by Rebecca Fairley Raney
 
 
 

Awards, and the art of winning to play

On this page, I've linked to excerpts from several stories that won awards in the last 20 years. The excerpts came from stories that represented turning points for me; the stories all grew from experiences that made me a better reporter.

I started working in the news business at a time when awards became more important than ever. During the '80s, the last of the Baby Boomers glutted the job market. At the same time, newspaper circulation numbers started a long, steady slide. By 1990, it seemed like another newspaper was folding every month.

Consequently, for nearly every newspaper job, editors could count on seeing hundreds of applicants, even at the entry level. To advance to the level in which you could make a living, you had to do much more than fulfill the basic requirements of the job.

In an environment like this, I'm convinced that awards kept me in the game. In 1990, in the wake of a big winning streak, I was recruited by the editors of a competing paper. They gave me a 50 percent raise. A few years later, the habit of winning brought some comfort in the prickly environment of a newspaper that was about to be sold.

A few months after my last big project was published in 1997, I had the good fortune to secure a contract to write for The New York Times on the Web. I haven't won any awards since.

Some people would say that writing for The Times is reward enough in itself. I would have to agree.

Of course, I recognize that if I had never racked up all those awards, I would never have earned the freedom to work without having to win.

Stories that mattered

1. Paradise in Peril: The California real estate crash

2. Too Violent, Too Young: Life on the street

3. School statistics, and a personal breakthrough: The secrets behind test scores

4. Winning, as an alternative to starving: Political coverage, and a miracle baby

5. Yes, traffic is funny: Life outside the carpool lane

6. Turbulent Skies: The politics of medical helicopter service

7. Nailing down the building boom

Awards - full list

1997

Paradise in Peril

Gannett Well Done competition, Top Well Done award, metro division. Top Well Done constitutes best of show in quarterly corporate competition against newspapers that include The Detroit News, the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Des Moines Register.

1995

Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Empire chapter, first place for continuous coverage for series that analyzed issues behind San Bernardino's high crime rate. Annual competition takes in more than 5,000 entries and covers all circulation divisions.

Best of Gannett, third place for in-depth reporting for series on the San Bernardino Police Department's shoddy police work that results in low conviction rates. The annual corporate competition takes in more than 5,000 entries.

1994

Too Violent, Too Young

Top-three Finalist for the Livingston Award for local reporting, a national competition for newspaper and broadcast journalists younger than 35.

California Newspaper Publishers Association, first place for public service. CNPA is the top award for California newspapers. The Sun competed in the same circulation division as the San Francisco Examiner, the Fresno Bee and the Los Angeles Times Orange County edition.

Best of Gannett, first place in investigative reporting.

National Council on Crime and Delinquency PASS Award for outstanding contribution to the public's knowledge of the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

California Child Advocacy Institute, second place, for bringing attention to a children's issue. This competition, sponsored by the law school at the University San Diego, covers all circulation divisions. Two awards are given each year.

Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Empire chapter, first place for a series.

1993

California Newspaper Publishers Association, first place for spot news coverage of the Landers earthquake in June 1992. Worked as lead writer with team of six reporters.

1992

School statistics, and a personal breakthrough

Press Club of Southern California, first place in investigative reporting for project showing flaws in the reporting of state and national school statistics. Annual competition takes in more than 5,000 entries and covers all circulation divisions.

Best of Gannett, first place for public service for team project on racism.

Gannett Well Done Competition, runner-up in monthly corporate competition for spot news coverage of a Greyhound bus hijacking.

1991

Gannett Well Done Competition, runner-up in specialty reporting for package on high school dropouts.

1990

Winning, as an alternative to starving

Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Empire chapter, first place award for political writing.

Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Empire chapter, first place award for medical writing.

Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Empire chapter, first place award for reporting on minority issues.

Yes, traffic is funny

Press Club of Southern California, first place in humorous commentary.

Taking off at 23; or, what I did instead of graduate school

Press Club of Southern California, second place for investigative reporting.

1989

Nailing down the building boom

Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Empire chapter, first place award for in-depth writing, for a series on lax enforcement of building codes.

Society of Professional Journalists, Inland Empire chapter, third place for feature writing, for a story on a pirate radio station.

Press Club of Southern California, second place award for spot news, for coverage of wildfires.

Press Club of Southern California, second place award for feature writing, for a story on a pirate radio station.

Press Club of Southern California, honorable mention for a series on lax enforcement of building codes.

 
 

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