Update | Dec. 9, 2014: In late January or early February of 2015 we will be announcing our second annual Student Editorial contest.
Update: May, 2014: All of the Top 10 winners have now been published. You can find them here.
When we announced our first-ever Student Editorial Contest earlier this year, we expected a thousand or so entries — 2,000, maybe, if we were really lucky.
But when your impassioned essays started pouring at the rate of 200 per hour the last day of the contest — faster than we could approve them — we and our partners at The Center for News Literacy knew we would need at least a month to choose the best.
You dazzled us in many ways, but perhaps most in your range of topics. Sure, we expected pieces on bullying, body image, stereotyping, standardized testing and the dangers of social media; teenagers confront these complex issues every day. We also knew from our long-running Summer Reading Contest that — despite the stereotype — young people care very much about international news, whether climate change, rape in India or unrest in Ukraine.
But even we were surprised to read editorials on the depletion of the helium reserve, the downside of artificial turf or the cost overruns of the F-35 fighter jet.
Over all, we were delighted to find that most essays grew out of a real personal passion, whether an enthusiasm for N.B.A. basketball or the Beatles, or a desire to right injustices you encountered in your own families, schools or neighborhoods.
We also loved when you surprised us by taking unusual stances, like arguing the benefits of divorce or the ways in which Barbie is a feminist.
A winning editorial needed to fulfill the guidelines of our rubric, of course, and nearly 200 did that well enough to go to the second round.
But to make our list of finalists, editorials couldn’t simply follow the “here’s my first reason, here’s my second and here’s my third” formula of persuasive-essay writing. Nor could they just be a list of quotations strung together with a little transitional glue. The very best were those that not only had clear arguments and carefully chosen evidence, but also argued their claims in original, persuasive voices.
The writers we honor today pulled us in with clever openings, personal anecdotes and concise overviews that communicated the urgency of a topic. They had the confidence to inject their own experiences and perspectives into their editorials, when appropriate, without distracting the reader from the larger context of the issue. They stuck to the facts, without getting lost in conjecture or hyperbole. They offered us new insights.
For students who will be doing more argumentative writing in the future, here are some final tips from our judges:
- Choose a topic you genuinely care about. Essays that read like they were assigned generally did less well than those that clearly grew out of a writer’s own imagination.
- Double check spelling and grammar. A few mistakes in the first paragraph can lose your readers before they even get to consider your arguments. (Writing “band” when you mean “banned,” for example, can make your serious essay unintentionally funny.)
- While an argument should have an introduction, body and conclusion, the best editorials massage the form. A unique voice stands out, and the piece over all doesn’t read like a cut-and-paste formula.
- We noticed many students incorporating counterarguments, something the Common Core Standards emphasize. The best editorials were able to organically weave those in so they seemed natural and conversational, not like an artificial add-on required by a teacher.
Finally, for the many thousands of students who participated in this contest but didn’t get recognized, we would like to put the numbers in perspective. Even though the chances of getting admitted to elite colleges like Stanford and Harvard were slimmer than ever this year (around 5 percent), the odds of getting chosen by our judges were even smaller than that.
Student Editorial Contest Winners
And now, at last, the winners. Starting April 23, we’ll also be publishing the Top 10 separately, one each day, in posts that showcase each and are suitable for hanging on family refrigerators or class bulletin boards. As we go, we’re tagging them “editorial winner” so that you can find them all here.
Each category below lists our favorites in order of submission and, where titles were missing, by first line.
Top 10 Winners
“Since 2006, over 70,000 deaths in Mexico …” by Brody Ford
“Stop ‘I Spy’ Game With Allies” by Edgar Hu
“Why I, a Heterosexual Teenage Boy, Want to See More Men in Speedos” by Noah Spencer
“Cutting it Short” by Eric Vogt.
“Intelligence Over Diversity” by Ashley K.
“National Parks: Ecology and Economy” by Matty Hack
“Short-Changing Canada’s Veterans” by Talia Vogt
“Cisgender people …” by Adrianna N.
“Substitute Teachers – From a Student’s Perspective” by Candice C. and Cheryl B.
“The Wonders of Wandering” by Lucas Schroeder
“Taxpayer’s money for playdough, building blocks and recess?” by Lizzie O
“As a high school junior interested in engineering…” by Abby W.
“SAT Reform Needs Improvement” by Tim D.
“Love is Love” by Lulu S. G.
“How Do Barbie Dolls Influence Young Girls Today?” by Kathryn Perez
“I have grown up in a town whose history and reputation centers around its two correctional facilities…” by Marissa Brannick
“For many students, the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance …” by Ai Hue N.
“Prisoner Education: Thinking of the Future” by Madeleine C. TAP
“Avonte’s Law” by Sanaz H.
“Ignoring the Intolerable: The Rape Epidemic on Indian Reservations” by Gillian W.
“The irrationality of the Chinese government to block websites” by Lisa Q. (BHSFIC)
“Success of an Arts Education” by Jessie F
“School Web Filters Block Improvements in Students’ Education” by Lilian T.
“So uhm like the problem with the uhm English language…” by Kelsey S
“Why Ukraine Should Not Associate With The E.U.” by Maxim Meleganich
“Saying ‘No’ Is Not Reverse Psychology” by Gabrielle S.
“Ban Bloomberg’s Ban” by Kira N
“The Murky Ethics of Athletic Prosthetics” by Hannah Llorin
“The Women Left Behind” by Chapel P.
“Is a Longer School Calendar Beneficial?” by Kallie20143
“Is Graffiti Really Art?” by Sydonne’ B.
“Education 2.0″ by Kevin C., NPHS
“Like, Speak Before You Think?” by Jeffrey S.
