Every year at this time, I spend a couple weeks getting ready for the annual Colorado Press Association newspaper awards contest.
The CPA contest includes competition in 26 editorial and 11 advertising categories. Those categories range from best agriculture story to best black-and-white ad. Just putting the entries together is an arduous task. During the past few days, we have reviewed hundreds of stories, photos, graphics, pages and ads for inclusion in the contests. Clipping and preparing the entries is messy and time-consuming work.
Journalism awards don't mean much to readers. And winning all the plaques the CPA gives out can't make up for misspelling somebody's name, particularly in the eyes of the person whose name was misspelled.
Still, preparing contest entries reminds me that amid some of our stumbles, we do meaningful work that reinforces the role of the newspaper in a community. I wanted to share with you what I think are some of the best things this newspaper has done in the past 12 months.
"Shifting Currents," our six-part series on the Yampa River that we published in the summer, is terrific journalism. It's a tremendous package of stories, photos and graphics. In the American West, there is no more important natural resource than water, and I'm very proud of the work we accomplished on this issue. Participants in the series were Mike Lawrence, Tom Ross, Tyler Arroyo, Jayme Elrod and Brent Boyer.
"On a Mission" was a package we published following a trip to New Orleans along with a team from the Hayden Congregational Church. Melinda Mawdsley did a great job of bringing home the lingering devastation that haunted New Orleans months after Hurricane Katrina hit.
We took some risks in page design this year that I'm proud of. On July 23, we ran no stories on the front page of the Sunday newspaper, just a five-column photo aerial photo of the Yampa River with teases to other stories in the newspaper. Elrod and Meg Wortman collaborated on that design. Wortman also experimented with a photo of a hand holding an iPod that took up almost the entire front page of the Style section. Such creativity really helps engage readers in our newspaper.
Other noteworthy efforts include Alexis DeLaCruz's reporting on underage drinking and the city's liquor ordinance, Mike Lawrence's series on young Ellie Zwak, John Russell's reporting from Italy during the 2006 Winter Olympics and Tom Ross' columns.
The staff's efforts on our new magazine products such as At Home in Steamboat Springs and Colorado Hunter have been outstanding. And the work on our redesigned Web site, steamboatpilot.com, also is impressive.
One of the best parts of going through contest entries is looking at our best photos during the year. Sometimes, the reproduction on newsprint can't do them justice.
Russell and Arroyo print glossies of their prints for me, and the best are really amazing.
Some of my favorites by Arroyo in the past year include his Shifting Currents work, his photos from the Routt County Fair and his shot of two mallards on the snow-covered banks of the Yampa. Russell's photos from the Steamboat Sailors' muddy state quarterfinals football game against Eagle Valley were some of his best work at a sports event.
And I love his lightning photo shot at the Selbe property at the intersection of Routt County Road 42 and U.S. Highway 40.
I have a love-hate relationship with these journalism contests. I loathe the work required to put together the entries, but it also gives me tremendous satisfaction.
It reminds that, when we do it right, a newspaper can be a pretty special thing.
From the Editor appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today. Send questions to Scott Stanford at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 871-4221.