Tower newspaper has a banner year

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 4, 2016

 Grosse Pointe South High School senior and Tower Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Maiorana was named the All-Michigan Interscholastic Press Association student in the news writing and reporting category April 21 at MIPA’s spring awards ceremony in Lansing.

Grosse Pointe South High School senior and Tower Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Maiorana was named the All-Michigan Interscholastic Press Association student in the news writing and reporting category April 21 at MIPA’s spring awards ceremony in Lansing.

Photo provided by Rodney Satterthwaite

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The diligence of reporting the news by the Grosse Pointe South High School Tower newspaper staff was validated April 21 when the print publication won 48 individual awards at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association’s spring awards ceremony in Lansing.

At the ceremony, Tower Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Maiorana was named the All-MIPA student in the news writing and reporting category. The newspaper’s website, the Tower Pulse, won a Spartan Award, the highest award for overall quality that a student website can win in Michigan. This is the Pulse’s second Spartan Award in two years. Seniors Allyson Hartz and Olivia Baratta are the Pulse co-editors-in-chief.

The students earned awards in a number of categories, including news coverage, feature writing, video and audio podcasts, page design, review writing and social media coverage. The Tower, which is published weekly every Wednesday, first rolled off the presses in 1928. 

“The Tower has been around some 80 years. It’s kind of cool to see that legacy carry on,” said South journalism teacher Rodney Satterthwaite, who also is the adviser of the paper and the newspaper’s website, www.thetowerpulse.net. “Journalism is changing pretty rapidly. It’s also cool to see the digital version, the Tower Pulse, recognized.”

“It’s exciting to get a Spartan Award for the second time in a row, because (the Pulse) is not as established as the Tower,” Baratta said. 

Senior Shannon McGlone plays an important role in South’s news coverage as the executive producer of the Tower radio, which also was recognized at last month’s awards ceremony.

“We are an online radio station students can tune into from a link anywhere (in) the world. They can hear our on-air talent, or the students can podcast if they want to,” McGlone said. “We use a program called ‘Spreaker.’ Radio is kind of an art form coming back in a major way.”

This year, Tower staff continued their tradition of covering school happenings, athletic events, opinion pieces, field trips, college preparation, and teacher and student accomplishments. Staff members also reported on topics of race, substance abuse, bullying and world events, including the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. 

“We try to cover anything that affects the students,” Maiorana said. “We don’t shy away from taboo or controversial topics. We try to keep students updated. This year we’ve been trying to branch out, getting people information not only about the community and school, but the world as well.”

“I love writing about women’s issues and feminism,” McGlone said. “I just did a story on immigration, immigration policies and all the complications that go with that.”

“I felt like we’ve had a lot of hard things to cover this year,” Baratta said. 

That includes learning of the death of two alumni because of drug addiction. The Tower members were so touched that they focused their March 16, 2016, issue on substance abuse, writing stories on the topic as well as interviewing community members about how drugs may have impacted them personally. 

“For me, doing this was really, really important,” Baratta said. “It kind of involved the entire community.” 

Hartz said the website’s top story this year, with 4,000 hits, was a column about the racial slurs a few South high school students posted on social media in March. 

The Tower Pulse is updated on a daily basis, along with live Twitter and Snapchat feeds. Live coverage this year included the political rallies of presidential candidates Donald Trump in Warren, Bernie Sanders in Warren, and John Kasich in Grosse Pointe Woods in early March. Maiorana was among the reporters who covered Sanders, while McGlone reported from the Kasich event. 

“I really liked it,” Maiorana said. “I waited four hours for Bernie. I really enjoyed hearing his voice.”

Along with the awards this year, the news team also has to deal with negative feedback at times from their readers.

“I’m learning there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you wrote and felt you went too deep into the story,” Hartz said. “At the end of the day, it’s our job to start these conversations. We write about things people want to know.”

“We never want to upset somebody,” Maiorana said, adding that sometimes the complaints could even be about a style error. 

The Tower has a circulation of 1,200 readers. The cost for students is $25 per year in subscriptions, while staff receives free copies. To view the Tower Pulse, visit www.thetowerpulse.net.