The awards are named for David Neiwert, a freelance journalist and the founder of one of the Northwest's most respected blogs, Orcinus, which has been on the Web since the beginning of 2003 and is currently syndicated on Pacific NW Portal. Besides writing Orcinus, Mr. Neiwert has reported for MSNBC.com and has also penned several oustanding books, including Strawberry Days, Death on the Fourth of July, and In God's Country.
NPI thanks Mr. Neiwert for graciously agreeing to allow us to name this awards tradition in his honor, and we offer our congratulations and heartfelt thanks to the winners of this year's awards. Award recipients may display the banner to the right on their blog sidebars.
The awards begin after the jump.
The following is a short topical primer which will help those of you outside the Pacific Northwest better understand some of the political events mentioned in the awards text. The primer is not exhaustive because the awards text is mostly self-explanatory.
- 710 KIRO - One of Seattle's biggest radio stations, 710 KIRO is owned by radio giant Entercom. The station broadcasts news and Seattle Seahawks games, however, it also has a number of talk shows. Its biggest host is progressive Dave Ross, who ran for Congress in 2004 against Dave Reichert.
- Gubernatorial Election Challenge - a six month legal attempt by the Washington State GOP to have the results of the 2004 election for Governor thrown out. The legal attempt ultimately failed in June 2005 when a judge dismissed the suit "with prejudice" (more information)
- Initiative 912, or I-912 - A right wing initiative, or ballot measure, which sought to undo a major series of the laws passed by the Washington State Legislature in April of 2005. The laws, collectively known as the 2005 Transportation Package, increased the state gas tax and several other fees in order to provide revenues for hundreds of sorely needed transportation projects. The initiative effort was led by two talk radio hosts based out Seattle, John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur. The initiative and its right wing backers were defeated in November 2005.
- King County - Washington State's most populous county, home to Seattle and suburban cities such as Bellevue, Renton, and Redmond (home of Microsoft). King County usually votes Democratic or progressive.
And now, on to the awards:
Best Monitoring of Right Wing Media
RECIPIENT: MICHAEL HOOD OF BLATHERWATCH
In the conclusion of his book, The Republican Noise Machine, Media Matters President and CEO David Brock wrote the following: "The situation I have described in The Republican Noise Machine is intolerable in a democracy. It is well past time that concerned citizens organize to redress it." As Brock pointed out, keeping tabs on right wing media (especially conservative talk radio) is critically important. And nobody in the Pacific Northwest does it better than Michael Hood of blatherWatch, who diligently, patiently, and humorously chronicled developments in talk radio this year (both regionally and nationally). In 2005, blatherWatch was often first to break an important story, like the recent arrest of 710 KIRO host Mike Webb, days before traditional media outlets picked up on it. Simply put, this blog is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to follow conservative talk radio but doesn't actually want to listen to it (in fact, blatherWatch's slogan is "listening to talk radio so you don't have to..."). Our thanks to Michael Hood for filling a huge void and helping to enlighten us about this often underestimated medium.
RECIPIENT: GENERAL J.C. CHRISTIAN, PATRIOT, OF JESUS' GENERAL
If you're looking for some of the best snark, humor, and satirical takes on America's most controversial issues, look no further than Jesus' General, "an 11 on the manly scale of absolute gender." General J.C. Christian, Patriot, offers continual and biting commentary on everything from civil rights injustices to foreign policy blunders, through his "Republican Jesus" cartoons, and his satirical letters, usually signed "Heterosexually yours". The General has mastered the art of making the nation's radical Republicans look completely ridiculous while pretending to be one of them. Keep up the good work, J.C.!
