Shalhevet’s The Boiling Point takes the Gold Crown

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Shalhevet’s The Boiling Point takes the Gold Crown

Deborah L. Gordon

Shalhevet High School’s celebrated newspaper, The Boiling Point, won its fifth consecutive Gold Crown award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CPSA) on March 17th, at the organization’s 93rd annual convention at Columbia University. The Gold Crown is the CSPA’s highest award for excellence in journalism, design, layout, and digital media.

“We’ve won dozens of awards over the years in many categories, such as work by individuals, from the three largest national high school journalism organizations, including CPSA, the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), and the Quill and Scroll International Honor Society. The Gold Crown award is for a year’s worth of work. We win it in the ‘Hybrid’ news category, since we publish both online and in print,” said Joelle Keene, The Boiling Point’s dedicated faculty advisor for the past thirteen years. This year, 1100 publications entered the competition for Crown awards. “We were one of 11 high schools in the U.S. to win in the hybrid category this year.”

Keene remarked, “Hybrid news is the way of the future; hopefully print will still stick around, and the website is cutting edge, with all the same values of a newspaper plus all the creativity and imagination that goes into it – videos and polls and slideshows, live updates and so on – and accessible on cellphones around the clock and wherever you are.”

Also accompanying the students to the CPSA conference was faculty member Rabbi David Stein, who heads the Talmud department, trains teachers, and has developed a new Talmud curriculum, called the Lahav Project. He works with schools all over the country, and in Israel and Australia, who are implementing the Lahav curriculum.

“On the trip, highlights for me were davening with the group at local shuls and hanging out with them on Friday night to chat about journalism, Judaism, and everything in between. We [the Shalhevet staff] all work with student groups, we create a Shabbat experience for them. This trip was a great opportunity for the editorial staff, as a team, to think about what they do as journalists, and how to navigate their leadership role.”

Just how to navigate their leadership role has been a big part of what Joelle Keene has been teaching Shalhevet students for years; the hardworking students on the BP staff learn to produce every aspect of the newspaper, including layout, graphic design, writing, and photography. Students also choose the print date, interact with the printer, and run the website mostly themselves. “I have made a point of not knowing how to do things on the website so they have to do most of it,” said Keene, adding “what I hope I do do is teach them to think like journalists, write like journalists, and care like journalists – care that it’s right, care that it’s objective, care that it’s comprehensive and balanced and fair, and sometimes important and courageous, too.”

The editorial staff meets regularly to discuss articles, and since it is a co-curricular, and not a graded class, the students are by definition self-motivated and highly driven. When asked why the paper wins so many awards, Keene explained, “The Boiling Point doesn’t cover just what’s at school; we cover Israel, Israel-related events, the Jewish world. And we do it deeply and consistently and in a lively way that’s fun to read.” For example, the paper covered the 2014 Gaza War with a four-page pull-out section, two pages of which were dedicated to the halachos of war. “When there’s news we try to connect it with Jews or with local teens.”

Shalhevet used to go to the NSPA conference (one of the big three), but stopped going due to its taking place partially on Shabbos. “So in 2013 I started the JSPA (Jewish Scholastic Press Association) which sponsors a three-day conference, with a full shabbaton.”

As we were going to press, Mrs. Keene received an email informing her that Shalhevet is a finalist for the NSPA Online Pacemaker award, often called the Pulitzer Prize of scholastic journalism. “This is our second time being a Pacemaker Finalist for our website – like receiving a Silver Crown at CSPA.” The Boiling Point will know next week if they’ve won the prestigious award for the first time.