It’s been a good year, not a great year. Last January, writers and editors here at the Independent decided to focus on the presidential election, cutting against our usual concentration on issues that are predominantly local and regional.

We tried to localize the national election in as many ways as we could. We started an election page, highlighting local anti-war speakers and Web connections to local MeetUps and other political activities. We spearheaded an investigation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and how its disaster relief work–particularly in North Carolina–had been compromised by being placed in the Department of Homeland Security. We covered both national conventions. We pointed out significant war stories and election issues that the local dailies either ignored or underplayed. We ran a voter registration drive featuring volunteer readers who fanned out across the Triangle to sign up likely voters. And we ran a movie series, offering large venues for such important documentaries as Uncovered, About Baghdad, and Outfoxed.

We all know the results. But the Triangle proved itself part of the blue, urban nation that voted decisively against Bush and his reactionary policies. We hope we helped.

Also last year, we were recognized by three organizations for the work we do. From the North Carolina Press Association, we were awarded:

  • 1st place for investigative reporting for Jennifer Strom’s investigation into the Durham-based Divers Alert Network.
  • 1st place for profile feature for Fiona Morgan’s story about a transsexual high school student.
  • 1st place for criticism for film writer Godfrey Cheshire
  • 1st place for photo illustration for staff photographer Alex Maness
  • 2nd place for criticism for theater and dance writer Byron Woods
  • 3rd place for editorials by yours truly.

    From the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies we won:

  • 1st place for investigative reporting for Jennifer Strom’s DAN story.
  • 1st place for columns by Melinda Ruley
  • 1st place for news stories to former staffer Jon Elliston for his expose on two Chapel Hill police officers who posed as FBI agents
  • 2nd place for editorial layout to Art Director Liz Holm and photographer M.J. Sharp for our photo essay on the loggerhead turtle rescue and release program at Oak Island.

    And from the Association of Food Journalists:

  • First place for food columns to our Wine Beat writer, Arturo Ciompi.

    We hope 2005 is at least as successful for us and for our readers. Please let us know how we’re doing. And Happy New Year.