Advisers are easy.
Asked to write a recommendation for a
newspaper or yearbook editor, they’re
generally gung-ho, all-in, right-away.
Fellow staff members — teenagers with
all the typical teenage hang-ups and quirks
— are rarely as effusive or efficient. And
that’s all you need to know about Daniel
Hersh of St. Mark’s School of Texas, the
2013 Texas High School Journalist of
the Year. Sure, his adviser, Ray Westbrook, submitted reams of praise in support of his nomination, but fellow staff members are as complimentary of Hersh — or more.
“Daniel has a seemingly endless generosity that comprises his style of leadership,” one staff member wrote.
“Daniel is willing to do anything to maintain excellence,” wrote another.
“Daniel is the king of leading by example,” claims a third.Ask 10 other members of the ReMarker staff, and it’s likely they’d say the same thing. Daniel Hersh was a great editor, the type of leader who
willingly and consistently goes beyond even the most ambitious expectations.
“I had a water polo tournament and needed to get in (the Journalism lab) early on a Saturday morning to work on my page, so I asked
Daniel,” ReMarker editorial director Henry Woram said. “He got up at the crack of dawn to get to school and let me in. He then stayed
there while I worked on my page. Any time I had work I needed help with, he swooped in, even without my asking.”
It’s this “lead from the front” philosophy
that hallmarked Hersh’s remarkable year as ReMarker editor, which culminated recently with the newspaper winning yet another ILPC Gold
Star Award and with his finishing third nationally in JEA’s National High School Journalism Student of the Year competition.
Ironically, Hersh wasn’t on Westbrook’s list of “most likely to” candidates as a freshman staffer. He was introverted, unsure of himself, a good but not great student. But once given
responsibility as a sophomore sports editor, he flourished in the uber-competitive environment of St. Mark’s journalism, and Westbrook said he began to notice the metamorphosis.“He literally came alive, both as a journalist and as a dynamic, confident leader of the staff,” he said. “He rarely missed a beat, and he had
that rarest of abilities: to take each assignment
and view it as a learning opportunity.”
In time, Westbrook and the other boys took notice.
“Whenever Daniel would come into the publications suite (during an off period),whoever was in the room would immediately gravitate to him.”
They wanted to be around him, to visitwith him, just to ‘hang’ with him.
“That suggested to me that because he wasso likeable, he would command respect as aneditor-in-chief,” Westbrook said. “People
generally respond well to people they like and respect.”
Over the course of the year, Hersh spearheaded the most massive re-design of the newspaper in the last12 years, arranged for an interview with President George W. Bush in which he discussed with the former president the forthcoming opening of the Bush Institute and Library, and coordinated a ground-breaking four-page special section on teenage depression.
“He’s made this year very pleasant for me and for his staff members, many of whom are good friends of his,” Westbrook said. “In fact,
his upper leadership team consists of six of his closest friends, and he’s done a textbook job of balancing friendship with the realities of getting the job done.”
Early in the year, Hersh had to call in a close friend who was not
doing his job to produce a major in-depth story for the center spread section.
“Daniel bridged that masterfully — separating the friendship from the task at hand,” Westbrook said. “A tough situation, certainly,
but the end result was a solid reporting piecewhich ran as the major story in that section —and the friendship was intact, with no perma
-nent hard feelings. That’s difficult for anyoneto do, but to see an 18-year-old handle it with such aplomb and poise, well that wassimply
Much of his success also stemmed from his relationship with the senior staff members — all close friends inside and outside the J lab.
“Daniel was very adept at separating this friendship from the business of being editor,” Westbrook said. “He does an exemplary job
of carrying out his editor duties without showing undue favor
or bias to his friends, and he makes sure allstaff members —
not just his close friends — get their share of theplum story
Visuals director Andrew Goodman agrees.
“Daniel is very adroit at weighing the opinions of his staff members
equally and making informed decisions,” Goodman said. “During my four years in this program, Daniel has been the mostwell-rounded editor I’ve worked with.”
Before relinquishing his position, Hersh created a 20-point checklist for his successor, Dylan Clark.
“The most important was to always be the first one in and the last one out, as that is thebest way to get others to work hard too,” said
Clark, who served as one of two arts editorsthis past year. “I saw him in journalism duringalmost every free period, either working with
a staff writer to improve a story or brainstorming with a managing editor on how to make a centerspread as effective as possible. He stayslate and comes in early, and it clearly rubs off on everyone else.”
Clark added that while he appreciates thechecklist, he doesn’t think he’ll need it.
“The things Daniel taught me,” Clark said, “he taught through action — not words.”