The Ocracoke Observer was among 14 recipients of the North Carolina Coastal Federation annual Pelican Awards, which recognizes individuals and groups along the coast for their coastal stewardship.
Although the event typically is held in the Crystal Coast Civic Center in Morehead City, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers held the celebration Aug. 6 online using Zoom.
The Observer was nominated for its “Dedicated Service to Coastal Community Journalism” by Marks Hibbs, editor of the Coastal Review Online, the federation’s daily online newspaper.
“Publishers Peter Vankevich and Connie Leinbach, who worked to provide vital information to island residents following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian Sept. 6 2019, were helpful sources for Coastal Review Online, the Washington Post and other news media in reporting to the world the situation on the island,” Hibbs said. “Coastal Review’s relationship with the publishers was well established before the storm but has become more valuable while working to report the continuing challenges Ocracoke faces and the community’s resilience. They were key partners in the multipart series on changing attitudes toward climate science on the North Carolina coast that was part of the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines initiative.”
In a recent editorial, the Carteret News-Times noted the importance of community journalism.
“The recognition by the Coastal Federation of the publishers and their paper is important because it verifies the value of such publications,” the editorial said. “As the news industry deals with its own hurricane of disruption caused by the internet and social media, it is ironic that community newspapers such as the Observer continue to thrive by providing news and information that is vital for health and growth of their respective communities.”
The Observer is the second Ocracoke recipient of this award. In 2013, the Coastal Federation honored Ocracoke watermen, Gene Ballance the late James Barrie Gaskill for their commitment to restoring the coastal habitat in rebuilding oyster reefs off Beacon Island in Pamlico Sound. Although diminished, this now tiny island continues to be an important brown pelican rookery.
Greater Wilmington Chamber Foundation for Outstanding Business and Community Volunteerism.
Bill Hart for Decades of Outstanding Leadership to Restore North Carolina’s Coastal Waters.
N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Engineering Division for Dedicated Partnership to Protect and Restore Coastal Water Quality and Habitat.
The North Carolina Coastal Federation is a member-supported nonprofit organization focused on protecting and restoring the North Carolina coast.
The Pelican Award program began in 2003 to recognize individuals, businesses and government agencies that have shown exemplary coastal stewardship.