Sunday, July 02, 2017

Editorials on rural police behavior take spotlight in Intl. Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors awards

Editorials criticizing police behavior in rural areas took the spotlight at the annual Golden Quill Awards ceremony of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors at the group's annual conference Saturday night. Awards concluded the group's conference at the University of Maryland.

Peter Weinschenk accepts his award.
Peter Weinschenk, editor of The Record-Review in western Marathon County, Wisconsin, became the first three-time Golden Quill winner in the competition's 56-year history, ISWNE says. His winning editorial criticized the county Board of Supervisors for "automatically" denying the abuse claim of a man who had been mauled by a police dog, noting that dash-cam videos showed the county sheriff's department had violated its own policy on the use of dogs. "We can't look the other way," the editorial concluded.

Weinschenk wrote in ISWNE's Grassroots Editor journal that the editorial "wrote itself" because of the life experiences he brought to it: "The issue, I said, was not whether you think Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. It was only whether the police . . . followed their own rules. The stakes in such a case, I said, were whether we are willing to tolerate a police state where the Constitution is violated."

Murray Bishoff
Another opinion piece about rural police behavior was one of the 11 runners-up in the "Golden Dozen" of the contest. Murray Bishoff, news editor of The Monett Times in Missouri, wrote that an Aurora police officer shouldn't have shot and killed a fleeing suspect outside his jurisdiction, that the officer was "let down by his training," and "the Highway Patrol has taken too long to release information on this incident."

The entries were judged by Mary Kimm of Connection Newspapers in suburban Washington, D.C., who recently led an award-winning "multi-year editorial effort in support of police reform in Fairfax County, Virginia," and serves on the "implementation team" for the local Police Policies Review Commission, Grassroots Editor notes.

"These entries were evidence that weekly newspapers and weekly news editors are actively informing, protecting and bettering their communities, with a powerful connection to readers," Kimm wrote. "Many editorials spoke truth to power, holding public officials and law enforcement accountable to the people."

Other editorials in the Golden Dozen, some of which also touched on law-enforcement behavior, and one on an editor's civil disobedience, are:

• Marcia Martinek, editor of The Herald Democrat in Leadville, Colo., for an editorial replying to criticism of her for reporting 14 felony charges against the former police chief.

• Steve Bagwell, managing editor of the McMinnville News-Register in Oregon, for an editorial about the Yamhill County sheriff's complicity in the suicide of a jail inmate.

• John Hueston, publisher of the Aylmer Express in Ontario, for his second editorial objecting to the cutting of trees along a highway, which began with the fact of his arrest for joining a community protest that attempted to block the cutting.

• Diane Chiddister, editor of the Yellow Springs News in Ohio, for an editorial challenging the small town to welcome refugees from Syria.

• Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor of The Altamont Enterprise in New York, for an editorial saying that the issue of placing cell-phone towers should be decided on its merits, not "political maneuvering."

• Brian Hunhoff, contributing editor of the Yankton County Observer in South Dakota, for a column demanding that the state fix a highway that had been the site of many accidents.

• Bill Tubbs, publisher of the North Scott Press in Eldridge, Iowa, for an editorial explaining a complex zoning issue.

• Janine Kock, editor and publisher of The Observer in Westside, Iowa, for an editorial showing how school-funding mechanisms harm small, rural schools.

• Steve Bonspiel, editor and publisher of The Eastern Door in Kahnawake, Quebec, for an editorial about unequal treatment of First Nations children in Canada and news-media treatment of the issue.

• Declan Varley, editor of the Galway Advertiser in Ireland, for an editorial honoring a local fallen hero, a coast-guard officer on a mission.

ISWNE said the contest received 115 entries from 62 people, more than double last year's totals. The editorials and the judge's comments appear in the latest quarterly edition of Grassroots Editor, which is available to ISWNE members. Membership is $60 a year; a Grassroots Editor subscription is $25 a year.

No comments: