2011 Contest Results

GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING

First place: Chris Vogel, Houston Press.
Second place: Alan Prendergast, Denver Westword.
Third place: Mark Jaffe and Andy Cross, Denver Post.

Vogel wins first place with “Steamrolled,” a package about the dangers of “mom-and-pop” industrial plants.

“This had everything a great story should have – a tortured hero, a stubborn antagonist, and a system built to reward nothing but inaction and status quo,” the judge wrote.

“I loved that this piece told the whole story – up to the final (hopefully) victory for the aggrieved property owner. This piece made me happy to read, and that’s a rare thing when reading journalism about environmental and public health issues.”

Prendergast takes second place with “Black Out,” a package on the hazards posed by a power plant in the small Colorado town of Lamar.

“The writing was very good – it lured me in with a powerful opening, and I found myself shaking my head at the mismanagement of public funds and the disenfranchisement of voters,” the judge wrote.

“The author did a very good job getting lots of voices from the community for a story that could easily have been one lawyer or another being quoted over and over.”

Jaffe and Cross earned third place with “Point Hope, Alaska: Gulf Spill Inflames,” a package that looked at how oil drilling in the Arctic was delayed by the BP disaster, worsening fears of Alaskans whose livelihood is the sea.

“Hooray for the Denver Post for investing serious time and money in telling this story,” the judge wrote. “The photos and the heavy focus on native peoples made this story feel more human to this reader, even as it involves a very alien landscape and the hard realities of U.S. energy needs.”

Judged by Russ Walker, special projects editor, Politico.com. 31 entries.

IMMIGRATION AND BORDER REPORTING

First place: Monica Alonzo, Phoenix New Times.
Second place: Chris Hawley, Arizona Republic.
Third place: Daniel Gonzalez and Dan Nowicki, Arizona Republic.

Alonzo earns first place with two articles on illegal immigration on the Southwest border. “Seized” reported on the kidnappings of illegal immigrants by gangs of coyotes in Phoenix who beat and raped them and demanded ransom payments from their families in Mexico. “Cloaked brutality” reported on the abuse of illegal immigrants by U.S. Border Patrol agents.

“A clear standout,” the judges wrote. “Compelling stories, rich writing.”

Hawley wins second place with a package of stories on “Mexico’s drug wars.” The stories reported on deep disagreements between the Mexican government and U.S. investigators over efforts to rein in drug traffickers and on the out-of-control Mexican army gunning down civiliances and staging scenes to cover up the killings.

“Solid reporting and fascinating stories,” the judges wrote.

Gonzalez and Nowicki take third place with “Crossings,” which included articles on Mexicans fleeing cartels and seeking asylum in the United States, immigration cases flooding the U.S. courts, the impact of Arizona’s passage of Senate Bill 1070 to crack down on illegal immigrants in the state and an look at immigration in other countries.

Overall, the judges wrote, “this was a tough category to judge because so many of the entries were excellent. They were creative in their approaches, too, giving us unusual insights to border issues we might not have even thought about (a focus on the coroner’s office workers and investigators who track down the identities of people who died trying to cross the U.S. border, for example).”

Judged by Susan Keaton, education editor, and Antonio Olivo, immigration reporter, both of the Chicago Tribune. 20 entries.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

First place: Staff, Alaska Dispatch.
Second place: Staff, The Oregonian.
Third place: Staff, Seattle Times.

The staff of the Alaska Dispatch wins first place for breaking news reporting for its coverage of the plane crash that killed former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and the legacy of Alaska’s most influential politician.

“From the moment the paper found out about the crash, it gave readers up-to-the-moment coverage of the unfolding events,” the judge wrote. “The coverage culminated in a comprehensive story that made clear why Stevens was both loved and loathed. The multimedia efforts were impressive.”

Second place went to the staff of The Oregonian for “Aumsville Tornado,” a story about a small Oregon town shaken out of the ordinariness of daily life by the touchdown of a tornado.

“Colorful writing that takes the reader to the scene, plus strong online presence, make a strong breaking news entry,” the judge wrote.

The Seattle Times staff wins third place for its coverage of an explosion at the Tesoro oil refinery that killed five workers.

The judge said this story “wisely looks behind the scenes to get at root causes of this event, and does that almost immediately. A second-day approach on the first day.”

Judged by Susan Goldberg, executive editor, Bloomberg News. 26 entries.

GENERAL REPORTING

First Place: Karen E. Crummy, Denver Post.
Second place: Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times.
Third place: Vic Vela, Albuquerque Journal.

Crummy takes first place with a package looking at how Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis was paid $300,000 to write about and speak about water issues as part of his two-year Hasan Family Foundation fellowship in 2005 and 2006. She reported that McInnis apparently was passing off as his own an essay on water written 20 years Gregory J. Hobbs, a Colorado Supreme Court judge.

The judge found the story well-reported and clearly written, with the outcome of changing the GOP gubernatorial primary.

“The Denver Post provided an airtight story, produced in a short timeframe, and based entirely on named sources,” the judge wrote. “Plus, the Post gave readers a chance to judge for themselves whether the work had been plagiarized. First-class work.”

Lacitis earns second place with his coverage of how the “barefoot bandit,” 19-year-old Colton Harris-Moore, stole planes and boats to evade the law in a two-year, cross-country, exotic island-hopping romp that made him a cult hero.

