2010 Contest Results

GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING

First place: “Baggage” by Joe Eskenazi, San Francisco Weekly

“Baggage” examined how San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags simply didn’t live up to the environmental hype.

The judges found the story informative and engaging, a one-year anniversary piece that lept beyond blanket summaries to give readers an education about the real ramifications of paper and plastic.

The story’s conversational tone and the nuggets of humor sprinkled through the piece delighted the judge. For example, this passage: “While walking between the towering cubes of compacted cans
and papers at the Pier 96 recycling facility, Reed snatches up stray plastic bags and brandishes them the way Senator Joe McCarthy used to wave about lists of names. ‘You see this? You see this? Shouldn’t be here. Shouldn’t be here!’ ”

Second place: “The last jaguar: The death of Macho B in southern Arizona,” by Tony Davis and Tim Steller, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Davis Davis and Steller were dogged in their reporting on the jaguar known as Macho B and the state’s attempts to gloss over the truth of what happened to the country’s last known jaguar.

Their body of work — stretching over seven months — is a prime example of the kind of investigative work that can be accomplished when a reporter doesn’t quiet that small, nagging doubt over an official explanation.

Judges appreciated the stories for their thoroughness and persistence, which resulted in a stinging report from the Interior Department’s Inspector General’s office in January that concluded that the animal’s capture was deliberate and likely illegal.

Third place: “A Question of Water,” by Shaun McKinnon, The Arizona Republic

The judges praised McKinnon for his authoritative explanations surrounding one of the West’s most scarce resources. The later stories, dealing with farmers’ water rights and the potential of runoff as a water supply, were especially compelling, with the perfect balance of facts and faces.

McKinnon’s body of work explained the issue on a macro and micro level, from the impacts on development and farming statewide to one Maricopa farmer on the cutting edge.

Judged by reporters and editors at the St. Petersburg Times: City Editor Heather Urquides, Business Editor Graham Brink; Assistant City Editor Roy LeBlanc; Health and Medical Editor Charlotte Sutton; State political Editor Amy Hollyfield; and reporters Jamal Thalji and Stephanie Hayes. 24 entries.

IMMIGRATION AND MINORITY AFFAIRS REPORTING

First place: “Are Your Papers in Order?” by Michael Lacey, Stephen Lemons and Paul Rubin, Phoenix New Times

“Are Your Papers in Order?” is not the kind of journalism you will find in most American newspapers today – which is why it should be honored. The series of stories that focuses like a laser beam on the controversial law enforcement tactics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is ambitious and daring work.

The stories show in intimate detail the effects of Arpaio’s immigration sweeps on individuals, families and communities. The piece on the impact of Arizona’s employer sanctions law, perhaps the most talked about state immigration-related law in the country, was terrific explanatory journalism.

The writing in the series is engaging, dynamic and crafted with a strong, authoritative voice that only comes from meticulous and deep reporting. The series also represents brave work, particularly the story on the relationship between neo-Nazi and extreme right-wing organizations to Arpaio.

Second place: Various topics, Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic

Daniel Gonzalez shows with his stories on immigration and minority affairs that he is one of the best reporters in the country covering this beat. He understands well that the key to covering this beat is to provide a mix of good enterprise stories on policy and people.

He wrote well-reported stories about how many deported felons are sneaking back into the U.S. He found fresh trend stories such as the piece about drophouse busts declining. He did good accountability-type stories such as his article on how Phoenix police officers are not following a new policy that allows them to question people about their immigration status.

He mixed this work well with human-interest stories. He wrote about how immigrants, dealing with the tough economy, were relying on the old-world tradition of cundinas, a form of money sharing.

The best story in the entry was a lengthy and compelling narrative on a Liberian girl who was raped. The thoroughly reported story provided an illuminating lens on the Liberian refugee community and the legacy of war and rape in the immigrants’ native Liberia.

Third place: “A Missing Peace: Losing a Daughter in Quest for New Life,” Julia Lyon, Lisa Schencker, Matthew D. LaPlante and Kristen Moulton, The Salt Lake Tribune

This is an admirable series of stories about how the refugee community in Salt Lake City is adapting to life in America.

