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Salem Reporter wins top honors in investigative reporting, breaking news in regional contest

Salem Reporter earned four awards in a five-state journalism competition for coverage of an arson at a downtown church, a fatal traffic collision involving a federal drug agent and other work in 2023.

The newsroom’s work was recognized from over 1,100 entries in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 10 contest, which covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

Salem Reporter competed in the small newsroom division, which had 73 newsrooms enter.

Reporters Ardeshir Tabrizian, Abbey McDonald and Managing Editor Rachel Alexander took first place in investigative reporting for coverage showing an on-duty U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent ran a stop sign in a southeast Salem neighborhood before he struck and killed cyclist Marganne Allen, who was commuting home.

McDonald and Tabrizian also won first place in breaking news coverage for their report on the arson that seriously damaged St. Joseph’s Catholic Church on an August morning.

Alexander and McDonald won first place in business and economics reporting for covering plans to redevelop an old cannery site on Northeast Front Street into a lively complex with apartments, a food hall and a possible soccer stadium.

Alexander also won a second-place award in hard news feature writing for a story about the struggles state employees faced receiving accurate pay after a bungled switch to a new payroll system.

“Our team is determined to provide Salem top-quality journalism and it is gratifying to learn that our peers judge that we do,” said Les Zaitz, Salem Reporter editor. “People in Salem can feel confident that they have a local news organization watching out for their interests and doing so while adhering to high standards of fairness and accuracy.”

Salem Reporter has been honored in the regional contest every year since the online news organization’s 2018 founding. Past awards include recognition for 2020 coverage of the Santiam Canyon wildfires, a series on the challenges facing Salem schools with high poverty rates and coverage of state efforts to expand addiction treatment.

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