Only one other person heard me chant “We’re No. 1,” with a meager fist pump, last Friday evening. Just as well, because that could have been embarrassing.
I had just learned that the Methow Valley News had won a slew of industry awards including the one that means the most: Best weekly of its size in Washington state.
Awards are a bonus. We don’t come to work every day thinking, “hey, let’s do some award-winning journalism!” Each week, we just do the best we can with the content we have: the news, features, sports and arts stories, the Opinion page contributions, the columnists’ work, photography and design.
At the start of the weekly production cycle (Wednesday morning, after the paper goes to press Tuesday night), we may have some idea what we’re planning for next week. It’s a plan, and it will evolve, and we will adapt. Things can and do change a lot over the days between deadlines. That’s what makes the “news” part of newspapering interesting. Sometimes we are making changes right up until the Tuesday press deadline. That flexibility is valuable.
More and more over time, we rely on social media (the website and Facebook page primarily) to keep us current on a day-to-day basis. It’s a vital part of our mission to put useful information in front of the community as effectively as we can.
We’re take pride in what we do, and some of our best efforts rise to the level of anything being produced out there by the country’s weekly newspapers, many of which have larger circulation bases than ours. To use a fighting analogy, we punch above our weight.
Sometimes we get a little professional recognition for that.
In the newspaper industry, from the Pulitzer Prize on down, acknowledgement of the quality of our work comes almost exclusively from our peers. Journalism awards are decided by other journalists, in a variety of contest structures. For many years, the Methow Valley News has been a member of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA), a statewide trade group representing most of the state’s weeklies. Each year, the WNPA stages the Better Newspaper Contest, which invites entries from a year’s worth of newspapers in a wide range of content categories. The entries are judged by members of a similar trade group in another state (and WNPA members judge theirs in return).
I always spend way too much time agonizing over the Methow Valley News entries in the Better Newspaper Contest. It’s worth it because I think our hard-working crew deserves the support and a few accolades. The individual honors are great, but it’s the teamwork awards that are especially gratifying.
That’s why I am so proud and humbled that the Methow Valley News this year took first place in the Better Newspaper Contest “General Excellence” category for newspapers of our size. The judging is based on three issues submitted from the contest entry period, representing the combined efforts of a dedicated staff. Last year, we took third place in “General Excellence.” It’s an incredibly competitive category — there are many fine weeklies doing good work out there, and to emerge on top again (it’s been about half a dozen years since we took first place) just reinforces the standards we believe in.
I think everything I submit to the Better Newspaper Contest is award-worthy, but of course they can’t all win. The competition is fierce. To see the work being generated by our colleagues around the state is always uplifting and encouraging. In their own communities, with constrained resources, weekly journalists continue to crank out excellent stories and display extraordinary photography. The News is in good company.
We’re not doing this alone. The Methow Valley community deserves a lot of credit for the quality of this newspaper — you have supported us in any number of ways over the decades, which creates in us a strong sense of responsibility. So we thank you for that. We will keep striving to live up to your expectations every week, in everything we do. I have no idea if we’ll do as well in next year’s Better Newspaper Contest, but it won’t be for lack of trying.