest hits home' piece, please click here
To read Joe Wilbur's opinion column on boys who wear dresses, please click here
And remember, you can check the writer's index to find additional stories by these and many other talented teen journalists.
Please click here for writer's index
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