Every day we strive to bring you the most important stories — from around the block or around the world.
Last week we and McClatchy Newspapers, of which we are a part, were honored for our work in each realm.
First, the local: Business stories can be complex, so a reporter must first understand the financial elements of a story, or the new technology, for herself or himself — and then translate it for a lay audience.
We have a business staff that does that very well.
The most recent evidence is an award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers won by reporter John Gillie. He was honored for work in the category of explanatory reporting.
John’s stories were about a local Arco dealer, Hatem Shalabi, whose 21 stations were shut down in a dispute with oil giant BP.
Shalabi worked his way up from gas-station attendant to manager to the owner when he bought stations from Arco and its parent company, BP. As a condition of the purchase, the company required him to buy only Arco gas for 20 years.
John reported Shalabi’s claim that the agreement condemned him to poverty, because Arco fixed the wholesale price so close to the retail selling price that he made almost nothing despite selling millions of gallons of gas.
The case is now in federal court, where the station owner recently won a small victory when a Southern California court prohibited BP from blocking a California-based distributor from supplying gas to Shalabi.
And then there’s the counterpoint to local reporting — foreign correspondence.
In case you missed it, we reported last week that our reporters in Washington, Europe and Syria won a prestigious George Polk Award for coverage on Syria’s civil war.
The award was given to McClatchy Newspapers and named special correspondents David Enders and Austin Tice for their reporting from inside Syria, as well as European Bureau Chief Roy Gutman and Washington correspondents Hannah Allam and Jonathan S. Landay for reporting from outside Syria.
The work in Syria is, of course, especially dangerous. Tice was last heard from Aug. 13, shortly before he was taken captive, apparently by Assad-allied forces. U.S. government officials now say Tice is in the custody of the Syrian government.
REMEMBERING CHRIS STEVENS
On Thursday, one of America’s most distinguished foreign correspondents, Robin Wright, was at Pacific Lutheran University to deliver the first Chris Stevens Memorial Lecture, named after the U.S. ambassador to Libya who was murdered last year in an attack on the Benghazi consulate.
Wright, a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and later The Washington Post, and now an author and lecturer, was a close friend of Stevens. She said they met when he was just a “cub diplomat on the Iran desk” at the State Department.
Before her lecture, she spoke of Stevens at a breakfast at PLU for members of Stevens’ family, and for faculty and students and friends of the university.
She recalled times when she and Stevens would bump into each other in the Mideast — in Damascus, or Riyadh, or the West Bank.
“I can remember talking with Chris on those occasions,” she said, “when I can’t remember the secretary of state who was on the trip.”
She said Stevens stood out for his desire to get beyond conventional wisdom about the Middle East.
“He loved crossing the bridge — however rickety, however dangerous — to another culture,” she said.
She said Stevens loved the people of the Middle East, beginning with his stint in the Peace Corps in Morocco as a young man.
Wright said Libyans loved Stevens in return. The prime minister wrote Wright an email calling Stevens “a hero of the (Libyan) revolution and a friend of all of us.” She said: “A day after his death thousands of people were in the streets to say, ‘We want peace,’ and to reject extremism.”
At her lecture, Wright said Stevens would want Americans to get beyond the “scary pictures, the scary stories” and not fear Islam.David Zeeck: 253-597-8265