Milwaukie prep school's news site named top statewide
La Salle journalism and English teacher Miles Kane and his students have earned a raft of awards, including a Crown award for overall excellence this spring from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association.
La Salle's student-run news site, The Falconer, was also a finalist for the National Scholastic Press Association's Pacemaker Award, considered the most prestigious in high school journalism because it recognizes ongoing quality. This month, Falcon journalists based in the Milwaukie area earned several awards — including Best in Category for student news website — in the Oregon Journalism Education Association's annual Student Media Olympics.
"Miles and his students are creating great journalism," said Brian Eriksen, state director of the Journalism Education Association.
Sponsored by the Oregon Journalism Education Association, Kane received the award named for Mary Hartman, a University of Oregon Journalism School faculty member and former director of Oregon Scholastic Press.
Kane earned a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon and has been teaching journalism at La Salle for seven years, and English for eight years. In addition to showing the beginning and advanced journalism students how to write and present the news, he explains to them the critical role a free press plays in society.
"I'm trying to help students understand that journalism is one of the most important tools to draw attention to problems," he said. "By shining a spotlight, journalism has the ability to bring about meaningful change in the world."
Kane's journalism curriculum comes from the real world, not worksheets. He has students read hundreds of news articles a semester and consider the choices professional journalists make as they cover news. He requires them to keep up with current events — he quizzes them weekly — and challenges them to examine the range of takes different media outlets have on the same event.
Students keep Kane's lessons in mind as they publish The Falconer. Not only do they cover school plays and sports; in recent years, their articles and opinion pieces have focused on issues such as racism, violence and gender inequality.
Falconer co-editor-in-chief, senior Carlie Weigel said La Salle's student journalists owe a lot to Kane. In the years she's been in his class, she has learned to appreciate the power of the free press and the responsibility journalists have as purveyors of the truth.
"He consistently spends time reminding our class that we are the guardians of the First Amendment, and that without journalism, our democracy dies," she said. "He has shown us that telling and shedding light on the stories of a community is critical work that happens as a result of our efforts. We have the courage to invest in questions and pursue their answers solely because of him."
La Salle senior Maddie Khaw, The Falconer's other co-editor-in-chief, credits Kane for teaching student journalists not just how to report, but how to lead.
"I've learned about leadership and ethics, about language and politics, about decision-making and responsibility," she said. "I've learned how to be prudent and meticulous in my work, and I've learned how to take lessons from my mistakes and actually apply those lessons later on."
The co-editors learned that what they publish can have an impact. Their stories about racial justice, for example, started conversations. Their articles about the LGBTQ community gave some of their story subjects the feeling they were being seen for the first time.
Kane encourages his students to run The Falconer like a professional newsroom. Khaw and Weigel, along with fellow students on the editorial board, discuss, assign and edit the articles. Then, every Wednesday night, they publish their work online.
Khaw and Weigel say Kane's class has taught them about the issues of the day, how to talk to people they don't know and how to write quickly.
Both hadn't given much thought to the field of journalism before signing up for Kane's class their sophomore year. Weigel took the class to earn a speech credit. Khaw enrolled to fill a gap in her schedule. Now they both want to pursue careers in journalism.
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