Above and beyond

Telling the stories that matter and hauling in journalism awards to boot

For the past six months, the members of the CN&R’s small staff have worked near-obsessively to cover the effects of the Camp Fire. Over that time, we’ve published more than 150 stories related to the disaster. That’s an average of six stories per issue. For a weekly newspaper, that’s an incredible figure.

Much of our work is the kind of in-depth, quality reporting that doesn’t appear elsewhere. But you don’t have to take my word for it: Our newspaper colleagues up and down the state read a portion of our coverage and ranked it among the best in California.

We took top honors for Breaking News in a statewide contest in a category for the largest-circulated weekly publications. Here’s what one of the judges said about our initial stories about the disaster: “Most complete and multi-faceted coverage of the Paradise fire disaster by far. Strong writing throughout, hard to believe all of these 13 stories were in one issue of the weekly! Above and beyond coverage.”

Some of that reporting, plus a bunch since then, earned us second-place honors in the Pubic Service category. “The Chico staff truly captured nearly every aspect of what their readers/neighbors had endured during the great fires of 2018,” a judge noted.

I’m most proud of those two awards—part of our haul from the California News Publishers Association’s annual contest, the California Journalism Awards—because it speaks to our commitment to serve Butte County in the wake of the disaster. Big shout outs to Managing Editor Meredith Cooper, staff writer Ashiah Scharaga, and contributing editor Evan Tuchinsky for their stellar work since Nov. 8.

A few other wins—two first places in the categories of Columns and Editorial Comment—are classic CN&R entries that speak truth to power. The former includes a piece in which yours truly took then-Mayor Sean Morgan to task for some ugly comments he made about local homeless helpers. Meanwhile, the winning editorial chides the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Kory Honea, for wasting taxpayer funds on an embarrassing PR stunt at a time when the department faced allegations related to racial harassment in the workplace (a case in which the department settled with the plaintiff), as well as a pending wrongful death lawsuit.

The paper took second in the Arts & Entertainment Coverage category for its work guided by Arts Editor Jason Cassidy with help from former Calendar Editor Nate Daly; a third-place honor in the category of Profile for contributor (and former CN&R editor) Robert Speer’s great story about congressional candidate Audrey Denney; and fourth place in the categories of Inside Page Layout & Design (Art Director Tina Flynn’s handiwork) and General Excellence (CN&R’s staff).

Our colleagues at the Chico Enterprise-Record, competing against other mid-size daily papers, took home four first-place wins and placed in five other categories mainly for Camp Fire-centric submissions. Wildfire coverage by The Orion, Chico State’s student newspaper, earned that paper fifth-place honors for General Excellence. Additionally, our friends at North State Public Radio recently brought home regional broadcasting honors, an Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Continuing Coverage, for their excellent After Paradise show.

I think it’s fair to say none of the aforementioned organizations will rest on our laurels. There’s too much important work ahead of all of us.