Snowstorm coverage earns first place award

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
This first place plaque was received in the mail last week and now hangs in the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers newsroom.

Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers recently won a first place statewide award for its coverage of the January 2010 snowstorms.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association selected the paper for Best Local News Coverage based on the content in two issues, including the last week of January 2010 and the first week of February.

Points were awarded for “initiative, enterprise, thoroughness, accuracy, balance, informative value, quality of writing, and graphic presentation and photographs, judged on “originality and community expertise.”

“This is a significant award for our papers,” said editor Steve Gerace. “It recognizes the excellent work done by many people who put their heart and soul into our effort as community journalists every day.”

The coverage that was judged included articles about power outages and the shelters that were set up to help, fallen trees, damaged homes and vehicles, an 83 year old man who died from carbon monoxide poisoning, an 83 year old woman who fell in her walkway, couldn’t get up and wasn’t found until the next morning, a 30 year old man who narrowly escaped injury when a tree fell across the road right in front of his moving vehicle, the lessons learned about disaster preparation, a state of emergency declaration, and cleaning up the mess.

We featured an article with a series of “surreal stories from a tree-breaking storm” and a list of storm facts by the numbers.

Particularly noteworthy for their contributions were reporters Skye Kinkade and Gene Eagle, who remain on the staff, and former reporter Charlie Unkefer.

Our reporters were out and about gathering information and taking photos for two or three days when we had no power at our homes or at the office. As soon as the power came back on in downtown Mount Shasta, we started getting the word out on our website about storm damage and shelters and where community members could find help.

“It was difficult to report during those few days with no electricity,” said Kinkade. “We were all out taking photos and talking to people, even when we didn’t have a computer to work on. I’ve never seen a snowstorm like that in all my life, and many residents felt the same way... that’s what made the reporting so interesting and important, too.”

Getting around town was also difficult as snow kept coming and more trees and power lines were torn down.

Perhaps most affected was the community of McCloud, where the power went on and off for nearly a week, leaving many residents completely without heat. Though the going was tough, McCloud correspondent Gene Eagle continued to pump out information about generators, warming stations and other help provided by the Office of Emergency Services and the Red Cross.

The papers that were judged also featured contributions by community members including Jim Gilmore, Audra Gibson and Karrie Ann Snure.

Copies of the first issue that came out after the storm, which had a large percentage of the reporting that was judged for the contest, sold out.

The Better Newspapers Contest is an annual newsroom competition sponsored by CNPA that recognizes journalistic achievements published by daily and weekly California newspapers in 31 different circulation categories.

Preliminary judging was done by representative journalists from the many newspapers entered in the contest. Blue Ribbon judging was done by editors and reporters from newspapers across the country.

Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers has won numerous CNPA awards in the past, most recently for individual reporting work done by Paul Boerger, Tony D’Souza, Rob McCallum and Earl Bolender.

“This year’s award has added significance because of the group effort involved as well as the contributions from the community,” Gerace said.

The January 27, 2010 issue of the Mount Shasta Herald, below, completely sold out. Coverage contained in that issue and the February 3 issue recently earned the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers a first place award in Local News Coverage in the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest.