Judy Farah’s 2022 story on local wildlife rescues won first place feature in CNPA’s “Best of the Best” open contest, which pits small publications like Comstock’s with the state’s biggest newspapers and magazines. (Photo courtesy of UC Davis)

Comstock’s Magazine Wins First Place for General Excellence in the California Journalism Awards

Plus first place feature story in the open contest, both first and second place for environmental reporting, and more

Back Web Only May 25, 2023 By Jennifer Fergesen

“I’m actually still in shock over it,” Comstock’s Editor Judy Farah wrote in the editorial team’s Google Chat room soon after the California News Publishers Association’s 2022 California Journalism Awards were announced. Her environmental feature “Saving Our Wildlife” won first place in the awards’ open contest for feature stories, which means that it beat out submissions from some of the state’s biggest (and best-funded) publications. “Humbling,” she added. 

Comstock’s also made a stellar performance within our circulation group, taking first place for general excellence among weeklies with circulations between 11,001 and 25,000. (We compete with weeklies because CNPA doesn’t have a separate group for monthly magazines.) Comstock’s last won top prize in this category, which takes into account layouts, typography and visuals in addition to writing, in 2019. The combination of engaging design and compelling stories creates “a keen sense of place,” wrote the judges in their comment. 

In addition to the general excellence win, we swept the board in multiple categories for our circulation group, taking both first and second place for feature story, environmental reporting and health care coverage. We also placed for agricultural reporting, business reporting, writing and other categories, adding up to a total of 12 awards, seven of them first place. 

As Comstock’s approaches its 35th year, we’d like to thank our readers and subscribers for allowing us to provide the Capital Region with business insights, human stories and “a keen sense of place.” If you’d like to support this work and true local journalism, please consider purchasing a subscription

Here are Comstock’s winning stories in the 2022 California Journalism Awards:

First place for general excellence

Comstock’s won 12 prizes in the 2022 California Journalism Awards, including first place for general excellence. (Illustration courtesy of CNPA)

Judge comment: Comstock’s Magazine has well-designed layouts and engaging visual content that keeps readers engaged throughout the compelling writing within the spreads. The typography, graphics and artwork are eye-catching. There are a variety of human-centered interest pieces that kept me turning the pages and provided a keen sense of place.

Open category first place for feature story:Saving Our Wildlife” by Judy Farah

UC Davis veterinarian Dr. Jamie Peyton, lower right, along with colleagues from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, examine a mountain lion who was burned in the 2020 Bobcat wildfire in the Angeles National Forest. (Photo by Kirsten Macintyre, California Department of Fish and Wildlife; courtesy of UC Davis)

Judge comment: A fascinating look at some of the collateral damage that comes from megafires, and how nature has yet to combat these blazes.

First place for agricultural reporting:The Seeds of Conflict” by Jennifer Fergesen

Sean Doherty, co-founder of Sean Doherty Farms, sells hybrid sunflower seeds to multinational companies but says the strong dollar may send buyers elsewhere. (Photo by Wes Davis)

Judge comment: We feel that this piece had the most robust coverage and explanation. We were left with a full understanding of the dynamics of the situation involving sunflower production in the West and trade to the East.

First place for coverage of the environment:What a Waste” by Jennifer Junghans

A new state law that went into effect Jan. 1 mandates all Californians and businesses recycle their food waste to reduce organic waste sent to landfills. (Photos courtesy of CalRecycle)

Judge comment: Jennifer deftly engages readers by showing how easily food can turn into uneaten scraps and, shockingly, how much of those scraps end up in landfills instead of being properly composted. She does an excellent job of documenting the environmental consequences of such negligence, highlighting the myriad efforts by government agencies to address the problem and identifying the logistical and financial hurdles they face. By so clearly laying out the issues and ultimate solutions, her story succeeds in informing readers about why it’s so important to do something as simple as putting food scraps into a compost pail instead of the trash can.

First place for artistic photo:Self Care A La Carte” by Fred Greaves

Lindsay Nader, a partner at Irish Hospitality Group, transitioned from a strenuous career as a competitive bartender to a more balanced lifestyle with a side hustle in yoga instruction. (Photo by Fred Greaves)

Judge comment: ​​This photo is clever and well-executed with good light and composition.

First place feature story:Saving Our Wildlife” by Judy Farah

UC Davis veterinarian Dr. Jamie Peyton, lower right, along with colleagues from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, examine a mountain lion who was burned in the 2020 Bobcat wildfire in the Angeles National Forest. (Photo by Kirsten Macintyre, California Department of Fish and Wildlife; courtesy of UC Davis)

Judge comment: Truly incredible feature. From the riveting artistic direction to the stellar organization of the piece, this was a truly captivating reading experience.

First place for health coverage:Older, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Russell Nichols

To keep bodies healthy, simple and free physical activities are classics for a reason. (Illustration by Melinda Arendt)

Judge comment: This is top notch reporting by Russell Nichols. It’s a timely story about the challenges of and innovations taking place around aging but reads like a novel in that the story unfolds gracefully and you can’t put it down. Nichols’ research is deep and thorough. Great work!

Second place feature story:Safeguarding Sacramento’s Historic Architecture

The Sacramento Valley Station is the seventh busiest Amtrak station in the United States, serving thousands of passengers daily and a million passengers a year. (Photo by Wes Davis)

Judge comment: Really outstanding work here. The piece was well punctuated by great organization and style elements that kept the reader’s attention.

Second place for coverage of business and the economy:Where Have All Our Leaders Gone?” by Jeff Wilser

Amanda Blackwood is the first female CEO and president of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. She says it’s a leader’s job to have uncomfortable conversations, such as the homeless issue. (Photos by Fred Greaves)

Judge comment: Well done. Real examples, showing a balance of voices, especially the challenges facing women in business.

Second place for coverage of the environment:A Sea of Hope” by Jennifer Fergesen

Ermias Kebreab, professor and associate dean at UC Davis, conducted the world’s first Asparagopsis trial with live cattle on the university’s feedlot. (Photo by Debbie Cunningham)

Judge comment: In compelling fashion, Jennifer reports on an experiment taking place at a dairy farm to reduce methane gas, a major source of greenhouse emissions. There, a seaweed-based food additive is being used to prevent cows from burping so much. Who knew that a single cow could burp up 220 pounds of methane gas a year? Through her clear writing, she explains the science that is subtly transforming farming practices as part of a worldwide effort to reverse global warming.

Second place for health coverage:Meet Dr. Robot” by Russell Nichols

Robots may not possess empathy, but they provide precision, consistency, speed and accuracy that’s hard for even the most highly trained health professionals to replicate. (Illustration by Melinda Arendt)

Judge comment: Another first-rate story by Russell Nichols. It was difficult to choose between this and “Older, Better, Faster, Stronger” for first place. Again, the research is deep and thorough. Nichols introduces readers to a subject - innovations in surgical robotics and the questions around them - that could have very easily devolved into wonky, inside baseball tedium. In his hands though this reads easily and pulls us in, which is not easy given the subject matter. Extremely well written, researched, and presented. Very impressive work.

Third place for writing:A Sacred Mission in the Vines” by Scott Thomas Anderson

Ken Deaver of Deaver Family Vineyards stands beside a gnarled mission grape vine that may date to the 1850s. (Photo by Scott Thomas Anderson)

Judge Comment: Fun read that transports you to the vineyard.

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