2017 On-The-Spot Contest Winners

On-the-Spot Contest winners from the IHSPA 2017 Fall Conference


Photo by Anjali Huynh


1st place Anjali Huynh from Iowa City West High School

2nd place Teya Kerns from Iowa City West High School

3rd place Abby Lance from Davenport Central High School


News writing

1st place Vivek Joshi from Pleasant Valley High School

2nd place Prateek Raikwar from Iowa City West High School

3rd place Anna Banerjee from Pleasant Valley High School



First Place On-The-Spot News Story

By Vivek Joshi


Hundreds of high school journalists gathered Thursday to hear keynote speaker Scott Winter implored them to find and capture the defining moments of stories. They certainly found one during his presentation.

Winter didn’t downplay the crucial nature of his presentation, as he stated “It’s an important moment for journalism in this country,” to the hundreds of engaged faces in the crowd. Winter began his presentation by recounting the defining moments of his high school career. He dazzled students with stories from his high school in Bismarck, North Dakota. Winter’s stories of his high school mischief and struggles were relatable and humorous, but also immersive as he accurately described the most distinct and memorable moments of his time in high school, drawing both cheers and sympathy from his audience.

Winter’s account of his high-school experiences did more than take hold of his audience; they also helped bring his point across as he compared his accounts of his high school career to those of his school’s newspaper and yearbook. The moments that Winter described were accurate depictions of his career that captured the true emotions and feelings of the experience while the school newspaper and yearbook failed to do so.

This brought Winter to his main point of the morning: to tell journalists to “do stories that matter.” Winter implored his audience of high school journalists to find moments that truly represented their stories, and to describe them vividly. He pressed on, stating that a journalist’s responsibility was to “Hang out till you find moments that matter.”

High School journalists in Winter’s audience definitely found one Thursday morning.



Second Place On-The-Spot News Story

By Prateek Raikwar


Journalism professor, author, and publication adviser Scott Winter doesn’t remember a single story he wrote in high school.

“I wrote the ‘A small group of individuals do something insignificant’ story12 times when I was in high school,” Winter said.

In fact, Winter recalls that this underachieving and uncommitted mentality characterized many of his other activities during high school, such as the concert band and the track team. Looking back, however, perhaps his involvement on the varsity basketball team has resonated most with him.

Initially Winter believed that he would be the team’s starting shooting guard given his outstanding performance in the junior varsity teams, but as soon as he became the team’s backup center her gave up his commitment to basketball.

“When I got games, I was mentally weak,” Winter said. “Coach said it was important to have goals, and my goal that year was to date [a girl].”

Incidentally, as Winter got his one and only chance to come off the bench, he was distracted by the same girl.

“It had been so long I’d forgotten my [jersey] number,” Winter said. He then airballed his only shot of the season, only to be accosted by his coach. “Then I had this moment of clarity,” Winter said.

His first realization was that this was his last time playing on the team: he didn’t make his time on the team count. And after Winter’s mom told him of his photo in the paper with a caption reminiscing of his airball, Winter had a more profound realization: that one photographer that was always trying to get Winter’s photo for the newspaper so he could impress Winter’s dad – the editor of the paper – finally got his chance.

That photographer – Winter’s foil at the time – was emblematic of the one message Winter lives by to this day in his efforts to educate upcoming journalists: to make the moments count.

“20 years from now,  no one will remember anything about that game,” Winter said. “But they will remember my miss.”

As a result, Winter’s main advice is for journalists to do their homework:

“Your homework is to hang out for the times that matter – unlike how I did,” Winter said. “[Journalists] have the chance to… go where your readers don’t. If you hang out where they don’t, you can write stories that matter.”

Inspired by Winter’s advice and stories, West Side Story reporter Emma Brustkern will be sure to take his advice.

“It’s important [to write stories that matter] because your audience will understand the truth behind any story,” Brustkern said. “Only then can the story mean something: it can matter.”

Winter’s parting advice emphasized to wait for the chance and the one defining moment. Whether its behind the scenes in  the locker room of a sporting event or about the scoreline itself, the most important thing in journalism is to tell the truth.

“Every class and experience will have a defining moment this year,” Winter said. Your job is to find a story that keeps the reader engaged. If you’re not doing that then you’re not doing your job, just like me in high school.”



Third Place On-The-Spot News Story

By Anna Banerjee


In the modern era of fake news and misleading facts, there are few ideas more important than the truth.

This morning,  at the University of Iowa, 800 IHSPA students waited anxiously for the keynote speaker Scott Winter, Associate Professor at Bethel University, to arrive. And arrive he did, armed with a slideshow clicker and little else other than his witty demeanor. A soft-spoken man, he paced the stage for a turn before settling in around the center. from the first moments of his presentation, Winter captured the audience’s attention with some light jokes before settling on his main focus: “I want to talk about stories.”

What followed was an impassioned speech about what truly matters in student journalism: tenacity, humor, wit, and empathy. Winter, through a series of anecdotes and videos, explored what he felt mattered. “Be there,” Winter said, his arms outstretched toward the audience.

He began his presentation with a description of a scene familiar to a number of attendees: Band practice. As a  member of what he deemed “the worst band in the nation,” Winter reflected upon what aspects of the experiences stood out – and it certainly wasn’t his or his peers’ musical talent. Rather, it was the “moments that mattered,” as he would go on to say. For journalists, whose careers are devoted to capturing the “little moments,” this idea was especially important.

The presentation continued like such as Winter, much to the audience’s continued amusement, relayed increasingly outrageous stories of trial-and-error: basketball failures, relay mishaps and parenting troubles. Garnering increasing astonished laughs, Winter held a tight grasp over his audience throughout the hour-long speech.

After each story, Winter returned to his major issue with student journalism: the prevalence of half-truths and misinformation. To him, there was no difference between the fake news which roamed free on Facebook and the platitudes published in yearbooks and newspapers in high schools across the country. Citing a time when his basketball team failed – much in  part to Winter’s own misfortune – he mentioned how his school newspaper refused to tell an honest story. By their writing about his team’s success and good attitude, Winter saw this as a lie.

“Why lie?” he asked to the crowd, who was quick to provide him with an answer. “Yes! Because it was easy! … It was fake – fricking – news!”

Winter’s goal was simple: His speech was an impassioned call to action. He spoke for a return to empathy and truth-telling – especially when it is hard to do so. Concluding his speech with a final plea for students to own their craft. Winter reminded students of their duty to provide meaningful, interesting content for their reader base, before leaving to continue their day of productive journalistic learning.