Persistence in the face of injustice is an admirable trait in most walks of life, but for a journalist it can be the difference between flashing a match in the shadows or aggressively training a blazing spotlight across the darkness.
Chronicle reporter Jordan Nailon has never been fearful of leaving the light on, specifically when in matters relating to the great outdoors.
His tenacious drive for exposing flaws in the management of the state’s resources and enforcement of the law has led to voluminous reports focused on everything from juvenile deer slated for euthanization in Rochester (under pressure, the WDFW changed its mind), the mysterious case of 500,000 missing fish from the Mossyrock hatchery (we still have no idea where they went) and a massive poaching ring in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
For his coverage of the poaching case, Nailon was this week announced as the winner of the prestigious Dolly Connelly Award for environmental reporting. It’s an honor that is most frequently handed to reporters from newspapers much larger than The Chronicle.
During Jordan’s time reporting on this issue, I stood in awe of his focus and attention to detail. I was also amazed by his dogged refusal to let the issue be after his initial reports drew the shock of our readers.
There was always one more angle, one more lead to follow.
His persistence knew no bounds.
Week after week, he continued to file dozens of photos from the investigation, along with expansive stories that added deep context and understanding to a topic that had for so long gone unchecked.
“The Chronicle’s meticulous investigation of one of Washington’s largest poaching rings reflects public service journalism at its best,” wrote judge Peter Jackson, former editorial page editor of The Herald in Everett. “It is a sweeping, hard-nosed series, powerful and infuriating. Like a prosecutor, journalist Jordan Nailon knits together a series that is persuasive and gut-wrenching.”
We weren’t the only media outlet to report on the matter. Several others took shots at it, parachuting in for some quick interviews before heading back to larger markets and smaller stories.
Jordan’s persistence paid off.
He didn’t have anything to provide him an edge, just an insatiable drive and commitment to expose every last detail. He camped out on it for months, piecing together a narrative of each individual kill and writing riveting stories that exposed law enforcement failures and criminal histories in order to bring the full picture to light.
Most damning of all, he learned that the WDFW had prior contact with the ringleader of the poaching ring and, beyond that, had allowed him to serve as a campground host deep in the very forest where he and others violently killed and wasted the meat of dozens of animals.
Some of the details were heartbreaking: A bear so panicked by dogs that it ran off a cliff and died; a small cub that was cruelly killed and left to rot; Bobcats hunted out of season in the snow, bringing the text message “like hunting in a zoo” from at least one of the poachers.
Jordan made sense of the madness for our readers. He also exposed a crippling lack of enforcement for the laws governing the state’s natural resources.
The region is blessed to have Jordan patrolling Southwest Washington, where hunting and tourism are aspects of life that help stitch together our very community.
His intense focus on the outdoors fits well into a newsroom that continues to swing above its weight class, and the public is well served by the persistence of its reporters in the face of injustices of all kinds.
Eric Schwartz leads digital operations for The Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.