Orwell and awards

Trump’s Big Brother efforts; plus, the CN&R brings home statewide journalism honors

The Trump administration’s latest Orwellian enterprise is the Department of Homeland Security’s bid to establish a database that tracks the work of reporters, editors, bloggers and so-called “social media influencers.” One of the key directives: Learn their “sentiments.”

The DHS calls this effort “Media Monitoring Services,” but what we’re actually talking about here is Trump creating a media shitlist.

As far flung as Chico is, when this database is compiled, you can be sure this editor will be on it. For one, the CN&R has dedicated a lot of ink in the op-ed pages to the president’s authoritarian leanings. Meanwhile, in Newslines, we’ve followed his administration closely—first in twice-monthly dispatches in Eye on 45, and, more recently, in a monthly rundown. See page 11 for the latest installment.

Speaking of George Orwell, one of my favorite newspaper adages is attributed to him: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.”

Which brings me to the CN&R’s showing in the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual contest, the California Journalism Awards. It’s the only contest this newspaper enters, because, you know, we have more to worry about than bragging rights.

Still, if I don’t toot our horn, nobody will. And fact is, this newspaper took home quite the haul: 10 awards. Three of them, including a first-place, were for the labors of the CN&R’s design department. Art Director Tina Flynn and editorial designer Sandy Peters earned the top award for Inside Page Layout & Design. Flynn also earned an honorable mention for Front Page Layout & Design. In addition, our 40th anniversary issue—thanks to the illustration by Mark Ulriksen, a former CN&R staffer and frequent New Yorker cover creator—picked up a second-place award for Special Section Cover.

Six other awards were for writing. Honorable mentions for Agricultural Reporting (our annual farm-to-table issue) and Columns (Second & Flume). Second place for Special Section went to our Death Issue—a staff project on end-of-life topics.

A conservation piece by former staff writer Ken Smith—triggered by a duck-poaching incident—earned a second place in the Feature category. In the Public Service Journalism category, we entered Smith’s cover story revealing that mentally ill people were killed by local law enforcement at a rate more than double that of the national average. Inspired by the death of Desmond Phillips, that cover story picked up a second-place award. Smith’s story exposing the city of Chico’s under-the-radar contract with a company specializing in armed guards earned third place in the Investigative Reporting category (Tyler Rushing’s death launched that piece).

Last but not least, we came in third place in the category for overall best weekly newspaper in the state: General Excellence. It’s a heck of an accomplishment considering the CN&R is up against the largest weekly newspapers in California. But we’re scrappy and hardworking, making us competitive with the metro outlets.

Speaking of awards, competing in the category of the state’s smallest daily newspapers, the Chico E-R picked up four second-place awards for design and writing, including coverage of the Oroville Dam spillway emergency, and four honorable mentions, two for photography. Meanwhile, competing against other college publications, The Orion, Chico State’s student paper, picked up honorable mentions for General Excellence and Online General Excellence.

Congrats, fellow journalists, and thanks to readers for supporting us.