The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

Hesperia Star wins five SPJ awards

Saturday, May 10, 2008, 23:43
Section: Awards,Journalism,Virginia Tech

Society of Professional JournalistsTonight, the Hesperia Star won the most SPJ awards in the paper’s eight year history: five, including two for editorial writing.

As always, it was surprising to see what won, and what didn’t. The wildfires of last spring were popular at the awards, and my piece, Smoke-Out, won a third place award in the Breaking News Category. I don’t think the piece is as strong as my story about a Hesperia sheriff’s deputy being shot, but that’s how it goes.

My earlier guess was wrong: I did win an award about an infamous necrophiliac finally getting prison time in connection with his earlier violation of a child’s corpse. I was thrown off the scent because the award wasn’t listed as a Daily Press win, despite the story appearing in that paper. This also marks the fourth year in a row that I’ve won a Law Enforcement/Legal Affairs award (first time getting a first place award, and only my second first place award from the SPJs ever), which I worry will misrepresent what I was covering in Hesperia these years in future job interviews. No awards for my school board coverage or my California Charter Academy coverage, for instance, which dominated much of 2007 for me. Go figure.

And then there’s the award I have the most mixed feelings about: A second place editorial writing award for my piece on being a Virginia Tech alumnus in the wake of last April’s massacre. Jenn and Sharon have already stressed to me that I’m not capitalizing on a tragedy, but it still feels odd.

Overall, the Freedom High Desert papers cleaned up, with the Barstow Desert Dispatch in particular doing well — I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t been reading their multiple award-winning blog, but I clearly need to, especially since Peter wants one added to the Star’s site ASAP.

As always, it was a (reasonably) good time, although it almost feels like a Riverside Press-Enterprise recruiting event, between the ton of awards the PE and its associated papers get, and how happy everyone from the paper always looks (especially given the number of non-award-winning PE staffers who show up just to show support).

Peter got two awards as well: One was an editorial piece about founding father Val Shearer leaving Hesperia and the other was an entertainment piece about swing band Phat Cat Swinger. Peter always excels when writing about music, and it’s nice to see that recognized.

The full list of awards, and judges’ comments for many of them, will appear in the next day or so at the SPJ blog.


  1. Congrats B.

    You are a talented writer, and I always enjoy reading what you write.

    Comment by Cameron S. — May 12, 2008 @ 19:14

  2. Sterling performance, sir! You would have to be one of the judges to see the full scope of what they were reading to appreciate why/how they come up with the choices. YOU may have your favorites and it is hard to fathom getting rewarded for a one-shot story (no matter how good) rather than the back-breaking, long-term investigative stories. You should have NO mixed feeling about the VT story. There are people who might race in to exploit such a connection, dig out some school props and be seen with them just for effect. Your editorial had NONE of that. When I read it, I said out loud that this would be a prime candidate for an award at the end of the year. Not because, it was a “hot” topic or you had trotted out a personal connection to it, but because it was so clearly from the heart. Because it was so clearly and carefully expressed. Because it put the reader into that very personal, very painful moment. That is great journalism and I would have to read the other story, the one they gave the first to, to understand why it wasn’t number one. Be proud. It must have been hard to write (but, I suspect, even harder not to write.)

    Comment by Mozzbi — May 13, 2008 @ 12:15

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