Released: 02/09/2012SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The McClatchy Company (NYSE:MNI) today announced the winners of 10 McClatchy President's Awards in the community newspaper division, an annual competition designed to recognize the best journalism at McClatchy's non-daily papers.
Eight newspapers collected the 10 awards, which honor work published in 2011.
Vida en el Valle, a bilingual weekly published in California's Central Valley, won two prizes. The paper took first place in the special projects category for a six-part, multimedia series looking at teen pregnancy among Latinos a follow-up to a series it published 15 years before.
"It was old-time, shoe-leather reporting, putting faces to the problem and putting emotion to the statistics," the judges said.
The paper also finished first in the sports category for a story on Oswaldo Lopez, a mariachi trumpet player and hazmat worker who won the grueling, 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley in July, considered one of the world's toughest ultramarathons.
The judges called the story "impossible to put down."
The Chapel Hill News, a twice-weekly published by The News & Observer in North Carolina, also won two President's Awards, sweeping the features category with first- and second-place finishes.
The paper took first for its "spellbinding account" of William Michael Dillon, incarcerated in prison for 28 years before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2009. Dillon learned to play the guitar and write songs while in prison and released a CD last year, "Black Robes and Lawyers," based on his experiences.
The Chapel Hill News won second place for features for another compelling portrait of Raymond McDaniel, living in a Carborro, N.C., group home for people with AIDS.
The judges said the story "helps readers realize that those with AIDS are living with their disease, not dying from it, and that the residence in Carrboro is helping them to survive."
The Sierra Star, an Oakhurst, Calif., weekly, won first place in the news category for its report on the Chukchansi Indian tribe and efforts to disenroll members as a result of tribal officials' desires to increase their share of casino profits, limit membership geographically and deal with old grudges. The issue was later reported on by The Associated Press and The New York Times.
The annual President's Awards are the highest employee honors given by The McClatchy Company.
Various McClatchy editors and executives judged the community newspaper competition this year. They were Manny Garcia, executive editor and general manager at El Nuevo Herald in Miami; Stan Tiner, vice president and executive editor at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss.; Vicki Gowler, editor and vice president at the Idaho Statesman in Boise; Sandra Duerr, vice president and executive editor at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Peter Baniak, editor and vice president at the Lexington Herald-Leader; and Mark Zieman, McClatchy vice president, operations.
Each first-place winner receives $1,000, and the winning publication receives a crystal trophy; second-place winners receive $500.
The complete list of winners, honorable mentions and judges comments follow:
First Place: Vida en el Valle (California)
The Youngest Parents
Part 1: The Youngest Parents
Part 2: Single Mother Fights the Odds
Part 3: Program Supports Teen Parents
Part 4: Programs Designed to Cut Teen Pregnancies Face Funding Cuts
Part 5: Millenium Baby Is Defying the Naysayers
Part 6: Teen Dads Asked to Become Men Overnight
Fifteen years after Vida tackled a similar project, Rebecca Plevin produced a six-part series in print, photos and videos looking at teen pregnancy in Californias Central Valley. It was old-time, shoe-leather reporting, putting faces to the problem and putting emotion to the statistics. Plevin got young teenage mothers, experts, parents, teachers, and some fathers to open up and share their struggles and successes and what can be done to combat the problem in the face of budget cuts across California. Its the type of work normally seen by larger newsrooms. Were delighted to recognize this series, its ambition and its dedication, with the President's Award.
Second Place: Lake Wylie Pilot (South Carolina)
Back the Pack
John Marks and Catherine Muccigrosso
This is a splendid effort by a reporter and editor focusing on a needy program and drawing attention to it by keeping up a focus that eventually draws results. This was a collaborative effort by editor Catherine Muccigrosso and a school board that saw a big need to help poor students and their families. John Marks produced stories, also adding a box on how to help with a phone number and what items were needed. The stories ran over two months, and in the end, more than 120 needy students and their families got care packages of food, which helped them on weekends, holidays and summer months. Its hyper-local work with wonderful results that endears the paper to the community.
Arlington Citizen-Journal (Texas)
Putting Them on the Map
Patrick Walker and Robert Cadwallader
The two reporters mapped the residences of Arlington City Council and school board members, showing the total lack of diversity across Arlington. Minority leaders have complained that the City Council and school board lack minority representation, so the reporters ran with that information, and confirmed it, publishing a story with an accompanying map. It was timely, showed teamwork and ambition by the staffers.
Lake Wylie Pilot (South Carolina)
On Your Marks
Last year, reporter John Marks started a series where he would challenge readers in their areas of expertise from star soccer players to fishermen to pizza flippers. He does it online with video. It is engaging and different and so community-focused and funny, because he usually loses, but his project creates a bond with readers that leads us to think more newsrooms should try this.
First Place: Sierra Star (California)
Chukchansi Issues Disenrollment Letters
The Chukchansi Indians' move to disenroll tribal members caught the attention of reporter Carmen George, who documented its efforts and put them into context in a comprehensive story that thrust this far-reaching topic into public view. George's dogged reporting included interviews with 13 people affected, leading experts in Indian American affairs and reviews of a wide range of tribal and federal documents. The story linked the disenrollment to tribal officials' desire to increase their share of casino profits, limit membership geographically and deal with old grudges. George also took care to document the emotional and financial toll of the tribe's actions on those affected. Months later, The New York Times and Associated Press addressed the same issue.
