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Friday, May 7, 2021

Western freshman wins journalism excellence award

Western freshman Chelsee Johnson received a second place award in the 2014 Society of Professional Journalists Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.

Johnson was an intern at the Omak-Okanogan Chronicle in Northeastern Washington during summer 2014, and she received the award Saturday, June 13.

The award recognized her for her work on the Carlton Complex fire that destroyed many buildings and homes last summer in Okanogan County. She felt that the goal of her work was to keep everyone up to date on the situation, Johnson said.

Johnson competed with around 1,800 entries from papers from all over the Northwest, including Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington state.

Roger Harnack, editor and publisher of the Omak-Okanogan Chronicle, said that Johnson was dynamic and outgoing during her time on the paper. Although she was hired for social media, she ended up writing obituaries and stories on crimes and accidents.

“I learned a lot about working with people and working in stressful situations,” Johnson said. “I learned about going out and talking to people, how to walk up to somebody, take their picture, talk to them about something they don’t want to talk about,” Johnson said.

Her background consisted of yearbook at the local high school before she began as an intern for the Omak-Okanogan Chronicle, she said.

“I was pretty new to the whole newspaper thing,” Johnson said. She was 17 years old while on staff at the Okanogan Chronicle.

Johnson was not the only person from the Chronicle to win the Excellence in Journalism award. Her co-workers Dee Camp, Al Camp, Brock Hires and Harnack also won.

Despite her aptitude for journalism, Johnson said she does not want pursue it as a career.

“I’m interested in politics and I’m going to law school,” Johnson said. “I thought about it for a while and I really enjoy it, but I would have to have experience in different setting than I did, in a different place with different people. Not that there’s anything wrong with the staff at the Chronicle.”

Johnson was on her high school yearbook for four years, and was an editor for three.

“I learned a lot doing yearbook about design, copy and photo,” Johnson said. “I got the internship at the Chronicle because of it.”

Region 10 of SPJ sponsors the Northwest Excellence in Journalism Awards, and the awards go to both professionals and students. First place winners will receive a trophy, while second and third place will receive certificates.

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