There are multiple factors that come into play when deciding if a story is Best of SNO-worthy. From engaging writing and unique angles to well thought out multimedia elements, more considerations are made than it might look.

So, this week, we’re introducing a new format to this email. Instead of picking a handful of our favorite stories from the last month and linking to them without any rhyme or reason, we’re explaining why we selected them. Welcome inside the mind of a Best of SNO reviewer. We hope this offers a good idea of what we’re looking for in future Best of SNO submissions.

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On the outside looking inby Reuben Stoll, Walt Whitman High School

We receive a ton a game-coverage stories on a daily basis, and quite frankly, most of them don’t make it onto Best of SNO. The reason: A reader in Pennsylvania isn’t all that invested in how your high school volleyball team in California is doing. That being said, this piece on racism in sports has much wider appeal and paints a narrative picture that many Best of SNO readers may not otherwise be able to relate to.

Finding the Light: Students find ways to cope with mental health issuesby Anna Owsley and Ben Wieland, Mill Valley High School

A piece of advice we often give to those vying to be published on Best of SNO is that the topic of the story needs to have an inherent interest that will extend beyond the walls of your school. By choosing a topic with national relevance, yet localizing it by talking to four students within their high school, this piece by the Mill Valley News staff accomplishes this to a T. The infographics they’ve incorporated throughout the story don’t hurt either.

Bound in a Bodyby Megan Percy, Faith Jacoby, Natalie Walsh, Anna Carroll, and Lanie Sanders, Francis Howell Central High School

This piece tackles an incredibly sensitive subject matter in an exceptional way. However, it is not the touchy subject matter that deemed this article worthy of Best of SNO publication. We are not necessarily looking for controversial topics in coverage. In this case, it’s the interviews that stand out. By integrating the stories of six students with eating disorder experiences throughout the text, the writers demonstrate solid interviewing techniques, adding a sense of depth and purpose to the article.

A Northern Lensby Kayla Carpenter, Lafayette High School

Something else we like to see in Best of SNO submissions is especially strong and engaging leads. The lead in this story, detailing the desensitization of a student to hearing gunshots echo throughout their neighborhood, draws the reader in right away.

Forgotten Youth: when college is not your first choiceby Kelly Tran, Kamryn Harty, and George Lefkowicz, Henry W. Grady High School

College admissions season is upon us, and we’ve received more stories than we can count about the overall admissions process. However, there’s likely a portion of your student body that’s not planning on jumping right from high school into a traditional two- or four-year institution. Is your coverage doing these students justice? This article and its unique angle about these “Forgotten Youth” does just that.

“Ok boomer” meme reveals generational dividesby Cheyenne Miller, Seward County Community College

Like we said before, the topics of your coverage don’t always need to be hard-hitting. Light-hearted stories are equally warranted and welcomed. This story capitalizes on this: A trending meme. While the meme itself has divided members of different generations, the reporting brings these two constituencies back together through incredibly balanced interviewing and quotes.

When a Tower Fallsby Zachary Khouri, Brianna Cheng, Auva Soheili, Maddy Ting, and Miki Nguyen, Carlmont High School

While the reporting in this article on the recent California wildfires is extremely solid, in this case it’s the overall story packaging that pushed it through to Best of SNO. By pairing the text with interactive timelines, infographics and photo illustrations, the piece helps hold the reader’s attention from start to finish.

Same School, Different Levelsby Carrington Peavy, Beachwood High School

We rarely come by data-driven stories from our high school and college Best of SNO participants, so when they pop up on our screens, they stand out. This article, driven by district-specific data on standardized test-scores, AP enrollment, suspension rates, and staff diversity, helps break down the concept of the achievement gap, educating readers each step of the way.

Heavy rain and cold temperatures impact homeless residentsby Jose Tobar, Juan Miranda, and Cameron Woods, El Camino College

Giving a voice to the voiceless. It’s one of the longstanding clichés of journalism, but in this story it rings true. By interviewing encampment residents, these journalists clearly pushed themselves to get out of their comfort zones and helped elevate the often overlooked voices of the homeless in the process.

Voicelessby Kailey Gee and Jenna Wang, West High School

By not only incorporating interviews, but also writing samples from each of the girls profiled in this piece, the sense of intimacy created between the writer and the subjects is heightened. The story also takes advantage of the SNO Long Form template, allowing each interviewee to have their own “chapter” and tell their story on their own terms.

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Read more great stories like these on Best of SNO.