2018 contest results

Note: We release the results for the Best of the West contest as they are reported by our judges. We post them here and send alerts to members of our Facebook group.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.
Second Place: Knute Berger and Matt Mills McKnight, Crosscut, Seattle.
Third Place: Mike Dunbar, Modesto Bee.

Heather Knight earns first place with a portfolio that includes columns looking at unfulfilled promises of affordable housing for teachers, profiling a math teacher who has been left homeless and reporting that the mayor came up with $44 million for housing for teachers.

“Great mix of reporting and opinion, with sharp writing and strong focus,” the judge wrote. “Found a way to keep a single issue interesting across numerous columns.”

Second place goes to writer Knute Berger and photographer Matt Mills McKnight for their commentary from a road trip across Washington state on U.S. 2, including a profile of Seattle’s longest-running vegetarian restaurant, an examination of the mark hippie liberals have left on Snohomish County and a look at how cherry farmers near Wenatchee draw on high-tech and old-school tricks.

“Comfortable slice-of-life road-trip reporting with an easygoing, appealing style,” the judge wrote.

Mike Dunbar grabs third place with a portfolio of columns that includes an overview of a water fight that’s crucial to the Northern San Joaquin Valley, an argument that the state water board is serving as “judge, jury (and)executioner and a video about the lack of water storage that fuels the valley’s water woes.

“Sharp, deeply reported writing with persuasive arguments about the state of water management in California,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Christian Schneider, columnist, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 43 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Orange County Register.
Second Place: Fedor Zarkhin and Lynne Terry, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Brad Racino and Brandon Quester, inewsource, San Diego.

The Orange County Register’s staff takes first place with Rehab Riviera: An investigation into the abuses of Southern California’s drug rehab industry.

“A thoroughly reported, meaningful series exploring the dark side of Southern California’s ‘Rehab Riviera,'” the judge wrote. “The series detailed the lax oversight and flimsy regulations that allow practically anyone to open a rehab center, and each story was infused with stories about the men and women affected by questionable care.”

Second place goes to Fedor Zarkhin and Lynne Terry for “Kept in the Dark: Oregon hides thousands of cases of shoddy senior care.”

“A vital expose informing residents of the true scorecard of senior care centers across Oregon,” the judge wrote. “Reporters found a systemic flaw in the state’s online database of abuse complaints and closed the gap by reporting the full picture. True public service work.”

Brad Racino and Brandon Quester win third place with a look at how a college preparatory school in San Diego failed to live up to its promises.

“A public service exploration that looked past the headlines of a charter school’s public successes to see what was really happening,” the judge wrote. “The reporters analyzed telling records and conducted scores of interviews to get a fuller picture, raising questions about how well prepared students really were. Transparent reporting that accomplished its goal: Informing readers with facts.”

Judged by Ronnie Greene, Washington enterprise editor, Reuters. 40 entries.

GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING

First Place: Kale Williams, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Staff, Carnegie-Knight News21.
Third Place: Brandon Loomis, Lily Altavena and Alex Devoid, Arizona Republic.

Kale Williams earns first place with “The Loneliest Polar Bear.”

“Ambitious, unexpected, emotional, the Loneliest Polar Bear is a vivid and challenging narrative,” the judge wrote. “Kale Williams and his colleagues used the story of a polar bear’s birth and travails as a vehicle to tell larger stories about climate change. Climate change is a vast and sometimes frustrating issue to cover because of its complexity and enormity, but The Oregonian does a brilliant job making it personal. The newspaper’s efforts to reach non-traditional audiences is admirable, and its hard work and risk-taking paid off. Congratulations!”

Second place goes to an in-depth examination of drinking water in America by 29 college students working for Carnegie-Knight News21, based at Arizona State University in Phoenix.

“A thorough and beautifully executed expose about an environmental issue that affects every single person in the United States and especially in the often-parched West,” the judge wrote. “The entry shines in many ways, from its powerful use of data and anecdotes to its impressive use of multimedia.”

Brandon Loomis, Lily Altavena and Alex Devoid grab third place with “Death by Degrees” about the deadly summer heat in Arizona.

“Death by Degrees is an excellent in-depth report that shows climate change isn’t some far-off problem – it’s happening now and in deadly ways,” the judge wrote. “First-rate reporting and writing make this series a compelling read.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This competition had a large number of contenders that truly showed the diversity and excellence of Western journalism.”

Judged by Tony Bartelme, special projects reporter, Charleston Post and Courier in South Carolina. 29 entries.

IMMIGRATION AND BORDER REPORTING

First Place: Antonia Farzan and Joseph Flaherty, Phoenix New Times.
Second Place: Jean Guerrero, Leonardo Castaneda and Brandon Quester, KPBS and inewsource, San Diego.
Third Place: Allison Pond and Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

Antonia Farzan and Joseph Flaherty win first place with an expose about Motel 6 management alerting federal immigration officers about guests who were undocumented immigrants.

“The Phoenix New Times brought engaging writing and good old-fashioned shoe leather reporting to its scoop about two Motel 6 locations’ cooperation with immigration authorities – from poring over court records to tracking down current and former employees willing to talk,” the judge wrote. “The paper kept asking questions and stayed with this timely and relevant story, which deservedly drew national attention and action.”

Second place goes to Jean Guerrero, Leonardo Castaneda and Brandon Quester for “America’s Wal: Decades-long struggle to secure U.S.-Mexico border.”

“This multimedia project deftly combines explanatory reporting, meticulous data work, interactive graphics and compelling personal voices,” the judge wrote. “The result helps illuminate a key policy issue mired in political rhetoric.”

Allison Pond and Laura Seitz snagged third place with “How Utah became one family’s final chance at survival.”

“The Deseret News delivered attention to detail, effective writing and strong visuals to its account of a refugee family’s first seven months in the United States,” the judge wrote. “The story helps demystify the resettlement process and its challenges at a time of much debate and soul-searching on this issue.”

Judged by Mila Koumpilova, cultures and immigration reporter, Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 24 entries.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.
Second Place: Staff, Spokane Spokesman Review.
Third Place: Staff, Salt Lake Tribune.

The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat’s staff takes first place for coverage of the most destructive wildfire in California history, which scorched 36,807 acres, killed at least 22 people and incinerated more than 5,643 structures, including more than 2,800 Santa Rosa homes.

“The circumstances – staff losing homes, fires all around – were terrible, but the Press-Democrat did an extraordinary job with this story,” the judge wrote

“The package combined excellent online presence with deep reporting. When you combine that level of reporting with tight editing, you make magic. And the P-D did by having stories that had an emotional bite to them but also had information to help their readers make sense of a chaotic situation.”

