Watershed Voice wins two awards at national journalism summit

Deborah and Alek Haak-Frost

Watershed Voice was the recipient of two LION Awards in the Public Service and Outstanding Coverage categories presented at the Independent News Sustainability Summit in Austin, Texas last week. 

WSV staff attended informational workshops throughout the summit, and connected with staff from other newsrooms across the country. WSV’s attendance at the conference was made possible by funding from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation

Two pieces written by Executive Editor and Publisher Alek Haak-Frost were selected as winners in the Micro Revenue Tier at the LION Local Journalism Awards dinner and ceremony on Friday, October 28:

When referencing the story of Linda Shank and coverage of protests concerning allegations of spiritual and sexual abuse, judges said, “The coverage and stories were riveting. Really powerful work shedding light on an incredibly important topic from a very personal lens.” Four news organizations were named as finalists in the Micro Revenue Tier for Outstanding Coverage, the most of any category in any tier.

Regarding our story on mental health services for Three Rivers students, judges said, “Watershed Voice took a solutions journalism approach to reporting on this series to provide their community with actionable steps to a critical issue. They also worked collaboratively to access the data they needed to add another layer of depth to their reporting.” Two other news outlets were named as finalists in the Micro Revenue Tier for Public Service. 

“In 2020, I lost my job,” Alek said as he accepted the Public Service Award. “I was the managing editor of the Three Rivers Commercial-News, and they went from (publishing) six days to two days a week, and couldn’t afford me anymore. So we started our own thing.

“I knew I wanted to be a journalist in the fourth grade, I wanted to tell stories and help people, and I still do. It’s our responsibility to help folks understand, to help amplify the voices that oftentimes go unheard or are simply ignored, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to help make a difference by shining a light where there previously wasn’t any. 

“I want to thank my wife Deborah, my best friend and business partner Steph, my board, my friends and family, and all of those who champion Watershed Voice and the work we’ve set out to do, which includes LION, they’ve really helped. So I’ll just close with saying journalism matters, the truth matters, and more than anything, people matter.”

During the course of the awards ceremony, it was announced that each award would be accompanied by a $2,000 prize from the Knight Foundation, resulting in $4,000 being awarded to Watershed Voice

WSV staff attended sessions on a wide range of topics, including audience engagement, building trust and partnerships, revenue strategies, sustainability goals, sponsorships and advertising models, and more, all geared toward increasing sustainability for the newsroom. Watershed looks forward to bringing new knowledge and connections to its work in St. Joseph County and Southwest Michigan.