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From Ag to Zehm 

The Inlander team brings 11 SPJ Awards home to the Inland Northwest

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As part of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northwest Excellence in Journalism Competition, The Inlander won 11 awards for work published in 2011, competing against other weeklies in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska — including Seattle Weekly and Willamette Week in Portland. The SPJ awards were handed out at a ceremony in Seattle last weekend.
  • New this year in the General Excellence category, the SPJ asked competitors to send in three papers (two from randomly selected weeks) so they could judge the quality from the front cover to the last page. In past years, the weeklies were able to pick their best three in a row; this year, we entered our issues from April 7, Oct. 13 and Nov. 17. The Inlander won first place.
  • Nicholas Deshais won second place in Investigative Reporting for his coverage of the Otto Zehm case (“The Bulldog,” 10/13/11). He also placed third place in Government Reporting for an article on the inner workings of Olympia (“Olympia or Bust,” 2/17/11) and second in Business Reporting for a story about the shrinking size of American homes (“Size Matters,” 1/20/11).
Excerpt: From the moment acting police chief Jim Nicks called Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi on the night of the beating, Treppiedi became involved in almost every aspect of the investigation, court records show. In fact, the U.S. attorney working the case wrote in court documents that Treppiedi performed his own “shadow investigation.”

Treppiedi was there when police department officials watched for the first time footage recorded by the Zip Trip’s cameras, which show no lunge or attack by Otto Zehm. By Treppiedi’s order, the top brass was shown only two of the four camera angles available. When the media filed a public records request, Treppiedi handled it and disclosed only the two camera angles. Four months after Zehm’s death, Nicks learned of the two additional angles. The detective who led the investigation told Nicks that she assumed the “chain of command” had approved dismissing the other camera angles because “Rocky told [her] the [County] Prosecutor” approved it, records state.

Treppiedi told investigators that the new angles “showed nothing of value.” But as was learned later, they show things not seen before.

— from “The Bulldog,” 10/13/11
  • Joe O’Sullivan won third place in Crime Reporting for his in-depth look at the case of North Idaho’s David Jacquot (“Narrow Escape,” 12/29/11), whom the feds charged under the controversial Mann Act.
  • Daniel Walters won first place in Education Reporting for his cover story examining the dropout problem at Spokane Public Schools (“Dropout Crisis,” 3/10/11). He also placed second in Social Issues Reporting for his coverage of Washington state’s foster care system (“Lost in the Shuffle,” 11/17/11).
  • Jordy Byrd won second place in Lifestyles Reporting for her story about the emergence of a new type of modern farmer (“Seeds of Change,” 7/28/11).
Excerpt: Mary Kate Wheeler is protective of her chickpeas. She’s raised them from seeds that had been stored in Washington State University’s seed vault for more than 30 years, making them older than she is. Wheeler, 26, wears rolled-up Carhartt pants and a floppy cowboy hat over her blond hair. Dirt smears her upper lip. A farmer’s tan streaks her forearms and lower back from hours bent picking weeds.

This is her first attempt at farming.

The Vermont native moved to Spokane in October to work the land. She studied architecture and urban studies at Bowdoin College in Maine, but digging in the dirt is an entirely new experience. While studying abroad in Costa Rica, she met her boyfriend and learned about agriculture.

“We both started thinking a lot about agriculture and about the different social and environmental consequences in which people grow food,” she says. “I wanted to take this on as a learning experience and to see the sustainable techniques that I’ve learned about put into practice.”

Wheeler is part of a new wave of local farmers — young, inexperienced, at times naïve — who’ve taken to small plots of land with large aspirations: to change how we grow our food.

— from “Seeds of Change,” 7/28/11

  • Luke Baumgarten won third place in Sports Reporting for his cover story about the Spokane Shock (“Winning,” 7/7/11).
  • Chris Bovey won first place in Graphics & Illustrations for his covers, including the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Earth Day and a story about protecting the Scotchman Peaks in Idaho (pictured above). He also won a second-place award for his work in Page Design.
Read the winning stories at


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