Second Place: O'Fallon Progress (Illinois)
Tax Exemption Abuse Series
An investigation by editor Daniel Kelley found that two home builders received illegal tax exemptions saving them about $36,000 in property taxes on new homes. His good watchdog report, clearly written and presented in an easy-to-understand way, was based on a review of 800 property tax records obtained under the states sunshine laws. His series spurred the county assessor's office to do its own investigation.
First Place: The Cass County Democrat Missourian (Missouri)
Stephanie Yeagle's Nov. 18 photo of two football players captured a moment of despair as their team lost in overtime. The image leaps off the page and dominates the cover. It's well-composed and cropped, keeping the focus on the emotion. The added dimension that makes it a winner is the interplay of the two players.
Second Place: Colleyville Courier (Texas)
Erich Schlegel's photo told the story: A dejected goalie walking past a pile of exuberant players from the winning team. Extremely nice composition; a wonderful moment of the game to catch.
Vida en el Valle (California)
Great composition with the brightly lit Mexican flag, the California Capitol building in the background and the crowd celebrating Mexican Independence Day.
Lee's Summit Journal (Missouri)
A poignant moment reflecting on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The incredible sharp focus on the woman with her intense expression and her manicured nails juxtaposed with the out-of-focus flag in the foreground made for powerful photography.
O'Fallon Progress (Illinois)
Capturing one of the most exciting moments in a game is always a challenge of position, timing, technical skill and luck. Roger Popwells image of a receiver's diving catch right as he caught the pass with defenders in hot pursuit was just such a moment.
First Place: Vida en el Valle (California)
El Rey de Badwater
Juan Esparza Loera
The story of Oswaldo Lopez, a mariachi trumpet player and hazmat worker who won the grueling, 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, was impossible to put down. Juan Esparza Loera does a wonderful job telling the story of this merciless race and weaving in the story and background of an irrepressible runner described at one point as the "world's thinnest mariachi." At the same time, the story does a nice job explaining a rather obscure sport ultramarathon and uses graphics, photos and video to help tell a compelling tale.
Second Place: Grapevine Courier (Texas)
Tee Time, the Golf Course Dog
This is not your typical sports story by any stretch. But it's easy to see why readers and golfers alike would connect with the story of Tee Time, the elusive, fugitive golf course terrier. The stories are told by Steve Norder with just the right touch of whimsy, and right from the opening line: "Tee Time is a wanted dog." Lovely, fun stuff.
Vida en el Valle (California)
Near PerfectionCynthia Moreno
This article is noteworthy because it takes the typical game story to a different level. Cynthia Moreno tells the story of the tiny community of Le Grands football team, which won its second consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section football championship and played in the California state championships. The article does a nice job switching between game action and the back story of the team, the town, the school and the players and the detail keeps you hooked all the way through. It was a nice, well-reported and thoughtful approach to covering a game that had meaning beyond what happened on the field.
First Place: The Chapel Hill News (North Carolina)
Exonerated ManDave Hart
Associate Editor Dave Hart delivered his readers a spellbinding account of William Michael Dillon's odyssey through 28 years of imprisonment in some of Floridas harshest prisons and his 2008 release based on DNA evidence, which exonerated him of the murder for which he was convicted. But the narrative, which Hart crafted so well, takes us to a point of rebirth for the wronged man who survived the injustice of those years through a journey into the sweetness of music. He has now released a CD, "Black Robes and Lawyers," which is the poetic testimony of the prison experience, made possible through the persistence of Jim Tullio, a Grammy Award winning producer. The "Exonerated Man" is a worthy winner.
Second Place: The Chapel Hill News (North Carolina)
House Is Home
This is a compassionate telling of the latest evolution in the long history of AIDS in the world, told so well by Mark Schultz, who takes his readers on the road that Raymond McDaniel has traveled to these lingering days in a home for people with AIDS in Carrboro, N.C. For 15 years he has seen his friends die, and then has seen the little plaques placed in the dirt behind the back patio with the simple dates of their birth and death. But McDaniel, who thought for years that his plaque would have been placed in those ranks, has survived far beyond his expectations. To some, the plaques came to be painful reminders of those who had passed away. House Is Home helps readers realize that those with AIDS are living with their disease, not dying from it, and that the residence in Carrboro is helping them to survive.
Mansfield News-Mirror (Texas)
Black Like Me
Almost everyone has read "Black Like Me" or knows about the white man who more than 50 years ago colored his skin and traveled through the South and then recounted his experiences for a magazine and then the book. John Howard Griffin was that man, and his hometown did not accept this well when the stories were published. Indeed, he was hanged in effigy on Main Street in Mansfield, Texas, at the time. The News-Mirror's Amanda Rogers has done a fine job of introducing Griffins work to many who were not aware of the risk-taking effort a half century ago, and she paints a vivid portrait of an interesting and complex man; one who helped Jews escape the Nazis, who survived a Japanese bombing raid, and who then helped so many know the terrible plight of being black in America. All these years later that story still evoked strong feelings in his hometown and praise for Rogers stories from religious leaders. It is a most worthy honoree in this competition.
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