Statesman wins unique award

Kevin Young won first place for his column about life inside
Staff Writer


The Statesman-Examiner picked up a variety of awards at last Friday’s Better Newspaper Contest ceremony hosted by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.
In what could be an unprecedented move, the Ask a Lifer column by Kevin Young scored first place in the General Interest category.
“We don’t keep records, but I can’t recall another time when someone inside has won an award like this,” said Fred Obee, executive director of WNPA.
Young, 57, is serving life without the possibility of parole at Oregon State Penitentiary for a 1991 conviction of aggravated murder. He became acquainted with Statesman editor RaeLynn Ricarte through their shared work on a book about the need for prison reform.
Almost two years ago, Young offered to write a monthly column that invited readers to ask questions about life inside. He saw the column as a way to foster understanding.
Since that time, Young has covered a wide array of topics, some poignant, such as the emotional heartbreak of fathers being separated from their children, and others addressing the tough environment.
Young won a top spot in the 2021 contest for his “No snitching allowed” column that ran Oct. 7, 2020.
“When I arrived at Oregon State Penitentiary on Feb. 10, 1992, the code of ‘No Snitching’ was Rule One. See no evil, speak no evil... Convicts swore by the code, did serious segregation for that code, got beaten by staff and others for that code. Point blank, that code was the determining factor of one’s prison integrity...” wrote Young.
When notified last weekend that he could now claim the title of award-winning columnist, Young emailed the following thoughts: “Wow, not in my wildest dreams did I think this could happen to me!
“For a lifetime, others thought I was too serious; that the way I saw an event was strangely different than someone else’s point of view.
“In reality, I saw the truth in a matter; to me there has never been a need for embellishment... Far from perfect, not even a stone’s throw away from being stupid. Lol.
“However, I am thankful for my past experience and the wonderful people I have met on this journey... A sweet tooth, love and happiness is all we have in this life time, so enjoy...”
Ricarte said winning first place Oct. 8 in the Crime and Court category for her story, “New law allows prisoners to request a new sentence,” fit nicely with Young’s achievement.
The story, published last January, discusses a new law that allows prisoners to request a review of their sentence in situations when the “original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice.”
“You only have to spend about five minutes with me to know that I am all about changing the way we warehouse people in America,” she said. “The U.S. prison system isn’t working on any level and I think that people are becoming more and more aware that it is time for reform.”
The Statesman scored another top honor when Taylor Newquist was named 2021 Sports Writer of the Year. “I’m thankful to be recognized for my work at the Statesman-Examiner,” he said.
“I was lucky to have such great players, coaches and communities to cover in my first two years in the business.”
Newquist left the Statesman in July to realize his dream of living in Spokane and working at the daily Spokesman-Review. He can now add the prestigious award to his portfolio.
Newquist also received a second place award in Sports Feature for his April 2020 story, “There’s no plate like home.”
That article cast the spotlight on senior athletes who were prohibited from competing by lockdowns to stop spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Newquist and Ricarte teamed up for the design of the Memorial Day 2020 tribute to Gold Star families, which earned third place in the contest.
Ricarte was awarded first place in the General Feature Story category for “The battle never ends,” a story from Veterans Day 2020 that highlighted the struggles faced by combat veterans after they return home from war.
Under the Comprehensive Coverage category, Ricarte won first place for a series of articles in 2020 regarding the legal fight between Stevens County Prosecutor Rasmussen and the county commissioners that ultimately led to their removal from office.
Ricarte took third place in Health or Medical Story for her October 2020 article on the late Crystal Lofts’ battle with breast cancer. The story was titled “Lessons from a difficult journey.”
She also took third in Environmental Story for “Beedazzled” in May 2020 that addressed the threats to honeybees as told by Doug Johnson, a beekeeper in Marcus.
Third place in the Crime and Court category also went to Ricarte for “Bar complaint filed against prosecutor,” a story from last February. Prosecutor Rasmussen was ultimately cleared of allegations that he had wrongfully gotten involved in financial transactions made by former auditor Tim Gray.
The entries by the Statesman and other publications were judged by the Kentucky Press Association.
There are currently 158 newspapers in Washington State. The annual WNPA contest is intended to celebrate the role of journalists as watchdogs of government and in giving a voice to people from all segments of society.