Our newsrooms received some well-deserved recognition over the weekend when we were recognized with 15 first-place awards and 12 second-place awards at the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest. The Press Democrat received six first-place awards and five second-place awards; The Argus Courier received a record total of 14 awards, nine first-place awards and five second place awards and The Sonoma Index-Tribune received two second-place awards. 

The Press Democrat competed in a category of daily newspapers up to 150,000 circulation which means we had competition from much larger newsrooms.  We won first place in breaking news for coverage of the Napa quake, an award that is shared among the entire staff. Several reporters and editors jumped into action before dawn and worked late into the night to give readers a comprehensive report on the devastation. Derek Moore played a central role in our coverage, providing a robust account of the day on Twitter and wrapping it up for print readers that evening.

We swept the awards for local government coverage. Glenda Anderson won first place for an article about a program in Mendocino County in which felony marijuana defendants are able to plead guilty to misdemeanors after agreeing to pay restitution to the county. Paul Payne won second place for his story about Sonoma County’s controversial asset forfeiture program.

We also took the top two awards in the sports story category. Phil Barber won first place for an article about Casa Grande High School’s football team rallying around a teammate with Asperger’s syndrome whose father was diagnosed with cancer. Lowell Cohn won second place for his story about the long and tangled effort to build new stadiums in Oakland for the Raiders and the A’s.

Jeremy Hay and Robert Digitale took first place in the category of agricultural reporting for their stories about the Petaluma slaughterhouse scandal.

Our features and entertainment team earned a first-place award for lifestyle coverage, based on the submission of two consecutive (and complete) sections.

 We also received a first-place award for page layout and design, which goes to our fine copy and presentation desk.

Jeremy Hay received a second-place award for writing, for his haunting story on the unsolved Jenner beach killings.  Kent Porter received a second-place award in the category of artistic photo, for his beautiful image of the Point Arena Lighthouse bathed in moonlight.

Our website, pressdemocrat.com, received a second-place award for best website.

The Petaluma Argus-Courier’s awards included first place in investigative reporting for a series on mental health issues in Petaluma. Former staff writer Janelle Wetzstein reported and wrote the series on the incarceration of people with mental illness. She also won first place in enterprise reporting for a story from the series.

Former managing editor Emily Charrier and former staff writer Allison Jarrell earned first and second place awards for education coverage, Carrier for a profile of a former dropout turned scholar and Jarrell for coverage of alleged abuse at the Petaluma Wildlife Museum. Charrier also won first place for best writing for a piece on a Petaluma resident and World War II survivor, and shared the second place award for local government reporting with Wetzstein for covering the city’s proposed gas station ban.

Yovanna Bieberich, who oversees the paper’s Community section and does the page layout, won second place for page layout and design. Staff photographer Scott Manchester won first place awards for best artistic photo and best feature photo for a photograph of the Cimmaron Sanctuary, and a first place award for news photo for a photograph of a fire at Classroom Safari. Freelance photographer John O’Hara won second place in the sports photo category.

Cartoonist Pete McDonnell earned a second place award for a cartoon on the Rancho Feeding Corp. and Publisher John Burns won first place for best commentary for an editorial on a potential casino in Petaluma.

The staff won first place for best website — petaluma360.com.

The Sonoma Index-Tribune won a second place award in the Breaking News category for its coverage of the Napa earthquake in August.  The I-T also won a second place award for Best Sports Page or Section, credited to Managing Editor Bill Hoban and Sport Editor Steve Serafini.

Both the Argus-Courier and the Index-Tribune compete in the category for weekly newspapers with circulation between 4,301 and 11,000.

Congratulations and thanks to our fine staff of journalists for their award winning work which is continuing to ensure our success with readers throughout the North Bay.