It’s an issue that every metro newspaper in the country is grappling with. But the Tribune distinguished its coverage with its ambitious project on the murder of a 7-year-old Burmese refugee, a girl who allegedly was killed by another Burmese refugee.

Julia Lyon wrote a vivid and compelling long-form narrative – a difficult task in today’s world of shrinking news hole – that not only captured the intimacy of one family’s tragedy but also reflected on the larger drama of refugees who strive for a better life in America while confronting new hardships and anxieties.

Judged by Mizanur Rahman, immigration editor, Houston Chronicle. 17 entries.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

First place: “Four Police Officers Slain,” Seattle Times staff

The broad coverage of a police shooting that this newspaper presented in print and online – in words, photos, videos, tweets and more – sets an example for those of us who work in the traditional media.

The Times staff did not just disseminate news flashes from a number of scenes, they distinguished themselves on the weighty issues behind the shooting, including scooping the competition on the suspect’s past and clemency granted to him by the former Arkansas governor.

Second place: “Balloon Boy,” Denver Post staff

This newspaper staff published an account of a young boy’s alleged runaway flight in a makeshift balloon with a sober eye, accounting for the skepticism over how this really happened without condemning the family before all the facts were known.
The coverage came from a variety of angles, including raising the obvious question about the cost of the search-and-rescue, details from the scene that cable news missed and background on the family that offered a rich portrait that wasn’t available in most other places.

Third place: “Mill to Close,” Missoulian (Mont.) staff

This newspaper captured the devastating impact of the loss of a town’s major employer. With great sensitivity, the staff wrote about the effect on 417 workers who learned they will lose their jobs, the impact on the school district losing its No. 1 taxpayer, an evaluation of the Montana timber industry, the plans of the United Way to assist and more.

This is the kind of coverage that readers expect and deserve when crises hit the hometown.

Judged by Jim Schaefer, staff writer, Detroit Free Press.

GENERAL REPORTING

First place: “Original Gangsters: 1986 Rolling 30 Crips,” Burt Hubbard and Felisa Cardona, The Denver Post

This package of stories described what happened to 58 of the 69 people who were in a Denver street gang and what they cost the community over the past 23 years.

The judges were mightily impressed with the reporting on this project, noting that the reporters did a wonderful job of humanizing the story while clearly describing the toll the gangsters took on the entire community.

“It was well-written and engaged me all the way through,” said one judge. “It offered readers a unique sociological study and perspective,” said another. “Great story, great writing, great journalism,” concluded one judge.

The judges felt that the project was an important piece of enterprise work that helped readers vividly understand how gangs change and harm peoples’ lives, from the gang members themselves to the police to the residents of Denver.

Second place: “Natomas Fire Station,” Phillip Reese, The Saramento Bee

This enterprise story documented the strain on a fire station – and the danger to residents – as its surrounding community grows.

Judges said this was a “smart idea” for a story that not only identified and described a problem, but held government officials accountable as well. The judges were struck by the effective use of response-time data as well as in the clear telling of the story with words and graphics.

Third place: “True Believers,” David Kihara, Las Vegas Review-Journal

This investigation revealed how a Nevada company’s software designed to be used for military purposes didn’t work and how company officials had rigged demonstrations of the product in an attempt to get government contracts.

This is a complicated tale, but the judges were impressed with the reporter’s clarity in telling the story and his thoroughness in reporting.

Judged by staffers of MinnPost.com: Roger Buoen, and Susan Albright, co-managing editors; Corey Anderson, web editor; Cynthia Boyd, reporter; and Don Effenberger, news editor. 60 entries.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

First place: “A Tumultous Year for Boeing’s Dreamliner,” Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times

“A Tumultuous Year for Boeing’s Dreamliner” is a fascinating look at Boeing’s make-or-break 787 airplane as it comes to fruition.

