SN&R and sister paper rake in CNPA journalism, service awards

They love us. They really love us. At least they do this year, anyway. The SN&R and Chico News & Review newspapers departed the annual California Newspaper Publishers Association awards banquet last weekend with nine first-place awards in the large circulation weekly category, including the coveted prize for General Excellence, which went to the flagship Sacramento paper.

“The best understanding of how well we did at the CNPA awards was explained by the Southwest ticket agent,” said president and CEO Jeff vonKaenel. “She told me that if I could remove 2 1/2 pounds from my check-in luggage, I would be under the weight limit, and thus save myself $25.”

All told, SN&R won five first-place awards in a contest covering an 18-month period in 2007–2008. In addition to winning the General Excellence award—which pits newspapers directly against one another—SN&R writers won in a number of prestigious categories. Jeffrey Ewing’s “A ditch runs through it” garnered first place in writing and the late Ralph Brave won a posthumous Freedom of Information award for “Smoked out,” his story exploring UC Davis’ secret research connection to the tobacco industry. SN&R’s longtime editorial cartoonist John Kloss also won gold. And props to the Ops department for taking first place for Best Web site.

Not to be outdone by its larger sibling, CN&R hauled in some gold of its own, including first places in public service, editorial pages, editorial comment and business reporting.

The Sacramento paper also collected four second-place awards. Cosmo Garvin’s “Blow up the mall” earned second place for business and finance writing; R.V. Scheide received second place for writing with “A mother’s prayer.” In addition, SN&R received second-place awards for public service and its arts and entertainment coverage.

“This was a tremendous achievement by both staffs in Chico and Sacramento,” vonKaenel said. “It’s great to have the CNPA reflect something that we already know; we put out damn good papers.”

The Reno News & Review, vonKaenel’s third newspaper, annually cleans up the journalism awards in that state, and the newspaper publisher has been earning accolades on his own of late. The Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims recently presented vonKaenel with its distinguished achievement award for his work organizing A Call for Unity, a communitywide project that promotes understanding between people of differing faiths.

“Building bridges with the local Islamic community has been a tremendously rewarding experience in itself,” said vonKaenel, who recently traveled to Turkey with the American Leadership Forum on a trip sponsored by the Pacifica Institute, a Turkish-American group that promotes cross-cultural awareness. “I’m honored to be recognized.”

The Arts & Business Council of Sacramento also recently recognized vonKaenel’s work in the community with its Individual Leadership award. Finally, the American Planning Association of California capped off SN&R’s lucky streak, presenting the Vision Award to the paper’s sustainability section.

All in all, there’s just one word for this year’s medal haul.