The human touch: Valley Record writers net awards for making the news personal

Front-page 2012 coverage of bear trapping just outside of Snoqualmie netted a WNPA award, second place for best environmental story. - Seth Truscott/Staff Photo
Front-page 2012 coverage of bear trapping just outside of Snoqualmie netted a WNPA award, second place for best environmental story.
— image credit: Seth Truscott/Staff Photo

Putting a human touch on the news—that is how the writers at the Snoqualmie Valley Record earned state recognition.

The Record picked up seven honors in the annual Washington Newspaper Publisher’s Association Better Newspaper Contest, which judges papers of similar size and readership.

Record staff Seth Truscott and Carol Ladwig took second place for best crime story for No Way Out: Search for suspected killer ends with death inside Rattlesnake Ridge bunker,” which chronicled the search for and death of North Bend double-murder suspect Peter Keller.

“A great lead and a well-told, bizarre story,” judges commented.

Ladwig picked up a first place for best story on the arts, for “Back to Twin Peaks,” a retrospective of the cult show and its annual Valley festival. “By the end of the story, I was aware the purpose was to advance the festival, but the presentation of the diner owner’s stories about the show and her business would have been enough to get people reading,” a judge wrote.

Ladwig was, once again, a second-place finalist for the News Writer of the Year award.

“Putting human faces on local pocket book issues is the most effective way to write superior stories about doing more with less,” the judge wrote. “Ladwig provides good reads on what could have been dreadfully dry reading.”

Truscott got second place in the ‘News of the Weird’ category for his story, “Paranormal Activity,” on the bizarre, ghostly happenings at Todd and Cathy Gamble’s Snoqualmie home.

“What do those cats see up those stairs?” the judge asked. “Who’s the mysterious, cigarette-smoking girl? Why do doors slam shut on their own? No one knows, and this story only has questions, no answers. And that’s what makes it so good.”

Truscott picked up a first place for “New era for Valley liquor stores,” a look at the last moments of public liquor store sales in 2012, and won second place for best long news story for “New promise for lives cut short,” a follow-up article that looked at efforts by the family members of Lynnettee and Kaylene Keller, the two women killed in a deadly April 2013 rampage.

Also winning second place for best environmental story for “Trash, then traps,” a look at the issues surrounding garbage-eating bears in the Snoqualmie area. “Not just another piece of flat writing,” judges said.

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Here are some examples from some of the stories:

Return to Twin Peaks

No one warned her about the pie. If they had, Pat Cokewell might have been better prepared for the rush of business her little Mar-T Cafe (now Twede’s) in North Bend enjoyed when “Twin Peaks” came out. Then again, maybe not.

Trash, then traps

A low, steady moan comes from inside the steel tube as Sgt. Kim Chandler approaches. When he gets too close, the occupant lets out a huffy snort, and Chandler springs back, not eager to get his face coated in bear sneeze.

Last call for liquor

Customers were steady at North Bend’s Liquor Store No. 179 as the clock ticked down to closing time Thursday, May 31. The shelves and stockroom, though tidy, seemed eerily empty.

Paranormal activity

When they moved in, Cathy and Todd Gamble were both taken by the charms of their new Snoqualmie home. But, from the very first moment, there were some signs that all is not normal at this 1917 Maple Avenue cottage.

Keller scholarship

Eighteen-year-old Kaylene had the perfect life of a teen. She and boyfriend Carson Brammer were taking their love of video games to a new level. The teens had dated for 15 months, drawn together by common interests and goals. Carson would haul a 32-inch television over to Kaylene’s North Bend house, or they’d push their computer monitors together, then explore and adventure in virtual worlds like Skyrim or Portal.

When her family members started asking her to get serious about college, she followed her dreams, and was working on a game development path. Then her happy future came to an abrupt, shockingly violent end.



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