Outlet: Redlands Daily Facts
Journalist: Toni Momberger
Tags: community journalism, editing
Read full announcement post.
Toni Momberger, editor of the Redlands Daily Facts, is Digital First’s Journalist of the Year for newsrooms publishing small daily newspapers.
She is one of four finalists for Digital First Media Journalist of the Year. That winner will be announced in September at a program honoring DFMie winners in Denver.
DFMie judges were enthusiastic in their praise for Momberger:
The notion of the newspaper as the pillar of the community is difficult to maintain in an age of alternative news sources and increasing skepticism toward the news media. Toni Momberger has beaten the odds with her leadership at the Redlands Daily Facts. She wins this award, in part, for fostering a newsroom culture that has deep roots in the community it covers. She’s also a committed journalist, taking a balanced approach to coverage. From “meet the editor” days to a column on the Mexican history of Redlands to a weekly series of video interviews for the city’s 125th anniversary, Momberger has demonstrated a deep commitment to the place her newspaper covers — an approach that surely pays dividends in reader loyalty.
The nomination by Michael Anastasi, Executive Editor of the Los Angeles News Group, details the many ways Momberger serves her community:
Toni Momberger epitomizes the best of small-daily journalism.
The hard-charging, passionate and caring editor of the Redlands Daily Facts, Toni believes in her community, believes in the people of her community and believes with every bit of her soul that the news organization’s most important mission is to serve the community.
Jim Brady still talks about the day he spent with Toni, as she excitedly drove him throughout the town and recited tales of community lore that had taken place decades before she was even born.
I remember the day I suggested we go to a Starbucks to talk. She refused — only a locally-owned coffee shop was acceptable.
Yet Toni is far from a community cheerleader. She is a newswoman. She reports the bad and the good and ensures her staff seeks both. She is committed to her community, and strives, as all good editors should, to improve it by providing readers with news, context and insight on important issues and events.
She has exacting standards for her staff. Working at the Daily Facts is hard work, as each member of the newsroom will tell you. In this, Toni leads by example, often working long hours to cover a story or events herself or to represent the newspaper at community events after hours.
She guards the town’s memory, and in many ways, she is the town’s memory and its conscience.
Here are some examples of her day-in, day-out contributions:
- She goes to dress rehearsals of the school plays and reviews them before opening night.
- She has partnered with the town’s school newspapers, and periodically takes over the journalism classes at Redlands High School, Redlands East Valley High School and Moore Middle School; She teaches the entire journalism course at the Grove charter school as a volunteer.
- She started a Faith page, and put the churches in town in a rotation to provide a column (it works out to about one per year per church.) Also the RDF now runs a church calendar and news of happenings on that page.
- She started a personal column where she attends, participates in or does a ride-along on something anyone in Redlands may do, and she tells readers what it’s like.
- She started brown bag lunches with journalism lessons and lunch in the former composing room; she partnered with the community foundation for funding to pay for speakers.
- She partnered with the senior communities to give Redlands Daily Facts historical tours of the town. They come pick her up in their van and she directs the driver while spouting fun facts.
- Once a month or so she bakes cookies or cupcakes and declares Meet-the-Editor Day. She puts out the word through social media that she’s trying to meet everyone in town. “If I haven’t met you yet, come into my office and tell me your story.”
- At the end of 2012 she launched a project wherein she interviews someone every week on video. This is to commemorate the city’s 125th anniversary. She teamed with the city’s videographer to get the stories and memories from people who either impacted or are experts on the fabric of the town’s history.
The other finalist for Small-Daily Journalist of the Year is Neal Goswami, nominated for several stories he wrote in 2012. He has since been promoted to Senior Staff Writer and Social Media Editor.
Momberger is editor in the town where she was born 43 years ago. “The doctor who delivered me sits next to me in Rotary Club meetings,” Momberger said. “It’s a town where people stay. They love their history and the Facts plays a big role in the community. I am the first native Redlander to run this paper since the Moore family in the founding years.”
She is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a degree in linguistics. Her first real newspaper job was at the Boulder Daily Camera as a news compositor.