Gates’ command of this subject is obvious as he explains the plane’s first flight, the union and workforce issues, and the reasons behind the numerous delays. The reader has the feeling that many years of reporting have gone into these articles, yet this reporter avoids the pitfall of knowing so much about a subject that he is unable to explain it simply to someone who knows nothing about it.

The story from the perspective of the test pilot was fascinating and put a human face on this story, which was highly relevant to the newspaper’s community. Gates’ fluid writing style made a complicated subject easy to understand. And finally, the online components and comprehensive, easy-to-understand graphic elements put this entry over the top in a category filled with excellent work.

Second place: “Start to Finish series,” Doug Brown, The Denver Post

It is hard to get more relevant than a series about the food families eat – and the beer they drink. These articles explained the “farm to fork” process by starting with some basics: Beef, eggs, beer and cheese. Despite the stories’ depth, they never read like a recitation of facts but rather compelling story-telling that captured the drama of slaughter day, for example, and the irony of prisoners making high-end goat cheese.

The judge observed: “I found herself wondering (hoping) that the Post would continue this series into 2010: Where do milk, chicken, bread and organic vegetables come from? Now I want to know.”

Third Place: “The Foreclosure Crisis and the Fall of Washington Mutual,” Kirsten Grind, Jeanne Lang Jones and editor Alwyn Scott, Puget Sound Business Journal, Seattle

The Business Journal’s explanatory coverage of two related economic collapses were each excellent in their own right. The articles on the final days of Washington Mutual documented a stunning fall for a superstar bank, from a fascinating look at its chief executive to the documentation of the questionable moves by its soon-to-be owner.

The other half of this entry documented the county’s foreclosure crisis. It was punctuated by the compelling story of the Binfet family, who had obtained a mortgage after their second bankruptcy and soon found themselves in trouble again. It was that family’s story, woven throughout these explanatory articles, that set this entry above the others in this category that also examined the foreclosure epidemic.

Judged by Jane Hirt, managing editor, Chicago Tribune. 60 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First place: “Perfectly Legal,” Robert Anglen, The Arizona Republic

There is a lot to admire in this year-long investigation into a web of 22 charities with hidden ties to a television ministry, including the commitment to stay with and present an incredibly complicated story.

The series deserves credit for shedding light on murky accounting and showing how little oversight there is of charities that are kept alive by the contributions of government employees.

An amazing dedication to detail in the reporting provides a look at how individual contributions bounced around like pinballs in this network of charities while money was siphoned off for questionable expenses like luxury cars. The editing of this series also stands out as do the graphics.

Second place: Shortened Lives: Where You Live Matters, Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman, Contra Costa Times

This was a very powerful look at how relatively small differences in where you live — and by extension what you make — lead to large differences in how long you can expect to live.

The reporters and their editors deserve credit for this look at an aspect of the health care debate that should be obvious but remains overlooked: personal choices like diet and exercise are only part of the equation.

The project does a good job at stitching together anecdotes from the ground, along with number-crunching that produced an analysis by ZIP code of health outcomes. One amazing finding: heart disease rates three times the rate of nearby wealthier neighborhoods in the poorer neighborhoods of Oakland, California.

Third place: The Olympic Ticket Monopoly: Freezing Out the Fans, Ron Judd and Christine Willmsen, The Seattle Times

This four-part series told the story of the little-scrutinized monopoly in Olympic ticket sales, based on dozens of interviews and records made public because of the requests by the reporters and The Seattle Times.

The profile of “secretive New Jersey multimillionaire” and the Olympics’ “official ticket scalper” Sead Dizdarevic was particularly well done, a model of its kind.

Judged by Kevin Krolicki, Detroit Bureau Chief for Reuters Thomson, and Bernard Woodall and David Bailey, Reuters staffers. 38 entries.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First place: “Inside the Collapse,” Drew DeSilver and David Heath, The Seattle Times

This was an extraordinary look into some of the fundamental causes that led to the greatest economic downturn in generations.

The Times took a complex investigation on a difficult topic and produced an insightful package that any reader could understand and want to finish. At the end of the day, even if you knew nothing about banking or how banks fail, after reading this series you had more than a basic understanding.

