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From the Editor: Our awards are a reflection of you

Ashleigh Fryer, Senior Editor
1:21 pm PDT July 8, 2014

I’ve come to find out that this job is 85 percent interpersonal connection and only 15 percent technical journalistic skill. Good stories are so much more than the physical time they takes us, as journalists, to create. They are the written incarnation of a relationship that we nurtured, however briefly, with our subjects. The true tests of a journalist’s success lies in his or her ability to craft a trust-based rapport with their sources, their peers and their community. 

On Wednesday of last week, the Surfside team was honored with two awards from the National Newspaper Association’s 2014 Better Newspaper Contest: third place in the “Best Feature Story” category for my piece titled “Malibu musical savant finds voice through music,” and an honorable mention in the “Best Feature Photo” category for assistant editor Chris Bashaw’s photo titled “Gifts of Song.”

Of course, we take great pride in our publication. But these awards are a reflection far greater than that. They speak directly to the idea that a community newspaper is only as good its readers and we think our readers are worthy of national acclaim. 

“Malibu musical savant finds voice through music” featured Malibu High School alum, Rex Lewis-Clack, and how he and his mother, Cathleen, came to discover Rex’s astounding musical gifts through their agonizing, but beautiful journey with his blindness and autism. 

“Music kept not just him, but me hanging in there, thinking there could be hope here,” Cathleen said. “What has been the hardest thing in my life has also been the most transformational and beautiful.”

Rex and Cathleen invited me into their home and spent thoughtful time with me, recalling their experiences and sharing intimate details of their lives. What was even more touching, and what truly became my driving force as I sat down to write the profile, was the fact that Rex played his music for me. I was invited into his world, if only briefly.

His story is one I’ll never forget — a story that a file alongside dozens of others that I’ve had the fortune of telling in the nine months that I’ve been in Malibu. 

I would be wholly unable to tell those stories if not for the kindness, talent and dedication of the people in this community. 

Chris’s photo, a candid snapshot of 8-year-old Sophia Springer on the shoulders of her 13-year-old brother, Travis, playing in the soap suds “snow” at Our Lady of Malibu’s Christmas Program, is also based on a similar tenet: a great community is one that revels in the happiness of its neighbors, friends and loved ones.  

The photo translates the look of pure joy on their faces, and is one that community members of all kinds can relate to. It is simple and is one of the many manifestations of this community.

I started this job in October. Entirely new to the area and eager to dive into the stories I knew I would find, I relished producing engaged stories every week. What started as 40 stories per week has now grown to more than 50, and we never seem to run out of interesting events, people or places to highlight. 

It’s only getting better, Malibu. Thank you for being the inspiration.