The News-Press‘ founder, owner and editor-in-chief Nicholas F. Benton was honored to receive a recognition from the Falls Church School Board this week acknowledging his name has been placed on the Media Honor Roll of the Virgina School Boards Association this year. It marks the second time that he’s received the honor, the first being in 1998.
The honor is given for “responsible reporting by local media representatives who decide which news to share with the community, how much attention will be focused on various issues, and what the tone of the reporting will be.” Our chief was cited for “ongoing responsible and exemplary nature of reporting on this community’s public schools” and for a “balanced and accurate approach to sharing with this community both the challenges facing our schools and the successes achieved by the teachers and students,” having “aided this community in focusing on the goal of providing the best public schools we can for the children who attend them.”
It is worth noting on this auspicious occasion that Benton’s contributions to the Falls Church City Public Schools and its students over more than 19 years goes beyond “balanced and accurate reporting,” extending to many scores of editorials advocating on behalf of the schools and their funding needs over the years. In the mid-1990s, as president of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, he engineered a decisive vote of support for a school budget request by the board of directors of that body, and by doing so broke a previously adversarial relationship and pioneered a powerful, new alliance of perceived common interests between the City’s schools and its business community.
Since 1992, through the News-Press he has provided an annual scholarship to a graduating senior at Falls Church’s George Mason High School committed to pursuing a career of “enfranchising the disenfranchised.” Rather than giving the scholarship to a student interested in the craft of journalism, the decision was made to focus on a value-based priority which could be applied to many different chosen professions, and the scholarship was therefore designed to impart moral content for all the students. There have been 18 recipients of the scholarship to date. Moreover, the News-Press has provided many part-time employment opportunities for George Mason students, including for one who went on, after college, to full-time employment in a major management position at the News-Press for the last decade.
Since 2006, our chief created and provided a large financial gift for a “Diversity Affirmation Education Fund” established for the school system through the Falls Church Educational Association. It was utilized to bring the “Challenge Days” program to George Mason High School, a day-long experience of breaking down barriers of fear and prejudice among students so powerful that the School Board determined to include funding for it annually in own budget following its initiation. Later, two more large financial contributions by our editor facilitated the extension of the “Challenge Days” program to the Henderson Middle School, as well.