Olivia Rodrigo, video game therapy, and teaching at Rikers Island: the last few weeks on Best of SNO

In this round of Best of SNO submissions, we’re highlighting two themes: unique story angles and inclusivity. Incorporating either of these (or both) can significantly increase the probability of your content being selected for publication, so they shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Check out our selection of pieces below as inspiration for your own staff to imitate:

Teachers serve as ‘powers for good’ at New York Prisonsby Mitch Fink, The Masters School

While we already know that today’s educators are undeniably the unsung heroes of our society, a few teachers at The Masters School in New York take this job description to another level. Beyond their day jobs, art teacher Cheryl Hajjar teaches visual arts at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and Latin teacher Smith teaches Latin to those behind bars at Rikers Island. Not only is the fact that the author of this piece was able to track down these two individuals and come up with this story idea impressive, but the interviews that are included provide phenomenal insight into the subjects’ ongoing ability to pivot in a nontraditional environment and make a lasting impact on their students. The story is emotional, inspiring and extremely well written.

Beyond the binaryby Hanah Kitamoto and Caroline Mascardo, West High School

To this day, Iowa is the only state in the U.S. that has separate high school athletic organizations for boys and girls. And while this ongoing organizational division is attributed to precedent, it has created challenges for Iowan athletes who do not identify with their assigned sex at birth. By interviewing the executive directors of both athletic organizations, a co-director of the University of Iowa Health Care LGBTQ clinic, their own high school athletic director, and three transgender athletes within their school, the piece take a deep dive into the challenges that remain in athletic programs throughout the state faced by transgender participants. It has a unique angle, is remarkably inclusive, and is also visually appealing from the incorporation of interactive infographics throughout.

A ballad of empathyby Sarah Mohammed, The Harker Upper School

Upon its release on Jan. 9, Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” gained immediate popularity, securing the number one spot in the U.S. across a variety of streaming platforms. As a supposed Gen-Z icon (and one who made us at SNO feel extremely old for not knowing), it’s not surprising that we received a flood of “drivers license”-related submissions in the days following the release. However, as opposed to the majority of the submissions which were simply one-perspective reviews, the various multigenerational interviews and perspectives that this story by the Harker Aquila staff put together really made it stand out. By including information about Rodrigo’s background, speculation about the love-triangle-related-drama behind the song, and the role of social media in helping it gain traction, the article moves beyond a typical review and does a much better job of peaking the reader’s interest.

Flourish: Stories of unconditional loveby Kaylene Lin, Carlmont High School

“For a long time, autism wasn’t understood. People had no clue what it even was. They just knew they didn’t want to see it. They didn’t want to hear about it. And even though these topics have become more mainstream, it’s still so, so important to share the stories of those who are in the autism community.” This is the introduction to the podcast series, “Flourish,” produced by Kaylene Lin of The Scot Scoop. It’s also a statement we at Best of SNO couldn’t agree more with. Practicing inclusive storytelling should be a goal for all journalists today and this podcast series is the perfect example. In four separate episodes, Lin speaks with different members of the autism community, exploring the autistic spectrum and its impact. While the series as a whole is impressive on it’s own, each episode features engaging interviews and attention to editing, all while managing to clock in at under 6 minutes — a time that even today’s listeners with short attention spans can commit to.

Game-changing therapyby Brian Xu, Monta Vista High School

Especially since COVID-19 originated, we at Best of SNO have received a countless number of stories on the mental health struggles today’s teens are facing, and subsequently, how they are coping. But the therapy technique advocated in this piece, video game therapy, was definitely one we hadn’t read about before. In this audio story, the host interviews a therapist pioneering the use of video games in a private practice to meet teens where they’re at, in an environment that they can quite literally control, to improve mental wellness and develop healthier habits. While the piece is also well edited in terms of weaving together its audio clips, in this case, it’s the one-of-a-kind angle that really makes it Best of Best of SNO worthy.

Read more great stories like these on Best of SNO.