Winning General Excellence Award a humbling experience

It’s been awhile since I attended a Washington Newspaper Publisher’s Association Convention, about nine years I think. You could have knocked me over with a feather when they announced the Gazette-Tribune had taken first place for General Excellence this year. It is a very humbling experience to learn that a group of your peers from the New York Press Association, or from anywhere for that matter, deem that the G-T team is doing quality work.

In an email to the all the Sound Newspapers, which won a total of 218 awards at the convention this year, Sound Publishing President Gloria Fletcher writes, “General Excellence is a pure team award. Every news item, every headline and advertisement, every design element including press quality is part of the judging. Look at how these Sound newspapers stacked up against their peers! Amazing performance… my compliments and congratulations.”

Although our readers will always be the most important judge of what we do, it is still important too to know others who share our daily struggle to meet the changing needs of community newspapers have given their okay to what we’re doing. With over 25 years in this business I know a little reassurance can go a long way towards keeping one on the right track in providing the best product we can.

I’ll admit I knew we were in the running for at least first, second or third place, because to coax me down to Yakima they told me that much after I missed several deadlines to register for the convention. So instead of going to my granddaughter’s fourth birthday party, or playing host to the Valley BMW Riders at Veterans Memorial Park, I rode down to Yakima.

The convention itself is a great experience, WNPA was celebrating its 125 Anniversary and in addition to seminars to help us learn how to hone our skills in news gathering, reporting and photography, there was also important legal information on how to gain access to public documents. Documents that many in government would rather the public not see. In fact, it may seem counterintuitive, but the Walter C. Woodward Freedom’s Light Award was given to a lobbyist – Roland Thompson, with Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington. He won for all the work he does to insure the press has access to public records – a fight that never seems to ends.

Thompson was himself humbled by the award which was renamed in honor of the late Woodward in 2008. Woodward was the publisher of the Bainbridge Island Review during World War II. The WNPA website says Woodward “made journalism history with his passionate, eloquent stand against the internment of 240 of his Bainbridge Island neighbors during the early months of World War II. Their only ‘crime’ was their Japanese ancestry.

“As the rest of America, and virtually every other journalist, watched silently, a total of 110,000 Japanese Americans living along the West Coast were rounded up and jailed in prison camps scattered around remote areas of the West for the duration of the war. Woodward editorialized against this injustice and published regular reports from his neighbors imprisoned in the internment camp in Manzanar, Calif.”