“Is Installing Artificial Turf a Good Idea?” by Victoria T., Judson S HHK7Q
“Picky and Deprived” by Kai Krajeck
“If we don’t talk to teenagers about sex, teenagers won’t have sex. Right?” by Isabel B.
“It Can Wait” by Maisie Cook
“The ‘Age of Consent’ Should Not Just Be An Age” by Bronwyn M.
“Imagine hearing someone had been robbed …” by Laine B.
“Applying to college, in numbers” by Nikki T.
“Network TV suffers ‘Two and a Half Men’ syndrome” by Kathryn T.
“Redefining Courage” by Chantelle L.
“Generation-Why” by Nora G.
Note:Here’s how to get your full name posted.
Thank you, again, students, and thank you teachers … and stay tuned: Our Found Poetry Contest ends April 29, after which we’ll be announcing the details of this year’s Summer Reading Contest.
And keep your pencils sharpened and your newspapers open, because we hope to run this contest again next year — though this time we’ll be prepared for the volume.
Judges: Rory O’Connor and Dean Miller from the Center for News Literacy; Shannon Doyne, Amanda Christy Brown, Annissa Hambouz, Daniel Slotnik, Michael Gonchar and Katherine Schulten from The Learning Network.
Writing an Editorial
Another Tutorial by:
Annandale High School
Annandale, VA 22312
CHARACTERISTICS OF EDITORIAL WRITING
An editorial is an article that presents the newspaper's opinion on an issue. It reflects the majority vote of the editorial board, the governing body of the newspaper made up of editors and business managers. It is usually unsigned. Much in the same manner of a lawyer, editorial writers build on an argument and try to persuade readers to think the same way they do. Editorials are meant to influence public opinion, promote critical thinking, and sometimes cause people to take action on an issue. In essence, an editorial is an opinionated news story.
1. Introduction, body and conclusion like other news stories
2. An objective explanation of the issue, especially complex issues
3. A timely news angle
4. Opinions from the opposing viewpoint that refute directly the same issues the writer addresses
5. The opinions of the writer delivered in a professional manner. Good editorials engage issues, not personalities and refrain from name-calling or other petty tactics of persuasion.
6. Alternative solutions to the problem or issue being criticized. Anyone can gripe about a problem, but a good editorial should take a pro-active approach to making the situation better by using constructive criticism and giving solutions.
7. A solid and concise conclusion that powerfully summarizes the writer's opinion. Give it some punch.
Four Types of Editorials Will:
1. Explain or interpret: Editors often use these editorials to explain the way the newspaper covered a sensitive or controversial subject. School newspapers may explain new school rules or a particular student-body effort like a food drive.
2. Criticize: These editorials constructively criticize actions, decisions or situations while providing solutions to the problem identified. Immediate purpose is to get readers to see the problem, not the solution.
3. Persuade: Editorials of persuasion aim to immediately see the solution, not the problem. From the first paragraph, readers will be encouraged to take a specific, positive action. Political endorsements are good examples of editorials of persuasion.
4. Praise: These editorials commend people and organizations for something done well. They are not as common as the other three.
Writing an Editorial
1. Pick a significant topic that has a current news angle and would interest readers.
2. Collect information and facts; include objective reporting; do research
3. State your opinion briefly in the fashion of a thesis statement
4. Explain the issue objectively as a reporter would and tell why this situation is important
5. Give opposing viewpoint first with its quotations and facts
6. Refute (reject) the other side and develop your case using facts, details, figures, quotations. Pick apart the other side's logic.
7. Concede a point of the opposition — they must have some good points you can acknowledge that would make you look rational.
8. Repeat key phrases to reinforce an idea into the reader's minds.
9. Give a realistic solution(s) to the problem that goes beyond common knowledge. Encourage critical thinking and pro-active reaction.
10. Wrap it up in a concluding punch that restates your opening remark (thesis statement).
11. Keep it to 500 words; make every work count; never use "I"
A Sample Structure
I. Lead with an Objective Explanation of the Issue/Controversy.
Include the five W's and the H. (Members of Congress, in effort to reduce the budget, are looking to cut funding from public television. Hearings were held …)
- Pull in facts and quotations from the sources which are relevant.
- Additional research may be necessary.
II. Present Your Opposition First.
As the writer you disagree with these viewpoints. Identify the people (specifically who oppose you. (Republicans feel that these cuts are necessary; other cable stations can pick them; only the rich watch public television.)
- Use facts and quotations to state objectively their opinions.
- Give a strong position of the opposition. You gain nothing in refuting a weak position.
III. Directly Refute The Opposition's Beliefs.
You can begin your article with transition. (Republicans believe public televison is a "sandbox for the rich." However, statistics show most people who watch public television make less than $40,000 per year.)
- Pull in other facts and quotations from people who support your position.
- Concede a valid point of the opposition which will make you appear rational, one who has considered all the options (fiscal times are tough, and we can cut some of the funding for the arts; however, …).
IV. Give Other, Original Reasons/Analogies
In defense of your position, give reasons from strong to strongest order. (Taking money away from public television is robbing children of their education …)
- Use a literary or cultural allusion that lends to your credibility and perceived intelligence (We should render unto Caesar that which belongs to him …)
V. Conclude With Some Punch.
Give solutions to the problem or challenge the reader to be informed. (Congress should look to where real wastes exist — perhaps in defense and entitlements — to find ways to save money. Digging into public television's pocket hurts us all.)
- A quotation can be effective, especially if from a respected source
- A rhetorical question can be an effective concluder as well (If the government doesn't defend the interests of children, who will?)
Go to the library or any computer lab and complete the “webquest” located at