Online publication receives top journalism award: Live coverage, political work leads staff to first Gold Crown


Provided by the CSPA official Twitter account.

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association announced last Friday that Harker Aquila was one of eight high school sites nationwide to receive the Gold Crown award in digital news.

by Anna Vazhaeparambil and Sarah Mohammed

Harker Aquila, the journalism program’s online news site, was one of eight high school sites to receive the Gold Crown award in digital news from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) last Friday, the highest honor given to student publications by the organization.

“It’s really nice to see our work acknowledged, beyond just our immediate school community,” Harker Aquila Editor-in-Chief Kathy Fang (12) said. “It reminds us that the work we are doing has a greater impact, and it feels really validating that our initiative is being recognized. We’re on the right track in taking student journalism to where it needs to go.”

The Crown Awards honor the overall excellence of the top student publications in the nation from the 2018-2019 school year. They are selected by a panel of Crown Judges, who meet for several days to review entrees from schools and evaluate them based on five major categories: content, design, coverage, photography and writing and editing.

“I’m really proud of everyone who contributed to Aquila in the past year. It feels good to have our work recognized on a national platform, and I’m excited to see everything we accomplish next year,” Varsha Rammohan (11), one of two managing editors of Harker Aquila, said.

After earning a Silver Crown for the 2017-2018 year, staff members were excited to hear that their work last year, specifically with their live coverage of the 2018 midterms and of the volleyball NorCal finals, spurred them to gold this time. 

Only seven other schools across the nation also earned this distinction: Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, MO; duPont Manual High School in Louisville, KY; Parkway West High School in Ballwin, MO; Southwest Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, NV; Foothill Technology High School in Ventura, CA; Legacy High School in Mansfield, TX; and Liberty High School in Frisco, TX. 

Nicole Chen (‘19), Harker Aquila’s Editor-in-Chief last year, reflects on the progress the staff has made during her years in the program and what made them stand out these last two years, when they earned Crown Awards for the first time in publication history.

“When I was a freshman, we were mostly producing pieces with a few pictures, and as I went to sophomore and junior year people started podcasts, videos, doing all sorts of alternative media. We started posting videos on Facebook that resonated with our audience,” Nicole said. “I’m super excited and very proud of my staff for everything we did last year and for being able to experiment with something new.”

Kathy, who has served in Aquila strategic for the last two years, hopes that the staff will only grow from this point, continuing to improve their coverage and be a greater service to the upper school community. 

“I hope that the momentum from the political coverage we’ve been doing doesn’t stop here. I hope it continues through November of 2020 and into the future, because there will always be more midterms, more elections, more political issues that need covering on the student level,” she said. “And I hope that as we find new and creative ways to communicate the news to our community, more people will start tuning in to the work that we do. This award, if anything, just elevates [that].”