“Impressive reporting work highlight this clever effort to relay the final chapter in a story that captivated the attention of people across the country,” the judge wrote. “Strong reporting with an array of independent interviews, rather than reliance on official sources or documents. Clear, simple phrasing and great use of quotes in this superbly written narrative.”

Vela garners third place with a piece on how a man convicted of multiple DUIs should have been in jail but instead was out driving drunk and killed two teenage sisters.

“Excellent work to quickly pick apart a complex legal history and produce a clear, compelling report on the tragic death of two sisters,” the judge wrote. “Detailed reporting from multiple sources (documents and interviews). The conversational writing style results in a well-told story with a powerful ending. A fine piece of journalism with high potential impact.”

Judged by David Stoeffler, executive editor, News-Leader in Springfield, Mo. 64 entries.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

First place: Staff, The Oregonian.
Second place: Peter Hecht, Sacramento Bee.
Third place: Staff, Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The Oregon took first place with “Hard choices: Oregon’s money crisis,” a package that examined the decisions Oregon faced as the state’s revenues fell and debt rose.

“The Oregonian’s work on explaining the budget was first rate,” the judges wrote. “They tackled a complicated, dense subject. The result was a thorough, well-written series that helped readers understand the myriad challenges the state was facing.”

Hecht earned second place with his coverage of marijuana issues in California.

“Peter Hecht dug into the issue from all sides, revealing new insight into an oft-reported issue,” the judges wrote. “The judges appreciated his doggedness and the breadth of his work.”

The Honolulu staff earned third place with “Graying of Hawaii.” The state already has more older residents per capita than any other state. And now that the Baby Boomers are turning 65, the tropical paradise will turn even grayer.

“The Honolulu Star took an issue faced by the entire nation and drilled down to figure out the specific challenges that Hawaii will face,” the judges wrote.

“The judges were impressed by the scope and nuances of the work. The issue will be one of extreme importance in the years to come, and the newspaper did an extreme service to its readers by investing the resources to fully explain and explore the ramifications the aging nation will have on Hawaii.”

Judged by Heather Urquides, city editor; Stephen Nohlgren, reporter; Tom Scherberger, breaking news editor; and Marilyn Garateix, education editor, all of the St. Petersburg Times. 51 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First place: Marjie Lundstrom, Sacramento Bee.
Second place: Craig Harris, Arizona Republic.
Third place: Tom Mast, Casper Star-Tribune.

Lundstrom wins first place with “Who killed Amariana?” The series explored the 2008 death of 4 1/2-year-old Amariana Antoinette Crenshaw in a house fire and raised questions about how she wound up in harm’s way, despite being surrounded by legal protectors from the county, the state, the juvenile court, her foster-family agency and her foster mom.

“The Sacramento Bee should be comended for not letting this troubling story slip away,” the judge wrote. “By pulling together records from 16 state agencies, the newspaper raised new questions about the death of a five-year-old girl in foster care and how a system that should have protected her failed instead.”

Harris earns second place with “Public Pensions: A Soaring Burden,” which examined how Arizonans were propping up public-pension systems that allowed civil servants to retire in their 50s, receive annuities that can exceed $100,000 a year, and collect pensions while staying on the same job.

“This is solid public policy reporting in the best tradition,” the judge wrote. “By pushing for new disclosure from state agencies, the Arizona Republic was able to detail the fast growth for public pensions at a time when local government budgets across the nation face increasing strain and all decisions on spending face increasing scrutiny.”

Mast takes third place with “The long circle,” a package looking at how the Northern Arapahos seek to reintroduce buffalo to their reservation and restore a connection to the animals that once were central to the tribe’s existence.

“This entry stands out for the depth and sensitivity of its reporting and its smart presentation,” the judge wrote. “It is a comprehensive look at the historical, cultural, economic and environmental factors at play in a decision to re-introduce buffalo to Arapaho lands in Wyoming.”

Judged by Kevin Krolicki, Detroit bureau chief, Reuters. 38 entries.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First place: Michael Berens, Seattle Times.
Second place: Karen de Sá, San Jose Mercury News.
Third place: Christina Jewett and Agustin Armendariz, California Watch.

Berens wins first place with “Seniors for Sale: Exploiting the aged and frail in Washington’s adult family homes.”

“A deeply disturbing indictment of a system that puts thousands of seniors in jeopardy,” the judge wrote. “Thoroughly researched with memorable examples. This is investigative journalism that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Second place goes to de Sá for “How our laws are really made.”

“Clearly conceived and written inside look at how the public good is forgotten during the legislative process,” the judge wrote. “Novel analysis, accessible prose and sharp graphics make for a compelling read about an unexplored process. This is vital work on behalf of everyone in the state.”

Jewett and Armendariz take third place with “Nursing homes received millions while cutting staff, wages.”

“A combination of crunching numbers and finding victims proves devastating to state policymakers and nursing home operators,” the judge wrote. “This is a superb example of accountability journalism.”

Judged by George Papajohn, associate managing editor/investigations and Consumer Watch, Chicago Tribune. 35 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, SHORT FORM

First place: Xazmin Garza, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second place: Marc Ramirez, Dallas Morning News.
Third place: Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times.

Garza wins first place with “High and Mighty or Bust?” as she contemplates the effects of gravity on her breasts at the age of 33 and thinks back to what they looked like at 24.

