Citing "her reporting on rape, and the overall excellence of her journalistic coverage," the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington on Wednesday named Stranger staff writer Sydney Brownstone the 2017 Journalist of the Year.
Chosen by the 10-member board of the regional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the title recognizes a journalist's exceptional reporting over the course of a year.
In June, The Stranger published "The Audition," which revealed that tech journalist Matt Hickey pretended to be a porn recruiter to trick multiple women into having sex with him. After Sydney's report was published, three more women came forward with allegations that Hickey raped them outside of the porn audition scam. More women came forward after that. In October, King County prosecutors, citing Sydney's reporting, charged Hickey with three counts of rape. He was charged with another count of rape in January. Hickey has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and his cases are pending. In addition, the state attorney general won a $332,000 judgement on a civil case against Hickey for violating consumer protection laws.
In August, Sydney spoke with ten people who say they were drugged at local bars in the summer of 2016. Her reporting highlighted that alleged drugging victims often feel hesitant to report their cases to the police, due to mistrust. Less than two weeks later, the Seattle Police Department acknowledged that "this is a definitely problem."
Most recently, Sydney conducted in-depth interviews with Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, two of the men who accused Mayor Ed Murray of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers in the 1980s. She was the first to report that Simpson decided not to go forward with a sex abuse civil case in 2008 because of concerns with a statute of limitations, not because his attorney had doubts about the accusation. Mayor Murray announced this month that he would not seek re-election, saying the accusations would distract from city issues.
Sydney has also been recognized for her coverage of trans rights issues, winning the Gender Justice League's 2016 Media Justice Award.
Previous selections for Journalist of the Year include Northwest News Network's Anna King, as well as Mike Baker and Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times.
In addition to Journalist of the Year, the Society of Professional Journalists Western Washington also awarded Juile Muhlstein of the Daily Herald the Susan Hutchinson Bosch Award for "her quiet courage, perseverance, intellectual honesty, and excellence in journalism in the face of continued hardship." The Seattle Times and Evergrey won Innovation Awards.