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Record wins top awards for news and ads

The South Whidbey Record won 15 awards in news and advertising at this year’s “Better Newspaper Contest” competition between newspapers across Washington state.

The awards, which covered the gamut from community service advertising, to photography, sports, crime and investigative reporting, were announced Friday at the 121st annual convention of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association in Yakima.

Record editor Brian Kelly, a guest speaker at this year’s convention, accepted the awards on The Record’s behalf.

“I am continually amazed at the dedication and hard work of our newsroom in providing the best news coverage to our readers,” Kelly said. “These awards are a reminder of the pledge we keep to our readers; to provide the most comprehensive, relevant and insightful reportage to the public we serve.”

A total of 80 newspapers submitted close to 3,000 entries for the 2008 competition. The contest was judged by the Louisiana Press Association.

In photography, Record photographer David Welton won first place in black-and-white sports action photos for a shot taken during a Cedarcrest-South Whidbey basketball game.

In news writing, reporter Michaela Marx Wheatley walked away with a first-place award for “best lifestyle feature” for the story about a South End man who decided to live life without driving a car for one year.

Wheatley, Kelly, Jeff VanDerford and Spencer Webster won first place for “best breaking news story” for their coverage of the events that unfolded the morning Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders closed its doors and laid off hundreds of workers.

The Record also took a first place in “best crime and courts story.” Kelly, Wheatley and Webster were honored for their investigative piece, “Thread of truth.” The story scrutinized police and court records on the Jay Wallace case, balanced against interviews with those involved in the case. Wallace was the former Island County sheriff’s deputy fired for not properly responding to a 911 call where a woman later claimed she was held hostage and assaulted.

Judges in the contest had high praise for the story: “Excellent job of holding officials accountable and going way beyond the superficial reporting of ‘official’ statements to get to the real truth. This is the kind of reporting that separates journalists from mere stenographers.”

Betsy Roberts, a Record columnist who retired this year, won first place for “best topical column.” Record arts reporter Patricia Duff took third place in the same category for her theater reviews.

Wheatley also won a second-place award for “best health/medical story” for a story about a Langley woman who had lost both of her sisters to cancer and had joined the Sisters Study to help find the cure.

Kelly and VanDerford won a second place in business reporting for “PSE’s Perfect Storm,” a story that detailed the troubled response by Puget Sound Energy to the “Hanukkah Eve Windstorm of 2006,” which left more than a dozen dead in Western Washington and cut power to roughly 1.5 million people. Many went without power for a week or more, and the Bellevue-based utility was heavily criticized for its response to the storm. Judges praised the reporting as “good public service work.”

Kelly also won a second-place award for “best investigative reporting” for “Breaking down the vote,” his detailed analysis of the presidential primary, which the judges called “thorough and informative.” Kelly compared 2008 primary results to past election trends and interviewed voters in precincts across Whidbey and Camano islands to find out how they voted and why.

VanDerford nearly swept the category for “best sports news story,” winning awards for second and third place.

His coverage of the Falcon football team’s 9-2 winning season in 2007 and its preparations for the big game against league rival Archbishop Murphy took second.

He won third place for coverage of the South Whidbey High School girls 200-meter relay team’s successful quest for the state title in Tacoma.

Kelly also won two third-place awards. “Monkey Think, Monkey Write” was honored in the “best humor column” category, and Kelly also earned acclaim for “best single page design.”

Sasha Burrow, the Record’s marketing artist, won a third-place award for “best community service advertising” for an advertisement he designed for the M-Bar-C Ranch.

The staff also won third place for “best special section, tourism” for the Whidbey-Camano Islander, a specialty publication produced annually by the newspaper.

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