SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) today announced the winners of nine McClatchy President's Awards in the community newspaper division, an annual competition that honors the best journalism at McClatchys non-daily newspapers.
Eight newspapers across the country collected the awards for work published in 2013 that ranged from a series on homelessness to exquisite photography.
First place for special projects went to the Fort Mills Times for a series of stories that explored homelessness in the region. "A great example of how journalism questions conventional wisdom to reveal the truth, with positive results," the judges wrote. "The stories have changed lives, moving readers to get involved and find jobs for those who were once homeless."
Vida en el Valle, a bilingual weekly published in California's Central Valley, won two prizes. The paper won first place in sports for a story about a 9-year-old blind girl's dream of competing in a triathlon, and a first place in news for an analysis on how Gov. Jerry Browns administration handled issues of importance to Latinos.
The Chapel Hill News won first place for features for an in-depth story about a businessman who risked and lost millions for a green condo project. The Durham News won first place for visuals.
The Cass County Democrat Missourian won a second-place award in the news category for coverage of a long-running dispute between the city council and the fire department over fundraising practices.
"High-quality, public-service journalism is a core McClatchy value and I'm pleased to see it being practiced so deftly at our community newspapers across the country," said Pat Talamantes, McClatchy's president and CEO. "I congratulate all of our winners and thank them for their exceptional service and dedication to their local communities."
Five papers received honorable mentions: the Southlake Journal, Lee's Summit Journal, Vida en el Valle, The Cass County Democrat Missourian, and the Arlington Citizen-Journal.
Various McClatchy executives and editors not associated with the community publications judge the community newspaper competition. This years judges were Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor of the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Ga.; Laurie Williams, executive editor of the Tri-City Herald in Kennewick, Wash.; Myriam Marquez, executive editor of Miami's El Nuevo Herald; Julie Shirley, executive editor of The Bellingham Herald; and McClatchy's two corporate vice presidents for operations, Bob Weil and Mark Zieman.
Here is a list of winners, honorable mentions, judges' comments and internet links, where available:
First Place: Fort Mill Times (South Carolina) "The reality of being homeless in Fort Mill" Jenny Overman, Michael Harrison
A great example of how journalism questions conventional wisdom to reveal the truth, with positive results. When told repeatedly by local officials that Fort Mill didnt have a homeless problem, the staff of the Fort Mill Times set out to verify that claim. The result was a year-long series of stories that not only uncovered homeless people living in the streets and in tents across the community, but also sparked a grassroots movement to help. The stories have changed lives, moving readers to get involved and find jobs for those who were once homeless. Also a good lesson on how a small staff can tackle a big story, using all the modern tools of our trade: print, video, the web and social media.
When the state legislative session ended, reporter Cynthia Moreno could have written the usual review of bills signed and vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Instead, she focused on the fact that Brown had signed a handful of pro-Latino bills and crafted an engaging enterprise piece proposing that Brown could be considered Californias first elected Latino governor, just as Bill Clinton was once called the countrys first black president. Moreno shows a nice eye for detail, referring to Browns dating history (Linda Ronstadt) and favorite hangout (Lucy's El Adobe Cafe), and develops her story by briefly explaining each bill, talking to people in the Latino community, and anticipating how Browns actions may affect Republican strategy. This is outstanding journalism.
Second Place: The Cass County Democrat Missourian (Missouri) "Boot Block" Bethany Bashioum
It seemed simple enough: The city council in Belton was going to give firefighters permission to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, just like it always did. But then council announced the firefighters would have to raise money off the clock. Officials felt like they were being good stewards, and firefighters felt ambushed after a recent budget battle. Reporter Bethany Bashioum followed this story for nearly two months, laying out both sides of the argument as well as the conclusion in a way that held readers' interest.
Reporters Jessamy Brown and Diane Smith skillfully combined interviews and public statements with information from published reports to produce a well-crafted update that dropped a bombshell on the community: The Mexican citizen gunned down in Southlake had represented a powerful drug cartel.
Reporter Mark Schultz engages readers on the lessons learned by one up-and-coming businessman/environmentalist who risked it all and lost millions on a "green" condo project when the economy tanked. The layered interview on climate change, urbanism, and the tension between not only the business and environmental communities but among environmentalists themselves generated strong response from readers of various perspectives.
A flashback to a simpler time is captured by reporter Jennifer Becknell in her feature story of a family farm and produce market that has been an institution in South Carolina since 1923. She easily wove into her interviews with the Black brothers and their customers the historical significance of their endeavor. The story has a strong sense of place, history and community pride.
In anticipation of a race and ethnic relations report commissioned after rapid growth and changing demographics in Lee Summit, population 91,364, reporter Russ Pulley put together a three-part series chock full of numbers and highlighted the challenges ahead for schools and local governments.
Editor and columnist Juan Esparza Loera wrote a touching tribute to the woman who taught him about how to live life: his mother.
First Place: The Durham News (North Carolina) Photo portfolio Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a great example of doing it all well. He edits, he writes and he takes terrific photos. His portfolio included a variety of assignments, from a Civil War reenactment to duck surgery to a prayer vigil, that showcase his skill. His photos are well composed, with clean backgrounds and attention to framing and the rule of thirds. He's not afraid to move around, to get close or go low for unique angles. His photos are tack sharp, even action photos. He selected appropriate detail shots for photo packages. He focuses on people and captures that perfect moment that elicits a reaction in the viewer. Schultz's hawk feature probably would have won all by itself. It's well composed, blurring a busy background yet capturing the speed of the bird's wings, all while capturing the handlers pop-eyed expression.
Second Place: Lee's Summit Journal (Missouri) Photo portfolio Russ Pulley
Russ Pulley worked to find an interesting angle on what could have been a routine photo of an owl nesting in a park gazebo. He used textures and angles and symmetry, lining up perfect placement of the bird, to make an intriguing photo. Kudos also for using his reporting skills while on the hunt for wild art. His call to the parks department paid off.
Honorable Mention: The Cass County Democrat Missourian (Missouri) "Snow Day" Bethany Bashioum
Bethany Bashioum made a compelling, front-page photo of a snow-crusted teen sliding in the snow. The expression on the young woman's face shows the terror - and fun - of her endeavor.
First Place: Vida en el Valle (California) "Heaven's place is on a cross country course" Juan Esparza Loera
Juan Esparza Loeras story about a 9-year-old blind girl who dreams of competing in a triathlon one day is a compelling feature. The story captures her courage and determination and explains how shes become an inspiration for others. And it shows the challenges facing her father, who is raising three other kids, and her coach, who runs alongside, guiding her steps. It was an enjoyable read.
Amanda Rogers' piece about a Mansfield resident inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame was a fact-packed biography of a former basketball star. Carl Meditch may not be a household name to many but Rogers' piece gave readers a snapshot of his amazing career. You cant help but wish you could have seen him play. The story would have benefited from a couple more sources but was still a great read.
Patrick Walker produced a nicely written story about a high school freshman with special needs who has blossomed in his role as an equipment manager for a high school baseball team. He includes lots of good quotes from teammates and others. A truly inspirational story.
The McClatchy Company is a leading news and information provider, offering a wide array of print and digital products in each of the markets it serves. McClatchys operations include 30 daily newspapers, community newspapers, websites, mobile news and advertising, niche publications, direct marketing and direct mail services. The companys largest newspapers include the (Fort Worth) Star-Telegram, The Sacramento Bee, The Kansas City Star, the Miami Herald, The Charlotte Observer and The (Raleigh) News & Observer. McClatchy is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI.