Trevor Brown, an Oklahoma Watch investigative reporter whose 2020 work included an examination of Oklahoma hospitals suing patients over unpaid bills amid the pandemic and state politicians who promoted misinformation before the November elections, was named newspaper Writer of the Year in the Great Plains Journalism Awards contest.

The Great Plains Journalism Awards is a regional contest honoring print, web, TV and magazine journalists for outstanding stories, photography and design. The newspaper category is open to entries from organizations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Winners were announced Thursday by the Tulsa Press Club.

Oklahoma Watch also won the Specialty Feature Award for the Coronavirus Storytelling Project, a collaboration with 24 state journalists on how the pandemic is impacting them and their fellow Oklahomans.

Brown, 35, has covered state and local politics for more than a decade. He spent five years as the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s statehouse reporter and previously worked for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.’s chain of newspapers in Oklahoma, the Staunton News Leader and the Indianapolis Star as a Pulliam Fellow. Brown received bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from Indiana University, where he also served as editor-in-chief of the award-winning Indiana Daily Student. He has been an investigative reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2016.


The Coronavirus Storytelling Project, a collaboration between the Inasmuch Foundation, the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Watch, launched in the spring of 2020 as an initiative to spotlight how the pandemic was impacting Oklahoma communities and to help state journalists who were furloughed of displaced. A $50,000 grant from Inasmuch funded stipends for journalists to write a first-person, narrative or data-journalism story or multimedia piece (podcast, photo package or video) on either the coronavirus outbreak, challenges faced by journalists during the pandemic, or an issue important to Oklahoma. Oklahoma Watch’s contest entry included entries from: 

Berry Tramel, J.D. Meisner, Mike Simons, Lindsey Chastain, Jenni Carlson, Dawn Shelton, Steve Lackmeyer, Tracy Chapman, Jacob Threadgill, Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller, Art Haddaway, Elizabeth Caldwell, Jacob Unruh, Dany Varghese, Daisy Creager, Heather Slingerland, Cecilia Hernandez-Cromwell, Kristi Eaton, Siali Siaosi, Miguel Rios, David Dishman, James Coburn, Ayanna Najuma and Kathryn McNutt.

In addition to the award-winning entry, the Coronavirus Storytelling Project now includes a partnership with a University of Oklahoma Gaylord College class project titled Lost in the Pandemic and the Oklahoma COVID Legacy Project, a digital memorial to those whose lives were lost to COVID-19.

Three other Oklahoma Watch staff members were finalists in the Great Plains contest.

Jennifer Palmer and Whitney Bryen were among the finalists for their project on Epic Charter Schools in the Online Project category, which was won by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette team of Ginny Monk, Carrie Hill and Yutao Chen for their project “Children in Peril.”

Paul Monies’ story “How Recreational is Oklahoma’s Medical Marijuana Market?” was a finalist in Business Reporting, a category won by two South Dakota News Watch reporters for their story on regulatory gaps that allowed COVID-19 to spread in U.S. meatpacking plants.

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