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Features editor places 1st in Southern California, 3rd in state for California Journalist of the Year award

Photo credit: Francie Wallack
Displaying her portfolio to The Oracle staff, Features Editor Maia Alvarez (’24) presents about her journey as a student journalist over her three years on the publication. Alvarez was the first Oracle reporter to apply for California Journalist of the Year, and she won first in Southern California and third in California for the competition.

Spending countless hours helping fellow reporters edit their articles. Listening intently to her peers and tuning in to her curiosity to ask questions during a class discussion. Exploring her paradoxical identity and how that makes her a better journalist.

Features Editor Maia Alvarez (’24) has done it all.

The Journalism Education Association announced the results of the JEA California Journalist of the Year competition Feb. 8. Alvarez placed first in Southern California and third in the state overall. Initially, Alvarez said she was hesitant about competing for this award — no other Oracle reporter had competed before. She said she felt inspired and supported by her peers and Head of Scholastic Journalism Kristin Taylor, who encouraged her to apply.

Alvarez joined The Oracle her sophomore year, became multimedia editor her junior year and is currently the features editor as a senior. Being an editor as a junior and senior allowed her to take Advanced Study Journalism both years.

In order to receive advanced study credit, Alvarez had to create a project or proposal of some sort; she chose to make a website portfolio synthesizing her experience as a student journalist. For her project this year, she built off of the portfolio she started last year. Taylor submitted her portfolio to the competition this year.

According to JEA State Director Mitch Ziegler’s press release, portfolios showcased journalists’ work in several categories such as editing, leadership, commitment to diversity and law and ethics.

“What’s really cool about this project is you don’t necessarily have to be a master at anything. You can be a jack of all trades character, because for high school journalism, I feel like it’s a place for exploration … you’re just trying different things and seeing what suits you best,” Alvarez said. “For me, it was writing big stories with multimedia elements. I found that to be a niche I would love to do … so I got to showcase my favorite features, photos and different experiences within The Oracle. It’s rewarding to see everything come together into one site … It was just what is the best way to showcase what I believe as a journalist.” 

Taylor described Alvarez’s personal narrative as beautiful. In her narrative, Alvarez wrote about the contrasting parts of her identity. For example, she explained how she feels she like belongs at Archer but is also an outsider or how she is hearing and deaf.

“Her personal narrative is really great because she talks about how she herself is a paradox as a person [with] … all of these different things,” Taylor said. “She talks about how that’s the heart of what makes her a good journalist because it empowers her to see more stories and to want to amplify the voices of others.” 

Alvarez said explaining Trello, the website The Oracle uses for its editing process, breaking down her Photoshop process and diving into Archer student media Code of Ethics are her favorite parts of her portfolio.

Journalism has taught me to feel secure in my curiosity and find that there is always something unique about your own individual perspective.”

— Features Editor Maia Alvarez ('24)

Journalism has acted as a catalyst of immense personal growth for her, Alvarez said. She said joining The Oracle post-COVID-19 impacted her approach to telling stories and amplifying voices within the Archer community, and she became more confident in asking questions in and outside of journalism.

“I’ve become much more attuned to trying to let my curiosity propel me because I’ve noticed a lot more that I do a lot of things not necessarily because I’m excited or scared but because I’m curious about it … journalism has taught me that there’s a role for everyone. There’s something everyone can be uniquely great at … every journalist has a different perspective, even if it’s just a slight difference in life experience,” she said. “Journalism has taught me to feel secure in my curiosity and find there is always something unique about your own individual perspective. In order to be successful, you have to embrace it and let your own unique curiosity and perspective drive you.” 

From the start, Alvarez was enthusiastic to learn and eager for feedback, according to Taylor. She described how Alvarez always wants her peers to succeed and is there for them. She said she has observed Alvarez grow as both a journalist and a person over the years, and along the way, developed qualities of a strong journalist.

Her reporting has gotten better and better. She digs deep. She asks really good questions and doesn’t settle for easy answers — that’s the mark of a great reporter,” Taylor said. “As a leader, the thing I’ve loved the most is watching her come into her own because [Alvarez] is such a compassionate and thoughtful coach. She really wants to meet everyone where they are and empower them to grow … She doesn’t try to take things over but keeps giving them the tools and spending the time … I have seen her grow on so many levels as a journalist and just as a human. She was always wonderful, but she gets more wonderful every year.” 

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About the Contributors
Emily Paschall, Senior Reporter
Emily Paschall joined the Oracle as a staff reporter in 2022. She is now a senior reporter. She participates in dance at Archer. She is also a part of the Ambassador Leadership Team Advisory Board and Dance Leadership Team. In her free time, Emily enjoys spending time with family and friends, listening to K-pop or Taylor Swift, and playing with her dog.
Francie Wallack, Multimedia Editor
Francie Wallack joined the oracle in 2022 and returned as multimedia editor in 2023. Francie is a representative on Student Council, she is on the Ambassador Leadership Team advisory board, and is a member of the Jewish Student Union executive board. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her friends, volunteering at Teen Line and playing tennis.

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