Here’s a roundup of happenings inside the newsroom and with recent award winners:
NEW TNT STAFFERS
Karen Irwin has joined The News Tribune as an editorial writer. She is working with Editorial Page Editor Matt Misterek to research and write on behalf of the editorial board. Already, she’s been helping interview candidates for local political endorsements.
Irwin most recently was a writing instructor at Clover Park Technical College. She holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Pacific Lutheran University. She’s been an occasional freelance writer and guest columnist for the TNT for 15 years.
Irwin also sings in the Tacoma Symphony choir and calls herself a “hopeless movie nerd” who frequents The Grand Cinema.
“I’ve been in the business of editorializing for a long time; my four children will attest to that,” she told me, “but this is the first time I’ve had a regular gig. The opportunity to engage and facilitate meaningful conversation on the editorial page is a dream come true.”
Irwin stood out among candidates for the job, Misterek said, because of her memorable reader columns and her breadth of knowledge about the Tacoma area.
“It's the kind of knowledge you absorb in your bones by living here, raising your family here,” he said, “and experiencing the 253 on many different levels."
Irwin takes over for Cheryl Tucker, who retired in April after 38 years with the paper.
Walker Orenstein has joined our newsroom staff to cover state government and politics. He’ll work alongside statehouse reporter Melissa Santos.
Orenstein is a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, and a graduate of the University of Washington. He had several internships at The Seattle Times, including one covering the state Legislature.
Most recently, he reported on the 2016 legislative session for The Associated Press. Several of Orenstein’s stories appeared in the TNT, including a piece on state help for homeless students. And he had a front-page story last week on new uniforms for the Washington State Patrol.
He will work from the Tacoma office this summer, pitching in on our elections coverage, and then will staff our capitol bureau in Olympia year-round.
Orenstein fills a position left by Jordan Schrader. In April, Schrader was named the state government and politics editor for The Raleigh News and Observer in North Carolina, a McClatchy sister paper of the TNT.
TNT WINS JOURNALISM AWARDS
Members of our staff recently won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists Region 10 chapter, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The TNT competes in the largest newspaper category. Winners included:
▪ Jessica Randklev, who won the page design category for her work on our fan guide for the 2015 U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay.
▪ Adam Ashton, who took second place in social issues reporting for his story about a transgendered Army officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
▪ Rosemary Ponnekanti, who took second place in lifestyles reporting for her travel piece on Port Gamble.
▪ Critic Sue Kidd, who took second place in the “Food and Drink” category for her roundup of the best burger restaurants in Pierce County.
Additionally, page designer Scott Stoddard, plus photographers Drew Perine and Tony Overman, took second place for page design in the 2016 Best of the West contest. They submitted our pages covering the final day of last year’s U.S. Open. This contest is open to newpapers of all sizes in the 15 western states.
“The front page features a newsy moment, but the inside page is what carries this entry,” the judge wrote. “Capturing the moment a tournament-altering putt just misses was outstanding photography, but the foresight to play it on the page at this scale without interference is what makes this an outstanding example of sports design.”
SOUTH SOUND STUDENTS WIN BIG IN ESSAY CONTEST
A few months ago I invited area high school students to enter a statewide essay contest sponsored by the Washington Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization. I’m a member of the coalition’s board of directors.
Of the 23 essays entered, the winner and both runners up were from Pierce County. I quickly volunteered to present them their awards here at the TNT.
The theme for this year’s essay was: “Police body cams, dash cams, and a camera on every street corner: An invasion of privacy or a needed step toward accountability and safety?”
Kaitlin Christensen, 17, from Graham, won the contest (and $1,000). She attends Graham-Kapowsin High School and Pierce College in Puyallup as a Running Start student.
Christensen wrote that she supports the use of police body cams, but believes they’ve been deployed too quickly and without proper testing or clear policies.
The two runners up each received $100. They included: Sadie Culver, 18, of Wilkeson, who wrote that body cameras could create even bigger trust gaps between police and citizens; and Kaitlan Harbaugh, 17, from Graham, who suggests that body cameras are a solution, but not a perfect one. You can read their essays at thenewstribune.com/opinion/op-ed/.
The goal of the contest is to encourage young people to learn about open government matters. The contest is named for the late Scott Johnson, who was a First Amendment lawyer and coalition board member.