Petey Menz and Alex Nitkin are trailblazers, and it wasn't easy. "It takes courage to tell stories that you know are important but that you know may not please those who have power in the community," Lori Soderlind said of the two Staples High School students Friday at Norwalk Community College .
Soderlind, communication arts coordinator and Humanities Department chair at NCC, presented the first Connecticut Academic Press Association "Courage in Journalism Award" to the Staples students for an article they wrote about a tradition at their school, having cheerleaders bake for football players. The practice has since been banned.
Soderlind spoke to about 190 students at the fourth annual Journalism Symposium, which she organizes. She said the two Staples journalists were not afraid to "upset their schools truly powerful, the school's football players and cheerleaders."
Petey accepted the award for his classmate and their advisor. He said there had been repercussions from the article. "There were a lot of people who actually accused us of libel, but we had some tape-recorded interviews, which helped us a lot," he said. "Ultimately, they never really brought anything against us, but they were saying we made up quotes, that we took them out of context, but we kind of had to go back and say, 'No, we have our notes, our recordings."
The senior is one of the paper's executive editors, and he enjoyed Soderlind's symposium, which featured workshops led by local media professionals. "I went to some really interesting classes and I got to meet a lot of cool people," he said. "I got a lot of great ideas for the paper now after attending the symposium."
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