One of the major political events in the region this year - perhaps the biggest political event of the year - was the Washington State Republican Party's attempt to unseat Gov. Christine Gregoire by challenging the outcome of the 2004 gubernatorial election. The GOP's legal challenge was accompanied by a public relations firestorm that sought to paint Gregoire and the state's Democrats as cheaters who had stuffed ballot boxes and committed fraud in order to win the election. Washington State's progressive bloggers fought back against such mistruths, but they had help from two outstanding peers from Oregon - Carla of Preemptive Karma and T.J. of Also Also. Over a period of several months, Carla and T.J. worked tirelessly to help debunk the misinformation that was being spread by the Republicans' media campaign, exposing the truth about military ballots, voting tabulation, and other issues. Additionally, Also Also provided excellent analysis of the trial that took place at the end of the election challenge. Washingtonian progressives owe these two Oregonians their sincere thanks for a job well done.
RECIPIENT: LYNN ALLEN OF EVERGREEN POLITICS
The regional progressive blogosphere is fortunate to have an interviewer (Lynn Allen) who cares deeply about working with other people and listening to what they have to say. This interest was plainly evident in Lynn's outstanding series of interviews this year. We commend her for helping to build better relationships between bloggers, activists, and elected officials. Some of the people Lynn interviewed this year include Governor Christine Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, newly elected Snohomish County Councilman Dave Somers, Geni Hawkins (a candidate for King County Council), Al Runte (candidate for Mayor of Seattle), Rob Dolin (who in 2005 was elected Secretary of the Young Democrats of America), SEIU Local 775 President David Rolf, Dean Nielsen of Progressive Majority Washington, all of the candidates who ran for state party chair last January, and NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve. That's amazing! We hope to see more interviews from Lynn in 2006.
RECIPIENT: DANIEL KIRKDORFFER OF ON THE ROAD TO 2008
While NPI's own Official Blog was running a succession of "Disaster Picture of the Week" posts to highlight the dangers of passing Initiative 912 (and thereby crippling funding for safe roads), Daniel Kirkdorffer of On the Road to 2008 was putting together a series of his own. During the month of October 2005, Dan published numerous installments in his "Focus On I-912 GOP Opposition" series, underlining the fact that opposition to Initiative 912 was bipartisan. Dan took a look at Republicans who publicly declared their opposition to the anti-transportation initiative. His thoughtful observations were picked up around the progressive blogosphere and even in traditional media: reporter Jerry Cornfield from the Everett Herald mentioned Dan's work in an article that ran in the newspaper in late October. Besides his "Focus on..." series, Dan also wrote a brilliant response to a GOP activist's arguments for I-912 which is widely regarded as perhaps his best post. We hope to see more of this energy from Dan in 2006.
Best Muckraking Award
RECIPIENT: DAVID GOLDSTEIN OF HORSESASS
The author of one of the region's most widely read blogs repeatedly proved this year that investigative reporting isn't just for traditional media outlets. In 2004, David Goldstein showed he wasn't afraid of corporate behemoth Great Canadian Gaming when he published an exclusive piece on his blog about the company's shady practices and illicit activities. David spent the first half of 2005 providing exhaustive analysis of the gubernatorial election challenge. But it was in the second half of 2005 that he really made a difference. Early in September, during the midst of Hurricane Katrina, David broke the news that Bush appointee Michael Brown, who was put in charge of FEMA, had been previously forced to resign as the "Judges and Stewards Commissioner" for the International Arabian Horse Association. After he posted the news to Daily Kos, traditional media outlets quickly followed up and began exposing Brown's past. The negative publicity soon led to Brown's resignation. If that wasn't enough, David followed this up a month later by publishing a devastating report on the family troubles of David Irons, the GOP's candidate for King County Executive. The account was quickly picked up by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and several Seattle television news stations, which repeatedly covered the story. Irons later lost his bid for country executive, failing to capture even 40% of the vote. How many bloggers can say they helped to bring down a Bush crony AND played a major role in the defeat of a major GOP bid to take over one of the nation's largest counties? David Goldstein can.
