Six Community Newspapers Honored with McClatchy President's Awards for Journalism Excellence

Released 02/07/2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 7, 2013 – The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) today announced the winners of 10 McClatchy President's Awards in the community newspaper division, an annual competition that salutes the best journalism at McClatchy's non-daily newspapers.

Six newspapers collected the 10 awards, which honor work published in 2012.

Vida en el Valle, a bilingual weekly published in California's Central Valley, won four prizes. The paper took first place in the Special Projects category for its exhaustive look at Valley fever, a long-ignored illness on the rise in the San Joaquin Valley.

Vida en el Valle joined forces with more than a half dozen other news organizations on the collaborative effort the judges called "one of the most ambitious and important projects undertaken in community news in years" and one "worthy of any daily paper in our company."

Vida en el Valle also finished first in the News category for its series profiling four Latinos active in the environmental movement.

"The best journalism surprises and informs," the judges said, "and Vida en el Valle's four-part series 'Latinos Protecting la Tierra' does both."

The paper picked up a second-place prize in the Features category for a three-part series titled "The Latino Experience," which sought to break stereotypes while illuminating the modern and multifaceted identity of the nation's Latino community. And the paper added another second-place prize in the Sports category for an inspiring story of a local man who overcomes considerable obstacles to excel as an elite marathon runner.

The Los Banos Enterprise, a weekly published by the Merced Sun-Star in California, picked up two prizes. The paper won first place in the Sports category for its moving account of the first at-bat of the season for Cesar Orozco, an autistic, 18-year-old member of his high school baseball team who never plays but always practices hard and cheers the loudest for his teammates. There were few dry eyes when Orozco stepped up to the plate for the very first time with his teammates cheering him on. The paper added a second-place prize in the Photography category for two dramatic high school football action shots.

The Chapel Hill News, a twice-weekly published by The News & Observer in North Carolina, took first place in the Photography category for a year-end, special issue filled almost entirely with photos from the year.

The Enquirer-Herald, published by The Herald in South Carolina, won first place in the Features category for its touching, Thanksgiving Day profile of Joey Funderburk, a Romanian orphan adopted by a South Carolina woman, who has embarked on a quest to get new prosthetic legs that were denied by the family's insurance company. The story was picked up and republished in four other McClatchy newspapers.

"This terrific work by our community newspapers illustrates that high quality journalism is not confined to our daily newspapers but is indeed available across multiple McClatchy markets, big and small, and across multiple platforms," said Pat Talamantes, McClatchy's president and CEO. "A number of these stories changed the course of events in their communities and included exquisite writing, photography and a lot of ingenuity."

Various McClatchy executives and editors not associated with the community publications judged the community newspaper competition this year. They were Fitz McAden, executive editor of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette; Suzanne Levinson, director of digital news for McClatchy Interactive; Chip Minemyer, executive editor of the Centre Daily Times; Joan Krauter, executive editor of the Bradenton Herald; Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy vice president, news and Washington editor; and McClatchy’s two corporate vice presidents for operations, Bob Weil and Mark Zieman.

The complete list of winners, honorable mentions, judges comments and internet links, where available, follow:

Special Projects

First Place: Vida en el Valle (California)
"Valley Fever: Solo un Respiro"
Rebecca Plevin

One of the most ambitious and important projects undertaken in community news in years, the Valley Fever series documented in dramatic detail an illness that has been largely ignored and unknown to too many. That’s unlikely to be the case going forward after the reporting by Vida en el Valle as part of a journalism cooperative that chronicled how Valley fever is rearranging lives and costing a great deal in economic terms. As impressive as the reporting and writing on the project was, the visuals, graphics and presentation were equally strong. This is a project worthy of any daily paper in our company and will likely have impact for a long time to come.

Second Place: Lake Wylie Pilot (South Carolina)
"Lake Wylie Children's Charity"
John Marks

The story of the Children's Charity is really two stories in one. The first is the compelling coverage that ran in the Lake Wylie Pilot on how the dormant charity was revived and raised $50,000 for this highly worthy cause. The second story is the singlehanded doggedness by John Marks to search out what happened to the charity, track down its founder while Marks was on vacation and put together the coverage that helped restore the project.

Honorable Mention: Fort Mill Times (South Carolina)
Fort Mill Times-Nation Ford High School Candidates' Forum
Michael Harrison, Jenny Overman and John Marks

With so much attention going to the high-profile races in the last election, the Fort Mill Times decided that its local congressional raced deserved more attention than it was getting. So the staff put on a candidate forum, promoted the event through an aggressive social media and publicity campaign, lived streamed the debate and then reported on the results in a way that drove up the web traffic. The energetic coverage shows that a determined staff of even a small paper can tackle social media – and surely helped air out issues that otherwise wouldn't have been done.


First Place: Vida en el Valle (California)
"Latinos Protecting la Tierra"
Rebecca Plevin

Part I: His Cause Is Well-Grounded
Part II: An Advocate Blooms in the Desert
Part III: Assemblymember Is Driven by Justice
Part IV: Annie Loya's Environmental Journey

The best journalism surprises and informs, and Vida en el Valle's four-part series "Latinos Protecting la Tierra," does both. The series focuses on California Latinos' continuing struggle for social justice, which began in the fields a generation ago. But the series isntt what you would expect – it's not about fair wages, better working conditions or other issues typically associated with the farmworkers' movement. It's about their kinship with the land – la tierra – and their determination to protect the environment. Rebecca Plevin traveled the state to find four Latinos who have devoted themselves to improving the lives of fellow Latinos by taking on environmental problems. Plevin did a masterful job of finding extraordinary individuals who aroused others to force change for the good.