Second place goes to the Spokesman Review staff for coverage of a shooting at a high school that left one student dead and three wounded.

“There were lots of mass shooting entries in this category. What makes this one stand out is the depth and breadth of the reporting,” the judge wrote.

“The Spokesman Review built a strong online foundation but used its reporters not just to update the Twitter timeline and homepage – they used them to gather string to build well-crafted, well-reported narratives.”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s staff grabs third place with coverage of President Trump’s decision to shrink two national monuments in Utah by 2 million acres.

“Aggressive coverage for what was clearly an important community issue,” the judge wrote “The Tribune’s reporter got the maps of the resized monuments first, allowing them to publish those first. And they covered the impact from a variety of different angles – both pro and con.”

Judged by Judd Slivka, director of aerial journalism at the University of Missouri. 27 entries.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Arizona Republic, with the USA Today Network.
Second Place: Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, San Antonio Express-News.
Third Place: Casey Parks, The Oregonian.

The Arizona Republic staff wins first place with “The Wall.”

“The project represents a monumental effort to explain the current state of U.S.-Mexico border and the challenges President Trump and his administration will face if they attempt to erect a wall spanning its entire length,” the judge wrote.

“Journalists take readers on a journey – by air and by land – through the pastures and cities and natural wonders that comprise the border. We hear from the people who live and work near this miles-long stretch of earth, and we see for ourselves its beauty and its breadth. This well-crafted, multi-media effort was as informative as it was fascinating.”

Second place goes to Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje for “Worlds Apart: Concentrated poverty and an increasing income divide make San Antonio one of the country’s most segregated cities.”

“Judges couldn’t stop reading this series, which plunges readers into the lives of poverty-stricken families struggling to survive just a stone’s throw away from San Antonio’s elite,” the judge wrote.

“The writing was simple, beautiful and incredibly effective at showing — not telling — how poverty cripples generations of families while making us care about each one of them. The reporter obviously invested a lot of time into getting to know these families and gaining their trust. And the result is a poignant package that should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the many facets of poverty and how it divides a community.”

Casey Parks snags third place with “About a Boy.”

“We would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the delicately crafted story of the transgender teen, Jay, who bravely shares his transition from depressed girl to the boy he always felt he had been,” the judge wrote.

“The reporter’s commitment to telling this story was evident, as was her rapport with Jay — and his family, friends and doctors — who gave her unprecedented access into a process still rare for many people. This access, and the beautiful way in which the reporter tells the story, will go long way to removing the stigma around transgender people.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was an extremely difficult category to judge, with dozens of incredibly well-written explanatory stories that engaged us for hours. We are humbled and inspired by the work of our fellow journalists, and we come away from this experience more knowledgeable and hopeful for the future of journalism. Congratulations to you all.”

Judged by Emily Le Coz, national data projects editor at GateHouse Media; Michael Braga, investigations editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune; and Lucille Sherman, national data reporter at GateHouse Media. 62 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Orange County Register.
Second Place: Fedor Zarkhin and Lynne Terry, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Brad Racino and Brandon Quester, inewsource, San Diego.

The Orange County Register’s staff takes first place with Rehab Riviera: An investigation into the abuses of Southern California’s drug rehab industry.

“A thoroughly reported, meaningful series exploring the dark side of Southern California’s ‘Rehab Riviera,'” the judge wrote. “The series detailed the lax oversight and flimsy regulations that allow practically anyone to open a rehab center, and each story was infused with stories about the men and women affected by questionable care.”

Second place goes to Fedor Zarkhin and Lynne Terry for “Kept in the Dark: Oregon hides thousands of cases of shoddy senior care.”

“A vital expose informing residents of the true scorecard of senior care centers across Oregon,” the judge wrote. “Reporters found a systemic flaw in the state’s online database of abuse complaints and closed the gap by reporting the full picture. True public service work.”

Brad Racino and Brandon Quester win third place with a look at how a college preparatory school in San Diego failed to live up to its promises.

“A public service exploration that looked past the headlines of a charter school’s public successes to see what was really happening,” the judge wrote. “The reporters analyzed telling records and conducted scores of interviews to get a fuller picture, raising questions about how well prepared students really were. Transparent reporting that accomplished its goal: Informing readers with facts.”

Judged by Ronnie Greene, Washington enterprise editor, Reuters. 40 entries.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Houston Chronicle.
Second Place: Mike Baker and Justin Mayo, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Jennifer Gollan, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, Emeryville, Calif.

The Houston Chronicle staff earns first place with an investigation into how Houston’s unchecked growth set the city up for devastation by Hurricane Harvey.

“The Houston Chronicle’s anatomy of the city’s most devastating flood – from Hurricane Harvey – is a first-rate public-service and investigative project whose findings will resonate in cities across the nation,” the judges wrote. “Chronicle staff used an artful blend of narrative, analysis, data- and record-digging, encyclopedic clarity and solutions focus to show how Houston, with years of unchecked growth, put itself dead-center in harm’s way. It was a topic that many journalists would look at, after the storm had passed, and be at a loss as to how to cover in a meaningful way.”

“The series reflected how reporters and editors took great pains to master the intricacies of flood-prevention infrastructure, flood insurance, growth and development, emergency response, and what went wrong and right as the waters rose inexorably over four days, and, as a result, were able to deliver their findings with authority – but always bringing us back vividly to the people whose lives were lost or upended. ‘Solutions journalism’ can be dull and reflexive. The Chronicle used a device (“The Way Forward” boxes with summary bullet points), a sparkling idea to send a reporter to the Netherlands for a how-they-do-it story, and the overall feel of pursuit of a larger answer to make its solutions project edgy and compelling. City leaders and real estate moguls were held to account, and hard choices await.

“After this series, no leader, or builder, Realtor or buyer in a floodway, can ever again argue they didn’t know the risks. Climate change got only passing references, but that would likely take another project, and the underlying causes of Harvey’s destructiveness were dissected so well that the larger lessons for others are clear. In the end, this superb project was a harbinger of what other coastal or flood-prone cities could experience more regularly with potentially tragic costs.”

Second place goes to Mike Baker and Justin Mayo for an investigation of a flawed health-care system that puts patients at risk.

“‘Quantity of Care,’ by the Seattle Times, was a remarkable investigative project that exposed how unbridled pursuit of profits and growth can corrupt the integrity of a health-care system at almost every level, placing patients’ lives at risk and violating a community, even a national, trust,” the judges wrote. “Although the series centered on the Swedish-Cherry Hill neuroscience center, the findings could apply to other large urban medical institutions whose hunger for distinction, cachet and money can become a disorder of its own, shutting down the essential functions of prudent caution, safety, ethics, teamwork and mutual respect in a medical setting.