The details and insight into the WAMU collapse set a high bar. The narrative of how a conservative, upstart bank became a behemoth and then embodied the mortgage and lending practices that led to catastrophe was a compelling, artfully written story.
Second place: “Rigged Privilege,” Ryan Gabrielson and Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Arizona

In the words of one judge: “This is outrageous. I’m pissed off and I don’t even live in Arizona.”

The series took a long overdue look at the success of Arizona’s tax credit policy for schools, and found it wanting on several levels. It was a delight to read, bringing out strong emotions among the judges who found themselves outraged.

The Tribune reporters had a strong backbone of data, and used those numbers as the springboard for strong reporting, weaving color and detail with facts. The account of nationally known libertarian activist Clint Bolick was especially compelling.

Third place: “Disabled and Denied,” Evan George, Los Angeles Daily Journal

For nearly a year, health insurance reform has been the hottest of topics on the political front.

George took a hard look at its cousin, the overlooked industry of disability insurance. What he found was a system that, at best, has patchy regulatory oversight and one that seems to encourage insurers to disavow benefits in some cases – with the help of doctors who sometimes appear to be nothing more than industry mercenaries.

While California-centric, the piece used court data from across the country to form the basis of its findings. The information and statistics gleaned from court filings were by themselves an achievement. But the series also included multiple examples of individual sorrows to add emotion and a narrative element.

Judged by Jonathan Ellis, projects reporter, and Thom Gabrukiewicz, outdoors/environment reporter, The (South Dakota) Argus Leader. 29 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, SHORT FORM

First place: “Horseman,” Peter Hecht, The Sacramento Bee

Hecht found a great story to tell – about a homeless horseman who packs a six-shooter, and how he embraced that highly unusual alternative lifestyle 20 years ago. The story is well-reported and written crisply, without sentiment, sensationalism or false romanticism. Well done.

Second place: “I Now Pronounce You … Correctly,” Xazmin Garza, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Even if you’ve never struggled to pronounce – or mispronounce – the perplexing and confusing names of fashion designers, you will find this piece to be laugh-out-loud hilarious. Having an unusual moniker herself, the writer cleverly layers in her own experiences as a victim of name-slaughtering. Highly entertaining.

Third place: “Choosing To Give Thanks,” Richard Lake, Las Vegas Review-Journal

The triumph of the human spirit over unspeakable tragedy is the subject of this story written for Thanksgiving Day.

Using well-constructed scenes and proper pacing, the writer reconstructs the loss of two generations of the same family in a plane crash 20 years ago, and does so with elegance and restraint. Bravo.

Judged by Debbie Van Tassel, assistant managing editor for features; Karen Long, book editor; John Campanelli, features writer; Michael Heaton, features writer; and Marc Bona, assistant entertainment editor, The Cleveland Plain Dealer. 60 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, LONG FORM

First place: “Soundtracking a Bank Robbery Getaway,” Joe Loya, San Francisco Panorama

This swift-moving personal story may feel like an unusual choice in the long-form feature category. But we kept coming back to it, because of all the entries this was the one that stuck with us. It’s the story we most wanted to read, most wanted to talk about afterward, most wished we could somehow replicate on our next cop story. A refreshingly original idea, sophisticated in its execution, with a voice and a flair that defy you to ignore it.

Second place: “Climbing back,” Jaimee Rose, Arizona Republic

A touching, deeply reported narrative story of a mother burned over 83 percent of her body, struggling to heal and to reconnect with children who barely recognize her, and even fear her.

The judges chose to not award a third-place winner.

Judged by Kelley Benham, enterprise editor at the St. Petersburg Times; and Lane DeGregory, Ben Montgomery and Leonora LaPeter Anton, enterprise reporters. 70 entries.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First place: “A Long Slow Bout with Words,” Jeff Baker, The Oregonian

The judge loved how Baker used different techniques such as a Q&A to help the reader through this story about a writer who struggled for 20 years to finish a book. The use of Q&A helped guide the reader through the story, as well as to clarify events. Writers can be the worst interviews, but this reporter could give lessons in how it’s done.

