The Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber won three awards this year in the annual Better Newspaper Contest, put on by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA).
The Beachcomber’s awards include a second prize for a breaking news story, “Tacoma Police kill Vashon man,” (July 18, 2019) written by Elizabeth Shepherd and Susan Riemer in the wake of the death of islander Willem Van Spronsen outside an ICE detention facility.
The article expanded on national coverage of the incident by providing additional context on Van Spronsen’s life on Vashon and statements to friends and family that he intended to die at the hands of police. It also detailed documents that showed his ex-wife had received numerous domestic violence protection orders against him for both herself and their son.
Judges’ comments for the article read:
“Breaking news tends to be reactive, but the benefit of being a weekly outfit allows journalists to not only be reactive but also to provide necessary context they may not get from more ‘immediate’ outlets. Many readers may have picked up The Beachcomber already knowing about the death of Willem Van Spronsen, but they probably didn’t know many of the details Elizabeth Shepherd and Susan Riemer dug up in their reporting, combing through social media posts, and talking to people who knew Willem best. It’s a prime example of how community journalism is essential in not just telling the story, but telling the whole story.”
Other prizes included a second prize nod for a story about the arts for “‘The Cyclone Line’ tells a story of hard times and resilience,” (Sept. 26, 2019) written by Elizabeth Shepherd about islander Kat Eggelston’s play, produced by Vashon Center for the Arts. Shepherd also won the contest’s first-place prize for an arts review for “‘She Kills Monsters’ is a must-see.” (Nov. 21, 2019). The play was produced by Drama Dock, with a cast largely made up of island youth.
It’s the second year in a row Shepherd has taken the contest’s top prize for an arts review. Last year, she won for “Respect Your Elders: Longtime Artists Shine in Show,” about an exhibit celebrating artists who have resided on Vashon for 25 years or longer.
The Beachcomber, the weekly newspaper of record for the island, has been the recipient of numerous WNPA awards in previous years.
The WNPA is a statewide newspaper advocacy organization for about 100 publications, which includes The Beachcomber and its parent company Sound Publishing, as members. Every year, the organization judges among its members which newspapers had the best advertising, news, photography and special sections. Judges also provide awards to WNPA newspapers in a general excellence category. The number of entries in this year’s news division, where The Beachcomber’s prizes were won, totaled 887.
The Beachcomber, founded in 1957, had numerous independent owners until 1995 when it was sold to Sound Publishing.
Overall, Sound Publishing newspapers picked up 32 awards in this year’s Better Newspaper Contest, which this year was judged by the New York Press Association. The awards ceremony for the contest took place online on Oct. 9.