From staff reports
The Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal won first place in the prestigious Best of the West journalism contest for 2020.
The Best of the West is a nonprofit organization operated by First Amendment Funding Inc., out of Phoenix.
Columnists were asked to submit three columns from the 2020 calendar year. Vestal’s columns included his own debate over reopening of schools during the pandemic, an examination of conspiracies about wildfires, and Innovia’s financial support of a hate group organization.
“Shawn’s school open/not-open column took a unique, dynamic and effective approach,” a Best of the West judge wrote. “His newspaper column avoided a gratuitous, self-serving tone to make a meaningful point. A powerful package.”
The Best of the West website states it “operates a journalism contest for newspapers, magazines and news websites in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming that is regarded as the region’s most prestigious awards competition with about 1,000 entries each year. The proceeds from the contests are used to help finance media hotlines that provide journalists with free, on-the-spot legal advice on public records and open meetings issues.”
Award-winning column writing is not something new for Vestal, who took first place in column writing in 2019 in the Society of Professional Journalism contest.
Vestal, who has been with The Spokesman-Review since 1999, also teaches creative writing at Eastern Washington University and is an accomplished author. He won the 2014 PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize for his debut story collection “Godforsaken Idaho” in 2014.