Press Democrat named best newspaper of its size in California journalism contest

The Press Democrat was named the best newspaper of its size in California, winning the top award for overall excellence this month in the state’s largest journalism contest.

In addition, The Press Democrat won 15 other top honors for breaking news and investigative reporting, local government coverage, environment, agriculture, and youth and education.

“California’s Kind of Daily Journalism,” read the judge’s citation for Overall Excellence, which rates newspapers not only for their journalistic content, but also for overall design, layout and advertising excellence.

The Press Democrat was recognized as best in class among newspapers with 15,000 to 50,000 print subscribers, a category that includes all but a handful of the largest metropolitan newspapers and the state’s smallest dailies.

Overall, the newspaper and its website,, won 41 awards for print and digital journalism in the annual contest, organized by the California News Publishers Association, the state’s largest media trade group.

Among those honors, the newspaper received the top two of three awards given for investigative reporting in its circulation division.

Reporter Andrew Graham and watchdog columnist Marisa Endicott won for their 11-part series on the flawed Fire Victim Trust established by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to compensate survivors of the 2017 North Bay firestorm and other fires. forestry related to the utility company.

Reporter Alana Minkler and photographer Beth Schlanker won top awards for their business series about the Yuki tribe of Northern California’s long-running fight for recognition and justice, culminating in the law school’s name change last year. from the University of California at San Francisco.

The Press Democrat’s month-long special coverage of the fifth anniversary of the 2017 North Bay firestorm won the top honor for in-depth reporting among newspapers of its size.

“The breadth and scope of this reporting, and the stories it reveals, are fitting for a newsroom that won a Pulitzer for coverage of the original event five years earlier,” the judges wrote. “As the community it covers has rebuilt itself, The Press Democrat has gone nowhere and, in fact, is setting the standard of excellence in community journalism for California.”

Four of the 16 first-place awards, for breaking news reporting, local government coverage, outstanding news and photography, were for digital journalism evaluated against the work of the largest news organizations in the state.

In that same field, the newspaper’s coverage of the sexual harassment and retaliation scandal at Sonoma State University and the resignation of campus president Judy Sakaki garnered the second award for public service journalism, one of the most prestigious honors. .

“Excellent example of dogged reporting combining material from public records requests, interviews, public statements and other sources of information,” the judge’s citation read. “The hits kept coming from The Press Democrat staff.”

Richard A. Green, executive editor of The Press Democrat and chief content officer for its parent company, Sonoma Media Investments, said the recognition reflects the dedication of all staff to serving the community.

“I’ve always said we don’t do this for the awards, but it’s always nice when the hard work of our staff is recognized by our peers in the industry,” Green said. “Our goal is, first and foremost, to serve our readers with quality, high-impact journalism, and to have such journalism recognized as best-in-class throughout California is truly special. ”

Overall, Sonoma Media Investment publications won 77 awards in the contest.

The honors, announced over two weeks this month, recognized journalism published in 2022.

In most categories, entries were judged based on work produced by daily newspapers in California with 15,000 to 50,000 subscribers. In others, including digital and open entries, the work was judged in front of the largest media outlets in the state.

Senior reporter Mary Callahan won the circulation division’s top award for environmental reporting, and two of the three awards in that category, for stories about the growing threat of mega-floods in the new climate era and the protracted fight over logging of century-old redwoods on state land in Mendocino County.

Senior photojournalist Kent Porter took home the top two awards for news and sports photos by circulation division, as well as the top two awards for news and photos for the digital division.