EO wins top prize in state newspaper contest

Bullfighter Dusty Tuckness attempts to distract the bull White Clay while Tim Brigham of Honeyville, Utah, attempts to free himself from his rigging during bull riding Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, at the Pendleton Round-Up. This picture won best sports photo at the 2017 ONPA awards.

The East Oregonian took home seven first place honors including the top prize — General Excellence — at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association conference in Bend.

The contest was judged by newspapers in Pennsylvania and the EO competed against other daily Oregon newspapers with circulations less than 10,000.

Reporter George Plaven and photojournalist E.J. Harris each earned two individual top honors for work done in 2016.

Plaven’s awards came for personality feature “Westward Tow!” and government reporting in “Dock Dumped.”

In the personality feature, Plaven profiled tow truck driver Chris Clark, who patrolled Pendleton in the early morning hours before the iconic Westward Ho! parade during Round-Up week on “barely two hours of sleep and a travel mug filled with coffee.” With some help, Clark took 52 cars off the street that would have disrupted the parade.

In the government reporting category, Plaven wrote about an ill-fated barge dock on the Columbia River in Gilliam County that was supposed to collect trash from Portland and Seattle to send to Waste Management’s Columbia Ridge Landfill south of Arlington. After a clumsy go-ahead from the federal government, the dock was later determined to interfere with tribal fisheries had to be removed, with the Port of Arlington stuck with a $2 million bill for construction and engineering work.

Harris swept the news photography category, including first place for the photo of a wreck that shut down Highway 730 near Hat Rock, and won the sports reporting category for his coverage of the Pendleton Round-Up.

Jade McDowell claimed the top award for spot news reporting for her coverage of a fire on the Umatilla Army Depot that covered nearby Interstate 82 in smoke, resulting in a series of serious wrecks. McDowell was one of the first people on scene and applied first aid to an injured motorcyclist. She included a column with the news report about the experience and the dilemma of becoming part of the story.

Opinion page editor Tim Trainor won the best editorial award for work on the topics of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff, legalized marijuana in Pendleton and the growing number of wolves in Oregon.

The General Excellence award, which the EO has won in six of the past seven years, is judged based on the overall product, from news and editorial content to photos and design to advertising and reproduction. The samples are taken from three random editions throughout the year.

“In many ways the news business has changed dramatically in the past decade,” said managing editor Daniel Wattenburger. “I’m proud to be part of a team that continues to commit to a high-quality print newspaper week in and week out, year after year.”

Kathryn Brown, publisher of the EO, said she was impressed by the variety of work that was awarded, which included news videos and websites, photography and writing.

The EO earned second place awards in headline writing (Drew Langton), best writing (Kathy Aney), multimedia element (E.J. Harris) and third place awards for best special section (Round-Up magazine), business and economic reporting (George Plaven), lifestyle coverage (Phil Wright), photo essay (E.J. Harris) and web project (Happy Canyon specialty site).

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