FLAGSTAFF-Staff at the Navajo Hopi Observer have cause to celebrate thanks to the recent Western Newspapers Inc. (WNI) awards presentation. Wells Mahkee Jr., managing editor of the Observer, took first place in the category of column and opinion writing during the recent event. Donna Newman, of the Golden Valley Gazette took second place, while Raquel Hendrickson of the Verde Bugle won third place. The awards were presented Sept. 28 at the Quality Inn Suites in Prescott.
Mahkee, of Zuni Pueblo, is the first Native American managing editor for the Observer. He took over as managing editor last October. He was pleasantly surprised at having received the award and took great pride in sharing his near-future plans for the Observer. "It meant a lot for me to win that award and it has motivated me to do better. I hope to use that motivation to make the Observer an even bigger and better product for our readers," he said.
Editor Lynda Duffy took home the third place prize for feature and specialty writing, while Bruce Colbert of the Big Bug News won first place in that category. Duffy is also the senior editor of the Observer, Winslow Mail and the Williams-Grand Canyon News.
Doug Wells, publisher of the Observer and the Williams-Grand Canyon News said he was happy with the results of this year's awards. A number of newspapers were on hand for the annual presentation, which recognized achievements from daily newspapers and non-daily newspapers that are owned and operated by WNI.
"I was real proud of our editorial staff. We were represented very well with the awards," Wells said, adding that he was happy with the job of staff writers in representing rural communities in northern Arizona.
WNI operates a variety of multimedia enterprises throughout rural Arizona. The company, run by the Soldwedel family, also operates a newspaper in Blythe, Calif. WNI manages 15 newspapers, a sign shop, 11 shopper guides, five real estate magazines, three commercial printing plants, two radio stations, a billboard company, an auto trader magazine, two phone books, seven direct mail publications and 27 Web sites. The company employs over 400 individuals and 200 independent contractors. WNI is headquartered in Yuma. Besides the Observer, WNI also manages the Williams-Grand Canyon News, the Winslow Mail, the Daily Courier in Prescott, the Daily Miner in Kingman and numerous other publications.