Streetsblog Wins Two Awards from L.A. Press Club (Update, 4:40)

When we first decided to submit for Los Angeles Press Club Awards, I was just hoping we would place in the top three once or twice. Not that I didn’t think we had some great stories, from Sahra’s photography and groundbreaking “Listening to the Streets” series, to Kris Fortin’s vivid profiles of the Ovarian-Psycos Bicycle Brigade to some of my own “slightly more opinionated pieces,” I thought we had a solid set of entries.

Sahra, Fidel, Damien. Photo: Marybeth Miceli Newton

When our seven nominations were paired down to three finalists, I was just hoping to get our name mentioned once or twice at last night’s awards ceremony.

So, last night was a very pleasant surprise. Even when a friend on the Press Club staff hinted to me on Friday we “had good reason to come,” I was still thinking we were going to get a third place, or honorable mention. After all, our work was up against Forbes, Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, CNN and the Los Angeles Times. The amazingly in-depth series on the life of Fidel, an ernest young man who extricated himself from a life as a gang member, will remain one of the best pieces of journalism on any Streetsblog site ever…but it was up against profiles of pretty famous people such as Bon Jovi and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

But last night turned out to be Streetsblog’s night.

Sahra won “Best Personality Profile – Online” for her amazing three part series covering Fidel, a then 19 year old Business Administration student who began running with crews in elementary school. The series also explores how the traditional view of a “Livable Street” can be forever altered when one has reason to be scared of going for a walk in his own community. Read the entire three part series, here: “It’s a Small World,” April 4, 2012, “Are You Ready to Rumble,” April 27, 2012, and “Listening to the Streets,” August 9, 2012.

Making the evening even more special, Sahra brought Fidel as her guest for the evening. I have to believe that seeing how many people are moved and inspired by his story provided a moment he won’t forget. A congratulations to both Sahra and Fidel are more than in order. If nothing else, it was a pleasure meeting such an amazing young man with such a great future.

Don’t Let MyFigueroa! Get Lost in the CRA Shuffle, a piece I wrote begging the city to not screw up the golden opportunity to make real change on South Figueroa Street just because the Community Redevelopment Agency in-charge of the project collapsed was awarded “Best Non-Political Commentary – Online” from the Club. I didn’t get to give a speech, but if I did I would have to thank Deborah Murphy. Her passion, knowledge and contacts for MyFigueroa! drove and informed my work on the project over the years, and I never would have written as good a piece without her help.

Three other thoughts from last night.

1) Zach Behrens, the former editor of LAist who now runs KCET’s blog section, may be one of the most quietly important journalists in Los Angeles. When we were starting up, Behrens and LAist were huge supporters of Streetsblog/Street Heat, helping us with connections and attracting readers. Watching him work the room last night with some of his team members showed that he’s still helping young reporters navigate the difficult field of journalism.

2) I was personally thrilled to see Ryan Vaillancourt with the Downtown News walk off with two awards last night. It seems that every time we link to a Downtown News article, it has his byline. It seems that everyone of those stories is well researched and written.

3) Congratulations to the Beverly Hills High School Highlights for winning the best high school news paper award. In their first edition of the last school year, the student editorial board took aim at the Beverly Hills Unified School District School Board for their crusade against the currently planned route of the Westside Subway. The editorial was fact-based and well written, so naturally it drew the ire of BHUSD Board Members Lisa Korbatov and Lewis Hall, who tried to block funding for the editors to attend a journalism conference for daring to disagree with them.

Korbatov berated the advisor to the paper for what she termed the students “lack of professionalism” and poor research skills. The L.A. Press Club took the opposite view, praising the paper for standing up well in comparison to professional outlets. We can only assume they were slyly referring to the tabloid weekly paper that we so often spar with.

The students stood their ground and doubtless learned some valuable lessons about journalism and speaking truth to power. Congratulations to the entire team for their well deserved award.

Update: Here’s what the Press Club had to say about us when announcing our awards:

“Don’t Let South Figueroa Corridor Project Get Lost in the CRA Shuffle”

This commentary’s passion from the beginning hooks the reader. The writing was  pithy and straightforward. The point of view was clear but not preachy, about the plans — and  looming challenges — for overhauling a Los Angeles street to become more pedestrian and  bike friendly. This author knows his stuff and will have success gaining support with his  compelling arguments.

“Listening to the Streets”

Fidel’s story makes for compelling reading. Under a less-skilled reporter, Fidel’s  tale of his struggles to overcome gang life and make something of his life could have been  superficial. But Sahra was able to get him to open up and reveal himself. A wonderful job.