‘It doesn’t happen without the people around me’

Goldstein named New Jersey High School Journalist of the Year

PV+Student+Publication+Co-Editor+in+Chief+Spencer+Goldstein+was+named+the+New+Jersey+High+School+Journalist+of+the+Year+in+February.

BJ McGrane

PV Student Publication Co-Editor in Chief Spencer Goldstein was named the New Jersey High School Journalist of the Year in February.

Only one person can be named the New Jersey High School Journalist of the Year. 

However, Spencer Goldstein, PV Student Publication Co-Editor in Chief and 2021 recipient of the award sees the honor as an accomplishment for others, not just himself.

“Obviously it’s an individual award, but I’m looking at it as a group [award], because it doesn’t happen without the people around me,” Goldstein said.

The New Jersey High School Journalist of the Year is a title that is awarded in conjunction with the Bernard Kilgore Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship and the title are the prizes for the student who finishes first in a yearly competition held by the New Jersey Press Foundation.

The New Jersey Press Foundation (NJPF) organizes the competition, judges the candidates, and awards the scholarship, while the Garden State Scholastic Press Association (GSSPA) “partners” with the NJPF in giving out the award, according to GSSPA President and PV Student Publication Adviser Bill Rawson.

“Since we, [the GSSPA], are the ones who work hands-on with [New Jersey’s] scholastic journalists, it makes sense that we would be the ones that get the information out there, and round up the candidates, and kind of do the groundwork for [the competition],” Rawson said.

The Bernard Kilgore Memorial Scholarship is “awarded to a high school student who is planning to pursue a career in journalism,” according to the NJPF’s website. This means that not every scholastic journalist in New Jersey is able to apply for the scholarship.

After receiving the award, Goldstein will be taking journalism to the next level, as he will be attending Syracuse University in the fall and majoring in Magazine, News, and Digital Journalism.

Although he clearly has a passion for journalism, Goldstein understands that it is not exactly easy to be a successful journalist in the real world – even if he has already excelled at the high school level.

“[Journalism] is a tough field,” Goldstein said. “It’s not only about talent, but you have to get lucky and get an opportunity to have a successful career. At the end of the day, I want to make money, and it’s tough to move up [in journalism]. There are not a lot of high-paying jobs.”

Co-Editor in Chief Ellie Kim believes Goldstein will not have much trouble taking journalism to the collegiate level, based on the quality of journalism within The PV Student Publication.

“We do a lot of work similar to what [professional] journalists do. We chase down people, we interview them, we get [stories] up the day [their corresponding events] happen,” Kim said. “I think the way we’re run, especially considering we’re a completely online publication, will definitely help [Goldstein] in the future.”

Goldstein cites his colleagues within Pascack Valley’s student newspaper as the primary reason he was able to come away with the scholarship, mentioning that winning it makes him “feel like a product” of current and former staff members.

“[The staff] takes the pressure off,” Goldstein said. “Working with all of them allows me to actually feel like I can put my best work forward.”

Working with[the rest of the staff] allows me to actually feel like I can put my best work forward.”

— Spencer Goldstein

His collaboration with the rest of the PV Student Publication staff, which made him see the award as less of an individual accomplishment, is perhaps the reason why his reaction to being recognized as NJ High School Journalist of the Year is not what many would expect.

“I read the email [saying] that I won, and I didn’t really react, and I still have not had that reaction,” Goldstein said. “The actual title, it doesn’t really mean much, but it’s obviously just cool [to have].”

Rawson, on the other hand, had an entirely different reaction.

“It might have been more exciting for me than it was for him,” Rawson said. “I’ve really wanted to get one of our journalists [to win] one of these two scholarships.”

The other scholarship Rawson refers to is the Bob Stevens Memorial Scholarship, another award given out by the NJPF. This scholarship is awarded to an “outstanding journalism student” who is “not necessarily planning on majoring in journalism in college,” according to the NJPF’s website.

“Every year I consider who [from the PV Student Publication] would be the best applicants for each [scholarship], and encourage them to enter [the contests],” Rawson said

Rawson urged Kim to apply for the Bob Stevens Memorial Scholarship, just as he had done for Goldstein with the Bernard Kilgore Memorial Scholarship. Neither Goldstein nor Kim thought too much about the scholarships even after applying for them.

“I don’t think either of us were really expecting much,” Kim said. “We filled [the applications] out very last minute, so I knew [Goldstein] was very surprised when he got [the scholarship].”

Prior to joining the PV Student Publication his freshman year, Goldstein did not necessarily see himself pursuing journalism as a career. 

“[Pursuing journalism] was always something in the back of my mind, just as like a pipe dream,” Goldstein said.

Not a single publication – or any sort of team, for that matter – would be able to be successful solely off of production from one person. According to Goldstein, Kim has been crucial to the success of her fellow Editor in Chief and the publication as a whole.

