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Ark Valley Voice has received six awards for excellence in journalism from the Colorado Press Association (CPA) for its 2019 journalism; including two first-place honors and four, second-place honors.

The awards are normally presented at the CPA Annual Convention which would have taken place May 2 in Glenwood Springs. The in-person event had to be canceled this year due to the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Instead, the CPA announced awards in virtual presentations last week with the individual news teams and embargoed news of the award winners until this morning, May 12.

“The awards are a confirmation of the quality work performed by our team of journalists, to help our community stay connected and our audience around the world understand the national and international issues that have a local impact,” said Managing Editor Jan Wondra. “I couldn’t be more proud of the AVV Crew. We are particularly pleased that we have received awards for our work in ‘hard news’ categories. We don’t wait for the stories to come to us, we go after the stories.”

Each year the Colorado Press Association selects winners in a variety of categories across print and online mediums. News organizations from throughout the state compete against each other based upon their respective circulation class.

This was the first year that Ark Valley Voice could compete. The news organization went live in March 2018 and had to be in existence at least a full year before applying for membership. It was recommended by other CPA news organizations and invited into CPA membership in June 2019.

“Excellence in Journalism” Best News(paper) Awards:

First – Best News Photo: Photo of the Decker Fire looming toward Salida – Merrell Bergin (featured image of this news story).

Second – Best Breaking News Deadline Reporting: Jan Wondra, Taylor Sumners, Daniel Smith, Michelle Pujol, Elliot Jackson, Becky Osterwald. ”

The judge said: “This was a great team effort by the whole staff. The coverage clearly demonstrates the value of this publication to its community. The fact they reported on the fire before authorities knew shows great initiative. The ongoing coverage also shows that the outlet was committed to keeping the community informed on an issue that would have an immediate impact on their lives. Their coverage also not only relayed the important, need-to-know aspects of the fire, but it also explained to residents the other ways it was impacting the community. I was impressed by the depth of information included in many of these stories. That is not always easy to achieve with breaking news. Many stories also included historical context and well-structured narratives that enriched the overall story. Ultimately I made my selections based on how important the story was to the broader community, how effectively the outlet/reporter used all tools at their disposal to convey the information, and how quickly the outlet/reporter could get the information to the community.”

Taking first place for breaking news, over our second place was the Summit Daily News, reporting on the I-70 corridor avalanches.

Second – Best Investigative Series: “Disparities in Official Reports, Witnesses Point to Excessive Force” – Stephen Hall and Henry DeKam.

First – Best Small Space Ad: Cottonwood Veterinary Services – Michelle Pujol and Tom McTighe. (We submitted one house-made ad. We won.)

Second – Best Series: “What the Mueller Report Says” – Jan Wondra

Second – Best Sustained Coverage: Decker Fire coverage from the day the fire began, Sept. 10 through Nov. 2019, including more than 80 news stories.

We were allowed to submit a representative dozen stories from the sustained coverage. However, the entire AVV crew contributed to the sustained coverage of the Decker Fire: Jan Wondra, Taylor Sumners, Daniel Smith, Elliot Jackson, Michelle Pujol, Becky Osterwald, Sandy Hobbs, Jennie Wright, Mark Wiard and Merrell Bergin.

“We are pleased to share that, since last fall, well before the pandemic hit Colorado, our board of directors and I have been working to reshape the Colorado Press Association’s mission around journalistic excellence – not as a lofty ideal, but as the necessary driver of reader engagement, revenue diversification, and sustainability,” said CPA CEO Jill Farschman.

.Ark Valley Voice, in its first year of membership, competed in the Class 5 category of news organizations; dailies under 10,000. Our circulation in this past quarter has exceeded 11,000. Ark Valley Voice competed against a field of 16 dailies:

Aspen Journalism
Aspen Times-Daily
Ark Valley Voice
Cañon City Daily Record
Colorado Daily
Fort Morgan Times
Fresh Water News
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
La Junta Tribune-Democrat
Montrose Daily Press
Mountain Mail
Rocky Ford Daily Gazette
Valley Courier
Summit Daily News

Featured visual: The approach of the Decker Fire on Salida in Oct. 2019. Taken from the roof of the Hively Building on F St. Photo by Merrell Bergin.