2022 Hawaii Journalist of the Year


Chelsee Sawai

Congratulations to Chelsee Sawai of Mid-Pacific Institute. Chelsee’s adviser is Kara Hisatake.

Second place goes to Althea Cunningham of McKinley High School. Althea’s adviser is Cynthia Reves.

Thank you to Noelle Fujii-Oride and the Hawaii Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association for organizing judges and providing financial prizes. First place earned $250 and second place earned $150. AAJA is an organization that supports Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in the newsroom and strives for equitable and accurate coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and AAPI issues. The judges were Ashley Mizuo, Suevon Lee, and Diane Lee.

Jenny Howe of Josten Yearbooks provided thank-you gift cards to the AAJA members who supported this contest.

If you are a high school journalist or adviser, you can find out more about this contest here.

Here is Chelsee’s personal narrative and portofolio.

Journalism. That word to me is not just associated with a class that my school offers. However, little did I know that this broad topic would change my life, For the good, forever. To me, journalism is not only a way that I can give my fellow peers a voice through our school newspaper, it’s part of my voice too. It’s taught me to speak up for myself, interact with others, and get the hard truth for the great our community and their right to know what is going on in today’s world. Do you my experience as a journalist, I’ve faced successes, challenges, and the hunger to pursue my future goals.

I’ve learned so much in my three years in the journalism community such as making a professional video story from start to end, writing a story with true journalism aspects, how to be a good editor, and how to connect my school to what is going on in the broader world of today in news.

First, I had no idea how to work any video equipment and I was honestly scared to fail since, at the time, my journalism program was counting on me to produce something great. However, I along with my advisors have provided me with the confidence in myself to learn the new concepts of making a professional video while also being efficient doing self. I’ve learned the ins and outs of interviewing people on camera, getting be raw footage, and the hours it takes to edit only a three-minute video! I also got to experience how vital it is to brainstorm your ideas for a plot to your video story that not only engages your audience but will engage somebody who does not go to our school as well.

Secondly, writing a good story whether it be for features, sports, news, or editorial, is so crucial to what it means to be a journalist. I value the importance of including the principles of journalism Ethics such as timeliness, impact, currency, conflict, emotion, prominence, and proximity. In my writing skills in general, journalism has taught me to write in a way that my audience is going to want to read, but also produce something that I would want to read as well, and I feel like that mindset helps to write out something that you love as the writer yourself.

Third, being a good editor has played such a vital role in my journalism career so far. In my junior year of high school, I was the news editor for my school newspaper and now, as a senior, I worked my way up to becoming a co-editor in chief, which is the biggest honor in my journey as a journalist so far. However, I was aware and am still exploring the idea that the title is great but there are huge responsibilities that come with the title that I have been constantly living up to. As an editor, I have performed flawlessly in the areas of having a strong language for my stories that I produce and also the influence that I have on my newsroom, thoroughly checking my work and my newsrooms work for detail, but most importantly, maintaining the skill of being a good leader and team player. As a leader, I’ve grown into someone who can focus on my work at the same time as supporting my newsroom in any way that I can and being on alert whenever they need me whether it’s a second opinion or as soon as they’re ready for me to check their story drafts, I always have useful suggestions for them.

Lastly, being a journalist, in general, has brought me the gift of knowing what’s going on in our world today and being able to apply that to my school community. knowing that what happens in the world can cause multiple types of emotions, I feel like it is my job as a journalist and somebody to lead a team of newsroom members to guide my school community in giving fellow students a voice of those issues or events in our world and voicing their opinions to along with the action of me as a journalist writing out the story its self, giving me my voice to.

However, the journalism journey can’t always be one with this path, I felt the challenges that come with it too. These challenges knowing that people learn in different ways, not everyone is going to agree with your judgment or story that you choose to voice about and time management. first I’ve come into contact multiple times with the challenge of that people learn at different speeds, with different sources of learning, and I at different times. So it is hard to take the time to accommodate these people that may not get the journalism process right away, I have nonetheless been patient and learned to persevere through them and for them as a leader and help them in the best way that I can. Whether it’s taking the time after school to help them write their story that they may be a little lost on, or even as minor as giving them a confidence boost brainstorming with them so that they feel better and confident themselves going into what they’re writing is something that I live for as a journalist. into faculty, however, I have started to my journalism rights of freedom of speech and hardships of conflicts. The way I am this hard time was to just patiently explain to them this is the hard truth and that it’s voice truth and not to make a certain aspect of school look good.

I believe that this skill that I have gained is a life skill as well because I have been aware that not everyone is going to agree with what you do, but learned to be confident in what I do if I feel confident in that choice. lastly, time management has not always been in favor of me. I’ve honed the skills of it, however since I know that journalists are very timely people in the world of today. So, I’ve tried to meet those expectations, but it has come with a few pick-ups here and there. I’ve had instances where I just couldn’t be a story deadline on time, not getting information fast enough, and delayed interviews. Though, it’s brought me a great perspective of being a journalist in a professional environment where I push myself to the best of my abilities and the rest will follow as management. Since having this perspective, I have performed with grace in and out of the classroom as a journalist and feel that I finally have a handle on my time management and the compliments the other skills that make me a good candidate for this award. 

I have serious determination as a journalist to pursue my goals, which shows my commitment and loyalty to journalism. These goals included learning at least one skill of journalism that I can pass on to my newsroom and getting my story published nationally on the best of us and our website. I think it’s really important to keep learning, even though I’ve worked my way to the top as co-editor-in-chief, I believe that once you keep learning, you can pass that knowledge on to those who look up to you. This has become a habit of mine to give a lecture at least once a week to pass on at least one skill that my team’s next story because it will improve their skills as a journalist while also allowing me to fulfill my goal as a journalist to pass on my newfound learning of things. Additionally, I would like to have one of my written stories published on the “Best of SNO” website because I have only had videos that have won national awards. This is why I want to take my work to the next level to the point where people from all over the US will want to read my story and therefore meet my expectation as a journalist where people are not only at my school will want to read my stories. This is why I live as a journalist, to see people’s interests while getting a hard truth and if I need the score, I will honestly feel complete as a writer, a journalist, and as a person. 

Journalism is something that I have become passionate about and want to pursue post-high school. Although I won’t be majoring in journalism in college, I want to continue to carry out the characteristics I have gained on my journey as a journalist. The journey that I have come to experience is something that I am too because journalism is just for a newspaper, but it’s in general voice and we can see if you open voice for rates uses in my success and four for these reasons, my personal growth in journalism has high achieving journalist, but also add appointment where I am still walking that journey.