Editorial: Bringing home awards for local news


The Petersburg Pilot received quite a bit of recognition at last month’s Alaska Press Club conference in Anchorage.

The press club’s annual contest is a valuable opportunity for our newsroom to take stock of the past year’s efforts, and it helps us get some external feedback from experts in the field.

Contest entries are submitted by most of the journalists in Alaska working in print, radio, television, and web. And our state is blessed with a lot of top notch local news being produced across the state, so competition is often pretty tight.

I am pleased to share with our readers that the Pilot brought home wins in nine categories – more than in any of our prior fifty years.

It speaks to the hard work and well-roundedness of the team I have the good fortune of working with. It’s encouraging to get an external confirmation of what we already know: that our Petersburg readers are getting a very high quality news product delivered to them every week.

The Pilot took third in the Best Weekly Newspaper category, alongside newspapers we consider pretty excellent. The Chilkat Valley News took first place for 2023, a fitting final achievement for our friend and former Pilot writer Kyle Clayton who sold the Chilkat Valley News at the end of last year. The Nome Nugget took second place; they were last year’s well-deserving winner for Best Weekly Newspaper, too.

Included below is a list of awards with links on our website to the news stories that garnered them.

Chris Basinger took first place in the Best Public Safety Reporting - Print Small category for his story, “‘This fire can consume our building, but not our hearts’ Community reels from devastating fire at Catholic Church.” One of the judges, a multi-emmy award winning reporter and news anchor based in Michigan, described Chris’ work as an “outstanding narrative rich with facts and interesting details. Every single photo delivered an emotional impact.”

Olivia and I co-wrote a gardening story for last year’s home edition, titled “A greenhouse is a lovely place to grow,” which won third place for Best Profile - Print Small. Personally, this was one of my favorite stories from last year and I was pleased that the judges seemed to agree, noting, “Often, a profile piece can be written in a way that turns the main character into a conduit for a topic. This story feels that way about the joys of gardening.”

Olivia also took home third place for Best Long Feature - All Print for “Keeping the light on at Five Finger Island” and second place for Best Culture Reporting - Print Small for “T’akdeintaan clan hosts Koo.éex’.”

Each of those stories took weeks of thoughtful effort to produce, and as editor I was impressed at the conscientious, high quality journalism being put forth by Olivia, who at the time was only a few months on the job.

Lizzie Thompson continued her winning streak in the Best Arts Reporting - Print category, taking home a third place win this year for her story “Thirty-seven years in the making, Hoopie Davidson’s chess set is complete.”

Jake Clemens’ commentary “Bristol Bay Fishermen pay the price for recent record salmon runs,” won the third place Leslie Ann Murray Award for Best Editorial or Commentary - All Media. The commentary category was judged by a senior staff editor of the opinion pages of the New York Times who said this of Jake’s commentary: “Clemens operates a fishing boat in Bristol Bay and writes about the frustrations of seeing “salmon prices at the grocery store hold relatively strong while fishermen get paid less than half compared to last year.” He offers a detailed account of the reasons behind this seeming incongruity and potential solutions to enable “fishermen to earn a living wage.”

It’s worth noting that Kyle Clayton’s editorial for the Chilkat Valley News, “‘Really really really wanna Zigazig ah!’” took first place in the editorial category, and second place was won by Larry Persily for “Ranked-choice opponents appear to be playing fast and loose with Alaska’s election laws.”

Ola Richards won third place for Best Scenic Photo - All Media with her “Underwater Ice.” The judge described her photography as “a strong entry for third place and a scene not always available when photographing glaciers – the colors and depths underwater that even at times can eclipse what is seen above the waterline … nicely toned without being overly saturated or processed.”

And I took home third place for Best Sport Photo - All Media for “Open-water swim across Frederick Sound.” Which was satisfying because I do love that picture and had to wake up unnaturally early that Saturday morning to capture it.

I want to add sincere congratulations to our fellow journalists up the street at KFSK. The radio crew brought an impressive stack of honors back to Petersburg for their reporting, too.

KFSK’s Shelby Herbert won third place for Best Alaska Outdoors Reporting - All Media for “Petersburg Ranger District authorizes wilderness survival show, “Outlast,” to film in Little Duncan Bay.”

Hannah Flor won third in Best Culture Reporting - Audio for “Petersburg prepares to welcome Polynesian voyaging canoe.

Thomas Copeland won first place for Best Education Reporting - Audio for “Alaska schools struggling to keep up with the cost of food.”

Copeland took second in Best Public Safety Reporting - Audio for “Alaska’s volunteer firefighting force halved over the last decade.”

Copeland won second in Best Reporting on Government or Politics - Audio for “Survey shows Petersburg needs 300 houses in the next decade.”

Copeland also won third in the Best Sound Rich Feature category for “KFSK’s Thomas Copeland documents his first Fourth of July Celebration in Petersburg.”

The full list of results from the state’s press club contest is available here.

As a parting thought, it must be acknowledged that none of the community journalism we have the privilege and responsibility to produce would happen without you – our readers, advertisers, supporters. It’s you at the heart of it. Thank you for fueling our efforts to deliver quality local news for Petersburg.


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