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8:29 AM Tue, Nov. 20th

Hed Lines: Hobnobbing with other journalists, and enjoying a movie called "The Journey"

I hobnobbed Saturday night with the best and the brightest in Arizona journalism by attending the annual awards banquet of the Arizona Press Club.

I made the 180-mile journey to my motel at Thomas Road off Interstate 17 in Phoenix – and another 2.9-mile drive to the Heard Museum - to pick up a third-place award for general reporting for small publications.

The banquet drew more than 250 people.

I only knew six of them, but I recognized the names of several reporters from the Arizona Republic and other major newspapers and struck up conversations during the cocktail party preceding the dinner.

At least one Republic reporter altered my perception of myself as being an obscure, hinterlands scribe, at least the "obscure" part.

"You guys have a hell of a news town," he told me.

He apparently has read the online edition of the Miner and recognized my byline.

He quizzed me on Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson's positions on sales taxes.

The reporter also thought of a feature that he would like to see in his newspaper: hanging out at a mini-mart at 3 a.m.

in Wikieup and reporting on who "rolls by" on U.S.

Highway 93.

One of his colleagues called the Miner newsroom last Wednesday because he was trying to track down Kingmanite Trudy Hicks, the proud mother of a Marine who helped to topple a statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein earlier that day in Baghdad.

Lacking the Kingman connections, the reporter told me that it took him 21/2 hours to find her, and he thanked us for helping him.

The reporter cut short the conversation by saying he was looking for his wife, and the socializing eventually ended.

I looked for a place to sit for the buffet dinner.

I planned to join my colleagues from our sister newspaper in Prescott, the Courier, but they did not show up.

I invited myself to sit at a table with staff from the Tucson Citizen.

A Citizen editor showed up with one of her friends, who repeated a statement that left no doubt that she does not work in the newspaper business: "I love my job." She chairs a department at Phoenix College and has worked there for 13 years.

We listened to the awards presentation by talk radio host Tom Liddy, son of the late Watergate henchman G.

Gordon Liddy.

He joked by complimenting the women on how they dressed while counting only two ties among the men.

(I wore a suit and tie.)

Liddy read a list of the winners for a variety of categories as an overhead screen showed compelling photos and the names and publications of the award winners.

The announcement of the winners drew polite and occasionally spirited applause from the audience.

The Citizen editor distributed noisemakers at our table, which prevented my hands from going sore from repeated clapping.

However, a Republic contingent consisting of nine women and one man drowned us out at the next table with their hooting a la Homer Simpson whenever Liddy announced one of their numerous colleagues as an award winner.

I picked up my certificate and program when the event concluded around 10:20 p.m., headed back to my motel room, watched "Six Feet Under" on HBO and went to bed around midnight.

I took in a quirky documentary called "The Journey" Sunday at the Phoenix Film Festival, which showcased independent movies at the AMC Arizona Center downtown.

The 90-minute flick, in short, chronicles the adventures of a college graduate who travels around the country in a Volkswagen bus – that frequently breaks down – and tapes interviews with corporate executives, politicians, celebrities and others.

Afterward, a cast member fielded questions from the audience.

I sat two seats away from a fitness instructor and aspiring actress named Tawnya Gentleman.

I did not ask Gentleman, a blonde, about her preferences.

Gentleman, 30, confided that she got into spirituality after her father died two years ago.

I told her my father died Feb.

15.

"I started asking questions about life," she said.

She quizzed me on my beliefs as well.

After saying goodbye, I went to lunch at a nearby restaurant before beginning the journey home.

Ken Hedler is the county government and politics reporter for the Daily Miner.