It Takes a Village


John Heckathorn
There are two sets of local journalism awards: the SPJ awards, given by the Hawai'i Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Pa'i Awards, given by the Hawai'i Publishers Association.

I try not to focus too much on the awards. After all, we edit this magazine for local readers, not for the Mainland judges who determine the winners in both competitions. Still, we're pleased when we take home our share of plaques.

We want to do quality work. The emphasis is on we. I was struck this year by how many people it took to take home the nearly 20 awards that now decorate our shelves.

Some of these people are the usual suspects. Managing editor A. Kam Napier won both an SPJ award (first place) and a Pa'i award (third place) for editorial opinion. The entry was one of the best Afterthoughts columns he's ever written ("Bold Resolve," June 2003). For those who only know Napier as the scourge of state government, this was a piece praising the state legislature for its bold repudiation of the federal Patriot Act. Napier, from whom we get a lot of work, also took dual awards in the investigative journalism cateogry for his monumental work on "Grading the Public Schools," May 2003.

We seem to rely on our art director, Jayson Harper, to win multiple awards. He was an SPJ finalist for our November 2003 Holiday Annual cover, and won a first place Pa'i Award for his design of a story in the same issue, "Moving at Camel Speed." However, second place in the design category went to Charlie Pedrina. Pedrina spends most of his time designing our sister publication, Pacific Magazine. But last July he helped us out by designing a feature called "Rodeo in Hawai'i," and won us an award in the process.

A prize winner from 2003.

We got a lot of help. Constance Hale, a fine writer who grew up in Hawai'i but spends most of her year in Northern California, was an SPJ finalist and a first place Pa'i winner for her profile of Aaron Mahi. Our associate editor Ronna Bolante was a finalist in the profile category as well, but for a piece she wrote for our sister publication, Hawai'i Business. We give help as well as get it.

Novelist William Starr Moake won a first place SPJ award for a non-fiction spellbinder, "Phantoms of the Sea," which we published last November. Les Peetz, whose main profession is playing jazz piano, won an award for his short profile of an antique dealer, "Antique Alley."

We got help from illustrators, like Rob Barber, who lives in Maryland and does work for national publications like Forbes and Adweek, but gave us a fine Island touch in "Help! The Best Survival Guide to Island Living," March 2003. And we always get great help from our corps of free-lance photographers. Jimmy Forrest won a first-place Pa'i award for his eye-catching portrait of UH warrior mascot, Vili Fehoku. Associated Press photographer Lucy Pemoni did a stunning photo essay. Last November, we published the photos she took backstage at a local beauty contest. When she won a first-place SPJ award, the judges applauded both her photographic and journalistic sensibilities. Look for another photo essay by Pemoni in this issue: It is powerful images of Hawai'i troops departing for Iraq and Afghanistan.

A prize winner from 2003.

Even last year's summer intern, Anna Weaver of Kailua and Northwestern University, helped us out. She and I won a Pa'i award for our "Private School Guide," which we published in September last year and will update next month. And I did manage to be of some use, winning an award for "Classic Maui," a piece on Maui restaurants for last year's Restaurant Guide. The judges said it made them hungry.

Of course, we weren't the only people in town who won awards. Both daily papers did excellent work, as did other magazines. When we go head to head with these writers, designers and photographers, and lose, we always learn something. Because awards aren't real awards until there's serious competition, in many ways we have them to thank as well.

It takes all of us to give the Islands first-class publications.

By John Heckathorn
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Honolulu Magazine March 2019
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