California Watch is announcing today the first winner of our “Debate Championship” promotion.

Let’s back up. Last month we announced that we would be giving away free a iPod Touch for the next six months to encourage responsible commenting on our site. At the end of every month, we’ll be taking the best comments posted in response to our stories, blogs and data, and entering names into a drawing. One winner will be chosen each month. (Apple threw in a bunch of freebies when we equipped our staff with new laptops a few months ago, and that’s why we’re stocked with these iPods.)

And we have our first winner. It’s Barbara Weiss of Sacramento. Weiss, a state worker who also teaches at Sacramento City College, had commented on Chase Davisstory about vacation payouts to state workers.  

The next drawing will be held in early May. Here are more details about the promotion. Keep those good comments coming.

California Watch is a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting and is now the largest investigative reporting team operating in the state. Visit the Web site at www.californiawatch.org for in-depth coverage of K-12 schools, higher education, money and politics, health and welfare, public safety and the environment.

Mark Katches is a past editorial director for The Center for Investigative Reporting. He is currently editor of the Oregonian and vice president of content for the Oregonian Media Group. Previously, he built and ran investigative teams at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Orange County Register. Mark was the primary editor of Pulitzer Prize-winning projects in both 2008 and 2010 and edited or managed five other stories that were Pulitzer finalists. Projects he edited or directed also have won the George Polk Award, the IRE award and the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Award as well as the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize, the Sigma Delta Chi Award and the National Headliner Award. Multiplatform projects produced by CIR staff under Mark's guidance won a national News & Documentary Emmy, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award. He has overseen projects or websites that have won four Online Journalism Awards in the last decade, in addition to logging more than a dozen OJA finalists. In 2001, he was part of a reporting team that won the Gerald Loeb and IRE awards for a series of stories detailing the rising profits from the human tissue trade. He completed a Punch Sulzberger Fellowship at Columbia University in 2013 and has taught reporting classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University. Mark served on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors for four years and oversaw the IRE mentorship program for six years.