Kamehameha Schools Maui's Ka Leo o Na Koa student newspaper expanded its reach into the cyberworld with Twitter feeds and a Web publication this school year and received state accolades for its transformation into a multimedia operation.
The student newspaper that last year captured the coveted "Best in State" for Print award this year took home the first ever "Best in State" Online award and a cash prize for its multimedia work in the Hawaii High School Journalism Awards contest.
Winners were announced at a luncheon at the Pagoda Hotel on Oahu on Wednesday that was attended by members of the Kamehameha Schools Maui reporting staff and journalism adviser Kye Haina.
Seniors Hoku Krueger (from right), Amanda Lee, Kalani Ruidas, Kelsie Chong and Kiana Kamalu, student co-editors of Ka Leo o Na Koa, work on the layout of the student newspaper of Kamehameha Schools Maui on a recent weekend workday.
Because this was a new award, part of a push by contest organizer Hawaii Publishers Association to develop online publications in secondary schools, Haina said that there was some uncertainty about how to react.
"Yeah, we won. What is it?" she said Thursday when asked about her staff's initial reactions to the announcement of the online award.
As the top print state high school newspaper last year, the staff had its eyes set on repeating, according to a report on www.kaleoonakoa.org, a professional-looking website with rotating stories and pictures, videos, a student poll and a popular blog.
"I guess you could say that I was not expecting to win so many categories pertaining to the online category, considering we put a lot of our heart and time into the print (product)," features co-editor Kelsie Chong was quoted as saying in the online story.
Haina said in the online report that it was "really special that we won the first award ever given in this category in our first year of having an online program."
The evolution of the paper-only publication into the award-winning multimedia one began after Haina attended an Internet workshop and was introduced to the possibilities and nuts and bolts of online publishing. The full foray into the cyberworld began at the beginning of the school year.
At first, student journalists used the website only to post their print stories. They soon realized that they could post the print publication in digital form while making full use of the array of Web capabilities, from filing "breaking news" stories to posting video.
They developed a "three-pronged approach" to getting the news out, Haina said.
For "our right-now news," tweets would go out within 15 minutes of the end of an event, mostly sporting events, she said.
For "very newsy . . . next-day reporting for things that just happened," students would file their stories within 24 hours of events, such as sports contests and school events like the 'Aha Mele song contest.
"The website really changed the way we do our print product," said Haina, who has been at the school for seven years. "The paper lends itself to the in-depth reporting. The Web is quick, breaking, get-it-out reporting."
They added video to the online publication using a Flip camera, and "Web columnist" Amanda Lee's blog "I'm Working On It" is among the most-read items on the website, according to Google analytics, which the staff uses to judge popularity of individual features on the site. Lee, news co-editor, chronicled her life as a senior in high school, obstacles she encountered and her dreams for the future, said Haina. Her latest blog posted April 18 was headlined "Sibling separation anxiety."
The staff's online work also changed the way they reported the news. Instead of taking weeks or days to write a story for one of the four print publications each year, student reporters were forced to write their stories "on deadline" in a day or hours, said Haina.
"It really improved their journalistic writing skills," said Haina, explaining that her students wrote more stories and were forced to develop leads and shape their stories while events were unfolding.
"The deadlines . . . it's really like a bonding experience," said Kalani Ruidas, senior and co-features editor. "Struggle and be under pressure together, they boost the morale of our journalism team."
Ruidas, who will be attending San Francisco State University and studying journalism, said she believed that they "focus more on the online than the paper" but that she liked both products.
Haina said that while she "was a little afraid" because she wasn't proficient in the ways of online publications, her student journalists picked up the new media quickly.
"Kids today, they are so digitally oriented. They had no trouble adapting," she said.
In addition to collecting the overall online publication award, Kamehameha Schools Maui captured state-level awards for news writing in print and multimedia presentation for online and division-level awards for news writing in print/private schools; online video/private schools; multimedia reporting online/private schools; and website/private school.
Lahainaluna High School captured a print division award for public schools for photography.
Most Valuable Staffer awards were presented as well. Lee was Kamehameha Maui's representative, and illustrator Sierra Stevens was Lahainaluna's winner.
Twenty three Hawaii schools participated in the contest, sponsored by the Hawaii Publishers Association, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and MidWeek.
When asked to explain the success of her journalism program through the years, Haina said that there has been a lot of hard work and lots of hours of sweat equity.
"I have high expectations for them," she said. "They not only represent themselves but the school.
"I want them to be their best. . . . I push for professional standards . . . and hold them to it."
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.