By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
Mark Mulligan started out to be a biologist. He switched to journalism after taking a photography class at the University of Texas at Austin, in his home state.
Rikki King was hooked on news by high school. At Washington State University, she became editor-in-chief of the student paper, The Daily Evergreen.
Both are now standout members of The Daily Herald’s staff. You see their names in bylines and credits on stunning photos and front-page stories.
To me, they are respected colleagues and prized friends. Admiration for these talented young pros goes beyond the walls of our tight-knit newsroom.
King and Mulligan were honored Saturday night with two prestigious awards given by the Western Washington Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Other Herald staff members also won awards at the annual gala in Seattle.
The Herald’s chief photographer, Mulligan, 30, was given the Susan Hutchison Bosch Award. Named for a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter who was 25 when she died of Hodgkin’s disease in 1971, the award reflects qualities Bosch possessed — “fairness, grace, perseverance and quiet courage,” according to the board that established it.
Mulligan, a Herald photographer for six years, took over as head of the photo staff in early 2013.
“He showed incredible strength by not only stepping up as a leader, but making sure his team truly captured the devastating situation in Oso,” said Ethan Chung, board president of the region’s SPJ chapter.
“This is pretty humbling,” Mulligan said. “Some of the virtues this honor extols are as much how everyone else at The Herald deals with me. It’s a reminder to me to live up to that.”
King, 25, is The Herald’s police and public safety reporter. A 2010 graduate of WSU with a degree in political science, she was one of three honored as SPJ’s New Journalists of the Year.
“The board was thrilled with Rikki King’s nomination,” Chung said. “Her coverage for The Daily Herald was deep and insightful, and we were impressed by how much good work she accomplished in such a short time.”
Nominees for New Journalist of the Year must have worked in a newsroom no more than three years. The awards recognize work done the previous year — this time for 2013. In giving the awards, “the board studies the work closely and considers the breadth of a nominee’s work,” said Chung, deputy editor of 425 Magazine and South Sound Magazine.
With her on-site coverage of the Oso mudslide, King has written compassionately about the tragedy since the first awful days. She has given Herald readers ongoing and investigative coverage of police agencies, fire services, and domestic violence issues.
King, who grew up in California and the Tri-Cities, always loved writing. She was attracted to journalism by the chance to share people’s stories while making a positive difference. Before joining the staff here, King had internships at The Wenatchee World and with The Herald’s editorial staff.
“Reporters get to walk through walls,” she said. “It’s an incredible experience, and you can do more good than not.”
As a police reporter, “I write about the worst things people can do to each other. But the human good I see outweighs it.”
Unlike most media people who swarmed the Oso area after the slide, King is part of that community. She lives in Arlington. Her neighborhood was evacuated the first two nights. While writing news stories about devastating losses, King kept up her journal writing. In one entry, she wrote about crying in her car.
A month after the slide, she was the only Herald reporter to be an up-close witness to President Barack Obama’s Oso visit. It was the second time she had seen the president. She was part of The Herald’s coverage team when Obama visited Everett’s Boeing plant in 2012.
King said covering the law enforcement funerals of Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl, killed at the Monroe Correctional Complex, and State Patrol Trooper Sean O’Connell, who died in an on-duty collision, helped prepare her for other big events.
So much has changed since my start in journalism. Thirty-plus years ago, there was no Twitter, no Facebook, and no website to be updated. Today’s 24-hour nature of news has ratcheted up demands, even as newspaper staffs are smaller.
King and Mulligan shoulder heavy workloads with grit and grace.
They give credit to their colleagues. Mulligan, nominated for the award by longtime Herald photographer Dan Bates, quipped that “you’re only as good as the person who nominates you.” During a challenging time that brought a smaller staff, the sale and move of The Herald, and the Oso slide, Mulligan said he appreciates “how much everyone here has stepped up.”
King’s co-workers Scott North, Eric Stevick and Diana Hefley have been partners and mentors in her law enforcement coverage. “Each of those people has changed who I am,” she said.
Mulligan, who shoots daily assignments while managing the photo staff, values what he called “a luxury at The Herald — you still go look for that one great picture.” With a camera, he captured the faces and pain of people who lost jobs at the Kimberly-Clark mill. He showed the massive devastation of Oso.
Before heading out to photograph a ballgame last week, Mulligan said he always remembers that to those players — or to any subject on any day — “this could be that one moment in their life.”
“Journalism is responsibility,” he said. “You have a responsibility to honor that.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.