It’s a California newspaper tradition: Each spring, the state’s established newspapers proudly tout the awards they’ve won in the annual California Journalism Awards.
However, this is a tradition in which the Independent previously did not participate. The contest is open to members of the California News Publishers Association, and until earlier this year, the Independent wasn’t a member. The CNPA traditionally has been focused on old-school newspapers (primarily dailies and community weeklies) and the old-school issues surrounding them, and the Independent—an online-first publication with a monthly print edition, founded in 2012-2013—wasn’t really deemed a fit.
That is, we weren’t deemed a fit until recently. Earlier this year, the good folks at the CNPA reached out to ask the Independent to apply for membership, as part of an outreach effort aimed at diversifying the association’s membership. We were accepted; we entered some work in the contest that we did during the bonkers year that was 2020; and I’m proud to announce that we did very, very well.
The Independent won seven awards, and two of those awards are particularly big deals. First: We won second place for General Excellence in our category, which is weeklies with a print circulation between 11,001 and 25,000. (Yes, I know we’re not a weekly; we’re a monthly in print. But that’s how the contest works; see the old-school focus comments above.) After reviewing the two print editions we were asked to submit (February and September 2020), the judge commented: “Love the number of stories and wide variety of topics—both serious and entertaining stories. Nice editor notes. Wish I lived there to participate in Craft Cocktail Week.”
(The CNPA actually engaged in a cruel, if unintentional, tease: We were actually listed as finishing FIRST in general excellence when the CNPA’s online list and gallery of winners was first posted—and we still are, as of this writing. However, the CNPA office tells us we actually finished second. Sigh.)
The other particularly-big-deal award is arguably an even bigger deal: We won first place for Arts and Entertainment Coverage among all “weeklies” in the state of California. Yes, the Independent bested all not-daily newspapers for the honor. The judge wrote: “Excellent writing, captures the soul of the community, good design, lots of sophisticated advertising. These elements set this section apart.” There are only two newspapers that can say they have the best A&E coverage in the state, according to the CNPA: The Los Angeles Times and the Coachella Valley Independent.
Our other wins:
• Valerie-Jean Hume earned second place in the Profile Story category (among “weeklies” 11,001-25,000) for “Pandemic Stories: A Chat With Nine Local Members of Alcoholics Anonymous About How They’re Dealing With the Shelter-in-Place Order,” published online March 29, 2020, and in the May 2020 print edition.
• Kevin Fitzgerald earned fourth place for Coverage of Youth and Education (among “weeklies” 11,001-25,000) for “‘A Civil Rights Issue’: Thousands of Local Students Lack Proper Internet Access—Which Makes Distance Learning All but Impossible” (published online June 22, 2020, and in the July 2020 print edition).
• Kevin Fitzgerald earned fifth place for Coverage of Local Government (among “weeklies” 4,301-25,000) for his series on the city of Palm Desert’s redistricting process.
• I earned fifth place for Public Service Journalism in the digital-only contest (less than 100,000 unique visitors per month) for the Daily Digest newsletter, which is also posted at CVIndependent.com.
Congrats to all of the Independent staffers and contributors who were a part of these awards (that would be all of them)—and thanks to you, our readers, for your support during this crazy, crazy year.