Second place: “Painting Professors,” Dixie Reid, The Sacramento Bee

Masterful weaving together of the stories of three Sacramento artists whose work was brought together at a local city college. The story shows the reader who the artists are, why a painting of pie is so significant, and what it means to the college, the city, the region and the art world. It takes talent just to spot this story in the first place.

Third place: “Garth Brooks Brings a New Showbiz Paradigm to Las Vegas,” Joe Brown, Las Vegas Sun
Brown’s entries stumped the judges for awhile: Which entry was better – the piece on Garth Brooks the piece on Lady Gaga? The Brooks review won out as Brown displayed a wonderful eye for telling detail, a deep background on the artist, sharp writing skills and, perhaps most important, in-depth analysis of what the shows mean in a greater context.

Judged by Judy Walker, food editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, with assistance from television critic Dave Walker. 31 entries.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING

First place: “Computers Drag Down State’s Aid for Jobless,” Chad Graham, The Arizona Republic

The judge was impressed by this detailed look at a breakdown in how the state of Arizona processed unemployment claims.

“For an example of what business reporters should do, read this story,” the judge said.

Graham dove into a universal symptom of the great recession – delayed unemployment benefits – but didn’t accept the universal explanation of a system besieged by events. Instead, he asked that crucial question — and found some concrete and important answers. why?

This is an example of how the little things left unnoticed become big things down the road. We’re glad Graham noticed.

Second place: “CalPERS,” Dale Kasler and Andrew McIntosh, The Sacramento Bee

So a top executive in a the California pension fund accepts an offer to get married at the home of an executive seeking to business with the retirement system. What’s the worst that can happen?

This story answers that question: It shows up on the front page of the Sacramento Bee.

Said the judge: “It’s a great example of paying close attention, pressing with questions and getting facts out to the public.”

Third place: “Struggle for Power Aboard Doomed Trawler,” Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times

Great business reports uncover both the human and financial drama behind all corners of the local economy. Bernton does just that with this comprehensive look at the controversies surrounding fishing masters employed by a Washington-based company to catch and process fish, but instead engaged in behvior both dangerous and deadly.

Judged by Matthew Haggman and Douglas Hanks, staff writers, The Miami Herald. 55 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING

First place: “The Life of a Fighter,” J. Patrick Coolican, Las Vegas Sun

The reporter captured the struggles of an aging boxer still chasing his championship dreams. The tale captures the denial, the struggles and determination of a man who still believes in reaching the summit of his chosen profession.

Second place: “Coach Convicted of Rape as Juvenile,” Rachel Bachman, The Oregonian

The reporter executed a public service by reporting on a youth coach who was leading teams despite being convicted of raping a young girl.

Third place: “Employees Say Fiesta Repaid Their Political Contributions,” Craig Harris, The Arizona Republic

The reporter captured a secret underworld of college athletics outside of the playing field when this story revealed practices that were used to maintain one of the biggest football events in the city. This expose of questionable lobbying practices brought a previously secret practice to light.

Judged by Greg Lee, senior assistant sports editor, The Boston Globe. 51 entries.

GENERAL INTEREST COLUMN WRITING

First place: “Columns,” Anna Griffin, The Oregonian

Griffin’s compelling, entertaining columns on Portland issues make even the casual reader feel like an insider. Her deft touch with both eyewitness description and dead-on characterization illuminate the larger stories behind topics ranging from a City Hall scandal to a street-corner vending cart war.

Second place: “Fear and Loafing,” Corey Levitan, Las Vegas Review-Journal

With a gonzo willingness to go where most of us never would, Levitan serves up hilarious first-person accounts of such esoteric jobs as midwife, security guard, and vet-tech “fixer” of feral cats. His sly, poker-faced candor makes reading a treat.

Third place: “Arizona Outrages and Oddities,” Laurie Roberts, The Arizona Republic

Roberts’ reporting skills are front-and-center in pointed, revealing columns about institutional abuses of ordinary people. Stern without being shrill, she shows us why the problems of the community’s most hidden and vulnerable members really do matter. In a similar vein, she defends her home state against an outsider’s glib assessment while candidly acknowledging grim realities.