“Stunning first paragraph,” the judge wrote. “Then the writer introduces herself in the third sentence. Any reasonable soul is compelled to continue reading to follow along her journey. The story took a lot of chances in topic and tone for a conventional newspaper. A very personal story that many readers identify with written with style and humor.”

Second place goes to Ramirez for “With Big Tex as witness, couple says ‘I do’ at State Fair of Texas.”

“Fun-to-read love story,” the judge wrote. “Plenty of material here for the writer, who used it well. Conversational voice was a delight.”

Mapes takes third place with “Winter wren: little bird, big song.”

“Lots of good writing touches,” the judge wrote. “I particularly enjoyed this one at the top: ‘It’s a demitasse of a bird, weighing less than half an ounce.’ The writer created tension right from the beginning and engaged me in a subject i’m not naturally interested in – winter wrens.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “I was impressed by the diversity of topics (musings about one’s breasts, a new life after losing a job, the lives of various critters, love stories and the sale of a town). The best of the contest included some very good stories, and it was tough narrowing the entries to a top three. Some talented writers are revealing the joys, loss and triumphs of real life. Readers in your communities are lucky to have such good stories to read.”

Judged by Mike Weinstein, senior features editor, The Charlotte Observer. 48 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, LONG FORM

First place: Craig Malisow, Houston Press.
Second place: Jim Schultze, Dallas Observer.
Third place: Charlotte Hsue, LA Weekly.

In Malisow’s sparkling story about an 11-year-old girl with a rare condition called primordial dwarfism, the author uses a strong, but casual, even humorous voice, the judge wrote. This perfectly mirrors the tone and attitude of his characters. A masterful job of storytelling using all the tools of the trade. This is long-form writing done with great flair and feel for the subject matter.

If it’s possible, Schultze’s story about urban kayaking on White Rock Creek through Dallas, Texas, is both stomach-churning and poetic, the judge said. In exquisite detail, he mixes sights and smells to convey the sometimes bizarre, always surprising beauty of a journey through the wild waters of a big city.

In recent years, news outlets have reported more than a few stories about men and women unjustly convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, and what it took to free them. Less often, the judge observed, do we hear about the travails of these freed former prisoners as they try to take up where they left off years earlier.

Hsue paints a particularly poignant picture of a man who feels compelled to record his every move, lest someone accuse him again of a crime he did not commit.

Judged by Amy Nutt, staff writer, New Jersey Star-Ledger. 87 entries

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First place: Alan Prendergast, Denver Westword.
Second place: Steve Bornfeld, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third place: Daniel Rodrigue, Dallas Observer.

“Like an Open Book,” an account of a Denver author uncovering and discovering an author named John Williams, was an excellent read, the judge said.

“Made me want to read this author RIGHT NOW,” she wrote. “The writing was thoughtful, frank, moving. Brilliant.”

“R-J reporter remembers Tony Curtis,” a first-person memoir of actor Tony Curtis, hooked the judge from the beginning.

“It immediately captivates the reader,” she wrote.

Bornfeld recounted his interviews with Curtis, whom he met late in Curtis’ life. But there was a bond based in their Bronx roots.

“‘Hey, it’s Tony! It’s Tony!’ he said when I picked up the phone at my desk a few months back, that fabled foghorn of a voice, though slower and gravelly with age, still as New York as a pushcart pretzel, extra salt.”

The judge found the article “engaging, filled with emotion, simple but beautiful writing. Excellent, excellent work.”

“North by Unrest” tracks the angst of a Dallas promoter trying to revive a music festival – North X 35 – in the final, unsettled weeks before its scheduled start.

“There are those who say Chris Flemmons is not in his right mind to take on a project as big as North by 35. But for him it was a mission, a crusade. Now, if he doesn’t fix things by tonight, it could all fall apart.”

This article hits the spot where politics meets creativity, the judge observed. “Reads like a suspense story. I did not want to quit reading. Compelling.”

Judged by Ellen Margulies, entertainment editor, Nashville Tennessean, 46 entries.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING

First place: Richard Read, The Oregonian.
Second place: Christine Willmsen, Steve Miletich and Kristi Heim, Seattle Times.
Third place: Beth Barrett, LA Weekly.

Read takes first place for his stories about jobs in the U.S. and China.

The judge said the story had “great reporting that lead to the classic ‘wow, that’s not what I thought to be the case’ moment. Covered all the bases in a clear, entertaining way.”

Second place goes to Willmsen, Miletich and Heim for their story “Broken rules, a failed deal and a frenzy over Olympics.”

“Extremely thorough – and timely – investigation,” the judge said. “The authors really nailed it with on-the-record quotes and details.”

Third place goes to Barrett for her story “Minkow 2.0″ about the questionable actions of con-man-turned-pastor Barry Minkow.

The judge said: “Written with great attitude, and completely thorough and fair. Beth Barrett showed no fear in calling out not only Barry Minkow, but the Wall Street Journal and 60 Minutes.”

Judged by Ed Waldman, Managing Editor/Business, The Daily Record (Baltimore). 67 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING

First place: Peter Jamison, SF Weekly.
Second place: Danny O’Neil, Seattle Times.
Third place: Joel Warner, Denver Westword.

Jamison takes first place for “Head Case,” a story about a former college football star turned criminal.

The judge called the story the “most balanced entry in the contest – important topic, great reporting supported by superb storytelling, a variety of sources on all sides of the story, and a surprising ending. An outstanding piece of work.”

