At the North Carolina Press Association Awards ceremony in Chapel Hill, Xpress Staff Writer Jake Frankel (left) and former staffer Caitlin Byrd (right) met with renowned national journalist Charlie Rose, who received the Association’s North Carolinian of the Year Award.
At a Feb. 27 ceremony held in Chapel Hill, the North Carolina Press Association announced that Xpress won four state awards for outstanding journalism. Here’s a look at the award-winning work:
1st Place, Online Breaking News: “Ballots in Question for 1,000 Registered Voters at Warren Wilson College”
A few days before Election Day in 2012, Staff Reporter Jake Frankel broke the story that proper ballots for Warren Wilson College residents had failed to be determined by local officials. Many school residents lean to the left, and some charged officials with voter suppression after being told their original ballots would be canceled. In the days that followed, the confusion over the ballots cast the razor-thin results of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners election into question. Recounts, and a protracted legal battle, ensued, and the state board of elections later ordered many of the Warren Wilson provisional ballots to be included in the final tally, which resulted in a different winner – giving a majority of the Commission seats to Democrats rather than Republicans.
1st Place, News Feature Writing: “Collateral Damage”
Staff Reporter Caitlin Byrd explored the mental health problems local veterans deal with in the aftermath of war. Despite having no military base nearby, nearly 20,000 veterans call Buncombe County home ― giving it the sixth-biggest veteran population among the state’s 100 counties. And the number of local veterans accessing mental health services has continued to rise at Asheville’s Charles George VA Medical Center, resulting in a backlog of those in need of services – a trend experts expect to continue. The most common problems include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, homelessness and unemployment. Byrd’s story put a human face on the problems, and included interviews with several local veterans who fought in different wars who are now dealing with health issues.
1st Place, Arts & Entertainment Reporting: “Pitchfork Features Local Songwriter, Asheville Music Fans Puzzled”
Staff Writer Dane Smith reported on the local music community’s collective “Who the hell is Jackson Scott?” last spring after Pitchfork plucked the 20-year-old former UNC Asheville student from obscurity and featured his home-recorded song, “That Awful Sound,” as its Best New Track. The national attention quickly helped the local musician get inquiries from big time managers, booking agents and labels. “It’s definitely pretty nuts,” Scott was quoted as saying in the article. “But it’s cool because it’s not as if it totally happened out of nowhere. I really have been pretty much devoting all my time, literally, to music for the last year or so.”
2nd Place, Education Reporting: “Building Knowledge”
This article, also by Frankel, reported in-depth on the push last year to build new homes for Isaac Dickson Elementary and Asheville Middle schools – the first new ones in the city since 1986. Supporters argued that the facilities were urgently needed; critics worried that high-tech designs proposed were a luxury Buncombe County couldn’t afford. After months of debate and negotiations over the financing, Buncombe County commissioners decided to spend more than $60 million on new buildings for both schools, although the initial designs were scaled back.