“The reporting and data efforts were near-heroic. The team examined thousands of documents, including many that were confidential, and interviewed more than 200 sources, many afraid of retribution. It was all the more impressive because the health care industry often lacks transparency, and the topic is complex and difficult to explain. But the journalists capably made the health, financial and other issues and scenarios accessible and clear to readers. There were powerful revelations, including surgeons inflating billing; doctors conducting multiple operations at the same time unbeknownst to patients; and warnings of compromised quality ignored.

“The initial story, detailing the final hours of Talia Goldenberg’s life and the failures that led to her death, was expertly written and compelling. Her drawings added a haunting touch. The final story, on the role of a prominent developer in the outsized ambitions for Cherry Hill that would also benefit him, elevated the project. The series had immediate impact, with resignations and the state and feds opening investigations. The hospital pledged to review its safety and doctor-payment approaches. Perhaps the series’ biggest impact will be many people now asking their surgeons whether they will actually be performing the surgeries. Overall, this project helped readers understand the sometimes unseemly forces that propel American health care.”

Jennifer Gollan grabs third place with an investigation into workplace hazards at shipbuilders used by the Navy and Coast Guard.

“‘Contract with Danger,’ by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, is a testament to how the power and art of investigative storytelling can bring about potentially dramatic change that saves lives. The series’ core revelation was powerful enough: The Navy’s and Coast Guard’s seven major private shipbuilders have records of egregious lapses of workplace safety that have led to deaths, maimings and other injuries. Yet those branches have continued to bestow billions of dollars in federal contracts on the shipbuilders, and the Navy and Coast Guard disavow any responsibility for monitoring safety in the shipyards or meting out their own consequences for violations.

“The project is potent not because of any statistical findings. The reporter focused on constructing narratives of a handful of horrific accidents and how workers’ lives were affected. The reporter spent months digging through internal company records, investigative reports and federal contracts, and interviewing shipyard workers, regulators, lawyers and others.

“The reasons for the military giving contractors a pass are sharply analyzed. But it’s the vivid narratives, briskly told with just the right bits of detail (a “Wrangler denim shirt”, “His hard hat … landed 60 feet away”) and the poignant depictions of workers, including in video, that are most memorable. The stories’ impact played out in Washington, where, in response, three senators called for a federal criminal investigation, the Navy secretary vowed to crack down on safety violations, and a law was passed requiring the GAO to examine how the Pentagon monitors safety among defense contractors. ‘Contract with Danger’ brought well-needed attention to a little-known industry, and by extension the struggles and dangers of all laborers, with their families, in industrial jobs.”

Overall, the judges wrote, “Many excellent entries in this category. The judges had a difficult task, but also the pleasure of reading so many pieces of inspiring journalism.”

Judged by David Fritze, executive editor; Jeff Raymond, enterprise editor; and Trevor Brown, state government and issues reporter, all of Oklahoma Watch. 40 entries.

NEWS WRITING

First Place: Staff, The Sunday, Las Vegas.
Second Place: Dennis Wagner, Arizona Republic, with the USA Today Network.
Third Place: David McSwane, Dallas Morning News.

The staff of The Sunday wins first place with “Unbreakable Vegas: Stories of Heroism and Resilience in the Face of Tragedy.”

“In words and visuals, this piece re-creates and reviews the mass shooting in Las Vegas,” the judge wrote. “It answers questions and raises more, but never strays far from the victims and heroes. Great work.”

Second place goes to Dennis Wagner for “A 2,000-mile journey in the shadow of the border wall.”

“It is an enormous undertaking — to examine every foot of the U.S.-Mexico border — that succeeds on every level,” the judge wrote. “From the personal stories of the people we meet to the news about the proposed wall’s impact, this is compelling and timely piece of journalism.”

David McSwane garners third place with a look at a man who rode out Hurricane Harvey in a truck with his wife and four dogs.

“Excellent writing captured the drama of a horrible time,” the judge wrote. “The writer takes you inside the truck with such strong storytelling that you almost feel the water creeping up on you as you read.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was an extremely tough category that covered some of the major news events of 2017. I easily could have picked a top 10 and still missed a few worthy candidates. In the end, the top three separated themselves with strong and extensive storytelling, innovative approaches to the news, and excellent writing. One overall comment about the entries — it was so gratifying to see so much good reporting and writing at a time when we all can feel a little under siege.”

Judged by John Cutter, managing editor, Orlando Sentinel. 72 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, SHORT FORM

First Place: Bethany Jean Clement, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Barbara VanDenburgh, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times.

Bethany Jean Clement wins first place for a one-star review of Amazon’s new grocery pickup service.

“This story was innovative, without being so for innovation’s sake,” the judge wrote. “It was smart, fun to read and, most importantly, exactly what it was supposed to be. A review of services. I was enchanted from the get-go and only became more so as I read on. We should all be this smart about who we are writing for and why.”

Second place goes to Barbara VanDenburgh for a piece about a Phoenix charity hitting the 5 million mark for free meals served to the needy since 1984.

“This story was terrific. It had suspense and heart, enrobed in beautiful writing,” the judge wrote. “I hate to say this but, in lesser hands, this was a non-story. In the hands of this writer, it was a what the headline said it was, a gift of grace, a haven of respect with a large helping of dignity.”

Cindy Carcamo grabs third place with a look at farmworkers picking grapes at a Napa Valley wineries sandwiched between two massive wildfires that were consuming vineyards, wineries and homes.

“In the Jimmy Breslin-homage sweepstakes, this wins, hands-down,” the judge wrote. “Carcamo was in the midst of a natural disaster and saw the story that wasn’t being told, heard the people nobody was talking to and revealed much about life in the Napa Valley. Superb work.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “The quality of work varied greatly in this category. Mostly, thought, I was delighted by the imagination and thought inherent in the best feature writing. The golf-ball hawker, Axe Monkeys and the story of the Navajo experience of the eclipse were all terrific studies in finding and telling what is. The winners are well-deserved, but that is not saying that a lot of work was deeply satisfying as well.”

Judged by Amy D. Wilson, storytelling coach, Cincinnati Enquirer. 54 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, LONG FORM

First Place: Tom Hallman Jr., The Oregonian.
Second Place: Anita Hassan, Brian Joseph and Colton Lochhead, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Jennifer Emily, Dallas Morning News.

Tom Hallman Jr. wins first place with “His Heart, Her Hands: A Lifelong Pianist Struggled to Play as His Memory Began to Fade. A Professional Musician Brought His Songs to Life Again.”