Judged by Jacquielynn Floyd, metro columnist, The Dallas Morning News. 34 entries.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First place: John Canzano, The Oregonian

Consistently compelling and incredibly versatile, John Canzano is a treasure, the judge wrote.

Canzano’s saga about Katie Shearer, the Portland Trail Blazers fan with terminal cancer, brought tears to the eyes of a somewhat-jaded judge. And that was only one of five uniformly superb columns that encompassed a wide range of topics and styles.

Canzano’s strong opinion about a bush-league move by a frustrated Oregon football player – written on an impossibly tight deadline, complete with a marvelous lede – hit just the right notes: logical but gutsy, and not preachy.

He also had the fortitude to tackle an uncomfortable matter with perhaps the most popular athlete in his entire state, Blazers’ star Brandon Roy. Canzano’s investigation into AAU basketball excesses confirmed what many who follow the sport had long suspected but had not seen effectively documented.

His effort to track down the imprisoned father of two Oregon State football stars half a continent away uncovered a surprisingly sympathetic figure.

Canzano’s strong point of view is matched by the power of his narratives. As a result, his work, like all great newspaper writing, transcends his particular genre to shed light on the human condition.

Second place: Daniel Borenstein, Contra Costa (Calif.) Times

As the newspaper industry continues to contract, and fewer and fewer organizations are willing to expend the resources to do the complicated but important stories, this series of columns is a shining example of what is at stake in American journalism.

If newspapers don’t look at where tax dollars are going and confront the people who seem to be abusing those tax dollars, who will?

In this case, Daniel Borenstein plows particularly fertile ground: outrageous abuses in public pension practices. He not only researched his topic to death – efforts that included everything from a public-records lawsuit to creating spreadsheets for analyzing the data – but wrote with an entirely appropriate tone of indignation that surely was cheered by readers.

For instance, after quoting a fire official who claimed to be “actively pursuing different options and working with labor to see what kind of changes we can make,” Borenstein wrote: “Lots of luck convincing the rank and file to recognize the financial realities while you’re personally sucking money out of the system at a staggering rate. Indeed, (the firefighter’s) retirement payments are a perfect example of what’s wrong with public pension systems.”

Borenstein’s work also achieved the ultimate goal of journalism: changes to an unjust system.

Third place: David Sarasohn, The Oregonian

“To be honest,” the judge wrote, “I cringed when I saw the topic. Did I really want to wade into five columns about hunger?”

But when he began to read, his trepidation vanished immediately. In David Sarasohn’s imaginative hands, the topic is anything but a dry.

The writer starts one column by cracking, “Anyone who ever made it through elementary school learned one thing that stayed with him for good: It takes a lot to unsettle a lunch lady.”

He describes a youth at a food program who “may have been the first 10-year-old in history to comment approvingly, ‘The carrots are juicy.’”

Sarasohn also understands that solid writing is possible only after solid reporting. Armed with almost unlimited ammunition, thanks to repeatedly crisscrossing his state and the nation to talk with people as diverse as elementary-school kids and U.S. agriculture officials, Sarasohn wrote with authority. In so doing, he brought home the national economic crisis at the most basic human level, in ways mere statistics never can.

If these sorts of efforts can be initially daunting to the casual reader, they are even more daunting for newspapers to undertake in this era of shrinking resources. But these are exactly the kinds of things journalists should be doing.

Judged by Bob Dyer, general-interest columnist, Akron Beacon Journal. 38 entries.

HEADLINE WRITING

First place: Tim O’Rourke, Contra Costa Times

O’Rourke is a master headline writer who can convey a lot of meaning in tight spaces. His portfolio reflects his ability to turn a phrase in a headline on a feature story or hard news. “The brunt of wet October” (paired with a photo of a flooded apartment complex) shows O’Rourke’s subtle yet effective choice of words. It’s telling that readers responded positively to this headline.

