On Wednesday, Sept. 6, the editorial staff of the Payson Roundup traveled to Oro Valley to accept the Housing Hero Award for Local Initiatives at the Governor's Housing Forum.
The award was given for a six-part series published earlier this year titled, "Affordable Housing: Crisis or Catch Phrase."
For six weeks, the Roundup staff examined the impact of rising housing prices on the area's work force.
Articles included, "Affordable housing: How did it get this bad?," "Seniors struggle to find affordable housing," and "Why does it matter?"
The series ended with a community round table in an attempt to find a local solution.
"The (award) is in recognition of (the Roundup's) in-depth look at all aspects of affordable housing, the long-term effects on the community, and the education of its readers," said Dr. Sheila Harris, Director of the Arizona Department of Housing.
The "Affordable Housing: Crisis or Catch Phrase" series was a team effort by several members of the Roundup staff, including articles written by Teresa McQuerrey, Max Foster, Felicia Megdal and Carol La Valley, photos by Richard Haddad and Kelly Crowley and editorials by Autumn Phillips.
"I'm extremely proud of this news team," said Roundup publisher Richard Haddad. "I noticed since (editor) Autumn Phillips came to the Roundup, she has looked for ways to make a difference in the community. She identified the need to bring this issue to the surface and to look for solutions by raising awareness.
"The staff stepped in and got behind her."
Though the Roundup staff has worked on several large-scale journalism projects as individuals, this was one of the first times the entire staff had divided an issue among themselves to tackle it from a variety of angles.
"I've never done a series where I worked as part of a team," said reporter Felicia Megdal. "I thought we brought a lot of awareness to the community.
"I learned what a serious problem (affordable housing) is in this town and that there is no one solution. I hope the people who are in charge can take something from the work we've done."
Megdal, McQuerrey, La Valley and Phillips attended the award ceremony.
"I was excited," Megdal said. "I felt honored as a small newspaper to be given such recognition."
The Roundup was among six recipients at the Governor's Housing Forum recognized for their contribution to housing issues in Arizona. Awards were also given to BothHands of Flagstaff, Navajo FlexCrete Building Systems, the Drachman Institute for their design in Shonto on the Navajo Reservation, Rita Carrillo, executive director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Phoenix and the Primavera Foundation.
To read "Affordable Housing: Crisis or Catch Phrase," visit payson.com, scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on the series icon. To learn more about housing efforts across the state, visit www.housingaz.com.