Seattle Weekly kicked ass at the annual Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) awards banquet last week. Competing with weeklies from throughout Western Washington in the


Seattle Weekly wins awards, creates a stir with stories.

Seattle Weekly kicked ass at the annual Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) awards banquet last week. Competing with weeklies from throughout Western Washington in the nondaily newspaper category, we garnered a newspaper-best 27 awards for excellence. Ten of those were first place. More than 21 individual staffers and contributors won awards for work done in 1999.

In recognition of the paper's performance, the Weekly also took the Sweepstakes Award 2000—which goes to the newspaper, magazine, or TV or radio station that did the best in each category.

Not a bad start to the new millennium. The Weekly was strong in all categories, winning for writing, reporting, design, illustration, and photography. A few of the highlights:

Geov Parrish won first place for his hard-hitting weekly political column, "Impolitics."

Barbara Dow and Karen Steichen received a first place award for Cover Design.

Rick Dahms won first place for his WTO photos in General News Photography, and first and third place for his fine portrait photography.

James Bush took first place in Business News/Features for his cover story about the dying art of neighborhood newspapering in Seattle, "News Hounds in the 'Hood."

Bruce Gottlieb won first place in Leisure and Lifestyle reporting for his inside look at Seattle's youth hostel scene, "Euroslackers."

Bruce Barcott took first in Humorous Writing for the Weekly's April Fool's story, "The Kid," about Microsoft's secret plan to groom geniuses for the next generation. That story, by the way, has been optioned by a Hollywood studio. They plan to make a movie based on it, and we'll keep you posted on when you can catch Rupert Tollefsen at a theater near you!

Artists Mark Todd, Alli Arnold, and Scott McDougall won first, second, and third place respectively to sweep the Cartoon/Illustration category. We were the only paper to sweep an entire category.

Many other staffers won awards, including Richard A. Martin for arts features, Mark D. Fefer for business features, Eric Scigliano for environmental reporting, Roger Downey for education and science writing, Nina Shapiro for news and social issues reporting, and John Longenbaugh for leisure and lifestyle reporting.

NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN is Rick Anderson who won, among other awards, first place for Social Issues reporting for his powerful and timely cover feature last fall, "License to Kill," about the King County Inquest system. County inquests, which render jury judgments about police shootings, have not found the killing of any citizen by a police officer to be "unjustified" in the last couple of decades. Rick's story provided details of how the system works and who has been killed by the police under what circumstances. Most importantly, it pointed out the flaws, which include being an incomplete and unfair process that is biased in favor of protecting police officers.

While I'm thrilled the story won, even more encouraging was the news that last week the American Civil Liberties Union wrote King County Executive Ron Sims asking for a complete overhaul of the inquest system, arguing that it violates basic constitutional rights. Their primary evidence in making the demand for change: Rick's comprehensive review of the system. In light of recent shootings, I think the county has both a moral and legal obligation to reconsider the inquest process, and I hope Rick's story can be the catalyst for change.

Speaking of that, I wanted to mention another instance where Seattle Weekly has had an impact. You may remember Eric Scigliano's story last September about a woman, Alexis Hendricks, who had her car impounded because a local tow truck company would not accept her check. The reason: A loophole in state law that permitted them to decline any check not drawn on an in-state bank; Hendricks' check was drawn on a credit union account. As a result, she faced huge towing and impound fees. According to Adam Bashaw of the Washington Credit Union League & Affiliates, the article prompted them to propose a change in state law that would allow consumers to use checks from other in-state financial institutions. The change was signed into law by Governor Locke in late March, and two million credit union members can now show their appreciation by buying Eric a beer with their credit union checks.

On another front, the Weekly continues to fight a legal battle over our story last year about neo-Nazis and racism among state prison guards in Washington. The piece, "Nazi Guards," by Jennifer Vogel, received an honorable mention in general reporting from SPJ and also an award for design from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies this month. The article was banned from state prisons, causing the Weekly, Jennifer, and Prison Legal News, which reprinted the story, to sue the state. We lost the first round but have appealed to the 9th Circuit Court, as we believe the ban violated our first amendment rights and those of the prisoners.

Obviously, I'm pleased with the recognition Weekly writers and designers have received for their work in 1999—not to mention that received by our parent paper, The Village Voice, which won a Pulitzer last month. I hope you will join me in wishing them all congratulations. But the best part is that the role we play in helping to inform and shape the city is ongoing, and I believe our best work is still ahead of us.

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