Second place goes to O’Neil for a story about former NFL star Brian Bosworth, “The search for Brian Bosworth.”

“One of the most entertaining pieces in the contest, with a great thread running throughout with the search for the main character,” the judge said. “More than a history piece, this story gets at the impact of a trailblazer who flamed out, with all the context and information the reader needs to understand why he should care. This entry stood out for the stark, informative writing. Well done.”

Warner earns third place with his lacrosse story “Lax and the City.”

The judge says: “The story of a brother and sister who are succeeding because of the efforts of community activists, through and unexpected avenue. The reporting and writing put the reader close enough to care about the main characters and want them to succeed, and that pulls the reader through a long story about a sport with which they may not be familiar. Not easy to pull off, but this writer does it.”

Additional comments from the judge:

“The sports reporting category included a wide range of story types, from breaking news to long profiles and features. There were excellent examples of in-depth reporting, profile writing, exploration of issues in sports, use of public records requests and news reporting. .. Ultimately, the winners stood out for their storytelling, the level of detail included in the writing, and the stark style of the writers. In each case, the writer let the material tell the story rather than relying on a writing flourish. Judging a contest like this is a great reminder of all the excellent work that is done each year, and of what makes a great story.”

Judged by Mike Persinger, executive sports editor, The Charlotte Observer. 62 entries.

GENERAL INTEREST COLUMN WRITING

First place: Irv Erdos, North County Times, Escondido, Calif.
Second place: Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch, Anchorage.
Third place: Lee Cataluna, Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“Funny, perceptive material,” the judge chuckled about Erdos’ wry takes on everyday life in sunny San Diego. The columnist consistently makes deft use of humor, something the judge called a lost art.

Erdos offered this against-the-grain take on airport security: “I don’t know what all the fuss is about at the airports.

“As far as I’m concerned, I see it as a perk. I paid for a flight to New York and got a physical thrown in.”

Or this, as he lamented the departure of a well-used sofa: “It developed a groove that became a perfect mold of my frame. I called it a groove; my wife called it a sag. It also had a few stains here and there from guacamole dip, potato chips and margaritas. My wife called them stains. I called them memories.”

Medred offers an intimate look at Alaska life in this attention-grabbing series.

A column about a big-game poacher who died in a plane crash “took you right into the wild country,” the judge wrote.

Medred provided a detailed, intimate account of a man’s attack by a grizzly bear. Another column explored the case of a man who was arrested by National Park police officers while giving readers a sense of the changing face of Alaska’s vast expances.

The judge was attracted to this entry by the humor in Cataluna’s first submission, an observation of bra straps emerging as the latest hands-free device for cell phones.

But the columnist displayed versatility, analyzing the defeat of a bombastic politician who needed a dose of humility, and charting the demise and redemption of a defense attorney who had been addicted to meth.

Judged by Jay Cronley, columnist, Tulsa World. 30 entries.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First: Julia O’Malley, Anchorage Daily News.
Second: Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly.
Third: Grant Butler, The Oregonian

O’Malley earns first place with “Hooked: one addict’s story,” which took an in-depth look at how heroin unraveled a young girl’s life and how she regained it.

“Incredible access, poignant storytelling,” the judge wrote. “Yes, it’s also very depressing.”

Some might call it un-PC to address the country’s heated immigration issue with a write-in advice column, but Arellano, a familiar face and voice in the debate, adds a funny, poignant insightful twist with his “¡Ask a Mexican!” columns.

“Funny, informative, insightful. happily busts taboos without being crass or offensive,” the judge wrote.

Food critic Butler takes third place with columns exploring how food, society and morality interact.

“Just the right amount of personal storytelling,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Chris Rickert, metro columnist, Wisconsin State Journal. 50 entries.

HEADLINE WRITING

First place: Dale Ulland, Denver Post.
Second place: Matthew Crowley, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third place: Jake Arnold, The Oregonian.

Ulland wins first place for his portfolio of front-page headlines: “THE NEXT APPLE OF HIS i,” “TICKED, WITH CAPITOL TEA,” “CU IS PAC-10 READY TO GO,” “HOPING SILVER GOES WITH CHINA” and “LAW AND ‘BOARDER.”

The judge wrote: “‘THE NEXT APPLE OF HIS I’ does something very difficult: It accomplishes a complex play on words that is not obvious and that immediately gives a sense of what the story is about. Using the proverbial ‘apple of his eye’ to play on Apple the company and the iPad fits within the context of Steve Jobs’s role in development and presentation. Full marks.”

Second place goes to Crowley for his headline portfolio: “Reinventing the Wheels,” “Brave New Whirl,” “Power from the waste up,” “The third time, with charms,” and “After Gulf oil spill, diners ask, ‘Is it fish or foul?’”

The judge wrote: “The strongest headline in this collection is ‘AFTER GULF OIL SPILL, DINERS ASK, ‘IS IT FISH OR FOUL?’ The play on ‘fish or fowl’ matches the uncertainty central to the meaning of the original expression with the concern about contamination in Gulf seafood. Again, the play on words is not arbitrarily applied, but is entirely consistent with the core of the article.”

Third place goes to Arnold for his headline portfolio: “However you spell Murkowski, write in senator,” “No debate, plenty of arguing,” “Going once, going twice, just go away,” “Office, answer me do, can you define bicycle built for 2?” and “Can we afford to care for him? Can we afford not to?”

