An image from Asheville Watchdog photographer Starr Sariego's visual chronicle of South Asheville Cemetery, which received third place in the Photography, Feature category of the North Carolina Press Association annual contest. // Watchdog photo by Starr Sariego

Asheville Watchdog journalists won seven awards in the online division of the North Carolina Press Association’s annual contest, including first place in News Enterprise Reporting for Down Town, a 3-month series that focused on crime, homelessness, and other problems plaguing downtown Asheville.

Reporters Sally Kestin, John Boyle, Andrew R. Jones, and Tom Fiedler; database editor John Maines; and photographer Starr Sariego teamed up on the 12-part project, which also explored potential solutions to stem downtown’s decline.

Barbara Durr placed first place in News Feature Writing for an examination of the University of North Carolina Asheville’s plunging enrollment and exodus of top leadership, staff and faculty.

Durr also won first place in Beat News Reporting for continued coverage of the aftermath of Asheville’s non-profit Mission Hospital’s sale in 2019 to for-profit HCA Healthcare, including how hundreds of doctors were leaving, nurses were protesting in the streets about deteriorating working conditions, and residents were traveling to Charlotte and Atlanta for their health care.

Boyle won first place in the Serious Columns category for a trio of opinion pieces: his reasons for leaving the Asheville Citizen-Times after 27 years, his condemnation of North Carolina’s plan to remove a key safety backstop in gun purchases, and his criticism of the city of Asheville’s response during an 11-day water outage over the winter holidays that left tens of thousands without service.

Kestin and Boyle won second place in City, County Government Reporting for stories that revealed the city of Asheville’s communications failures and lack of transparency during the water outage.

Kestin placed third in Arts and Entertainment Reporting for her detailed look at the Asheville Art Museum’s workplace culture, which some museum board members have described as “beyond toxic,” and its repercussions on employee morale and turnover.

All stories were edited by Peter Lewis, then managing editor who has since been named Asheville Watchdog’s executive editor.

Sariego placed third in Feature Photography for her visual chronicle of South Asheville Cemetery, a two-acre burial site for about 2,000 African Americans, and its history and the people who toiled to preserve it.

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Keith Campbell is the managing editor of The Watchdog. Email

21 replies on “Asheville Watchdog wins 7 North Carolina Press Association awards”

  1. Congratulations to AVL Watchdog for these recognitions! Incredibly well-deserved. Thank you for the invaluable service you provide to this area with your reporting and analysis.

  2. Well deserved awards indeed. In just a short period of time, The AWD has become my source for the actual news that happens here. Your 12 part series on Ashevilles woes was probably the best articles I have ever read, period. Thank you to all at the AWD for printing some great, local, journalism.

  3. It is great to have a news source locally without corporate watchdogs! Thanks for a great institutional paper!

  4. Well deserved recognition for extremely detailed investigative journalism. Your reporting may be just what it takes to shake up HCA, and City/County leadership. Keep digging and expose the truth.

  5. Congratulations! Well deserved! Everyone reads your articles and sees your photos. CONGRATS!!!

  6. Wonderful acknowledgment of your journalistic contribution to all of us in the Asheville area. I can only hope you become a model for small community news across the US.

  7. Well deserved! We need truth telling, honesty and transparency during a time of so many untruths. Even while independent journalists are being persecuted in our own backyard, it takes a level of bravery and virtue to get the truth out. Bravo!

  8. Congratulations y’all. Happy to have this resource in the community and support your efforts to bring well-vetted information to us.

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