The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

Three SPJ awards

Sunday, May 15, 2005, 12:00
Section: Awards,Journalism

Society of Professional JournalistsI just picked up three awards at last night’s Society of Professional Journalists Inland Southern California Chapter banquet. Unlike how it normally works, where the work you’re really proud of gets skipped in favor of totally random stuff – the year I went to Bosnia, the Virginia Press Association award I won was for my play reviews instead – one of my awards was actually for something that I really sweat over last year, and that pretty much defined my first year writing for the Hesperia Star.

Third place, Continuing Coverage, “casino series.� My editor, Peter Day, and I shared an award for our coverage of the proposed Timbisha Shoshone casino project in Hesperia. This is especially gratifying, since there was a lot of pressure, political and otherwise, to stop covering this story, and let the loose ends of the proposal remain a secret from the public. It took approximately four months to put together the first major article I wrote on this, picking up from Peter’s coverage of the proposal and initial vote by the public.

Judge’s comments: “Great reporting on a hot-topic story. Shady past of developer is well-brought out, as is dysfunction within tribe.�

I can’t remember which five stories we submitted, but here is sampling of our casino coverage online:

Third place, Best Crime/Law Enforcement Story, “Citizens On Patrol.� This is a good example of a “huh?� award.

The COP program lets ordinary volunteers stretch the manpower of the Hesperia station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department further, by picking up the slack and doing work like directing traffic around accident scenes, driving out to check on the homes of vacationing residents and calling shut-ins to make sure they’re OK.

I basically just covered the training process for the new class. But I don’t feel like this was one of my best efforts, or was likely to have been a better law enforcement story than most of those submitted. It all just depends on getting the right judges in the right mood, I guess.

Judge’s comments: “Nice slice of life cop activity seldom written about.�

The original story is online here.

First place, Best Cultural/Diversity Story, “Church serves gay community, performs same sex ‘holy unions.’� This was a story I did at the end of my first month at the Star, and the silence in response to writing it was deafening; there are many relatively conservative residents in Hesperia, and I was surprised to have heard from neither people offended by what the church was doing, nor people supporting it. This is another one I worked hard on to do just right, and it’s gratifying to finally hear it paid off.

Judge’s comments: “This story tackles a sensitive topic of gays and religion head-on with clarity and grace.�

The original story can be found online.

More information about the awards is available online at the SPJ site.

Anyway, this is a long way to go to say “woo hoo!�

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