The Desert Sun has had an extra special day today.
We as a news organization do what we do, journalistically, for the readers. That includes all of the news we break and all of the investigative work we dig into on a regular basis.
But we still appreciate recognition from our peers when they also note our work when placed side by side with other great examples of solid journalism.
On Saturday, Desert Sun Executive Editor Greg Burton took a trip to Los Angeles to help honor all of the great work news organizations in California tackled and produced in 2012. The following column from Greg talks about that work and the awards The Desert Sun and MyDesert.com brought home:
The Desert Sun collects 11 journalim awards from CNPA
By Greg Burton, Desert Sun Executive Editor
More than a year ago, we refocused our newsroom on storytelling, investigative journalism, digital innovation and community engagement.
We invested in watchdog reporting, creating an eight-person iSun team that is producing revelatory work on energy and the environment, health and education, politics and public corruption. Our team of investigative reporters is comparable in size to newsrooms much larger than ours.
We hired more reporters. We hired more digital producers. We partnered with California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting.
We retooled community reporting so that we didn’t reaffirm neighborhood news, we discovered it.
We put a premium on deep reporting, regardless of subject: boxing, golf, modern design, music, hotels, real estate, pollution, public pensions and taxes.
We reinvented our approach, launching mobile apps for music, mycoachella.com, and for high schools, digitalnatives.net, and for our main news site, mydesert.com.
Our greatest return on investment is a strengthened connection to readers in the Coachella Valley. We earn this by shining a light on mistakes and misappropriations, by injecting reason into public discourse, by celebrating good people and great feats.
Today, I want to recognize a few of the people who work for your newspaper. On Saturday, The Desert Sun took home an unprecedented, for us, nine first- and two second-place trophies in the annual California Newspaper Publishers Association journalism contest. Our staff earned honorable mention in two other categories, for 13 total awards.
Nearly every aspect of our work received praise: Digital, investigations, narrative writing, feature storytelling, special sections, coverage of the environment, government, business, education, sports.
No newspaper in the state won more first places than The Desert Sun except for the LA Times.
During lunch at a Sheraton in Universal City, The Desert Sun collected nine first-place awards for:
1. Best Investigative Reporting: Marcel Honoré’s package of stories on toxic pollution in Mecca
2. Sports Coverage: For the day-to-day excellence of The Desert Sun’s Sports section, a staff award with a nod to sports editor Matt Solinsky and assistant sports editor Shad Powers
3. Coverage of Business, Financial or Economic News: Mike Perrault’s story on vacant commercial office space in the Coachella Valley
4. Best Local Government Coverage: Erica Felci and Rebecca Walsh’s investigation of Riverside County’s $1,144,000,000 pension gap
5. Best Writing: Drew Schmenner’s captivating retelling of the death of two hikers at Joshua Tree National Park
6. Coverage of Environment: Our iSun team’s special report on the Salton Sea’s evaporating hope
7. Best Sports Story: Drew Schmenner’s package on the history of boxing in the Coachella Valley
8. Best Feature Story: Bruce Fessier’s examination of the rebirth of Sunnylands
9. Coverage of Education: Michelle Mitchell’s special report on the digital divide at schools in southeastern Riverside County
And second-place awards for:
Best Website: MyDesert.com
Special Sports Section: Our sports team’s coverage of the Humana Challenge
Also this week, in New York City, our mobile app program for schools was recognized by the International News Media Association.
Judges praised DigitalNatives.com and our collaboration with Cathedral City, Palm Desert and La Quinta high schools to deliver student-created content via mobile apps. Our innovative approach shared the spotlight with two programs from Brazil.
We’re in talks to deliver this program to every high school — so if you care about students in Palm Springs, Indio, Coachella, Rancho Mirage, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells and elsewhere in the valley, ask your principal to give me a call.
Finally, our sports team earned distinction in three categories from the Associated Press Sports Editors. We received honorable mention for the overall excellence of our Sunday Sports section and Humana golf tournament special section.
Nobody, though, was better than Leighton Ginn, who was named the best beat reporter among peer sports writers working anywhere in America.
APSE singled out Leighton’s coverage of Timothy Bradley and boxing in the Coachella Valley.
Leighton’s a knockout winner.
Greg Burton is executive editor of The Desert Sun and mydesert.com. Email him at Greg.Burton@thedesertsun.com and follow him on Twitter @gburton