The Rapidian

The Rapidian announces winners of first Excellence in Citizen Journalism Awards

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Thirteen total awards were handed out last night, celebrating the hard work and bravery exhibited by so many more in 2015.

And the winners are....

Congratulations to all of our nominees, and so many more, who are all worthy of celebrating for their incredible work in 2015. 

Winners for the Excellence in Citizen Journalism Awards 2015 are as follows (with award-winning journalism hyperlinked to their name):


Top Conversation Starter (for those whose words were read and shared and talked about an incredible lot):


Interwebs Breaker


Purple Quill (Being willing to say- for all the world to hear- what your community isn’t quite getting right takes real bravery):


Longest Rough Draft (Complex stories are difficult to get into a internet-length article, after all!)


Making Waves (For those who changed policy or actions because of their article)


Quick Draw (Turning around a story quickly as a reporter is serious business. Turning around a story quickly as a *volunteer* reporter is amazing):


Prolific Nonprofit (For those who know that often times, educating others about your work is just as important as the good work you do):


Best New Series (Introducing an issue to the community sometimes takes an entire series to help the community fully understand it)


Old-Timer (Along with many new voices this year, we’ve also had long-standing reporters that kept coming back with important news this year):


Photographer of the Year (These photographers gave not only their time but their formidable talent to make sure that we could tell our stories not only with words but with visuals that helped capture the reader’s interest and tell the story):


The Librarian (Whether it’s researching historical anecdotes or technical or political facts, these reporters put in the time to make sure their story was full of information and sources to help us better understand the full picture):


Neighborhood Champion (Call it placemaking, call it city-building, call it being a good neighbor. These folks are proud of their neighborhoods, and it shows):


Founder's Honors (Our founder Laurie Cirivello has chosen the reporter whose work is vital to building citizen engagement in our community)


/Eric Bouwens

To a more-than-packed house at Luna Taqueria and Cocina last night, 13 winners of Excellence in Citizen Journalism Awards were revealed, celebrating the incredible accomplishments of local voices in Grand Rapids in 2015.

"As we looked at the analytics at the end of the year, my hunch was confirmed: you guys got brave in 2015," Managing Editor Holly Bechiri said in opening remarks to cheers. "So we knew we wanted to celebrate your accomplishments."

Bechiri said just narrowing down to five nominees in the eight categories was difficult enough, and choosing a "winner" out of those selected was even harder.

“It was affirming and energizing to be in a room with all of the community members who make The Rapidian possible and to see how they all supported and encouraged each other as well," says Briana Ureña-Ravelo, Community Engagement Specialist at The Rapidian. "So many just needed to read a nametag or get the beginning of a description for an article and they were familiar with the author’s work. That’s the kind of environment we want to continue to encourage and grow for the city of Grand Rapids.” 

The Rapidian, powered by citizen journalism with the assistance of tools, training and mentorship for reporters, prides itself in being a hyperlocal news source that is open and welcoming to all voices in our community.

"We only have two rules: it has to be about the Grand Rapids community- meaning the City of Grand Rapids on the map and just the suburbs that touch GR on the map, plus Ada- and it has to follow journalism ethics and rules," says Bechiri. "If you agree to those two standards, we will publish and champion your story."

Bechiri says the assistance of both her team and volunteer editorial mentors helps reporters learn about AP guidelines and standards of journalism ethics, so potential reporters don't have to feel like they understand journalism in order to be able to publish a high-quality article on their platform.

"We have a lot of articles that celebrate all of the amazing things happening in our growing city. But every time that we publish one that isn't absolutely positive, we get accused of bad journalism," she laughs. "The truth is, though, that journalism is designed to and required to 'be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable,' according to the Society of Professional Journalists' Ethics Code. That's not easy to do, and we're proud of our citizen journalists for being willing to do that, and to share their own perspectives and stories within the framework of good journalism. And we're honored to be able to guide and assist them in doing it well."

The Rapidian, as a proud service of the nonprofit organization the Community Media Center, depends not just on community content but on financial support from the community, as well.

"In order for our city to grow into a community that is truly diverse, sustainable and equitable, it's critical that we include the voices of everyone - including those with less social and economic power. The Rapidian is that platform. As West Michigan's only non-profit, citizen-led media source, The Rapidian is driven by donors, not by pageviews and private stakeholders, and it empowers people and conversations in our community that would otherwise go unheard," says Marjorie Steele, Rapidian reporter and recipient of an award at last night's event.


If you'd like to get involved in sharing community news, information and stories, get started as a citizen journalist.

To support the work we do, click here to make a donation.


All photos courtesy of Eric Tank, Eric Bouwens, and many attendees. For a full attribution for all photos, please see our Flickr album.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.