“‘However you spell Murkowski, write in senator’ is apt, echoing the prolonged controversy over which write-in ballots would be accepted and pointing to her eventual victory,” the judge wrote.

Judged by John McIntyre, night content production manager, The (Baltimore) Sun. 21 entries.

EDITORIAL WRITING

First place: John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle.
Second place: Tod Robberson, Dallas Morning News.
Third place: Rick Attig, The Oregonian.

Diaz takes first place with “Walking Away from Kids’ Health,” an editorial condemning a legislative decision to defeat a children’s health program. The editorial had an immediate impact in Sacramento. On the day it ran, the bill in question came up for reconsideration in the California Assembly – and, this time, it was approved, 43-31, with all but five Assembly members voting.

The judge said the commentary represents a superb example of an editorial page identifying an issue in the public interest, finding out how that public interest is being subverted – and then naming names, engaging readers and producing a positive result.

Second place goes to Robberson’s “Beyond Salvaging,” an editorial that urged the City Council to reject a proposed scrapyard in poorer, minority-dominated south Dallas.

Attig earns third place with “These Were Times that Tried His Soul,” an editorial profile that looked back at the unexpected twists and turns of Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s two terms in office.

Judged by Bruce Dold, editorial page editor, Chicago Tribune. 19 entries.

BLOG WRITING

First place: Carla Marinucci and Joe Garofoli, sfgate.com and San Francisco Chronicle.
Second place: Mike Osegueda, fresnobeehive.com and Fresno Bee.
Third place: Stephanie Clary, Tiffany Campbell and Genevieve Alvarez, seattletimes.com and Seattle Times.

Marinucci and Garofoli win first place with a series of blog posts that featured their handheld video of key moments from the campaign trail – including candidate for governor Meg Whitman ducking reporters’ questions and defending an ad that a Yelp employee challenged as being “based on lies” during Whitman’s appearance at the company and candidate Jerry Brown commenting on campaign ads and playing with a yo-yo before a speech.

“The Shaky Hand Productions seemed like a novelty act on initial glance, but once judges read entire posts, they were smitten,” the judges wrote. “This blog stood out by striking a balance between breaking news and providing analysis. Videos were not just thrown into text as an afterthought or to supplement the material. Rather, the team integrated text and multimedia so that they seamlessly worked together. The writing was solid, and the videos, though sometimes “shaky,” were kept to appropriate lengths so that a reader could watch them without becoming bogged down.”

Osegueda takes second place with a series of blog posts on nightlife in Fresno, including the closure of the city’s leading rock radio station and Fresno’s rating as “America’s Drunkest City,” plus a weekly post featuring concert fliers sent in by readers.

“Osegueda’s well-written posts offered insights into interesting topics that might otherwise have received scant attention,” the judges wrote. “He successfully incorporated multimedia into his blog posts, and his weekly bill posting, though painful to wait for a load, demonstrated an innovative way to use the blog to share information with readers. Most important, he hit the length perfectly on his posts. They were brief enough to allow readers to absorb them but long enough to offer more than superficial analysis. Too many blogs wind up being at the extremes.”

Clary, Campbell and Alvarez earn third place with the Olympic Outsiders blog for the Winter Games in Vancouver. The posts included a look back at staffers’ favorite moments at the Olympics and a post on speedskater J.R. Celski’s tweets promoting Seattle’s hip-hop music scene complete with videos of his favorite songs.

“No other entry offered better integration with the Web than Olympic Outsiders,” the judges wrote. “Multimedia, links and Google maps all had a place. Judges also were impressed with the timeliness of the posts. The Olympics took place within a fixed time frame, but while they were going on this blog would have been a first stop for up to the minute information presented well.”

Overall, the judges wrote, “it was clear from the entries that there are as many ways to go about blogging as there are bloggers. Some are more successful than others. Judges looked in particular for blogs that took advantage of the online medium. Simply putting a column on the Web does not make a blog. Overall, we were pleased with the strength of most entries.”

Judged by Christian Trejbal, editorial writer, Roanoke (Virginia) Times, and John Hummel, director, Oregon Consensus Program, Portland State University. 27 entries.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: David Grubbs, Billings Gazette.
Second place: Djamila Grossman, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third place: Eric Engman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Grubbs’ first-place winner, Patriot Guard,” shows a barefoot 3-year-old girl standing at attention with an honor guard at a soldier’s funeral in Billings, Mont.

“For me, this photograph brings the due reverence to a ceremonial procession that has happened thousands of times in the U.S. over the course of 10 years of war,” the judge wrote. “By including the child, in bare feet with a solemn, deferential expression, the photographer has breathed new life into this motorcade. From the tallest man to the smallest child, all of us are affected by a soldier’s death – and yet it is for all of us that a soldier fights.

“The focus of the child with the inclusion of the side of the hearse and the many American flags tell the full story and draw the attention due to it. The vantage point of the photograph – at the height of the child – also adds to the attention-grabbing, thought-provoking effect.

Grossman takes second place with a photo of firefighters battling a wildfire near Herriman, Utah, that consumed more than 4,300 acres and destroyed three homes.

