Opinion

Kansas Reflector, editor Sherman Smith and staff honored in annual press association awards

April 22, 2022 10:07 am

Kansas Reflector staff, from left: Senior reporter Tim Carpenter, opinion editor Clay Wirestone, editor in chief Sherman Smith, reporter Noah Taborda, and reporter Allison Kite. (Thad Allton for Kansas Reflector)

Every day for the past eight months, I’ve delighted in working for the Kansas Reflector. Being part of this nonprofit journalism effort, bringing high-quality news and opinion to the state I love, has been a source of joy — even when the news takes less-than-joyful swerves.

The news this morning was particularly good, however.

The Kansas Press Association released the results of its annual contest. Reflector editor Sherman Smith has been named the state’s journalist of the year, for the second year in a row. The Reflector’s opinion section, overseen by yours truly, won first place in the Division VII editorial pages category. The overall Reflector website placed second.

University of Kansas student Lola Young screams into a microphone as a private security guard from Mil-Spec Security Group blocks protestors from entering Phi Kappa Psi’s front porch. An estimated 1,000 people gathered at Phi Kappa Psi’s fraternity house to protest the fraternity after an alleged sexual assault there on Saturday. Protestors, including Young, returned Tuesday for a second night of protesting. (Lily O’Shea Becker for Kansas Reflector)

Freelancers Miranda Davis (story) and Lily O’Shea Becker (photos) won a first place in Best Story/Picture Combination, for Protests at University of Kansas show culture shift on campus sexual violence. Becker won Best Online Video (News) for the video that accompanied that story.

“I’m thrilled that judges for the second year in a row have recognized Sherman Smith’s dedication to informing Kansans about the actions — and inactions — of their state government,” said Mary Cornatzer, national editor for States Newsroom. The Reflector is part of its expanding network of state government-focused sites. “His reporting last year on the state’s foster care system, particularly the death of a young child, is bringing changes to the system. In addition, Sherman leads an extraordinarily talented newsroom that produces a compelling news report day in and day out. I congratulate Sherman and the entire Reflector staff.”

Aaron Carter, a 6-year-old boy with autism, died after he was placed with new parents in Wichita. Tina and Jamie Miller, who previously provided foster care for Aaron, believe his death could have been avoided. (Jeff Tuttle for Kansas Reflector)

That’s not all, though. My predecessor as opinion editor, C.J. Janovy, won second place for editorial writing. And Reflector senior reporter Tim Carpenter won third place in the agriculture story category for Phillips County jury sticks hog producer with $134,000 judgment in rare trespassing case.

Journalists sometimes joke about awards season. No one I know has gone into the field to win prizes, collect medals or bedeck themselves in honor.

Yet we care deeply about the work that we do and the readers we serve. You could watch in real time at the Reflector, where Sherman helped create a plucky and trusted organization from scratch. That’s a true achievement, and one that continues to make our state better. Contests and awards like those given annually by the press association give us an opportunity to sit back and acknowledge what we’ve done and why.

Congratulations to the entire Reflector team, and thanks for the opportunity to come along for the ride.

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Clay Wirestone
Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone has written columns and edited reporting for newsrooms in Kansas, New Hampshire, Florida and Pennsylvania. He has also fact checked politicians, researched for Larry the Cable Guy, and appeared in PolitiFact, Mental Floss, cnn.com and a host of other publications. Most recently, Clay spent nearly four years at the nonprofit Kansas Action for Children as communications director. Beyond the written word, he has drawn cartoons, hosted podcasts, designed graphics, and moderated debates. Clay graduated from the University of Kansas and lives in Lawrence with his husband and son.

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