“What a fantastic story,” the judge wrote. “Seamlessly adding parts of the letter was genius. This one was everything a long-form feature should be.”

Second place goes to Anita Hassan, Brian Joseph and Colton Lochhead for One family’s path through horror of shooting on Las Vegas Strip.”

“There were other stories in this category that dealt with the Las Vegas shooting, but this one was told masterfully,” the judge wrote. “Restrained storytelling at its best.”

Jennifer Emily takes third place with “Betrayal: When an unthinkable crime shatters a family, a father is forced to confront the emotional wreckage.”

“The amount of reporting on this stood out,” the judge wrote. “To recreate those scenes was an amazing amount of work, and it showed. Very nice work.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “What a fantastic competition. There were so many great entries, it was hard to narrow the field. The top three stood out to us for their storytelling and the amount of reporting that went into them. But the whole category gives us hope for our profession. Well done!”

Judged by Ashley Parrish, scene and weekend magazine editor, Tulsa World. 101 entries.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First Place: Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Bill Reader, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Ollie Reed, Albuquerque Journal.

Moira Macdonald wins first place with a love letter to Seattle’s historic moviehouses after other theaters in the city were closed or converted to other uses.

“Both a great idea for a story and a well-constructed execution of one,” the judge wrote. “Weaving in personal details, like the lost pearl, makes the story all the more personal, even to those who have never visited these particular theaters.”

Second place goes to Bill Reader for a tale of Pearl Jam’s rise from a Seattle basement to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

“Good research, good storytelling, nice use of details and behind the scenes stories to pull everything together,” the judge wrote.

Ollie Reed snags third place with a profile of Albuquerque novelist Rudolfo Anaya.

“Lots of good quotes,” the judge wrote. “Nice interweaving of historical detail. Made for compelling reading throughout.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Lots of good writers doing very nice work with lots of research.”

Judged by Matthew Price, features editor, The Oklahoman. 31 entries.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING

First Place: Robin Urevich and Dean Kuipers, Capital & Main, Los Angeles.
Second Place: Joseph Flaherty, Phoenix New Times.
Third Place: Jeff German and Anita Hassan, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Robin Urevich and Dean Kuipers win first place with their report about Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder’s record of discrimination and civil rights lawsuits at his Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants.

“This is journalism at its best: when it shines a light and forces change,” the judge wrote. “And it’s business journalism at its best, too – not just dry facts and figures, but a sophisticated facility with data to find a real story that affects real people.

“In this case, the story likely contributed to the derailment of the nomination of Andy Puzder as U.S. labor secretary. That this story came from a website and not a “major” news organization – though it was picked up by news organizations around the U.S. – makes it all the more impressive. Congratulations.

Second place goes to Joseph Flaherty for a profile of the for-profit Grand Canyon University that looks at its breakneck growth and the complaints by current and former students who felt let down or burned by their experience.

“Great storytelling here – using real examples to illuminate a university that has grown through possibly shady practices,” the judge wrote. “Strong, detailed facts are woven throughout the story – the mark of excellent reporting.

“Still, this isn’t a hatchet job: It’s fair. It allows Grand Canyon University to tell its side of the story and let readers decide. But it also isn’t afraid to punch. Keep punching, Joseph.”

Jeff German and Anita Hassan pick up third place with their reporting on the lack of updated emergency response plans at Las Vegas casinos.

“This tells me something I didn’t know, and likely something Las Vegans didn’t know, either. And obviously after the mass shooting, it’s important they do,” the judge wrote.

“Smart, on-the-news reporting that holds to account the government and the corporations it regulates. This reporting could literally save lives.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “What great business journalism the western part of the country produces. It’s heartening to see such fantastic efforts from publications large and small, online and print.”

Judged by Brad Davis, business editor, Omaha World-Herald. 45 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING

First Place: Dirk Facer, Deseret News.
Second Place: Ryan Kartje, Orange County Register.
Third Place: Ed Graney, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Dirk Facer earns first place with a profile of a University of Utah basketball player and his battle with concussions.

“Original reporting, well-done,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Ryan Kartje for an examination of the transformation of recruiting services for high school athletes into brand managers, media marketers and power brokers.

“A fascinating look at a business that is overtaking college coaching searches,” the judge wrote.

Ed Graney snags third place with a profile of Tim Chambers, fired basketball coach for the University of Nevada Las Vegas and his journey through surgeries, depression and alcoholism.

“The reporter did a great job getting the subject to open up,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Shelley Smith, reporter, ESPN. 35 entries.

GENERAL INTEREST COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Lois M. Collins, Deseret News.
Second Place: Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.
Third Place: Shawn Vestal, Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Lois M. Collins wins first place with a portfolio that includes columns about the Las Vegas shooting, an Ann Coulter tweetstorm and the homeless in Salt Lake City.

“The clear winner, both in terms of originality and writing,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Heather Knight for a portfolio that includes columns on a life-saving trauma surgeon, Trump fans in ultra-liberal San Francisco and neighbors mourning a UPS driver who was shot to death.

“All of these pieces make me feel I am there, seeing what she sees,” the judge wrote.

Shawn Vestal garners third place with a portfolio that includes columns about juries blessing “any kind of vigilante shooting in the back” with not-guilty verdicts and worried parents waiting for word on the dead and the survivors from a shooting at a high school.

Great piece on sexual harassment training in particular,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Melinda Henneberger, columnist, Kansas City Star. 30 entries.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.
Second Place: Knute Berger and Matt Mills McKnight, Crosscut, Seattle.
Third Place: Mike Dunbar, Modesto Bee.

Heather Knight earns first place with a portfolio that includes columns looking at unfulfilled promises of affordable housing for teachers, profiling a math teacher who has been left homeless and reporting that the mayor came up with $44 million for housing for teachers.

“Great mix of reporting and opinion, with sharp writing and strong focus,” the judge wrote. “Found a way to keep a single issue interesting across numerous columns.”

Second place goes to writer Knute Berger and photographer Matt Mills McKnight for their commentary from a road trip across Washington state on U.S. 2, including a profile of Seattle’s longest-running vegetarian restaurant, an examination of the mark hippie liberals have left on Snohomish County and a look at how cherry farmers near Wenatchee draw on high-tech and old-school tricks.

“Comfortable slice-of-life road-trip reporting with an easygoing, appealing style,” the judge wrote.

Mike Dunbar grabs third place with a portfolio of columns that includes an overview of a water fight that’s crucial to the Northern San Joaquin Valley, an argument that the state water board is serving as “judge, jury (and)executioner and a video about the lack of water storage that fuels the valley’s water woes.

“Sharp, deeply reported writing with persuasive arguments about the state of water management in California,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Christian Schneider, columnist, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 43 entries.

