By Sallie James
It was 12:15 p.m. on March 2 when the big news was posted: Julia Landy, the editor and chief of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s Eagle Eye news magazine, had been named the Todd C. Smith Student Journalist of the Year by the Florida Scholastic Press Association (FSPA).
It was a huge score by any account, but for Landy, it was just a stepping stone.
The win positioned the ambitious 17-year-old high school senior to pursue her real dream: competing for a national student journalism award that required her first to win FSPA.
“I’m not done yet,” said Landy, who tweaked her portfolio and resubmitted it days later to the national competition. “I’m still working on it.”
Landy, who considers herself more of a graphic designer than a print journalist, spent nearly a year preparing her entry for FSPA, assembling an extensive portfolio with submissions for 11 mandatory categories. She even attended a workshop on video journalism for non-video journalists to teach herself how to assemble video packages for the broadcast portions of the application.
That Landy found the time to apply is a wonder. The Parkland resident is an A-student dual-enrolled at the University of Florida and Broward College. She works part-time at Jersey Mike’s Subs, does graphic design and video editing for New Heights Educational Group, and is president of the Quill and Scroll International High School Honor Society and a member of the National Honor Society.
Hard work is nothing new to her, but winning a statewide competition was. She knew she had to take top honors if she wanted to compete nationally.
“The thing I was most scared of was that somebody else would want it more than I did,” Landy confessed. “And then, in that case, they would have won it.”
The day the state winner was announced, Landy wore boots to school. She said she quaked in her boots with anticipation. Appropriately, Landy was in her newspaper class when she learned she had won.
“I was just so scared. But I wasn’t expecting to win. And I was genuinely surprised when they announced that I was the winner of the competition,” Landy said.
Instructor Melissa E. Falkowski attributed Landy’s first-place win to dedication, drive, enthusiasm, and determination. The award required that student journalists write, take photos, design, create videos and show leadership, and Landy excelled at everything, Falkowski noted.
“Julia took this competition and the creation of her portfolio very seriously from the start,” Falkowski said. “Her exemplary portfolio is evidence of her drive and dedication to student journalism.”
In addition to serving as editor-in-chief for the high school’s Eagle Eye magazine, Landy has been on staff for the past three years. Falkowski said she runs the newspaper staff and editorial board, mentors fellow students, and is “an exceptional leader” who has won many awards.
“The staff has won national awards during Julia’s tenure on staff, including a recent Pacemaker Award for our print newsmagazine from the National Scholastic Press Association and two Gold Crown Awards in hybrid news from Columbia Scholastic Press Association,” Falkowski said. “Our online news site is a Pacemaker Finalist. We’ll find out if we won in April.“
Falkowski said the national awards put the school newspaper in the top one percent of school newspapers in the nation. The staff has also won two All-Florida awards, and Landy has won several individual state awards as well as some national individual awards.
Landy plans to study emerging media and graphic design at the University of Central Florida, but until then, she will likely spend most of her time in the high school newsroom helping others. She trains freshmen on how to run the school magazine, gives lectures, and teaches students how to sell ads and manage fundraisers.
“I do a lot of teaching,” Landy confessed. “I’m a very busy person.”
- Sallie James is a veteran reporter/blogger/copywriter who spent most of her writing career in South Florida, including 22 years at the Sun Sentinel. She has also freelanced for The Coastal Star, South Florida Gay News & Florida Weekly. Sallie is the mother of grown boy/girl twins, a Guardian ad Litem, an animal rescuer, and a longtime Tamarac resident. She earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Indiana University.
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