February 24, 2014
Nearly 100 eager students representing eight Los Angeles County high schools put their writing skills to the test Saturday at the Regional Los Angeles High School Write-Off Competition at California State University, Northridge. The CSUN Journalism Department and the Los Angeles Teachers Association sponsored this annual event, now in its 54th year.
“This is one of the largest turnouts we’ve ever had,” said CSUN Professor Taehyun Kim, who oversaw the event in coordination with the Southern California Journalism Education Association.
The Write-Off, held in Manzanita Hall on the CSUN campus, brought together Los Angeles’ most promising budding journalists to compete in news, opinion, sports, and feature writing, as well as photography and cartoons. Students registered at 9 a.m. and greeted their respective judges, who led them to different rooms where they had one hour to write.
Colin Crews, field deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, spoke to the news and opinion writers about the “Save Our Streets LA” proposal. According to Crews, Los Angeles’ streets are in dire need of repair and the initiative would use $3 billion for street reconstruction. Crews conducted an informal press conference with the students, where they asked him questions after his speech.
For the next hour, students wrote objective news stories or convincing opinion pieces about the project. CSUN professors Jim Hall and Stephanie Bluestein served as judges for the news and opinion categories.
“I’ve been judging the opinion pieces at this competition for many years. I look for a well written, clearly supported and informed opinion,” Hill said. “I think giving the students the opportunity to hear an advocate speak for a particular topic is good, as long as they’re able to hear or read opposing arguments as well.”
Judges sifted through dozens of stories for more than an hour. Several awards were given among all the schools and students secured places for the State High School Write-Off Competition in March. University High School student Emma Nicoletta, 17, won first place for her opinion story.
“I hadn’t heard of the ‘Save Our Streets LA’ project before so I was immediately thrown out of my comfort zone,” Nicoletta said. “Even though I’m surprised I won first place, I know that opinion writing is my strong suit and I hope to pursue it after high school.”
Qualifying students and other participants will compete at the State High School Write-Off Competition on March 15 at Rancho Dominguez Preparatory School.
— Claire Grady