Chieftain staff rakes in five statewide journalism awards

The staff of the Wallowa County Chieftain was running on all cylinders in 2008 — and it showed in the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association’s (ONPA) 2009 Better Newspapers awards. The Chieftain staff won three first-place awards and two second-place awards at the July 17 awards banquet, held in Redmond, Ore.

“The Wow in Wallowa,” better known as the 2008 Visitors Guide, took top honors in the Special Section category, scoring five out of five points in every criterion: quality and depth, skill in handling tie-in advertising, and makeup and typography.

The Wow in Wallowa featured photography and writing by all members of the editorial staff and was edited by Michael Burkett (November 2007 to November 2008). “Stuffed full of interesting staff-written content,” the judge for the category declared. “A glossy cover is icing on the cake.”

Reporter Kathleen Ellyn proved her mettle just three months after her arrival at the Chieftain, winning Best Enterprise Reporting with a March 27 collection of stories on “Cougars in Conflict.” Ellyn was recognized for her trademark research stories with a judge’s comment frequently echoed by readers: “a little long, but it is understandable due to the subject.” The judge added, “The story is very thorough.”

Sportswriter Hector del Castillo continued his winning streak from 2007, again winning Best Sports Page for three pages in three separate months featuring his writing, photography and design. Quality photos were the edge that pushed del Castillo’s work into first place, according to the judge. Nevertheless, del Castillo’s work took top scores in all criteria. Del Castillo also took a second-place award for best photo, a shot of Amanda Jo Smith in the Junior Rodeo cowhide race — an image so strong that it beat out more traditional face shots.

Editor Andy Martin (November 2008 to April 2009) also took a second-place award for Best Editorial Page. “Meaty editorials that make no bones about editor’s position, lively letters that welcome reader involvement, charming columnist … what’s not to love,” remarked the judge.

The Chieftain competed against other weekly Oregon newspapers with circulations of 3,500 or less.

Burkett’s award-winning editorial was headlined “Together, we can create miracles,” in which he wrote about the power of community newspapers to effect positive change.

The Chieftain’s 2007 visitors guide received third place in the Best Special Section or Issue category. Staff members del Castillo and Elane Dickenson, and former staff member Corey Wicks, were listed in the credit.

The special issue earned three out of three “excellent” ratings for editorial material, skill in handling tie-in advertising and makeup/typography.

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