Best of Best of SNO: September-October Edition

Wow! You all have been bringing it with your Best of SNO submissions this school year! At the time of publishing, we’ve had over 4,000 stories submitted – most days over 100 submissions. So, as usual, competition is steep.

When we attended the National High School Journalism Convention in Boston earlier this month, one of the top questions we answered at our table was, “What are you looking for in Best of SNO submissions?” One thing we always noted in our answer was the Publication Tips page available on the Best of SNO navigation menu. Those broad tips are what our reviewers always have in mind when reviewing stories.

In addition to those tips, we would encourage you to keep in mind the elements of newsworthiness (or ‘news hooks’) when considering which stories to submit. If you aren’t familiar with those, we have a lesson about them in our free journalism curriculum.

For this year’s first Best of Best of SNO, we’re including examples of stories that we’ve published this year that strongly align with each of these news hooks.


Bus route canceled due to driver shortage by the Purbalite Staff, Baldwin High School

If you are submitting a story that your staff considers timely, one thing to keep in mind is that the submission is also timely. For example, we would not recommend submitting a story about an event that took place in August sometime in November just because it is still eligible for submission.

We have seen quite a few stories about buses being late or unavailable this year, but this story stood out due to multiple members of the staff working together to turn out a thoroughly reported story on the day it happened and submitting it to Best of SNO the same day.


Local pumpkin patch ready for big season by Stahley Sears, Maize Career Academy

This one is tricky for Best of SNO because most stories that hang on the proximity news hook are going to be too local to have the broad appeal we’re looking for. However, one medium that can help you create that broad appeal for a hyperlocal event is a nicely produced audio or video story, like this one from the Maize Career Academy.


Loosened child labor laws in Iowa put teenagers at risk by Armaan Bhagwat, Pleasant Valley High School

Obviously there are a lot of different types of conflict. Conflicts can be written about in the news or features section, but they can also come through in the opinion section by calling out school administration or local government for policies or laws that they disagree with.

This piece submitted by Pleasant Valley High School does a nice job of informing about the law, talking to a variety of sources and ultimately taking a stand against the local government’s decision on this matter.

Reader Impact

Concerns of device security sparked by lack of passcode requirement by Maya Smith, Lawrence High School 

Like proximity, this is another one that can be tricky for Best of SNO. There are a lot of stories about new cell phone policies or e-hall passes being implemented this year, but those typically don’t have broad appeal. However, some issues raise a problem that could resonate with students and get them thinking about the issue at their school. This story does a great job of diving into some cybersecurity pitfalls that might impact any schools using community devices.


Shane Battier Visits Gables by Aaron Rojas, Coral Gables Senior High School 

Who doesn’t love a good celebrity sighting at their school? Whether it’s a hired speaker or famous alumni returning for a visit, the SNO Patrol loves to read about your encounters with the stars. The Coral Gables staff did a nice job of covering a school visit by a former NBA player in this story.


Senior Alex Hernandez goes ‘wild’ for wings by Nicholas Sadelski, Downers Grove South High School 

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “our school doesn’t have any conflict, celebrities, or anything impactful.” We would first say that is probably not true – hopefully the stories above are giving you some ideas for those news hooks. Even if you’re not convinced, one thing that every school has is people, and everyone has a story. Among those stories, there is likely something rare. This could be athletes competing in a unique sport at the world or national level, or it could just be something unique about the person that readers would find quirky and interesting.

This story by the Downers Grove South Blueprint staff covers something that anyone could do at any restaurant, but only Alex at their school eats at Buffalo Wild Wings weekly. By talking to Alex, his friend and wait staff at the restaurant, this profile goes beyond the surface level to paint a richer picture of a member of their school community.

Human Interest

“We Battle People Every Day”: Lives of Drag Queens in Austin by Alessandra Ashford, Westwood High School 

This ties into the previous news hook and the idea that everyone at your school has a story, but you can also expand your horizons and write about members of your school’s community. This writer picked a specific community and talked to several members with a story to tell. These human interest stories should take time to put together as you speak with multiple sources to tell the most complete picture possible.

In addition to our general Best of SNO publication tips, make sure to keep these news hooks in mind when brainstorming story ideas and selecting which stories to submit for Best of SNO consideration.

We look forward to reading your submissions this winter! Happy reporting!