“This photograph’s excellent use of scale leads to its dramatic, attention-grabbing effect,” the judge wrote.”The firemen appearing in silhouette, with their tools clearly discernible, almost seem unable to quench the fire by their relative small size. The fire’s own size seems magnified by the smoke and light it gives off. It also pays tribute to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to make us safe on our home ground.”

Engman earns third place with a photo of a fatal crash that killed a bicyclist, with a pink sneaker in the foreground.

“The framing and focusing of this photograph make it powerful,” the judge wrote. “By including the shoe in the frame and focusing on it while blurring the officer and bicycle, the story is known. It gives what might be sadly a common story new life by showing and drawing attention to the very life that was lost.”

The judge praised the entries overall.

“All of the photographers deserve to be commended for they fulfilled their role as our eyes on the news with reverence and beauty,” the judge wrote. “I feel that there were many prize-worthy images among the entries, and the ones I selected are the ones that I personally found to be most emblematic of the stories they told as well as beautiful and striking in composition.”

Judged by Krista Schmidt, deputy editor of news applications, ProPublica. 42 entries.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: Larry Mayer, Billings Gazette.
Second place: Leila Navidi, Las Vegas Sun.
Third place: Alan Berner, Seattle Times

Mayer earns first place with a shot of the Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park from 12,500 feet in the air, with a yellow Piper Super Cub flying at 9,200 feet set in sharp contrast against the brilliantly colored spring.

“Spectacular!” the judge wrote. “The juxtaposition of the plane against the spring’s explosion of color made this picture a contender from the start.”

Second place goes to Leila Navidi for a shot of a heart surgery patient who developed a bedsore the size of a grapefruit on his buttocks while recovering. He was forced to move to an assisted-care facility, where nurses regularly tend to the wound.

“This image’s power lies in its subtlety – the quiet though perhaps fearful expression of the patient, the partly pulled down pants,” the judge wrote. “(I had a tough time deciding on this entry versus the photographer’s competing entry from the same project — which says a lot!)”

Berner takes third place with a shot of steam-train hobbyist sitting on top of the 1/8-scale engine he modeled after a Southern Pacific train.

“Any photograph that makes me laugh, or even to smile, is a gift,” the judge wrote.”This one is priceless.”

Overall, the judge wrote: “The amount and diversity of compelling images in this features category is truly impressive. Though first place was an easy decision, the other two spots for recognition had strong competition … Though features can be a tough category to judge, with images ranging from fantastical landscapes to heart-wrenching human interest stories, at the end of the day the power of the images speaks for itself. My personal criteria: Is the image fresh, surprising? Does it move me emotionally, does it make me think? There were many, many images that met or surpassed my expectations.”

Judged by Roman Lyskowski, editor/photo and video, Miami Herald. 47 entries.

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: Leila Navidi, Las Vegas Sun.
Second place: Eric Engman, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Third place: David Bauman, Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Navidi takes first place with “Little League,” a photo of a player who’s visibly upset about striking out during a coach-pitch tournament game, despite the comforting words of a teammate.

“The expression on the player and the compassion from his teammate made this photograph a winner in a tough final five,” the judge wrote. “Just a nice slice of life where you could feel the emotion of the kid who had just struck out.”

Engman garners second place with “Ear Pull,” a photo of a competitor grimacing as she competes in an Ear Pull competition.

“This photograph was striking and a little disturbing, but we kept coming back to it,” the judges wrote. “Some may wonder if ear pulling is a sport, but since the event was part of the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics Games, it passed the test. A very clean and graphic image with lots of impact.”

Bauman wins third place with “Big Splash,” a photo of a junior college competitor falling into a pool water during a 3000-meter steeplechase competition.

“Third place was down to about three images, and the Big Splash won out with solid layering and a nice moment of the runner hitting the water. It just had a nice flow to it.”

Judged by Mike Fender, photo editor, and photographers Alan Petersime and Danese Kenon, Indianapolis Star. 42 entries.

SLIDESHOW

First place: Erika Schultz, Seattle Times.
Second place: Bruce Ely, The Oregonian.
Third place: Casey Riffe, Billings Gazette.

Schultz wins first place with “Jack’s journey: from tent to home,” the story of a 9-year-old boy who ends up in a tent city for the homeless after his mother moves to Seattle in search of employment. A month later, they were able to move into a small apartment.

“Gorgeous photos thoughtfully edited into a heartfelt and playful narrative,” the judge wrote. “They are a visual joy to flip through, and I can absolutely place myself not only in the gravity of the situation, but also in Jack’s imagination. From the opening to the last photo, the editing was well-paced and deliberate and left me wanting to know more about Jack and his mother and then satisfied to see them secure a place to live. Technically, the shots are well-executed and beautiful. When combined in the final piece, they demonstrate what makes this format of storytelling powerful.”

Ely takes second place with “Haiti,” a photo essay from his two trips to cover the earthquake’s devastation and then a year later to check on the nation’s recovery.

“At times overwhelming in their intensity, these photos demand one’s attention,” the judge wrote. “They’re highly engaging, supremely emotional and the struggle in some of the images reads so tangibly it almost jumps out of the frame. Compiled together, they tell a story about the ongoing hardships that plague the people of Haiti without being saccharine, and by being close enough that you’re instantly enveloped in the narrative to the point of forgetting you’re not actually there. Some of the photos could be cut for better continuity, but overall this piece was done very well.”

Riffe garners third place with “Abandoned schoolhouses.”

