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Staff Report
6:34 am PDT June 20, 2019

The Malibu Surfside News’ coverage of the devastating Woolsey Fire — an around-the-clock effort that involved reporters Lauren Coughlin, Joe Coughlin, Bill Jones and Barbara Burke — earned the paper a prestigious journalism award. 

The Surfside took second place in the best breaking news story category of the National Newspaper Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest.

Judges called the coverage “well written and engaging” as well as “timely [and] obviously of great community importance.”

That honor was one of three awards the Surfside News received this year — a personal best for the publication. The Surfside, which 22nd Century Media acquired in October 2013, began competing in 2014 and has earned five prior NNA awards, including three first-place honors in the past two years.

This year, a feature published following the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Elaine Park, written by Editor Lauren Coughlin, earned third place. 

Contest judges called the story “a lovely and respectful tribute, while the unknowns of the case make the story both a tragedy and a mystery.” Park, who reportedly has not been seen or heard from since January 2017, remains missing. 

Finally, a story by Chris Megginson on Pepperdine alumna and Olympic bobsledder Lauren Gibbs took second for best sports feature. Gibbs, as part of Team USA, earned silver in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Contest judges said they were hooked by Megginson’s action lede, and called the piece well written. 

The National Newspaper Association boasts more than 2,000 members, and this year, its annual Better Newspaper Contest welcomed more than 1,300 entries from 36 states. 

It is the seventh year of national competition for 22nd Century Media, parent company of the Malibu Surfside News, and the company nabbed 16 awards for journalistic excellence — topping the company’s previous high of 14 (2015). The company’s awards spanned categories including best investigative story, best obituary tribute, best editorial column, best education/literacy story and best sports column.

Winners of the NNA competition, judged by esteemed journalists from across the country, will be honored at an Oct. 5 banquet in Milwaukee.