Chinook Observer wins 38 statewide press awards

WENATCHEE — Chinook Observer staff and freelancers won 38 awards in the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association 2015-2016 “Better Newspapers” contest. These awards included third-place in the “General Excellence” category, in which newspapers of similar circulation size compete to win honors for the overall quality of the publication, a first-place “Sports Writer of the Year” award for former Daily Astorian Managing Editor (and occasional Chinook Observer freelancer) Patrick Webb, and a second-place “News Writer of the Year” award for staff reporter and photojournalist Natalie St. John.

The annual WNPA contest is a chance for non-daily papers across Washington state to compete for honors in a variety of writing, photography, editorial content, advertising and design categories. WNPA representatives announced the contest winners during the annual WNPA convention awards dinner in Wenatchee on Oct. 14.

In all, the Observer’s honors included 16 first-place awards, 11 second-place awards and 11 third-place awards.

Editor Matt Winters won first place for “Best Editorial” for “There is a code of the West: Don’t commit arson.”

EO Media Group Page designer Adam Drey and his staff took first place in “Best sports page design” for the story “Making Memories, learning lessons,” and “Best feature page design” for the story “Flight of the ferries.”

EO Media Group staffers Rebecca Sedlak and John Bruijn took first in “Best tourism or community guide” competition for the 2016 edition of “Our Coast” magazine.

Webb won a first place “Best sports news story” honor for “Naselle actors play their role.”

Former staff writer Katie Wilson won first place in the “Best environmental story” category for the article, “El Nino will be a big test,” and in the “Best story on the arts” category for “The art of cleaning fish.”

Together, Natalie St. John and former staff reporter Katheryn Houghton took first place in “Best breaking news story” for coverage of a spring 2015 school shooting threat.

St. John took first place awards in “Best government reporting” for her reporting on neighbors’ health and safety concerns at Mauch’s RV park; “Best health or medical story” for a story about the poor health outcomes in Legislative District 19; “Best short news story” for a piece about the landslide in Ilwaco Cemetery; “Best personality profile” for a profile of Eugene Bolstad, the state trooper who drowned while attempting a beach rescue; and “Best long general feature story” for “Somebody Else’s Miracle,” a first-person account of how the process of organ donation helped her family find meaning in the sudden deaths of two family members.

In all, the paper won eight awards for photography. Former staff photographer and frequent contributor Damian Mulinix took first place in the “General News Photo” category for his picture of the new Wahkiakum Ferry, as well as first place for his color photo essay of a state track meet. He also won a second place award for the black and white photo essay, “Backstage at a high school play.” Webb took second in the best sports photo feature competition, and St. John took second place awards for color portrait, color feature photo, spot news coverage, and black and white feature photo.

Observer contributors also received second and third place awards for numerous categories, including investigative, health, crime, spots, government, breaking news and environment coverage, features and columns.