Enterprising Laguna Blanca School students recently nabbed their second consecutive Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Crown Award, one of the nation’s most prestigious honors for student journalists. The school’s hybrid news-and-lifestyle magazine, The Fourth Estate, was chosen as one of 28 winners from a pool of 1,100 nominations. The Fourth Estate has won two other CSPA Crown Awards in its 23-year history, in 2012 and 2016. Journalism teacher Trish McHale attributes part of the staff’s success to its pursuit of general excellence. “It’s not about the awards,” McHale said. “It’s about being as good as you can be.”
This year, four students also won Gold Circle awards representing excellence in opinion writing, illustration, photography, and cover design. Co–editor in chief Rose Houglet won a certificate of merit for a feature on multilingual students at the private school in addition to running the award-winning hybrid magazine. Houglet says that transitioning to the newsmagazine format in 2015 put the publication in a good place to succeed. The new format has been well received both on campus and nationally. Over the years, The Fourth Estate has gone from a letter-size newspaper to a tabloid, a broadsheet, and finally, a quarterly glossy magazine and daily website. The Fourth Estate boasted a 25-person staff in 2016-2017. Many of the other publications up for the award have much bigger staffs, at least one of which McHale said was four times larger.
An award like this, Houglet said, feels important because it represents the achievement of the entire staff. “People are so much more excited to get the magazine.” The journalism class at Laguna Blanca has seen an uptick in interest in the last few years, she added. Thirty of the school’s 182 high school students are now enrolled in the class. “It’s a very popular program — kids like it because they get to be creative and pursue their passion,” McHale said. “Journalism is alive and well.”