Editor’s Desk: National Magazine Awards and the power of partnership

Illustration by Zeke Peña.

By Theodore Ross

Here at FERN, we’re not in it for the awards. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like them. That’s why we were so pleased to learn last week that we had been nominated by the American Society of Magazine Editors as finalists for the National Magazine Awards. Even better, we were nominated twice.

These two FERN projects were among the most ambitious that we have undertaken in recent years. The nomination for Single-Topic Issue recognized our collaboration with Switchyard on a special food issue, marking the first time in FERN history that we co-published an entire issue of a magazine. That Switchyard, which is both a publication and a podcast, was founded and edited by longtime FERN contributors Ted Genoways and Mary Anne Andrei, only added to our enjoyment. (Single-Topic includes audio submissions as part of the award. You can listen to the Switchyard podcast episodes that were part of the special issue at their site, or on REAP/SOW, FERN’s new platform for all our audio journalism.)

We are also a finalist in the Public Interest category, for “Alone on the Range,” an investigation by FERN staff writer Teresa Cotsirilos that uncovered horrific abuses of H-2A migrant workers in the sheepherding industry, published in partnership with High Country News.

One noteworthy, and particularly satisfying, aspect of this year’s nominations is not just that FERN was able to partner with leading publications to make journalism of the highest quality, but how many other nonprofit outlets similar to ours were able to as well. ProPublica, which typically works in partnership, has five nominations. The Marshall Project has three, working with six different partners. The Trace is a finalist for its work with The Washington Post.

At FERN, we are deeply committed to reporting at the intersection of food and the environment. We are also equally committed to collaborating with other publications to achieve our mission, to ensure our work reaches widely, and to support the larger project of journalism, which is vital to the strength of this nation’s democracy. And that’s why we care about these nominations, because it tells us that there are people out there who share our values, and also that people are taking notice.

One last thing: FERN doesn’t just work in partnership with other publications. We are partners with you, our readers and supporters. Our relationship with you makes this journalism possible. I hope that you will consider making a donation to allow us to continue to work with you — and fingers crossed for the awards!