Oregon Business Wins Three First-Place SPJ Awards

Reporting on fentanyl testing, a rural arts collective and the rise and fall of a sex-tech startup take top honors in Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.

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This week Oregon Business took home four 2023 Northwest SPJ Excellence in Journalism Awards; the contest rewards outstanding work from journalists in that includes work from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

The winning stories, which were announced by the Greater Oregon SPJ Wednesday, were:

Buzzkill: This February 2023 story by Hannah Wallace broke down the rise and fall of Lora DiCarlo, a much-buzzed-about Bend-based sex-tech startup that imploded abruptly in November 2022 amid an intellectual property lawsuit and a raft of damning allegations from former staff, including sexual harassment and wage theft claims. “Buzzkill” won first prize in the technology, business and economics category in the magazine division, with a judge commenting, “With  amazing reporting and a great narrative flow, this article was a fantastic read that shines the light  on what led to the dissolution of a promising business.” Since this publication, OB has learned that the German sex-toy maker Novoluto has won a $2.2 million default judgment against the company.

To the Test: Editor Christen McCurdy’s story for the July/August 2023 issue focused on a new law that makes it easier to test illegal drugs to see if they are contaminated with fentanyl — which until recently was illegal even while possession of the drugs themselves was decriminalized. It won first place in the health & science reporting division in the magazine division.

Sparking Community: McCurdy’s feature in the May 2023 issue focused on a small arts collective in Burns, an isolated community in Eastern Oregon that bucks some stereotypes about the region and what people who live there envision for it. 

More Cooks in the Kitchen: This story, written by McCurdy for the November 2023 issue, focuses on the challenge small and medium food manufacturers have in finding space to make and pack their product, especially when it’s time to scale up. It won second place in the food & restaurants category in the magazine division.

The awards closely follow honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, which announced awards for business-to-business journalism earlier this spring. OB won three regional awards in that competition:

From Oregon With Pride: This story by Andrew Jankowski ran in OB’s July 2023 issue. It focused on LGBTQ-friendly bars and other spaces in smaller communities and communities outside the Portland area — and why those spaces are so important to the communities they serve, and more embattled. It won a regional silver award in the Pacific division in the diversity, equity and inclusion category.

Twist and Short: This piece, which then-staff writer Sander Gusinow wrote for OB’s February 2023 issue, won a regional bronze award in the Pacific division in the news & analysis category. It’s a rundown of recent developments at Twist Bioscience, a Wilsonville-based company that says it can synthesize DNA at the site. Later in 2023, Gusinow reported on Twist’s announcement that the company can deliver manufactured DNA within 5 to 7 days of receiving an order.

“Buzzkill” also placed in the ASBPEs, winning a regional silver award in the impact/investigative division.