Addison Trail’s student newspaper, Torch, earns awards from Northern Illinois Student Press Association

Lindsay Stevenson (class of 2022), editor-in-chief of Addison Trail's student newspaper, Torch, poses with Steve Bruns, who has served as the adviser of Torch for more than 20 years. Stevenson received this year's Addison Trail Torch Scholarship and helped lead the Torch staff to a history-making year.

By Maggie Szarwark, class of 2023

The staff of Addison Trail’s student newspaper, Torch, has had a history-making year.

It would seem a staff of only five students would struggle to put together a new edition of the newspaper on a monthly basis. However, the 2021-22 group proved a small staff can accomplish big things, including winning the prestigious Golden Eagle award for Excellence in Journalism from the Northern Illinois Student Press Association (NISPA). Torch also won that award in 1992 and 2008.

The Golden Eagle is awarded to the top publication in divisions of similarly sized schools throughout northern Illinois. Torch won the division with schools that have about 2,000 students. Torch also earned a Bronze Medal in the Newspaper Website competition.

“Torch had one of the greatest years in its history," said Steve Bruns, who has served as the adviser of Torch for more than 20 years. “Never before has the Torch had this level as far as quantity and quality of journalism. This year's staff compiled the largest editions and wrote among the highest caliber of articles for this year's publication.”

Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Stevenson (class of 2022) agreed.

“A Golden Eagle is never something you can expect to win, but we knew we had a good shot after looking at other publications and seeing how far we had taken our own,” Stevenson said. “The news was very exciting. I found out in Spanish class, when Bruns had me step into the hall, and he was crying. It is special to see our work translate into a physical paper, and it is even more special to have other people agree and recognize that our paper was outstanding.”

Several individual Addison Trail student journalists also were recognized by NISPA. Stevenson was awarded a Blue Ribbon for Photography, and Sneha Dhandapani (class of 2022) captured two Blue Ribbons for In-Depth Reporting and Feature Writing. Stephanie Ortiz (class of 2023) won a Blue Ribbon for Editorial Cartoon and an Honorable Mention for Graphic Design. 

Stevenson took to heart the challenge of making this year’s newspaper the best ever.

“There are a million little steps and tasks beyond just writing and interviewing that are necessary to go from a pile of stories to an actual paper,” Stevenson said. “It was my job to fill in gaps and fix problems, which was a huge task. It wasn’t uncommon to stay after school until 8 or 9 p.m. every day during the week of production, or work for 16 hours at a time. I worked no matter what, and my every thought was surrounded by thoughts about the Torch. I ate, slept and breathed newspaper.”

Stevenson led the staff in breaking the school record for the largest edition, which amounted to a 16-page issue in April. She shared the process of how the staff worked up to breaking the record.

“Twelve pages was a running joke for a long time, and I always laughed at the idea of 12, because I thought it might kill me, and that paper took more work than ever before,” Stevenson said. “I was even more proud of issue 8, because we put out a thick, 16-page paper with much more ease, and we saw everyone – teachers and students – using our paper to find out information they didn’t know.”

The size of the staff presented challenges when it came to evenly distributing the workload. But in the end, it also contributed to the strong connection formed among the five student journalists.

“I think what makes our staff so great is that we are well-rounded,” Stevenson said. “There are five of us, and we each have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and we all clean up each other’s messes when we need help. Our staff took five people and created a 16-page newspaper that was so interesting and high quality, people read it. That is a bigger accomplishment than most people will ever understand.”

Torch will return in the fall under the leadership of Emily Bieberstein (class of 2023), who will serve as editor-in-chief.