Goldstein and Kim were named Co-Editors in Chief (or just “Chief” as Goldstein calls it) at the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year, but were given no time to adjust to their new roles, being challenged almost immediately with coverage of the mascot controversy.

Spencer Goldstein moved up through the ranks of the PV Student Publication before being named New Jersey High School Journalist of the Year in February. (BJ McGrane)

“We kind of had to start off a little earlier in the year, because of the situation, and the pandemic as a whole,” Kim said. “I actually do give [Goldstein] a lot of props for that, because he had to go from being one of the [Sports Editors] to really covering it all – news, features and all of that. So I know it was a big shift for him.”

Being promoted from Sports Editor, Goldstein had little experience with news coverage prior to being thrust into covering the situation surrounding removal of the mascots from Pascack Valley and Pascack Hills.

“[Our] first experiences as Chief were with the mascot [situation], when that was really a hot topic,” Goldstein said. “[Kim] fit right in, she didn’t have any problems, but I was nervous.”

Even Rawson knew that Goldstein would need to adjust as he stepped into his new role.

“Obviously, this year becoming [Co-Editor in Chief] has required him to step out of his comfort zone in a lot of ways,” Rawson said. “Whereas he was more about the sports, or all about the sports in his first three years, this year he’s had to do a lot on the news side.”

Dealing with such an important scenario right away and having no time to sink into his new role made the 2021 NJ High School Journalist of the Year question his abilities as a journalist long before the award was even a thought in his mind.

“[At] the beginning of that [situation], I feel like I had a rough time,” Goldstein said. “I questioned whether or not I was actually going to be capable of being Chief, and I didn’t really think I was.”

Kim’s experience in covering news stories served an even greater purpose than the immediate content for the publication. Her abilities gave Goldstein time to grasp the ins and outs of news coverage without having a drop-off in quality or quantity of content.

“[Kim] was able to do things that I couldn’t, or wasn’t used to doing,” Goldstein said. “It took me a little while [to adjust]. It took me maybe a month or two, but I was able to take that month or two because of her being as good as she was.”

The makings of  an accomplished journalist and an accomplished publication stretch far beyond what reaches the public eye. As Goldstein and the PV Student Publication have proven, there is more to journalism than just writing your own stories.

“[Goldstein] is super reliable when it comes to doing [work],” Kim said. “I know that he is always there at 2:00 in the morning for us to talk about [content for the publication] and go over it.”

Goldstein describes staff meetings and editor’s meetings as having a “good vibe,” which he believes contributes to the level of coverage that the publication is able to produce, and the accolades that the publication – and now he, himself – are able to accumulate.

“There’s a really strong culture that’s been built over the years,” Goldstein said. “I think it’s a lot easier to learn and develop as a journalist when you want to do that, and if you weren’t having fun with it, you wouldn’t want to do it as much.”

Being a part of the PV Student Publication for the entire time he has been in high school, it is not a secret that Goldstein has done his due diligence and paid his dues in terms of time spent on the publication. To him, becoming the NJ High School Journalist of the Year justifies it all.

“[Winning the scholarship] validates the time I’ve put in,” Goldstein said.

I think it’s a lot easier to learn and develop as a journalist when you want to do that, and if you weren’t having fun with it, you wouldn’t want to do it as much.”

— Spencer Goldstein

As the only Pascack Valley student to take a journalism class in all four years of high school, it was clear that Goldstein was committed to making the publication the best it could be.

“That takes a lot of dedication to be able to arrange your schedule that way, and the sacrifices you have to make in order to make that happen,” Rawson said. “So I think that’s another thing that probably sets [Goldstein] apart [from others].”

Goldstein recognizes that the PV Student Publication will continue its work long after he graduates in June, and he wants to be sure that the staff is prepared to handle what’s to come in the future.

“At the beginning of the year I was [thinking about the future] too much. I wasn’t even worried about myself at all,” Goldstein said. “Whether it’s being talkative in a meeting, getting people involved, or just basic writing quality, I definitely always have [the future of the publication] in mind.”

This was a large part of Goldstein’s development as a journalist, and his efforts to help the younger members of the staff were certainly noticed by Rawson.

“I think he’s really stepped into the role of being a teacher much more this year,” Rawson said. “Guiding along the younger journalists and he actually seems to enjoy it, too.”

After Goldstein graduates, the wheel will keep on turning and the publication will continue to do its work. This makes being a “teacher” as Rawson put it, an extremely important part of being an Editor in Chief.

“That’s the biggest role that the Editor in Chief has, and that’s the biggest adjustment for any Editor in Chief,” Rawson said. “That’s the most difficult thing for me to ‘teach.’ It’s tough to teach how to be a leader.”

As Co-Editor in Chief, Goldstein recognizes that he, along with other experienced staff members, are able to set an example for the younger members of the staff.

“People within the PV Student Publication, we care about what we do,” Goldstein said. “We take pride in it, and I think it rubs off on the younger writers and editors.”