HEADLINE WRITING

First Place: Sally Trigg, Albuquerque Journal.
Second Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Chris Ledermuller, Southern California News Group.

Sally Trigg nabs first place with a portfolio that includes: “Pitch-perfect Patriotism: West Mesa resident salues the armed forced with a star-spangled roof,” “A Star In Stripes: Malayan tiger Penari meets his adoring public at the ABG BioPark Zoo,” “Sunshine Portal keeps NM in the dark” and “New to this neck of the woods (about a newborn giraffe).”

“These headlines are just wonderful,” the judge wrote. “Puns that work both ways, linguistic creativity, a lot of words but all of them count. Using “pitch-perfect” for a story about a flag on a roof – inspired.”

Second place goes to George Riggle for a portfolio of headlines that includes “Fights, camera, action: ‘Feud spotlights rivalry of Hollywood legends Joan Crawford, Bette Davis,” “You may kitsch the bride: Unique weddings are daily routine at Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel” and “The kidders are all right: Ageless Who deliver fiery tunes, wry laughs at Caesars.”

“These are very creative, well-though-out headlines that entice the reader and convey what the story is about,” the judge wrote.

Chris Ledermuller snags third place with a portfolio of headlines that includes “Electric Boogaloo: Zero-emission buses spark inerest from Metro and Foothill Transit,” “An epic political battle of monumental proportions: Activists vow to stop a Utah-like acreage rollback in the Southland” and “The Desolation of Smog” and “Not long, the days of swine and roses” about the decline of pot-bellied pigs as a fad.

“Cultural memes used to convey different meanings,” the judge wrote. “Not always successful, but the reader will have a chuckle of recognition and the paper shows itself to be culturally literate.”

Judged by David Sullivan, copy editor, Philadelphia Inquirer. 13 entries.

EDITORIAL WRITING

Still being judged.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPY

First Place: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Louis DeLuca, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: Nicole Boliaux, Deseret News.

Nick Oza earns first place with a photo of a Port Arthur nursing home patient in a flooded room waiting to be evacuated after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas.

“An elderly person in a bed with water around the bed. You see that and know how serious this flood is,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Louis DeLuca for a photo showing a SWAT officer carrying a woman and her 13-month-old son to safety after they were rescued by boat from flooding in Houston.

“This is classic photojournalism. Nice composition and moment,” the judge wrote. “The SWAT officer rescuing the woman and child speaks to all emergency personnel in these situations. This does so very poignantly. Nice find.”

Nicole Boliaux grabs third place with a photo of a family mourning the death of a mentally ill man who was in jail and waiting for admission to a mental hospital when he smashed his head into a wall and jumped off a railing.

“This photo shows a heart-rending situation for a family that has lost a loved one,” the judge wrote. “There is so much pain in this photo … and family. You look and study every face. This is usually a difficult situation for the photographer to gain access. Speaks well of the photographer to have that level of trust from the family.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “There were many compelling images in News Photography. Composition, content, color, moment, all have to work well together. The strongest images start there and make the viewer feel something; happy, sad, mad, glad for instance. Some you look at and laugh out loud, others make you think “oh my god”. In many of them you feel strongly for the people in the photos (or the animals in some cases). They take you places you wouldn’t or couldn’t go and show you things you need to see. Kudos to the photographers!”

Judges were Dave Denney, Deb Pastner, Jenni Pinkley and Kyndell Harkness of the Minneapolis Star Tribune photo desk. 55 entries.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Laura Seitz, Deseret News.
Second Place: Matt Herp, Ogden Standard-Examiner.
Third Place: John Burgess, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

Laura Seitz wins first place with her photo of a medical student and her husband celebrating her acceptance to a family medicine program, flanked by their ecstatic mothers.

“This image illustrates many aspects of today’s cultures, yet the human expression still the strongest of all,” the judge wrote. “With today’s social media, sharing a private moment is no so private anymore.

“I also like the fact that this image has layers: the two mothers with their phones, each has her own expression and reacts to the good news differently. The body language of the couple embracing each other is fantastic, and, yet, somewhat distracts. Also, I like the way the photographer gets in the thick of thing, giving readers a sense of being there with the family. It is well composed, capture a critical moment and emotion. Fantastic job.”

Second place goes to Matt Herp for his photo of bareback rider Tony Barrington unraveling tape from his arms after competing at the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night.

“First of all, the lighting is beautiful, dramatic, and effectively communicates a lonely life of a cowboy,” the judge wrote. “The body language of other cowboys in the background also is strong, yet not overwhelming the main subject. It is there to support who the subject is.

“I normally don’t like the subject dead-center in an image. However, in this case it works because of the supportive background and the elevation of the subject to fill the frame. Nicely done.”

John Burgess takes third place with a photo of workers at a wildlife park helping a giraffe deliver her calf.

“It was a bit hard to read at first. However, it grows on me as I study it,” the judge wrote.

“While the women are doing their best to help the mother giraffe, the two giraffes in the background watch with a concern look. It is an active situation, and the photographer was there to capture it. I like the complexity of this image. It communicates in many different levels. It seems brutal at first of the ladies are doing, yet at the same time the humanity and the will to help out weigh everything. This gives us a glimpse of helpless situation if we don’t get involved. Good job.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “A high-impact image provokes or relates the viewers’ emotion, point-of-view and thinking. When I look at each image, I want to know how the image communicates to me on a more personal level. How does this image relate to me? Does it accomplish what the author intended it to be? Good photographers put so much thoughts and care into his or her images, regardless of the assignments or situations. They strive for the best, and their images reflect that. With that in mind, I will examine every aspect of an image. Some may not agree with my choices, and that’s perfectly fine. I’ve looked at the top 10 images for awhile, and the good ones continue demanding my attention. Those are the ones that deserve my votes.”

Judged by The’ N. Pham, director of photography, Virginian-Pilot. 70 entries.

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star.
Second Place: Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star.
Third Place: Steve Griffin, Salt Lake Tribune.

Kelly Presnell takes first place with a photo of bareback rider Frank Morton being dragged along the ground after completing his eight seconds aboard the bronco Good Times at the La Fiesta de los Vaqueros Tucson Rodeo.

“Image clearly captures the intensity the sport making the viewer feel like they are there,” the judge wrote.

Kelly Presnell also earns second place with a photo of Arizona Diamondbacks fans scrambling for a ball in the left-field stands during batting practice before a National League Wild Card game against the Colorado Rockies.

“Perfect timing, great expressions set this image apart,” the judge wrote.

