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Less than a quarter of Hawaiʻi high schools offer any type of journalism program or training. To provide a valuable opportunity for those talented students and spark more interest in journalism education across the state, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa journalism program in the School of Communications co-hosted the virtual Hawaiʻi High School Journalism Awards with the Hawaiʻi Publishers Association and Honolulu Star-Advertiser on April 15.

Twelve high school programs submitted entries in several categories including writing, photography, design and online. The first place winner was Hawaiʻi Baptist Academy, followed by Mid-Pacific Institute and Mililani High School.

Democracy cannot exist without journalism.
—Brett Oppegaard

The journalism program team, led by Associate Professor Brett Oppegaard and Secretary Brandon Zakahi, managed the behind-the-scenes judging process and led the ceremony process, including creating a new online judging system, recruiting and corresponding with judges, tallying the results and co-emceeing the ceremony with Hawaiʻi Publishers Association President Jay Hartwell. In addition to helping out the high school journalism community, Oppegaard used the opportunity to communicate the importance of journalism for American democracy.

“The study of journalism helps everyone, at every level. We need to support it,” Oppegaard said. “Democracy cannot exist without journalism, and the U.S. has a special role for journalists, protected by the First Amendment, and conceptualized as the Fourth Estate. Journalists provide a critical check on the three branches of the American government.”

Oppegaard added, “Beyond the bigger picture, at the personal level, journalism is a truth-seeking ideology. People can have richer and more fulfilling lives by seeking truth and discarding misinformation and disinformation.”

The School of Communications is housed in the College of Social Sciences.

Hosting this event is an example of UH Mānoa’s goals of Enhancing Student Success (PDF) and Excellence in Research: Advancing the Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), two of four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.