LACEY - Timberline High School journalism students won top honors this month at the Washington State High School Journalism Conference.
So what’s next?
They’re going to Disneyland.
OK, technically, they’re headed to the National High School Journalism Convention April 14-17 in Anaheim, Calif. However, there will be plenty of time during the trip for students to visit Mickey Mouse and all of the other Disney characters.
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The Blazer staff won 15 individual awards and tied for Best of Show in the newsmagazine category in a contest organized by the Washington Journalism Education Association on March 19 at Auburn Mountainview High School in Auburn.
“It felt good,” said editor in chief Emerson Hardebeck, 18. “We’ve never won this many awards before.”
He credits the paper’s success to a team of experienced editors. Most of the students have been involved with the paper since their sophomore year, and several were on yearbook together during their days at Komachin Middle School.
“We just all happen to be really, really close and we all have some sort of history with each other,” Hardebeck said. “We’re always on the same page, and we can steer the staff from a unified perspective.”
The monthly, tabloid-sized newsmagazine is published by a staff of about 35 students in Timberline’s newspaper writing and newspaper production classes, taught by Hardebeck’s dad, Dan, who also serves as the newsmagazine’s adviser.
But that’s not the only family connection: Hardebeck’s brother, Sawyer, is The Blazer’s graphics editor and sports photographer.
Both teens have girlfriends and best friends on staff, too.
The journalism class meets for about an hour each day; however, many of The Blazer’s writers, editors, photographers and other staff members spend an additional 15 to 20 hours – or more – each month working on the publication.
They wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is where our friends are,” said news editor Bailey Pritchett, 18, a senior. “We’ve been together forever.”
It costs about $800 to print 1,200 black-and-white copies of the newsmagazine each month, Dan Hardebeck said.
To help support the program, students sell advertising spots in the publication to area businesses.
“We are entirely financially independent, and we do not accept money from the ASB or the school district,” Dan Hardebeck said. “That is to maintain their objectivity.”
The Blazer has built itself a reputation for not shying away from controversial issues. Past issues have featured cover stories on topics such as same-sex teenage couples, shoplifting, prescription-drug abuse, birth control and underage drinking.
“Students determine the content, and there are real life consequences when they make bad decisions,” said Dan Hardebeck, who has served as the newsmagazine’s adviser for 11 years and teaches advanced placement English at Timberline. “As the adviser, I give advice, and it really is limited to advice. The final decisions are made by the editors, and that is a tremendous learning experience for 17- and 18-year-olds.”
Assistant editor in chief Ann Huynh, 17, a senior, said The Blazer’s goal is to cover events and issues that are of high interest to Timberline students. In addition to publishing the newsmagazine, the staff operates an online news site that’s updated about five times a day with short stories, videos and photographs.
Even though the newsmagazine and website are operated by high school students, Huynh said the staff strives to follow professional journalistic standards, such as reporting stories in a fair and balanced manner.
“We just give a voice for all of the students,” she said. “We try to represent everybody.”
Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 email@example.com