InvestigateWest interns take prizes in regional SPJ contest for universities

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Yahoo! We just received word that Alexander Kelly, InvestigateWest's correspondent at the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, won first place in the online news category for universities in the annual contest of the Society of Professsional Journalists, Northwest region.

It brings back the bleary-eyed December nights Alex and I worked from different sides of the Atlantic -- not to mention tireless toil by videographer Blair Kelly and photographers Mark Malijan and Christopher Crow. It was exhausting! We weren't doing it for a prize, but it sure feels good for Alex to win one.

It was the second award for InvestigateWest coming out of the climate summit. Malijan also won a National Press Photographers Association prize for the excellent photos he shot in Copenhagen. (In another Copenhagen update, Crow has produced an audio piece on the conference. It runs over 30 minutes, which might help explain why I haven't been able to download it and listen to it yet. If it gets posted on the web, I'll let people know.)

The Dateline Earth posts from Copenhagen that Alex submitted to SPJ focused on varied topics out of the international climate meeting including controversial Ethiopian strongman and alleged genocide perpetrator Meles Zenawi's role in the talks; criticism of a United Nations-brokered timber pact; and UN officials'  exclusion of our journalists from the meeting hall where the negotiations  were held.

The InvestigateWest quartet also did a great job covering the massive street protests, and brought home interviews with Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and then-Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

Also pulling down a prize in the SPJ student regionals was current InvestigateWest intern Oliver Lazenby. The story that won in the non-fiction magazine article in the four-year college/university division was Oliver's look at mountain goats in the Cascade Mountains, which he showed me when we were discussing taking him on as an intern. You have to love the lede:

"Imagine living in a world where your only possible sexual partners are your relatives. For mountain goats in Washington’s Cascade range, that isn’t such a stretch."

Oliver is helping us launch a look at how building practices and codes and a series of legal rulings are likely to increase production of the Puget Sound region's No. 1 water-pollution problem, stormwater.

The SPJ northwest region includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana. Congrats are also in order for Oliver's classmates and professors at Western Washington University, where the Planet Magazine won first and third places in the student magazine category, and Klipsun Magazine won second. 

Complete results are posted on SPJ's site.

-- Robert McClure