“This grouping of photos of abandoned schoolhouses play well off one another and hold interest from start to finish,” the judge wrote. “The captions provide just enough information and the images themselves are intriguing studies of the ravages of time. The gallery is concise, with every selection and placement reading intentionally. In totality, the piece inspires stillness and a regard for history. Just lovely.”

Judged by Erica Lusk, assistant photo editor, Chronicle of Higher Education. 20 entries.

INFORMATIONAL GRAPHIC

First place: Mark Nowlin , Seattle Times.
Second place: Mike Johnson, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third place: Jessica Randklev, Tacoma News Tribune.

Nowlin took first place with “A neighborhood transformed: South Lake Union,” a three-dimensional graphic showing development in that part of Seattle from 2000 to 2010, including the rise of amazon.com.

“This map found a smart way to overlay complex geographical information in a print design that is easy to understand and rich in detail,” the judge wrote.

Johnson won second place with a front-page graphic showing the fatal fall of a 20-year-old stage rigger at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino.

“A quick, clear explanation of breaking news,” the judge wrote. “Shows the real value of news diagrams: Explaining something that cannot be explained as easily in words or photographs alone.”

Randklev earned third place with “Rainier in motion,” a full-page graphic
that looked at how Mount Rainier’s glaciers are receding and exposing rock and sediment that then are pushed downstream, filling creek and riverbeds.

“Very well-designed,” the judge wrote. “Strong integration of images and information. Brings together a lot of information in a layout that is not intimidating or confusing.”

Judged by Andrew Garcia Phillips, senior graphics editor, Wall Street Journal. 16 entries.

EDITORIAL CARTOONING

First place: Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun.
Second place: Mike Keefe, Denver Post.
Third place: Jack Ohman, The Oregonian.

Smith wins first place with a portfolio that includes cartoons on protests at military funerals, America’s addiction to oil, the debate over immigration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Mike Smith makes sharp points about some of the biggest issues facing America, and does it with subtle but biting humor,” the judges wrote. “His technique of a build-up that leads to a punch-line is effective.”

Keefe earns second place with a color portfolio that covers gridlock and filibusters in Washington and the Iraq war, plus a cartoon that shows Arizona lawmen using paint swatches to determine whether a motorist’s skin color suggests that he is an illegal immigrant.

“Mike Keefe’s lively drawings, clever approaches and wordplay are effective,” the judges wrote. “We especially liked the racial profiling cartoon.”

Ohman garners third place with a portfolio of color cartoons that use multiple panels to explore issues ranging from the legacy of Jesse Jackson to the closure of community-based mental health centers.

“A creative approach to editorial cartooning,” the judges wrote. “Jack Ohman forces readers to look at sometimes-uncomfortable realities with eyes wide open. Provocative and thought-provoking. He’ll probably have copycats spring up.”

Judged by Taylor Batten, editorial page editor, and Kevin Siers, editorial cartoonist, both of The Charlotte Observer. 8 entries.

PAGE DESIGN

First place: Spencer Holladay, Las Vegas Sun.
Second place: Alex Flores, Dallas Observer.
Third place: Jeff Neumann, Denver Post.

Holladay wins first place with a striking package that strings the following headline down the length of the paper’s front page against a red background to accompany an article from last year’s stormy U.S. Senate campaign:

“Yes, pundits have called Angle’s
anti-illegal immigration ad …
inflammatory,
fear-mongering,
race-baiting,
implausible,
xenophobic,
outrageous,
insensitive,
egregious,
offensive,
and ugly.
But such strategies have worked in
the past. And now another group
is urging Hispanics not to vote.”

“A visual blow of information — this is the first sensation upon seeing this cover of Las Vegas Sun,” the judge wrote. “A simple concept, but with a lot of force.”

Flores takes second place with a graphic that uses Dallas’ iconic Pegasus sign to illustrate a story exploring how Dallas offers a variety of cuisines but lacks a distinctive one of its own.

“Simple idea, great concept and presentation,” the judge wrote.

Jeff Neumann grabs third place with a full-page poster of Colorado Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki that kicks off the paper’s Major League Baseball preview package.

“This page intends to be an ‘article of collection’ for all the fanatics — and it succeeds!” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “There were great, great pages with extremely beautiful images. But what we are judging in this category is ‘editorial design’, not photo. Is easy to do great pages with great photos, but make something work from scratch with a concept is another story. Congratulations to everybody!”

Judged by Gustavo Belman, art director, Danilo Black. 101 entries.

VIDEO STORYTELLING

First place: Joe Amon, Mahala Gaylord and Meghan Lyden, denverpost.com and Denver Post.
Second place: Mahala Gaylord, Craig F. Walker and Meghan Lyden, denverpost.com and Denver Post.
Third place: Sachi Cunningham and Jeff Amlotte, latimes.com and Los Angeles Times.

Amon, Gaylord and Lyden win first place with “Deana’s Struggles,” a profile of an AIDS patient who uses medical marijuana to relieve her constant bouts with pain and nausea.

“A consensus choice,” the judges wrote. “Every judge remarked on the story. It was beautifully shot and carried a huge emotional punch.

“Technically the use of shadows and silhouettes conveyed the feeling of sadness and the darkness that comes with terminal illness. I’m also a big fan of the use of silence and spacing with the audio. It gives the viewer time to think and watch and feel.”

