Dog Bites

Shameless Self-Promoting Swagger
SF Weekly writers Chuck Finnie and Lisa Davis have won writing awards in the state's largest journalism competition, the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest.

Finnie won awards in two categories -- public service journalism and investigative/enterprise reporting -- for stories that questioned the San Francisco district attorney's handling of a major pollution case and the actions of a top manager at the DA's Office, respectively.

Davis was honored in the feature writing category for her story about a heroin addict's attempt to kick his habit through a crash detoxification program in Mexico.

As it does every year when announcing contest winners, the CNPA got really, really weird, refusing to say who, exactly, had won what, precisely, in the contest. So Davis and Finnie, who have been told they won either first or second place awards, won't know just how condescending they should be when interacting with colleagues until the CNPA award ceremony in July.

S3, the Sequel
Yes, we have national awards, and we're going to tell you about them, too.
Earlier this year, the multitalented Davis won one of the nation's leading competitions for education journalism, the Benjamin Fine Award, in the magazine category. The winning article (which beat out a Washington Post Sunday magazine piece, among other competitors) examined reconstitution, the San Francisco school district's cutthroat and mindless method of dealing with under-performing schools through wholesale transfers of staff. It was the fourth Benjamin Fine Award Davis has won.

Finnie, meanwhile, was a finalist in the John Bartlow Martin Awards, a public interest magazine journalism contest conducted by Northwestern University's acclaimed Medill School of Journalism. And in the Western Publication Association's Maggie Awards, Davis and SF Weekly columnist Jack Boulware were finalists in the feature writing and interview/profile competitions, respectively.

What's Next -- Jet Boats on the Charles?
Almost a week after Margaret Lesher drowned on a camping trip, the Contra Costa Newspaper chain continued to churn out sugarcoated coverage of the shop clerk-turned-socialite. Lesher was the widow of Dean Lesher, the multimillionaire developer and newspaper magnate who founded the Contra Costa chain of dailies. Dean was notorious for his ruthless pursuit of profits, both as a developer and a publisher. Margaret, who devoted considerable money to her appearance, was known to joke about her latest plastic surgery.

Margaret sold the papers to Knight-Ridder in 1995, two years after Dean died, but the Contra Costa newspapers are acting as deferential to her as if she still were calling the shots. (By contrast, the San Francisco dailies have mentioned a few of Margaret's peculiarities, including an alleged exorcism of the newsroom -- supposedly on the departure of a gay staffer -- and the purported use of reporters as waiters during at least one dinner party.)

Deference can be forgiven. But a front page story in Monday's West County Times went beyond deference, to obeisance. "Leshers' rich legacy bridged society's gaps," was the headline of a story by staff writers Joan Morris and Gary Bogue. The story quoted Scott Denison, the general manager of the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, to this effect: "'If Boston had the Kennedys, then Dean and Margaret were the Kennedys of Contra Costa County.' " Let's see, as Boston is to Walnut Creek, the Kennedys are to Dean and Margaret Lesher. The analogy is indeed apt -- though, perhaps, not in the way intended.

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