Co-operator staff win writing awards

Several Manitoba Co-operator staff and contributors were winners in the North American Agricultural Journalists’ (NAAJ) 2013 writing contest.

The awards, in seven categories, were presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. April 8.

Co-operator editor Laura Rance placed first in the columns and analysis category.

Rance, along with Co-operator reporters Allan Dawson and Shannon VanRaes, were second in spot news and Co-operator contributors Ron Friesen and Val Ominski placed second in the series category.

Rance won with an editorial that compared the response to the U.S. beef slime issue to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture response to a rule change in meat animal slaughter.

“The three ‘Cs’ of good writing — clarity, conciseness and content — are all strong in this opinion,” wrote judge Beth Pratt, a retired religion editor of the Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal.

“This highly skilled writer sheds light rather than heat on a high-interest, sometimes abused, topic — food safety.”

Writers from Thomson Reuters and DTN/The Progressive Farmer, placed second and third.

The spot news category is for stories written on tight deadlines, which is more often the case for wire services than weekly newspapers. The story Dawson, VanRaes and Rance broke was about the controversial euthanizing of weanling pigs near Austin last summer.

“A great piece of spot news journalism, with colour from the scene combined with solid reporting and context from the office,” wrote judge and former Winnipeg Free Press editor Margo Goodhand.

“With two hours to deadline, an anonymous tipster claims 1,300 baby pigs have been shot and killed at a hog barn. One reporter drives an hour out of town to confirm the tip, another reporter and editor jump on the phones to plumb industry and government sources.”

Reporters from DTN/The Progressive Farmer and Bloomberg News and Thomson Reuters (tied) placed first and third, respectively.

Three other Thomson Reuters reporters received honourable mentions.

Judge Mary Kay Quinlan, associate professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, had high praise for Friesen and Ominski’s “special projects” entry on the Canadian Grain Commission’s centennial.

“I knew nothing about this organization and found myself drawn in to the historical perspective the articles explored,” Quinlan wrote. “The reporting and writing was straightforward, detailed and engaging. But it was not cloying and laudatory the way you might expect a commemorative project to be.”

Reporters with Investigate West and EarthFix placed first, while a reporter from the Lexington Herald-Leader took third.

Reporters from the Western Producer, DTN/The Progressive, Better Farming and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette received honourable mentions.

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