Second Place: The Cass County Democrat Missourian (Missouri)
"Tate Wins!"
Bethany Bashioum

Reporter Bethany Bashioum helped Cass County celebrate a triumph with her uplifting piece about Tate Stevens, a local country singer who finished first in a music reality TV show. Bashioum infused her narrative with the emotion and joy of the moment when Stevens, a worker for a city street crew, won a competition by getting 35 million online votes from viewers of the "X Factor," along with $5 million in prize money. Her vivid reporting showed how the competition not only changed the singer’s life, but also swept up residents in his hometown, where folks held "watch parties" at each stage of the competition and even decided to put his name on the town's water tower.


First Place: The Chapel Hill News (North Carolina)
"2012: The Year in Photos"
Mark Schultz and Harry Lynch

It is the faces, the motion and the camera angles that set apart these superb photos. The faces of three dogs – and one laughing woman – at a county dog swim. The close-up of two Tibetan monks working on a sand mandala, the hairs on their morning-shaved heads growing in hours later. The great-great-great-granddaughter of a slave, shown walking down into the slave quarters, shot from the perspective of the slaves below. The tiny tot caught mid-stroke as he plays a drum at the farmers' market. The striking composition – off-balance, filling the frame, rich in color and detail, of a costumed man as red leather fire dragon. They all come to life in the lens of these two photographers who both seem to have a knack for telling passionate stories with one click of the shutter.

Second Place: Los Banos Enterprise (California)
"Tigers vs. Tigers" and "Broncos Corralled"
Gene Lieb

Gene Lieb's two dramatic photos capture that moment of defensive triumph as a quarterback goes down. In the first, the photo catches a two-handed pull on the face mask that wasn't called a penalty. Every pad, every gloved finger, every tangled leg is captured in sharp detail. In the second, one can see the eyes of the tackler and hear him growling, "Gotcha." Lighting at high school games can be challenging, but both photos are brilliantly lit, cropped and full of the struggles of the moment.

Honorable Mention: The Cass County Democrat Missourian (Missouri)
"Students Mourn Teen's Death"
Bethany Bashioum

The serious faces of students holding candles, the flames lighting the photo and reflecting in their eyes, is a moving portrait of grief. The nighttime beats clearly offer opportunities – and challenges – for photographers to shoot some stunning work.


First Place: Enquirer-Herald (South Carolina)
"The Greatest Blessing"
Jennifer Becknell

This is a touching profile of a young man whose life must humble anyone who reads this compelling story. Joey Funderburk is on a quest for new prosthetic legs, selling Krispy Kreme donuts at local stores to raise $120,000 denied by his insurance firm. But Jennifer Becknell dug in beyond that for some classic storytelling, discovering Joey was a Romanian orphan left at birth because of his deformed legs. Through Becknell’s reporting, the community meets his adoptive mom, learns of her compassion and determination to raise Joey in the United States, and gets a chance to help. As this small weekly’s sole editorial staffer, Becknell was the writer-photographer-editor on this Thanksgiving story, republished in at least four other newspapers. This story helped generate enough interest that a charity has been formed to help Joey and others like him receive needed medical treatment and to help other families adopt children.

Second Place: Vida en el Valle (California)
"The Latino Experience"
Cynthia Moreno

Part I: Defining Who We Are Can Be Tricky
Part II: Breaking the Latino Stereotype
Part III: Music Helps Shape Latino Identity

This is an ambitious three-part series in which reporter Cynthia Moreno went beyond the typical Hispanic Heritage Month stories and looked at breaking the Latino stereotype. She creatively uses two rising stars in the political world – Julián Castro and Marco Rubio – as well as scholars to look at how history has and is defining Latino identity. Moreno didn't shy from discussing stereotypes – and how to break them – in her profile of a Latino assemblyman. And she explored how important music has been in shaping the Latino experience.

Honorable Mention: The Cass County Democrat Missourian (Missouri)
"Cheerleaders Help Spread Holiday Cheer"
Bethany Bashioum

Through her story and photographs, Bethany Bashioum shared a joyous Christmas moment with readers. Bashioum got behind the scenes to tell how a group of cheerleaders and their captain granted the wish of a 4-year-old with cancer. You can feel their joy in this report as Bashioum turned a simple assignment into a gift.


First Place: Los Banos Enterprise (California)
"Good Sports"
David Witte

This writer took what could have been a routine game story and turned it into something much more meaningful. We applaud David Witte for having the courage to explore a subject such as autism in depth, rather than merely mentioning the moment in coverage of a baseball game. Strong interviews help this story take readers into the hearts and minds of all involved – the player, his coach and his family. You get a very real sense of the challenges the autistic player faces, but also the great support he has around him and the great attitude he brings to the team. A very nice read.

Second Place: Vida en el Valle (California)
"Fernando Cabada: Life on the Run"
Juan Esparza Loera

An inspiring story of a young man who overcomes considerable obstacles to excel as a marathon runner. The writer provides a moving description of the subject's ongoing struggles. You get a strong feel for what drives this athlete. He has overcome much in his drive to succeed.

Honorable Mention: Vida en el Valle (California)
"Answering the Bell"
Daniel Cásarez

In an inspirational narrative, the writer takes readers inside the heart and mind of his main subject, a female boxer fighting to make it in a traditionally male-dominated domain. You gain an understanding of the main character's struggles, and her triumphs, both inside and outside the ring as she uses her boxing career as a means to work with troubled youth.

About McClatchy

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. As the third largest newspaper company in the country, McClatchy's operations include 30 daily newspapers, community newspapers, websites, mobile news and advertising, niche publications, direct marketing and direct mail services. The company's 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.