Island's papers are pretty good — really

"Journalists, in general, are getting a bad rap these days.Much of it is justified. Some reporting — particularly in electronic media, where deadlines and competition are everything — is shallow at best, innacurate at worst. Much of it stems from guilt by association. “The media’’ has become an all-encompassing term that embraces a swirling stew of images and data, everything from rotten fish heads like “The Jerry Springer Show’’ to golden nuggets like the CBS Evening News.Some of it stems from widely reported industry disasters: Columnists caught plagiarizing, reporters caught lying, film crews caught staging disasters.The criticism, though, neglects to highlight one fact about journalism that tends to hide out in plain view: that it’s our window on our world and, done right, it’s an art that can not just inform us about our community, but enlighten us on it.Whidbey’s three local newspapers no doubt take their shots in local living rooms and coffee shops. Some are no doubt justified. But if the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association’s Better Newspaper Contest results were any indication this year, the island is blessed to have three of the best in the state.After the WNPA unveiled its awards in Spokane Saturday afternoon, the Whidbey News-Times walked home with 21 awards, including 19 for excellence in reporting, editing and photography — more than any other paper in the state. The South Whidbey Record carried away 11 awards, including a second place showing in the General Excellence category for newspapers in the state’s second-largest circulation category. And the little Coupeville Examiner, a paper run through most of the year by former News-Times reporters Keven Graves and Mary Kay Doody, was named third in the state in the smallest circulation category’s general excellence contest.What does all that mean?It doesn’t mean that we spell every name right and clear every typo out of the paper, much as we try. It doesn’t mean that we please every reader with every edition. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we think we can’t get better — we rely on reader feedback to tell us how, and when, to do that, not peer contests.But it does mean that Whidbey’s windows on the world are pretty clear — that is, if newspaper people are any judge of what’s good among their own kind.For the record, these were the awards won this year by the News-Times, in competition with the state’s largest non-dailies:Best spot news story: Jessie Stensland, 3rd place, “Escape hurts two.’’ General news: Jessie Stensland, 1st place, “Black, White & Shades of Gray.’’Medical/Health story: Mike Page-English, 1st place, “A Change of Heart;’’ 2nd place, “A Breath of Life.’’Environmental story: Chris Douthitt, 1st place, “What to do about Whidbey’s disappearing plants;’’ June Vigor, 3rd place, “Eagles on the Skagit.’’Business story: D. Patrick Connolly, “Room for an Inn?’’Government affairs: Jessie Stensland, 2nd place, “The Mayor’s Pay.’’Comprehensive coverage: Chris Douthitt, 2nd place, “Reading: The Critical Skill.’’General features: June Vigor, honorable mention, “In Safe Harbor.’’Personality features: Chris Douthitt, 1st place, “Hornung sounds a dissenting note.’’Technology story: D. Patrick Connolly, “Virtual visits.’’Feature sections: June Vigor, 2nd place, “Island Living.’’Humorous features: June Vigor, 2nd place, “Pets with professions.’’Ars story: June Vigor, 2nd place, “Art around the pickle barrel.’’Editorial page: David Fisher, 1st place.Overall design: Kurt Batdorf & Jon Jensen, 3rd place.Photography: Jim Davidson, 1st place for pictorial, “Eagles on the Skagit;’’ portraits, “SOS on the water.’’Merchandising ads: Advertising staff.Special sections: Merchandising: Robin Stanek, Teresa Michel, “Artichokes & Arts Festival.’’"

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