Pa. high schooler wins JEA Journalist of the Year award

PENNSYLVANIA -- The Journalism Education Association announced high school senior Henry Rome as the winner of the Journalist of the Year scholarship at its spring convention in Phoenix this April.

Rome, editor-in-chief of the Spoke at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pa., began his journalism career when we was 8-years-old by writing a short newsletter for his neighbors that eventually reached over 100 subscribers. Since then he has continued to expand his journalistic resume.

In 2003 at 13 he was chosen as a TIME For Kids reporter and covered the Republican National Convention in 2004. He interviewed Sen. John McCain, appeared on CNN and was a guest on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

Since then he has worked as a commentator for the Cape Cod Baseball League for the local TV station, a reporter and producer at National Public Radio in Massachuesttes and as a reporter for the Cape Cod Times. He has had several stories on page A1 at the paper and a couple of pieces air on NPR.

"The enthusiasm of the reporters and editors at an NPR station I worked for over the summer, as well as at the Cape Cod Times daily newspaper, pushed me to delve further into journalism, trying everything from feature stories to investigations," Rome said in an e-mail.

Adviser Susan Houseman points to Rome's leadership qualities as editor-in-chief as the reason for the Spoke's popularity.

"I have come to view Henry as more than a student: he is a journalistic colleague who has a mature understanding of press freedom and the obligation of the student media to inform and enlighten," Houseman said in an e-mail. "Henry is undaunted by setbacks; the combination of his intelligence and tenacity make him an effective reporter whose work is held in high esteem by the student body and the school's staff."

Even Rome's principal, Dr. Amy Meisinger, holds the young journalist in high regards and credits him for one of the best high school reporting pieces she's seen. In a recent interview Meisinger said she was "thrilled about Henry's leadership as an editor. He has brought a quality to our paper that has been superb."

Rome says his experience as a student journalist -- as both the editor for newspaper, and an anchor and producer for the daily live morning broadcast -- has encouraged him to stick with journalism as he goes on to college.

"I've learned the power of the press to inform and effect change in a community and also the value of a strong team effort that puts a newspaper or a TV program together," Rome said.

The Journalist of the Year award is chosen from the state winners. The winner receives a $5,000 scholarship, and several runners-up are awarded $2,000 scholarships. For a full list of winners, check here.

Kate Maternowski, SPLC staff writer, contributed to this article.

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