Students show power of written word at Press Pass awards

Budding journalist Elayna Keller showed the power of the written word yesterday when she won a national competition that encourages students to read newspapers.

Students show power of   written word at Press Pass awards

Elayna, a transition year student at Our Lady’s College, Drogheda, Co Louth, wrote about her experience of bullying for the National Newspapers of Ireland’s Press Pass initiative.

Elayna is one of 31,500 students to have taken part in Press Pass over the past two years. A total of 1,700 entries are selected by schools for the national journalism competition.

Free newspapers have been delivered to 18,000 transition year students in 300 schools as part of the educational project.

Press ombudsman and jury chairman John Horgan said Elayna’s article, ‘Kids Can be Cruel’, was a “first-person” piece with a difference.

“It is written with a rare sense of maturity by a young person who has undoubtedly been through tough times, but without a smidgin of self-pity, and it has a lesson for us all,” said Mr Horgan.

Elayna, 16, wrote about her experience of being bullied in primary school and described her emotional development in the years that followed.

Robert Harrington of Causeway Comprehensive School, Causeway, Tralee, Co Kerry, 3rd place in the News category, with Ellen Ní Ghráinne of Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibne, An Daingean, Co Chiarraí, 2nd place in Comment and Opinion category.

Each of the students who registered with NNI Press Pass received a specially created guidebook by Irish Examiner news editor John O’Mahony.

NNI chairman Matt Dempsey said Press Pass allowed students to take advantage of the many educational resources that newspapers had to offer.

“Newspapers invest more in original journalism than any other media in Ireland, which means that newspaper content is extremely valuable to everyone who consumes it,” he said.

Guest speaker, film producer and educator David Puttnam said a free and functional press was needed in any democracy and that newspapers made a major contribution to society.

“We have to trust that those making decisions on our behalf are acting in the best interests, not of themselves, not simply their party, nor even their constituency, but of the whole of the people,” he said.

Ellen Ni Ghrainne, An Daingean, 2nd place Comment and Opinion category; James Healy, Drogheda, 1st place News category; Emily O’Grady, Croom, 1st place Features category; and Christina Enright, Croom, 3rd place, Comment and Opinion category.

“And, to be sure of that, we need factually based options clearly laid out, not simply those of the powerful and potentially manipulative between their own frequently narrow agendas, but accurate, unprejudiced information on which to form our own judgment.”

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn referred to a court in Egypt where, in less than two hours more than 500 people were sentenced to death, without appeal and in the absence of any defence lawyers.

“Don’t take our democracy for granted; don’t take our rule of law for granted. Don’t presume that this is the norm and everybody else has it. Sadly, they don’t,” he said.

The other category winners were:

News: James Healy, St Joseph’s Secondary School, Drogheda, Co. Louth.

Comment & Opinion: Connell McHugh, Athlone Community College, Co. Westmeath.

Features: Emily O’Grady, Coláiste Chiaráin, Croom, Co Limerick.

Sport: Niamh Hetherington, Dunshaughlin CC, Co Meath.

Photojournalism: Kinga Strama, St Mary’s College, Arklow.

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