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The Press Democrat was honored Saturday by the California Newspaper Publishers Association with 12 first-place awards, including top awards for general excellence and its print and online breaking news coverage of the October wildfires.

The 16 first- and second-place awards are a record for The Press Democrat, which received 15 last year.

Overall, the newspaper received 27 awards in 24 categories at the annual CNPA California Journalism Awards. In most categories, the entries were judged against journalism produced by daily newspapers in California with 35,000 to 150,000 subscribers. In seven of the categories — including online breaking news, online general excellence and photojournalism — it was matched against the largest newspapers in the state.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized so fully by our peers for the breadth and depth of our journalism,” said Catherine Barnett, executive editor of The Press Democrat. “Our staff is talented, tireless and committed to telling the stories of this community, especially last year when it mattered so much.”

The awards recognized work published in 2017.

The newspaper won first place for general excellence based on five editions of the newspaper published in February and October, including editions dedicated exclusively to coverage of the first two days of the worst wildfires in California history.

“This publication weaves a sense of place in every paragraph,” the judges wrote. “This writing was exceptional, especially during the fire it was full of pathos and empathy. It stands out as breaking news reporting that gets to the next level of diving deep.”

Breaking news coverage of the October wildfires earned the paper a pair of top honors for its print editions and online work published at pressdemocrat.com.

Other first-place awards included:

— Profile story, for a Dec. 31 package of profiles by Press Democrat staff on the lives of 40 people who died in the October wildfires.

— Feature story, for Martin Espinoza’s Oct. 29 profile of Santa Rosa cartoonist Brian Fies, and the accompanying cartoon strip by Fies, “A Fire Story,” which documented his family’s escape from the Tubbs fire and the losses they sustained when it destroyed their Mark West Estates home.

— Land-use reporting, for a Feb. 19 package of stories by Press Democrat staff spanning two sections of the newspaper about the pressures of winery events and development in the Sonoma Valley.

— Business reporting, for a Sept. 17 story by Julie Johnson on the economic boom unleashed in Santa Rosa by the legalization of marijuana.

— Sports feature story, for a Jan. 22 story by Phil Barber on a Maria Carrillo wrestler who persevered following the death of his older brother.

— News photography, for a Kent Porter photo published Oct. 10 on the newspaper’s front page showing a Cazadero firefighter struggling to protect a home menaced by flames in Coffey Park.

— Artistic photography, for a photo by Porter published Dec. 25 of a Santa Rosa boy standing next to an illuminated Christmas tree on his family’s burned lot in Fountaingrove.

— Photo illustration, for a March 8 composition by John Burgess that placed author Deborah Paggi and artist Gayle Cole in a drawing made by Cole for their children’s book, “Dear Sun, Dear Moon.”

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

— Sports feature photo, for a photo by Alvin Jornada of fans celebrating at the Golden State Warriors championship parade.

Second-place awards were bestowed in four categories:

Online general excellence, recognizing daily coverage at pressdemocrat.com; photojournalism, including entries spanning three days of the October wildfires; public service journalism, for ongoing Press Democrat coverage of the failures in Sonoma County’s emergency alert system during the fires; and news photography, for a photo by Beth Schlanker published Oct. 10 that showed a mother holding her two daughters outside the ruins of their Coffey Park home.

The newspaper earned third-place awards in 11 other categories, including two in the categories of in-depth reporting and enterprise reporting for its “Crisis Care” series by Espinoza, which examined the causes and ramifications of a chronic shortage of psychiatric hospital beds in Sonoma County.

“An extraordinary effort that identifies a crisis in mental health care, takes a look at fiscal and human costs and analyzes solutions,” the judges wrote.

Other third-place awards included column writing by C.W. Nevius; local government coverage; Arts and Entertainment coverage; writing; the Gratitude special section published last Thanksgiving recognizing heroes in the fires; artistic photo; photo story/essay; sports feature photo; and front-page design during the October firestorm.

The Sonoma Index-Tribune received 12 awards, including four first-place awards for public service journalism, writing, editorial comment and news photo.

The Petaluma Argus-Courier received 11 awards, including three first-place awards for breaking news, local government coverage and artistic photo.

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