Gaylord, Walker and Meghan Lyden earn second place with “Sun Valley: A portrait of a neighborhood,” a look at one of Colorado’s poorest neighborhoods and a community isolated by industry, roadway and river.

“Also a consensus choice,” the judges wrote. “The opening really grabs your attention, ‘I don’t hear gunshots … ‘ The story takes you into this neighborhood giving you a look at life among its residents. The pacing was right for the piece, and the segues were like little vignettes of the quiet moments in this community.”

Cunningham and Amlotte take third place with “They’ve struck oil, but they’re not rich,” a look at Phan Plork’s passion, whose livelihood and passion were shrimping until an oil gusher fouled the waters off the Louisiana coast and he started laying boom as part of the cleanup effort.

“A good look at life after the gulf oil spill,” the judges wrote. “Well-shot.”

Overall, the judges found “great work being done at newspapers across the west. While the results varied, the advancement of this medium is evident in a number of these stories. Even the smallest papers have advanced their video skills to a new level. One cautionary note, every judge felt the editing could have been much tighter in general. We should never forget we are competing for readers time and attention. Overall, the competition gets tougher each year.”

Judged by Maria Fowler, video content manager, Gannett ContentOne; Garrett Hubbard, multimedia journalist, USA Today; Samaruddin Stewart, freelance multimedia journalist; and Shannon Green, video editor, USA Today. 35 entries.

MULTIMEDIA STORYTELLING

First place: Francine Orr and Don Kelsen, latimes.com and Los Angeles Times.
Second place: Barbara Davidson, latimes.com and Los Angeles Times.
Third place: Dai Sugano, Ken McLaughlin, Jami C. Smith and Mike Frankel, mercurynews.com and San Jose Mercury News.

For “A journey of risk and hope,” the first-place winner, Orr and Kelson spent months with Dylan Catania and his family, documenting his parents’ decision to go ahead with surgery to sever the child’s oversize brain in half to give him a chance at a normal life.

“Great access and execution. Intimate but not gratuitous,” the judge wrote. “Seamless melding of stills and video, technically sound. Storyline was well-edited. Engaging, one-of-a-kind story that leaves a person satisfied at the end.”

Davidson spent two years documenting how crime victims and their families have endured the aftermath of violence for “Caught in the crossfire, which earns second place.

“Outstanding photojournalism with beautifully-lit interviews,” the judge wrote. “The simplicity allowed a viewer to engage with the person and their message, but it was not as sophisticated as the ‘journey of risk and hope.’ Extended interviews contained a lot of material we had already seen, and not enough new content to maintain engagement.”

The third-place winner, “Torn apart,” tells the story of a family’s emotional journey through the U.S. immigration system. Both parents came here as illegal immigrants, but all six of their children are American citizens.

“Especially strong start delving into a complicated (and often told) story,” the judge wrote. “Macrina Mota-Pineda’s story grapples with tough questions to tell the story of a bigger battle: It’s anecdotal for the challenges illegal immigrants face in the United States.

Judged by Jonathan Woods, multimedia producer; Jenny Yank, video producer; and Matt Rivera, senior video producer, all of msnbc.com. 30 entries.

NEWS REPORTING IN SPANISH

First place: Cecelia Skinner, El Observador de Utah.
Second place: Sandra Baltazar Martinez, La Voz de Nuevo México.
Third place: Sandra Baltazar Martinez, La Voz de Nuevo México.

Skinner earns first place with “Terror en familias hispanas,” which looks at the fear in Hispanic families who find themselves on a list of suspected illegal immigrants.

“Excellent article,” wrote the judge, who praised the article’s approach and tone and its use of statistical data.

Second place goes to Baltazar Martinez for “Campaña alerta contra robo de salarios,” which reports on illegal immigrants who are paid well below the minimum wage by their employers.

“Very good investigation,” wrote the judge, who also praised the article’s conciseness and historical perspective.

Baltazar Martinez also takes third place with “Expolicía mexicano arrestado en Española,” a story about a former Mexican police officer who fled Mexico for the United States but ended up being exploited by a drug cartel.

“Very good,” wrote the judge, who praised the article’s introduction and narrative.

Judged by Angeles Barajas Estrada, assistant managing editor for visuals, Excelsior, Mexico City. 6 entries.

FEATURE WRITING IN SPANISH

First place: Laressa Bachelor-Watlington, Viva Colorado.
Second place: César Arredondo, Ahora Utah.
Third place: Cecilia Skinner, El Observador de Utah.

Bachelor-Watlington wins first place with “El último adios, which examines how the Hispanic community copes with death, including the Day of the Dead holiday.

“Intense story,” the judge wrote. “Well-written.”

César Arredondo takes second place with “Nueva fase de Luna,” a look at the family drama “Abel” and its director, Diego Luna, as the movie is featured at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Fluid story, good headline,” the judge wrote. “Gives a good context to the main topic.”

Skinner wins third place with “Narcos y pandillas en la mira de ICE.”

“Story needs to bring more interest to the topic, but it’s a good effort,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, “Writing in Spanish is different than doing it in English. The paragraph construction and the sentence length varies. A couple of the entries seemed to be written as if they had been translated from English. However, topics are good and show the human side of the stories. Spanish needs accent marks, and when they are missing, it makes the story look poor, unfortunately.”

Judged by Elio Leturia, assistant professor of journalism, Columbia College, Chicago. 5 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING IN SPANISH

No awards given.