Intrepid political blogger Riley Sweeney has been selected to receive the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism Award for 2014. Riley’s lively blog, on his Sweeney Politics website, is must reading for all political junkies in Whatcom County. He brings energy, humor and inside - back room - information to his posts.
Riley is not yet 30 years old but has built a network of sources and relationships with politicians throughout Whatcom County, the small towns and in Bellingham. He finds out what is happening and does his best to inform the public - all citizens - about future political developments. ‘Does his best’ is the correct phrase because it is usually very difficult to confirm political insider information. Riley does a great job of getting it confirmed.
Paul deArmond was a well known local investigative citizen reporter and writer about political events with a focus on right wing militia movements. Paul wrote an analysis of the November 1999 Seattle WTO riots that the Rand Corporation said was the best analysis done by anyone. High praise from an internationally respected think tank.
Paul died in the spring of 2013 at age 60 after a year long complicated illness of his lungs. Five days before he died, when asked if we could use his name for a citizen journalism award, he said it was fine with him but we should know it was in poor taste to name an award after a living person. Such was Paul’s sense of humor to the end.
Riley displays one of the key tenants that Paul thought important. That the Public Good be served in reporting. The need for citizens to be informed of political and government actions is vital for participation and voting in public affairs by citizens. Vital for self governance.
The award is not a prize or competition. The award is recognition of a citizen journalist - one who does not make their living from journalism - for their writings and efforts to inform fellow citizens. Riley fits that in spades. The selection committee noted his consistency in posting one or more times every week of the year - quite a feat for one doing this in their spare time.
The committee of seven are Suzanne Blais of radio KMRE; Robert Schober, the editor of the Whatcom Watch; Tim Johnson, the editor and publisher of the Cascadia Weekly; Deb Gaber the copy editor of NWCitizen; and George Dyson, Tip Johnson and myself. Last year’s award went to Wendy Harris. This is the second year of the award.
Ralph Schwartz wrote a fine post about Riley this evening at his Bellingham Herald Politics Blog.
The award will be given to Riley at an award dinner in early February. Those who attended last year will receive emails giving them a chance to attend this limited seating dinner.
In closing, I want to add a word about Riley’s partner and wife, Bryna. She has also contributed by taking very cool photos of Riley in many poses. We all enjoy the well crafted and often outrageous portraits of Riley that adorn his columns.