Third place goes to Steve Griffin for a photo of swimmer Ian James of Wasatch High School rising out of smooth water during his butterfly leg in the final of the 200-yard individual medley at Utah’s 4A swimming championships.

“Photographer perfectly and cleanly captures the swimmer in peak action, but what sets it apart are the reflections in the water” of other competitors, the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “Good variety of sports represented with a strong set of images, displaying good action and emotion.”

Judged by Ron Garrison, multimedia director, Lexington Herald-Leader. 36 entries.

NEWS SLIDESHOW

First Place: Roberto E. Rosales, Albuquerque Journal.
Second Place: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.
Third Place: Laura Seitz, Deseret News.

Roberto Rosales wins first place with “Two Nations, One Aquifer,” a slideshow that examined how residents on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border use underground water supplies from the Rio Grande.

“The photographer captured some terrific situations,” the judge wrote. “Also, some more mundane situations were made compelling through superb imagery. A few mundane, scene-setting images remained that way, and there was some redundancy. The description and captions would benefit from more editing.”

Second place goes to Spenser Heaps for a slideshow that shows how Utah residents helped victims of the Puerto Rico hurricane devastation.

“Wonderful variety — and intimacy — in a fairly narrow subject,” the judge wrote. “We appreciated the photographer keeping the focus on the devastation in the context of the story. A couple of portraits seemed out of place and some scene-setters might have been more compellingly executed.”

Laura Seitz takes third place with a slideshow examining how Utah became one refugee family’s final chance at survival.

“Some very strong images of intimate moments illustrated the transition — weakened by some important situations that we would like to have seen captured better (e.g. art room),” the judge wrote.

Judged by Matthew Fortner, visuals editor, Charleston Post and Courier. 18 entries.

FEATURE SLIDESHOW

First Place: Benjamin Zack, Ogden Standard-Examiner.
Second Place: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.
Third Place: Ashley Landis, Dallas Morning News.

Benjamin Zack earned first place with a rare glimpse at a man coming in off the streets after more than 30 years as a self-proclaimed hobo.

“Strong opening photo and good detail shots,” the judges wrote. “His personality shows through in the photos. The photographer did a good job capturing images that help propel the story – we felt that the story was paced well, almost like separate acts in a play.

“Our only criticism is the choice of the last image; we would have either ended on the photo of the two of them together or have chosen a different image that showed his lack of presence in the apartment.

Second place goes to Kristin Murphy for her profile of a boy’s two-year journey as he challenged himself to run ultra marathons while battling a growing teratoma brain tumor.

“This entry would be better with a tighter edit,” the judges wrote. “We understand that the photographer spent two years with the subject but there were repetitive images throughout that slowed the pacing of the story and bogged it down. Every image should tell us something new about the subject/story.

“We gave it second place because the photographer clearly spent a lot of time with this family and came away with some compelling images that showed us the determination of the boy and his family.”

Ashley Landis gets third place for a look at the young women who are crowned as royalty in pageants at small-town festivals and county fairs across Texas.

“Again, there were far too many images in this entry,” the judges wrote. “Even within the separate stories of fairs, the edits could have been significantly tighter. There were far too many repetitive images throughout, but we gave it third place because amongst the plethora of images, there were some beautiful photos and telling moments from these rural pageants.

Overall, the judges wrote, “What struck us the most in this category was the lack of editing in almost every entry save for the first place winner. There were far too many photos in the entries, and that bogs the pacing down. We feel that every image in a photo story or feature slideshow should show us something new about that subject or story. When there are repetitive images, viewers begin to lose interest.

“Despite the rule stating that the entries in this category are limited to 30 images, nearly half the entries had more than that. For that reason, we made the decision not to disqualify entries that exceeded the 30-image limit. Also, we realize that sometimes, online photo galleries are created by online staff and may have not included input from the photographer or photo department. Aside from the strong story-telling images of the first place winner, one of the reasons the entry won first is because it was edited extremely well.

Judged by Michele McDonald, photo editor; Gregory Rec, chief photographer; and Derek Davis, Ben McCanna, Shawn Ouellette and Brianna Soukup, staff photographers, Portland Press Herald. 23 entries.

PODCAST

First Place: Staff, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, Emeryville, Calif.
Second Place: Jessica Terrell and April Estrellon, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Leigh Paterson and Alisa Barba, Inside Energy, based at Rocky Mountain PBS, Denver.

The Reveal staff wins first place for “Up Against the Wall.”

“This ambitious episode covered the hurdles to President Trump’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and serves as a model for what can be achieved when several talented journalists work together to tackle an enormous topic.

“In less than an hour, the episode brought listeners to sites between the Pacific Ocean to Texas, described the terrain and gave voice to a diverse range of stakeholders, including an interview with a smuggler in Tijuana. Through sound-rich storytelling, the episode brought to life the nuances of border security policy and what could change under the Trump administration. Reporting on Israel’s border as a comparative case study, and a deep dive into one family’s tragic, personal story of loss at the border added to the richness of the episode.

“Reveal’s comprehensive mapping of what type of fencing already exists along various points of the border added a valuable web interactive and enhanced the podcast episode. The cherry on top was the conversion of that data into sound, which was used as music in the podcast episode. This episode excelled at combining rigorous, in-depth reporting with an entertaining listening experience.”

Second place goes to Jessica Terrell and April Estrellon for an installment of the series “Offshore – The Sacred Mountain.”

“The podcast series explores a conflict over the future of Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea. ‘Episode Two: The Protectors’ was submitted to the contest and stood on its own as an excellent piece of explanatory journalism and storytelling describing the perspectives of Hawaiian activists who oppose telescope development on top of Mauna Kea.

“Jessica Terrell is a masterful guide into a rich, complicated story about Hawaiian identity, culture, astrology, religion, science and conflict, which she manages to make accessible and intriguing. Terrell has some beautiful writing in this podcast that effectively conveys the importance of the conflict she is investigating, and invites listeners to become deeply invested in a topic that may have been previously unknown to them. I particularly appreciated the characters Terrell introduced us to and the sound rich scenes she captured. Terrell’s narration was particularly inviting and the sound design was very impressive.”

Leigh Paterson and Alisa Barba snag third place with “Living with Oil & Gas,” an Inside Energy special.

“This podcast, expertly reported and hosted by Leigh Paterson, manages to achieve what is nearly impossible: turn a wonky dry topic into compelling storytelling that forces listeners to become intrigued.

“The episode does an excellent job of public service journalism by describing the collision of two industries on the rise in Colorado — housing development and oil and gas drilling. Technical questions like how far homes should be set back from gas drilling rigs are difficult to make into compelling audio, but Paterson manages to convey just how high stakes are by introducing listeners to residents who live close to recent explosion sites and guiding listeners through the current policy landscape. Excellent writing and reporting went into this incredibly informative episode.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was the first year Best of the West has had an award for podcasts, and the quality of the entries were both phenomenal and diverse. It was difficult to narrow down the winners to just three in this very broad category.”

