Siskiyou County newspapers take top honors in statewide contest

Staff reports
Protesters occupied a block of Fourth Street in front of the Siskiyou County Courthouse on Thursday morning, May 6, 2021. Protesters included residents who oppose the trucking of water from agricultural wells to irrigate illegal marijuana grows, and those residents who utilize the water.

Reporting featured in the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and Siskiyou Daily News on homelessness, the impact of California's historic drought on Klamath Basin farmers and the disputes over cannabis and water in Siskiyou County took first- and second-place California Journalism Awards.

The newspapers' 2021 coverage competed against other weekly newspapers with a print circulation of 4,300 and under in the annual California News Publishers Association contest.

Coverage of county water ordinance protest

Skye Kinkade, the former editor of the newspapers, and reporter Bill Choy shared first place in breaking news for their reporting on a protest last May outside of the Yreka courthouse in the wake of a county ordinance that Hmong residents said unfairly targeted Asian Americans living and farming in Big Springs.

In September, a federal court ruled the county can't stop trucks from delivering water to cannabis farms. The case is ongoing.

Harrison Gunther touched the lives of many people, from San Francisco society as a handsome young man to the homeless he befriended while living on the street.


Freelance journalist Barry Kaye wrote about the life of Harrison Gunther, who was born into a wealthy San Francisco family. A series of events, including the death of his parents, sent him spiraling into homelessness in a short period of time.

His story won first place in the writing category. 

The Klamath Basin’s prized potatoes are harvested at a farm in Malin, Ore.

California drought news

Kaye also took two second place awards.

In agricultural reporting, which also included weeklies with a circulation of 4,301 to 11,000, judges recognized him for his look at the effects the drought in the West is having on the livelihood of Klamath Basin farmers.

"Water issues can be tough to write about, and, to me, the lede is key to getting into a tough topic," the judge said of how Kaye started his story.

Several members of the Hmong American community surround Zurg Xiong, who sits on a mat in front of the Siskiyou County Courthouse in Yreka, California on Thursday, July 22, 2021.

March and hunger strike coverage

In coverage of local government, Kaye was recognized for his reporting on the demonstrations that erupted after the police shooting of Soobleej Kaub Hawj, a Hmong American man during the Lava Fire evacuations on June 28, 2021. The entry also included his coverage of a hunger strike by activist Zurg Xiong to demand an independent investigation into the shooting and the conclusion of that hunger strike

Story on wolves

Kinkade also took fourth place in the features story category for her in-depth look at a new pair of wolves that were making their home in the county.

A judge wrote of her work, "A thorough, even-handed news feature about an animal that is the source of much conflict across the northern and western U.S."