Outpost editor Hank Sims wins journalism award for reporting on county redistricting process | Lost Coast Outpost

Look, we’re pretty sure Hank wouldn’t want us co-workers singing about the fact that he just won a very cool journalism award for his meticulous explanation/exposure of the county’s chaotic redistricting process and the suspicious provenance of some people who have tried to influence this process.

He wouldn’t want the focus to be on himself. But guess what… Hank is not here today! And in our opinion, the award is well deserved. So we are going to issue the following press release from the Humboldt Journalism Project, a non-profit organization under the DreamMaker umbrella of The Ink People.

This honor, known as the 40th award, recognizes work that affects people in the bottom 40% of the income scale. This is the inaugural year of the award.

Congratulations, Hank! And congratulations also to Ryan Hutson from redhead black beltwhose series about the struggles of St. Joseph’s Hospital during the summer surge of COVID-19 earned an honorable mention from the jury.

Here is the press release:

Hank Sims of Lost Coast Outpost and Ryan Hutson of redhead black belt are the first two winners of the Humboldt Journalism Project’s 40th Prize, the project announced Wednesday.
Sims won first place for his coverage of local political redistricting, captioned “The county’s redistricting process has been a shambles, and the maps he’s now considering are both significantly worse than the status quo.”

Sims’ article and its follow-up coverage examined flaws in the process, including how some voters could lose their votes by being improperly grouped. Amid increasing scrutiny by the Lost Coast Outpost and other media, the county eventually abandoned the map projects and kept the original districts almost unchanged.

The judges praised Sims’ “stubborn determination” and ability to explain the importance of the subject.

Hutson won an honorable mention for his three-part series on the problems at St. Joseph’s Hospital as he battled staffing shortages amid the summer surge in Covid-19 patients.

The judges praised Huston’s “deep passion reports” documenting the conditions at the hospital.

The contest was judged by Dale Maharidge, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist who lived for many years part-time in Petrolia, and Ricardo Sandoval-Palos, a public writer at PBS and a graduate of Humboldt State University, before his Polytechnic name change.

Sandoval-Palos also serves on the advisory board of the Humboldt Journalism Project, a nonprofit that supports local journalism relevant to those who are sometimes left behind economically. This is a DreamMaker project by The Ink People.

This was the first year of its 40th award, so named because it recognizes work that affects people in the bottom 40% of the income scale.

The Humboldt Journalism Project also awards reporting grants, and it now has grants available for freelance journalists in broadcast, print and online. To be eligible, journalists must find a publisher who agrees to publish their article, and then they can apply for a grant to report it. For details, email [email protected]

In their more detailed remarks on the winners, Maharidge and Sandoval-Palos wrote, “Local redistricting is a story that many media ignore. At the time, an editor reportedly said “can you keep it to twelve inches?” (Very short, about six hundred words.) These days, understaffed newsrooms lack the power of the person, even if editors are willing to dig into this vital aspect of democracy. Hank Sims approached the story with dogged determination and showed the importance of this process. At first glance, this may not seem relevant to those in the bottom 40% of the income scale, but it certainly is. If communities in economic difficulty are divided into different districts, it means that they have no voice in the matter. For example, Sims notes that in Humboldt County, home to the two largest Native American tribes in California, this population was not identified by the authors of the redistricting map projects. It was great that he got a reporter’s seat at the table with that story.

Of Hutson, Sandoval-Palos and Maharidge wrote, “In the midst of an event of historic and global proportion – the Covid-19 pandemic – Hutson brought the story home to a Humboldt County hospital. Reporting on hospitals is difficult, but Hutson broke through in his work documenting conditions at St. Joseph’s Hospital. When administrators wouldn’t allow access, Hutson won the trust of nurses and others to get the story of staffing shortages, as well as gaps in safety protocols. The story reflects a deep passion for reporting on Hutson’s part, and it provided valuable insight into a hospital that many low-income people in Humboldt County rely on.

The 40th Prize competition will take place again this year, and the deadline for submitting work done in 2022 will be January 31, 2023. More details are on the Humboldt Journalism Project’s Ink People page, at https://www. inkpeople.org/data-dreammaker/r13elwey9g5smiq6ostw3qt30d0azc

As with this year’s contest, first place comes with a prize of $1,500 and honorable mention $500. Both awards are given to the individual journalist or journalists, not to the media for which they report.

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