The Press Democrat staff received one of the most prestigious awards in American journalism Thursday for its coverage of the October wildfires.
The American Society of News Editors presented its award for Breaking News Writing to The Press Democrat for its online and print coverage during the first 24 hours of the Oct. 8 firestorm.
Judges praised the newspaper’s use of its website and social media tools, including live video streamed in real time from the fire lines, to keep readers informed as wind-driven flames erupted in the middle of the night and quickly grew into the most destructive wildfire in California history.
“They used social media, Facebook Live and everything they had to bring their community important information they needed to stay safe. This is a newsroom rising to face a breaking news event and give it everything they’ve got. The writing and editing were excellent; the photography and video in the face of oncoming fires were courageous,” the judges wrote.
The other finalists were the Houston Chronicle, for its coverage of Hurricane Harvey, and the San Antonio Express-News, for its coverage of a mass shooting that left 27 dead at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“As the fires blew in, our newsroom filled that night with journalists determined to tell as much of the story as we could in as many ways as we could. People were desperate for information and we gave it our all,” said Catherine Barnett, executive editor.
“I am proud of our courageous coverage and of the national recognition in such esteemed company. Most of all, I am proud of the thanks from so many of you who let us know how much our reporting mattered as flames surrounded this community.”
The Press Democrat and the Houston Chronicle were finalists last month in a second national journalism contest, the Scripps Howard Awards.
Judges awarded first place to the San Francisco Chronicle in the category of Breaking News for its coverage of the October wildfires.
The Press Democrat’s coverage of the wildfires was also honored this week with a first-place award for Breaking News Reporting in Best of the West, a contest that evaluates journalism produced by news organizations in 14 western states.
The American Society of News Editors presents awards in 10 categories. Other winners included journalists at the New York Times, for coverage of sexual harassment, in the category of public service; the Indianapolis Star, for coverage of sex abuse in USA Gymnastics, in the category of “Impact in Public Service Journalism;” ProPublica, for coverage of the bankruptcy system’s treatment of black Americans, in the category of “Justice in Journalism;” the Seattle Times, for an investigation into patient safety at a neuroscience institute, in the category of local accountability reporting; the Arizona Republic, for coverage of the border wall, in the category of online storytelling; the Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, for news and feature writing; the Chicago Tribune, for column writing; the Kansas City Star, for editorial writing; and the San Antonio Express-News, for photojournalism.
“This year’s winners represent the best journalism being done in America,” ASNE President Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Día at The Dallas Morning News, said in a statement.