Herald wins First Amendment Award, other top honors

PORTLAND — The Daily Herald’s pursuit of computer records from former Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon’s office has earned the 2014 Associated Press Ted Natt First Amendment Award, and the newspaper’s coverage of the deadly Oso landslide has won a top regional award for distinguished reporting.

The honors were among five awards presented to The Daily Herald during an annual meeting of Pacific Northwest editors and publishers. They included a first-place award in the Dolly Connelly environmental journalism contest and three C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for distinguished journalism.

The Daily Herald staff won first place in the deadline category of the Blethen competition for its coverage of the March 22 Oso landslide that killed 43 people; Diana Hefley and Noah Haglund won first place in investigative journalism for their reporting on Snohomish homeowners wrongly forced to pay a developer’s fees; and Hefley won first place in enterprise reporting for a story about two retail clerks who helped rescue an abused child.

All Blethen awards were in the category for newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or less.

In awarding the first place in the Dolly Connelly competition, judges cited “consistently exceptional” commentaries on environment topics, all of which were written by Peter Jackson, Daily Herald editorial page editor. The entry included opinion pieces about coal and oil trains, delays in the Hanford cleanup efforts and the proposed Pebble Mine at Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

“Today was truly a proud moment for The Daily Herald and one that we’re excited to celebrate with our readers and the community,” Herald Publisher Josh O’Connor said.

The Ted Natt First Amendment Award recognized a series of stories by reporters Scott North and Noah Haglund that revealed abuses of county government public records and technology policies.

In the year before and after Reardon resigned as county executive, in 2013, reporters unsuccessfully sought public documents that would unravel the details of a malicious online campaign conducted against Reardon’s opponents. Ultimately, criminal investigators confirmed The Daily Herald’s suspicions and the county released 40 gigabytes of data documenting misuse of county computers by Reardon’s aides.

The Ted Natt First Amendment competition, open to newspapers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana, is named for the late publisher of the Longview Daily News.

The Excellence in Environmental Journalism competition is named in honor of Pacific Northwest reporter and photojournalist Dolly Connelly, who was an advocate for news media coverage of environmental issues.

Meanwhile, Herald photographers Dan Bates and Genna Martin won awards Thursday night in the Associated Press Northwest photo contest. Bates earned first- and third-place awards in feature photography and a second-place award for a multiple-photo set. Martin took first-place honors for a multiple-photo set and a third-place award for sports photography.

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