Bobcat journos take second place in competition

Tuesday the winners of the Kansas State Fair Scholastic Press Corps competition were announced in a banquet ceremony in the Encampment Building on the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

A team of five students from Western Plains High School in Ransom took part in the competition’s newsletter division.

Of the 10 teams in the division, WPHS took second, receiving Reserve Champion honors, which included a large, purple ribbon and a $50 cash prize.

WPHS Journalism Adviser Todd Vogts said he was ecstatic about the results.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said. “Journalism is a whole new idea for the Western Plains students. This is the first year they have ever been able to take part in such a program, and then to take them to a journalism competition and do so well makes me very happy.”

WPHS students involved were:

  • Dakota Foos, senior
  • Beth Lutters, senior
  • Ruth Mendez, junior
  • Renee Horton, sophomore
  • Ashley Stull, junior

The team members were not able to attend the awards banquet due to a volleyball game scheduled for the same evening.

“I wish they could have been there,” Vogts said. “I was ready to jump for joy when they called our name as the Reserve Champions. I would have loved for them to experience that too, but I understand why they couldn’t be there. Western Plains is a small school. The students are involved in everything out of necessity. I’m just glad they were able to compete in the competition in the first place.”

Vogts said as soon as he heard the results, he fired off a text message to alert the girls on his team.

“I wasn’t there to see their reactions personally, but judging by the text messages I got back from them, they seemed very excited,” he said. “I hope we can go back next year and bring home the Grand Champion ribbon.”

The competition entailed producing a four-page newsletter between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. with the only a newsletter template being able to be finished prior to arriving at the fair.

Each team had a day they were assigned to be at the fair for the competition. WPHS competed on Sept. 16.

The newsletter had to contain at least two articles, the subjects of which were assigned by the competition. The remainder of the newsletter had to be filled with content telling about that specific day at the fair. All interviews and photos had to be completed that day, which included writing and editing articles and preparing the photos for print.

WPHS completed the newsletter in record time when they finished at 2:21 p.m. According to competition coordinator Janet Hallford, the earliest any team had finished prior to this was 5 p.m.

A team from Canton-Galva High School took the first-place, Grand Champion honors.

Vogts said going into the competition he didn’t know what to expect because everything he had been teaching them in his classes was so new to them.

“When I saw the final product they produced that day, though, I knew we had done well,” he said. “They did an incredible job of working hard and producing a quality product.”

Prior the announcement of the winners, Vogts said he wasn’t sure how they would place.

“I was nervous for them,” he said. “I knew they had worked hard, and I wanted them to be recognized for it. But I also knew that different judges look for different things. It was going to come down to what they thought, not what I thought. In the end, though, I guess the judges and I saw things pretty similarly.”

The best part about the competition wasn’t winning, though, Vogts said.

“I was most excited about how much fun the girls said they had,” he said. “I was worried they wouldn’t get into it, but they did, which makes me feel good and think I’m doing what I need to be doing as their teacher. If I can get them excited about the subject matter and willing to work hard at it, what more can I ask for?”

Senior Dakota Foos said she and the others enjoyed the competition a great deal.

“It was a new and exciting experience,” she said. “It was fun talking to different people you don’t know. You had to be outgoing and willing to talk to people you didn’t know.”

The newsletter competition is just a part of the overall competition, though. Other teams also competed in the video portion of the SPC, in which the teams had to produce a 4-5 minute video focusing on one day at the Kansas State Fair.

The Scholastic Press Corps is part of the State Fair’s “Kansas’ Largest Classroom” project.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Stay tuned for an opinion piece about this competition, complete with a few pictures, that should get posted here next week.

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About toddvogts 819 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Journalism Education Association (JEA), and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), among others. He earned his Master Journalism Educator (MJE) certification from JEA in 2022. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at or via his website at