Judged by Jude Joffe-Block, independent audio and print journalist and New America fellow. 19 entries.

VIDEO STORYTELLING

First Place: John Rosman, Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Second Place: Teresa Mahoney, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Leighton Woodhouse and Armando Aparicio, KQED, San Francisco.

John Rosman wins first place with a profile of Timber Jim, mascot for the Portland Timbers soccer team.

“Excellent storytelling. A complete portrait of a person and team that was full of emotion and humanity,” the judge wrote. “The interview is powerful and well edited, with good use of archive videos and photos.”

Second place goes to Teresa Mahoney for a profile of a songwriter with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease who is working with another musician to record his songs before his memory fades.

“Beautiful storytelling,” the judge wrote. “While some videos in this category needed a tighter edit to really sing, this piece unfolded in the kind of pacing it needed. Great work.”

Leighton Woodhouse and Armando Aparicio grab third place with a profile of two artists who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“The blending of the two stories was expertly executed,” the judge wrote. “It’s current, funny and emotional, and a great way to tackle and humanize a contentious issue.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “There were seven or eight videos that could easily have been among the winners, with excellent visuals and strong imagery. In the end, strong storytelling from beginning to end was what pulled these three into the top.”

Judged by Michael Zamora, multimedia and visuals coach, Des Moines Register. 67 entries.

INFORMATIONAL GRAPHIC

First Place: Severiano Galvan and Wes Rand, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Mark Nowlin, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Emily M. Eng, Lynda V. Mapes and Thomas Wilburn, Seattle Times.

Severiano Galvan and Wes Rand take first place with a graphic examining the geology of Yucca Mountain, proposed site for the disposal of the nation’s nuclear waste.

“When readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal discovered that the Trump Administration revived plans to bury nuclear waste in a mountain in their back yard, Severiano Galvan and Wes Rand put in a staggering amount of research and answered a whole lot of questions with this phenomenal infographic,” the judge wrote. “This piece easily achieves something that every infographic should fundamentally do: It presents a whole lot of complex information in a striking, well-organized composition that simplifies and clarifies.

“The Review-Journal accomplished something very interesting with this package — it alleviates fear by clearly explaining the unknown. When the words ‘nuclear waste’ are thrown around, there’s a certain amount of justified tension and nervousness. The Journal designers put readers to rest by visually explaining how the process works, how it affects the geography and showcasing the mechanics behind the execution. The more you understand, the less nervous you feel.

“The 3D mapping is outstanding and firmly anchors the entire presentation, and it’s perfectly juxtaposed and balanced out with detailed maps and mechanical illustrations. Most importantly, it’s easy to read and understand thanks to thoughtful space allocation, clear hierarchy, succinct copy, strong typography and a very subtle timeline putting it all in context. This thing is like a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. So much to take in, but it’s so damn delicious you can’t stop eating.”

Second place goes to Mark Nowlin for graphics showing how a light-rail train would travel on a floating bridge across Lake Washington.

“When the news broke that Seattle would be getting a floating bridge with a train, an entire city most likely wondered what that would look like, how it would work and how it would affect them,” the judge wrote. “Mark Nowlin and Mike Lindblom at The Seattle Times did an outstanding job of answering the who, what, when, where and why. The story is strong and very explanatory, but only a comprehensive infographic could truly explain and illustrate a project this complex with so many moving parts.

“This is the absolute perfect team-up between reporter and designer. It’s just amazing to see the research presented in such a simple, clear design. Readers can clearly see which traffic lane to take, where the train will be moving, how the train moves, how it’s supported and where it’s going … all in a single package.

“One way the composition really succeeds is the consistency of perspective. The highway is perfectly illustrated with a variety of vehicles, and the illustrations of the rail bed are the same angle — allowing readers to see how it all easily fits together like a puzzle. The locator map is a really nice touch for a sense of context, and the copy is well organized and concisely written. It’s also all in the details. The vehicle illustrations are crisp and well rendered while the use of shadows adds depth and a sense of size and space. A lot of time and care went into this one. Paired with a very comprehensive story with behind-the-scenes information, this multifunctional design truly serves readers in a big way. Now I want to travel to Seattle just to see this thing in real life.”

Emily M. Eng, Lynda V. Mapes and Thomas Wilburn grab third place with a graphic looking at how a plant treats sewage from 700,000 people in Seattle and neighboring communities.

“The Seattle Times’ entire coverage of a disaster at a water treatment plant is excellent. It’s something that affects everyone, but few people really understand how the process of water treatment actually works,” the judge wrote. “This digital presentation makes learning about sewage treatment fun — and that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.

“There were a lot of really outstanding entries in this category, but this infographic succeeds by pure simplicity. It takes a very complex process and through the use of simple, clean illustrations and step-by-step sections makes it incredibly easy to understand. But the real treasure of this graphic isn’t the explanation of how purification works — it’s to illustrate exactly what went wrong during the process.

“Designers had a pretty epic challenge with this one, and they nailed two birds with one stone with the smart scrolling functionality. It allows the reader to spend time on each section of the process while simultaneously learning about the chain of events leading to the whole fiasco. That makes this presentation a perfect supplement to the entire project.

“The animations are clean and smooth, and the reader can control the pace and speed, which is wonderful UX design. It gives the audience a sense of control, which creates an immersive, comfortable experience. As readers are learning about the overall disaster by diving in to this expansive project, they can take a quick pit-stop to spend time with this graphic, which completely enhances the storytelling. Paired with a sleek video and strong photography, it’s a perfect example of a true multimedia project. Now I think I’ll go stock up on my bottled water.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Due to the amount of very strong entries in both digital and print, this was an incredibly difficult category to judge. At the end of the day, I stuck closely to the criteria, and the winners began to stand out. The biggest challenge of this category was the wide variety of digital entries. While some news organizations took a fun, cinematic and entertaining approach, others kept strictly to the data with a clean UI and no bells and whistles. Both methods greatly serve readers, but we were most interested in the presentations that achieved both.

“While some digital entries utilized motion graphics to give readers a fun experience, sometimes the motion seemed like overkill. In fact, in some cases it tripped me up and slowed me down while I waited for things to proceed. Animated maps that move for the sake of moving aren’t as useful as good, ole-fashioned strong compositions that allow a reader to move and his or her own pace. That being said, ALL the entries — both print and digital — were well composed, fun and very useful. It was a serious challenge!”

