— The Daily Times —

FARMINGTON — Columbia University, long considered one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the world and the administrator of the famed Pulitzer Prizes, is recognizing the work of The Daily Times news staff and its editor with a national award for promoting diversity in race and culture.

The university will be presenting the Best Practices award May 1 in New York City, where the Editor Troy Turner and reporter Alysa Landry will showcase the newspaper's work to a large gathering of distinguished journalists and other invited guests, including other award winners from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBS, CNN and The Los Angeles Times, among others.

Daily Times Publisher Sammy Lopez also will be a guest of the university for the award presentations.

"It takes strong leadership, talent, commitment and hard work to receive a national award from Columbia," Lopez said. "Troy has provided that leadership as our editor. He has recruited some of the best talent in the business. Our newsroom is committed and works hard to provide a great newspaper every day. I am proud of our team and the hard work they did to receive this award."

The university is covering almost all expenses for the group to attend as part of its "Let's Do It Better!" journalism workshop, sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

A sister newspaper, The Denver Post, will receive the top award for a series of stories led by reporter Mike Riley. The Daily Times is the only small-paper publication to be so honored. Both are members of the MediaNews Group newspaper family.

The Daily Times portfolio included a wide range of work that showed the newspaper's commitment to diversity in cultural and racial issues, including a sports series on the first Navajo to play major league baseball, stories about Hispanic culture and issues from home styles to marriage customs, religion stories covering a wide spectrum of beliefs, and a steady diet of columns from Turner addressing serious diversity issues with candid personal commentary.

The collection of work also included a wide range of hard-hitting investigative stories such as reports on hate crime, the failure of Farmington city government to timely organize a race relations commission, calls for open government in Farmington and on the Navajo Nation, and the newspaper's investigation into the travel by hundreds of Navajo representatives to an education conference in Hawaii, many of them using public money.

Columbia University is giving Turner a $500 honorarium in addition to the award.

"I'm thrilled and extremely proud of our staff," Turner said. "We declared that our newsroom mission would include war against racism and closed government, and winning a national award from the Ivy League journalism school that serves as home to the Pulitzer Prizes is a firm endorsement that we're doing solid work for our community."

"We don't, despite what our critics say, do this for awards. We do it for justice and fairness, and quite often our determination and hard-nosed writing makes us unpopular, especially among those on whose toes we step upon," Turner said. "The award simply gives our fight credibility from an outside entity that thinks we're doing our job. Now it becomes even more important that we continue to fight racism, promote open government, and certainly that we promote the unity in our community.

"It's expected of us now, and it is a newspaper's duty to show such civic leadership."

Turner also credited former reporter Cory Frolik, who in January joined a newspaper in Ohio, for his work on the Navajo-travel story in its early stages; Eric Fisher, managing editor, and Margaret Mathers, senior copy editor, who help edit all local copy; Mandi Torrez and Kym Tyler, who designed many of the front pages involved; Pat Hogan, online editor; Debra Mayeux, for her stories on religion and lifestyles; reporter Lindsay Whitehurst for her stories on Farmington city government; photographers Lindsay Pierce and Lucas Coshenet; the editorial board; and every other member of the news staff, calling the award a recognition "of good, sound, journalism teamwork that involves everyone in the newsroom."

"No one story or one person, nor just a newspaper can do what needs to be done in our community," Turner said. "We have much work to do when it comes to promoting better harmony and understanding of one another. But there are many people in this community committed to just that, and we're proud to be their partner."