As we gape and cringe at cable news chyrons, push notifications and presidential tweets — sweet mother of Murrow, the tweets — it's easy to think of national stories as the totality of "the news" and the impacts outlined there as the finite shape of an issue's reach.
But neither is true. When we throw up our hands at the TV and ask, "Why is nobody covering this?" chances are, somebody is. Local news outlets on shoestring budgets with staffers doubling and tripling up on workloads are doing their damnedest to hold government officials accountable, illustrate the outcomes of state and national policies in the neighborhoods where we live and cover disasters and their aftermaths long after far-flung audiences have moved on. (Cheers to Santa Rosa's Press Democrat, which just won a Pulitzer Prize for its wildfire coverage.) Whether Mark Zuckerberg deigns to let those articles into your Facebook feed is another question — it's a safer bet to just bookmark our pages.
The journalists who live where their readers do can cover stories with nuance and depth outsiders parachuting in for a few weeks can't — they know the players, the history and the idiosyncrasies of our world, bringing them to light without reducing us to archetypes and curiosities. (Good luck, Netflix documentary crew.) Add to that the accountability of reporters running into readers at the market or the vet's office.
This weekend, the California News Publishers Association handed out its honors and the Journal, finalist for 12 categories, scored nine awards:
First Place Coverage of Local Government for Kim Wear's reporting on the Magneys (Jan. 12, 2017), cited by a judge for its "strong storytelling techniques used in an article that weaves how a county tried to take away the medical decisions for a dying man with the love story of the couple."
First Place Feature Story for Thad Greenson's "Rio Dell's Hash Lab Murder Case," (Sept. 21, 2017) which the judge noted "has it all ... a neighborhood surprised by drug production ... dire consequences for this community," and the processes and dangers of hash labs "made simple."
First Place In-Depth Reporting for staff coverage of David Marcus, Humboldt County's former public defender. "Breadth of undertaking probably makes this one the clear winner," wrote a judge.
First Place Informational Graphic for Holly Harvey's "Potential Sources for Myclobutanil Contamination" (Dec. 21, 2018), which illustrates the possible means of contamination of cannabis crops and is very pretty for something so destructive.
First Place Sports Feature Story for Linda Stansberry's Hoopa Rodeo cover story "Holding On" (Aug. 17, 2017), about which a judge wrote, "The sophisticated, colorful writing perfectly captured a day in the life of a struggling rodeo."
First Place Special Publication for Humboldt Insider's "Engaging writing, interesting stories, nice use of photos and layouts, lots of good local information." (FYI, the new Spring-Summer issue just dropped, so grab one.)
Second Place Columns award for the satirical Seriously? column by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill, a pair of which a judge called "both funny — both scathing."
Third Place Writing for Jennifer Fumiko Cahill's "How to Dine Alone" (Jan. 5, 2017) about enjoying a table for one like a boss.
Third Place Informational Graphic for Holly Harvey's breakdown of "DIY Butane Hash Oil Extraction" (Sept. 21, 2017), a highly dangerous process we'd like to stress, once again, you should not try at home. Read the story — that game could kill you.
The Journal was also a finalist for Arts and Entertainment Coverage, Front Page Layout and Design and Investigative Reporting for Linda Stansberry's "Prelude to a Sweep" (May 25, 2017) and "Swept" (June 1, 2017), about the clearing of homeless encampments from Eureka's marshes.
We are, of course, proud of our winning writers and designers, and of every person who makes our print and online pieces possible. We're proud, too, because these are stories of our community — our stories.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.