Best News Digest
RECIPIENT: CARL BALLARD OF THE WASHINGTON STATE POLITICAL REPORT
Want a quick recap of what's happening around the state and the Pacific Northwest? You'd better head straight on over to Carl Ballard's Washington State Political Report. The Report undoubtedly provides the regional progressive blogosphere's best news digest, with frequent links to what other blogs and traditional media outlets are covering, as well as brief commentary from Carl and his guest bloggers. Even better, the Report is easy to read and covers developments and news items that are often ignored by other progressive bloggers. Our thanks to Carl Ballard for continually and reliably delivering such a great abstract of local political news and views.
Best Legislative Coverage
During the 2005 legislative session, OlyScoop was the place to find reality-based commentary and reporting on the happenings in Washington State's Capital City - especially in the Washington State Legislature. OlyScoop tracked the progress of several bills during the session, including the Mental Health Parity bill, State Rep. Ed Murray's civil rights bill, and the 2005 Transportation Package. OlyScoop also alerted the local progressive blogopshere to the Olympian's series of Capitol Chats and provided insightful commentary on a host of issues. Though OlyScoop stopped posting in July, we're hoping he'll be back online to cover the 2006 legislative session.
Three Pacific Northwest blogs emerged in 2005 as leaders in building community driven sites that are open to multiple contributors: Blue Oregon, Washblog, and 43rd State Blues (Idaho). The strength of each one of these three blogs lies not with its founder or one main writer, but with a whole group of contributors who regularly share their unique perspectives. 43rd State Blues (which runs on Drupal) is currently the only one of these three blogs that allows readers to create their own user account so they can become a contributor. However, Washblog is about to become the second. It's moving over to Scoop, the same system that powers Daily Kos - the Web's biggest progressive community. While Blue Oregon doesn't run on Scoop or Drupal, it does have several dozen contributors from across the state, and its founders invite visitors to "Post a comment, think out loud, get into the rough and tumble." Each one of these three blogs is truly driven by a community of caring progressives.
If you take a survey of most of the regional progressive blogosphere, you'll find that most people are blogging from in and around the Seattle or Portland metropolitan areas, which are the Pacific Northwest's two biggest urban centers. Despite this trend, there are a number of bloggers living outside of these two urban centers who have managed to set up shop on the Net and are offering important coverage of their communities. Two of the most valuable blogs the regional blogosphere has are Red State Rebels and McCranium. The first, Red State Rebels, is run by Julie Fanselow out of Boise, Idaho, and has been "resisting conservative extremism since 2003". Scroll down the page and you'll read about everything from local grocery powerhouse Albertsons to what's happening with the local Drinking Liberally chapter, and a lot more. McCranium, based out of the Tri-Cities in Washington State, is styled as "A Little Opinion from Eastern Washington". In recent months, its author, Jimmy McCabe, has written about the 2006 4th Congressional District race, why Western Washington needs the eastern part of the state, and provided a local perspective on the dangers of passing Initiative 912, which thankfully failed in November. For their efforts, these two bloggers are awarded the Most Valuable Local Coverage Award.
Finally...A Word of Encouragement
TO BLOGGERS WHO DID NOT RECEIVE AN AWARD
Obviously, it's impossible for us to honor every single blogger in the regional progressive blogosphere at once...there are just too many good blogs with good people behind them. The Regional Blogs Directory on Pacific Northwest Portal currently stands at 214 progressive blogs from four NW states. That's a lot. And the directory is only going to get bigger, because there are good blogs out there that we haven't listed yet, and new blogs will be created.
If you didn't get recognized with an award for 2005, there's no reason to feel disappointed. If you're a progressive and you're blogging, you're already a winner, because you've taken your activism to a whole new level. Stay committed. Pick an issue or a campaign in the new year and resolve to work as hard as you can to change this nation for the better.
Let us know what you're up to - tell us what you're doing to make a difference. The more involved you are in these next twelve months, the more likely you'll be recognized with an award a year from now. Remain focused and keep blogging. Your nation, your region, your state, and your community need you.