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The Press Democrat wins 15 awards in statewide CNPA journalism contest

The Press Democrat was honored Saturday by the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association with ?15 first- and second-place awards, including top awards for online general excellence, photography, local government coverage and a series of stories on the one-year anniversary of Lake County’s Valley fire.

The number of awards is a record for The Press Democrat, which received 11 in 2015.

The entries in the annual CNPA Better Newspapers Contest were judged against journalism produced by daily newspapers in California with 35,000 to 150,000 subscribers.

“Every corner of our newsroom is represented in these wins, with a strong showing against much larger competitors,” said Catherine Barnett, executive editor of The Press Democrat. “Excellence in our digital report, telling photography and recognition for deep reporting on the forces transforming our community make us all proud.”

The awards recognized work published in 2016.

In the first-place award for general online excellence, pressdemocrat.com was praised for engaging delivery of high-quality local content and appealing visual presentation.

The newspaper’s look back at the deadly and destructive Valley fire in 2015 and efforts to rebuild in southern Lake County earned the first-place award for enterprise coverage. Judges described the series by staff photographer Kent Porter and reporters Mary Callahan, Paul Payne, Glenda Anderson, Julie Johnson and Randi Rossmann - published over four days in September - as a “thorough update on a tragic community event, told with compassion and attention to the lessons learned and the hurt and anguish still being experienced.”

Staff Writer Kevin McCallum earned the first-place award for coverage of local government for his examination of Santa Rosa’s emergence as a business hub for the legal cannabis industry. McCallum’s reporting and sourcing were “deep and fair; the writing inviting and lean,” judges wrote.

Staff Photographer Christopher Chung won best feature photo for his shot of Santa Rosa artist Alana Tillman, who was born without use of her arms and paints holding a brush in her mouth.

Porter also won first place for artistic photo for his image of Bodega’s Saint Teresa of Avila Roman Catholic Church that ran on the front page on Christmas Day last year.

Second-place awards were bestowed in the following categories:

The newspaper, for overall general excellence.

Staff Writer Derek Moore, in environmental reporting, for his story on the future facing California State Parks as the system confronts funding shortfalls and the rising demand for open space.

Staff Writer Guy Kovner, in agricultural reporting, for his story about the pitched battle over the future of ranching in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Staff Writer Paul Payne, for his profile of Congressman Mike Thompson’s deeply personal mission in favor of tighter gun control laws in the aftermath of U.S. mass shootings.

Staff Writer Phil Barber, for his game-day coverage of the Cardinal Newman girls basketball team’s triumphant win in the state championship.

Editorial Director Paul Gullixson, for column writing, including a prescient piece on a possible Trump presidency before the election and a column juxtaposing the crush of tax measures with the rising burden of unfunded public employee pension costs.

Staff Writers Randi Rossmann and Julie Johnson and Staff Photographer Beth Schlanker, for breaking news coverage of the deaths of two Jenner sisters, 6 and 4, in a crash into the Russian River.

The newspaper’s sports section for coverage of the Super Bowl in 2016.

Schlanker, for a news photo capturing a family’s anguish in the aftermath of a downtown Santa Rosa slaying.

Chung, for an action photo of an extra-innings home run at a night game between the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs.

The Petaluma Argus-Courier received nine awards, including the top award for general excellence in its size category, an honor it has claimed two years in row.

In addition to general excellence, the paper received two other first-place awards: for breaking news coverage of the deaths of two young sisters killed in a Petaluma River car crash; and online photo coverage of an east Petaluma blaze that destroyed four homes.

The Sonoma Index-Tribune received seven awards, including six for first place in enterprise coverage, writing, columns, arts and entertainment coverage, business coverage and online general excellence.

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