Judged by Matt McClane, presentation editor, Sara Jackson, features team leader, and Cameron Morgan, staff designer and illustrator, Chattanooga Times Free Press. 34 entries.

EDITORIAL CARTOONING

Still being judged.

PAGE DESIGN

First Place: Elizabeth Brown, The Sunday, Las Vegas.
Second Place: Frank Mina, Gabriel Campanario and Mark Nowlin, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Elizabeth Brown and Corlene Byrd, Las Vegas Weekly.

Elizabeth Brown earns first place with her design for “Unbreakable Vegas: Stores of Heroism and Resilience in the Face of Tragedy.

“What a package. We all watched the events of the Las Vegas shooting play out on video and newsprint, and The Sunday followed with an incredibly deep dive into the shooting, the questions, the effect on community, an analyzation of the response, the tragic stories of victims and the heroes who made a difference. Paired with a comprehensive timeline, a tremendous infographic showing the entire scene of the shooting and a very important tool for readers — how to contact their lawmakers and get involved in the conversation. It’s a powerhouse.

“Aside from stating the obvious content, let’s talk about the design. From the minute we enter the story, we’re greeted with the soft, glowing orange candlelight of a vigil on the cover. The orange tones are made even more prominent by the deep shadows and night sky. It’s a striking image we’ve unfortunately seen too often, and Elizabeth Brown chose to embrace those tones in both typography and color scheme. The decision to carry the orange candlelight and contrasting black through the entire package not only made it cohesive; it reflects the somber voice of the entire story. But it’s a very aggressive design — the typefaces are strong, loud and demanding. The furniture on the pages gives readers plenty of entry points and splashes of color that keep the audience engaged, from pull quotes to a variety of sidebars. The design elements are chaotic at times, keeping the reader more shaken than stirred.

“Because of the volume of content and its dynamic shift of tone (moving from death to life, for example), Brown escaped a formal grid and took things into her own hands — handling each page with care. It’s a style that’s completely disorderly (but still compartmentalized), and sometimes borderlines pandemonium… much like the events of the entire shooting. Simply put — this design just fits. The only criticism: Sometimes the design gets too loud and pushes the photography out of the way. It’s ridiculously difficult to balance this much copy with photography — especially for an event like this — but in some cases it’s better to let the photos do the talking. But this criticism isn’t enough to derail the final judgement: This incredible package is a Ferrari. Readers just got one hell of a ride.

Second place goes to Frank Mina, Gabriel Campanario and Mark Nowlin for “Busted: How police brought down a tech-savvy prostitution network in Bellevue.”

“First of all, The Seattle Times is a dynamite paper, bar none. Their work is consistently sharp and dependable,” the judge wrote.

“When this story came across their radar, Frank Mina, Mark Nowlin and Gabriel Campanario were faced with a serious challenge — how the hell do you illustrate a story such as this without traditional photography? It’s a problem that newspaper designers are forever trying to solve: Telling a very important, compelling story with nothing to enhance it visually. As talented and strong as the photo staff at The Seattle Times is, they don’t have a time machine and certainly don’t have the time to go undercover in a seedy brothel or the back rooms of bars to document the project with James Bond cameras attached to their watches.

“Campanario not only saved the day with strikingly powerful art — this illustrator opened up a world of possibilities for designers to feast on. And the designers did it right. The copy is tight and very restrained, letting the fascinating art pull readers in and tell the story in its own way. Subtle pull quotes and a sharp infographic round out the package with excellent entry points. This is a wonderful marriage of illustration and typography, and its very clear that the creators of this project worked in sync to give readers a very interesting experience. Can’t say enough good things about Campanario’s work here — the edgy, raw, loose and sometimes erratic style just lends itself perfectly to a hard-as-nails story.

“The combination of the verbal and visual present a cinematic experience. Like storyboards from a film, the creators carry us through this narrative with a kinetic energy that invites readers to dig deeper and deeper. Thanks to the sharp design, readers aren’t overwhelmed with a Vietnam War Memorial of text — ragged right text with a short line length and plenty of air makes it a breeze to read. This is visual journalism at its best. Problem solved.”

Elizabeth Brown and Corlene Byrd garner third place with “Marijuana: It’s Recreational.”

“With all the tragedy and horrible breaking news coming out of Las Vegas this year, Las Vegas Weekly gave us a surprising and fascinating look at a different kind of story — recreational marijuana made legal. And it was a very welcome contrast,” the judge wrote.

“Designers Elizabeth Brown and Corlene Byrd took full advantage of the kind of photography High Times magazine has showcased for decades and did it their own way in their own vibrant, upscale style. The result is astounding — the cover (much like marijuana’s story through the years) has a very dark, seedy tone, juxtaposed with a high-dollar, shiny gold color scheme that screams … money. Gold-plated tax dollars from a booming industry. The nameplate and lead headline are almost creeping out of the shadows from the black background, a subtle illustration of marijuana’s very recent community acceptance. The designers could have gone all out with streamers, party hats and confetti, but they understood the ramifications of the new law — and what it means for their readers. Plus, this stuff is still federally illegal, and that gives this design an air of good-ole-fashioned, sneaky, criminal deviance.

“Just holding this cover in my hands made me feel like I was breaking the law. And Las Vegas Weekly understands its readers. While the design of the feature story screams deviant, trendy and modern, it’s actually a ridiculously useful guide for readers who are trying marijuana for the first time (with wonderfully creative headlines!). It’s not condescending, and, in fact, the design makes it extremely inviting. For curious readers looking for guidance, the magazine offers an abundance of content. Designers start the audience on a criminally dark note — but the design naturally evolves into a more accessible package over the course of the experience. By the time the ride was over, I felt more knowledgable and confident about not just the weed, but the guidelines, law and entire industry. Design this good should be illegal, and Las Vegas Weekly is definitely not scared of breaking that law. Excellent work.”

The judge added, “This year, the entire newsroom of the Chattanooga Times Free Press took part in judging these tremendous entries. Each entry was displayed across a large conference room, where designers, editors, photographers, reporters, photographers and web producers chose their top picks by placing a chip into a corresponding cup. After the top five entries were decided by the entire staff, our design team took part in several (ridiculously challenging) discussions to decide the winners. I was happy to make the final decision — although it wasn’t an easy one. Congrats to our winners, and I’d personally like to thank every one of the publications who entered this contest. This work is so important, and to see such fantastic entries is an inspiration for what we all strive to do — serve our readers and serve them well. These publications are really doing it right.”

Judged by Matt McClane, presentation editor, with help from the design staff and the entire newsroom at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. 47 entries.

ONLINE PRESENTATION

Still being judged.