For the second time in a month, Asheville Watchdog has been named a finalist for a national journalism award.

LION Publishers announced Thursday that The Watchdog’s Down Town series is a finalist for its Outstanding Coverage Award in its annual contest. The award “recognizes a LION member that achieved general excellence in journalistic impact by building increased awareness or influencing public conversation about a specific issue that has reverberated throughout a community.”

The 12-part Down Town series examined how crime, homelessness, and drug abuse have affected downtown Asheville and explored potential solutions to these and other problems. 

After The Watchdog launched the series, the city of Asheville took steps toward a cleaner, safer downtown. It worked with its police and fire departments and Buncombe County to launch a 60-day initiative to add more officers and deputies on downtown patrols and more firefighters dedicated to crisis intervention. The city announced in late June that it was making the enhanced safety measures permanent.

Reporters Sally Kestin, John Boyle, Andrew R. Jones, and Tom Fiedler; database editor John Maines; and photographer Starr Sariego teamed up on the project, which began in February and concluded on June 1. The series was edited by Peter Lewis, then managing editor, who has since been named The Watchdog’s executive editor.

The Watchdog is one of more than 450 media members of LION, a journalism organization dedicated to helping independent news publishers build more sustainable businesses. The Watchdog competes in the Small Tier division of the contest. Winners will be announced Oct. 3 in Durham.

Asheville Watchdog won the LION’s Accountability Award last year for its investigative series, Equity Erased.

The Institute for Nonprofit News recently named Down Town one of four finalists for its annual Best Investigative Journalism Award. Winners will be announced Aug. 23 in Philadelphia. 

And the North Carolina Press Association awarded the series first place in News Enterprise Reporting, one of seven awards The Watchdog won in NCPA’s annual contest.

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 To show your support for this vital public service go to

8 replies on “Asheville Watchdog’s Down Town series named finalist for 2nd national journalism award”

  1. This series was an amazing piece of real journalism!!! Your team is the cream of the crop and Ashville is so lucky to have you all. CONGRATS to my heroes…

  2. Congratulations. Keep up the important work. This series needs to continue. This story is by no means over.

  3. Congratulations to all of you and thank you for your in-depth investigations. The comprehensive Down Town series was very insightful, and spurred our local leaders to action. We are lucky to have you!

  4. Awards and recognition well deserved. Keep it up. Otherwise, how would City Council, and the public, know what’s going on in the City!

  5. I look forward to your next series; Anarchists: who are they, where do they gather, and who supports these groups. I wish you all the best of luck.

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