O’Rourke also gets dibs on the first “@” headline for a Twitter story: “@Martinez: City makes Twitter debut.”

Readers in the Bay Area are fortunate to open their newspapers each day to such headlines.

Second place: Jim McNett, The Oregonian

McNett’s entry shows his versatility.

His headlines cover sports, local news and features, and he does an outstanding job in each area. Especially effective is “Rosa Parks Way: a path past anger” — a headline that is both informative and poetic.

And any copy editor would appreciate this headline: “1 thing Hood to Coast Relay didn’t run: spell check.” (Next to a picture of a race t-shirt proclaiming “Race offical”)

Third place: Matthew Crowley, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Crowley is an editor who is willing to take a chance with any headline, with colorful plays on words,the judge observed.

He’s also willing to use a sense of humor to engage readers. This works especially well on his headline on the sex industry’s convention: “It wasn’t good for you? Adult expo exhibitors say sour economy has even hurt sex trade.”

Judged by Andy Bechtel, assistant professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 22 entries.

EDITORIAL WRITING

First place: “Our Future: Local Trees, Local Energy,” John Doran, (Helena) Independent Record

This piece clearly and interestingly educates the reader about a serious local problem – beetle-killed trees – while giving highly credible suggestions on how to make lemonade from these lemons.

It speaks to a local environmental problem and proposes solutions that would be environmentally responsible, deal at least in some small way with the energy crisis and help boost the local economy. It is a model of the prescriptive editorial. And it is very interesting.

With concision, the writer teaches readers what they most need to know about a regional problem and what they can do about it in their own enlightened self-interest.

Along the way, many people will learn some curious stuff about the trees that surround them they probably didn’t know before.

Second place: “Is There No One Who Will Stand Up to Thomas, Arpaio?” Doug MacEachern, The Arizona Republic

This is a classic “speak truth to power” editorial. It eloquently calls on readers to call to account two ruthless local officials, and given their popularity, does it with considerable courage.

In the best traditions of editorial writing, it calls to account misuse of grear power. And there are are strong suggestions that the editorials are starting to have an effect.

Mr. MacEachern and The Republic defy public sentiment to say the sorts of things that should be said in a democracy.

Third place: “Clean Trucks and Hot Air,” Larry Allison, (Long Beach, CA) Press-Telegram

This very clearly written editorial goes behind the scenes to explain what’s really going on in an environmental dispute – and shows how behind the “green” slogans, economic self-interest often rules.

It explains the configuration of power that might surprise many readers and concisely explains to readers why that’s important.

Readers in Long Beach, which is so dependent on its port, will richly benefit from reading this editorial.

Judged by Robert Whitcomb, vice president/editorial page editor, The Providence Journal. 25 entries.

BLOG WRITING

First place: “Seattle Sketcher,” Gabriel Campanario, The Seattle Times

The judge called this the freshest, most interesting blog by a wide margin among those submitted.

I literally gasped when I saw it for the first time, he wrote. The sketches were fascinating — so richly detailed that they’re far beyond simple sketches, yet they’re raw enough that you can see the blogger’s work (and thought) process.

Not only were the sketches themselves interesting and worthy of poring over, but the accompanying text was interesting, elaborating on what’s behind the sketches.

The writer gets lots of comments — and participates. I particularly liked the integration of a Google map of his sketch locations.

Next step: Get those to link back to the original blog post.

Second place: “Mariners Blog,” Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times

The blogger does a good job of mixing up his content — game summaries, personal musings that relate the news of the day, and so forth. I liked the tour of the new Yankee Stadium.

The blogger clearly is trying to use the medium, with text, photos, audio and video. Though sometimes the multimedia is used for the sake of using it (a talking head isn’t that interesting), he gets high marks for mixing it up. He links to stuff, too. That’s important. Plus, it’s important that he’s obviously tapping a nerve, because he gets lots of comments — and participates in them.

Third place: “Squid Ink,” Amy Scattergood, LA Weekly

This was a beautiful blog to look at it and read because the writing has a voice and the content includes lots of pictures — rich and lucious pictures of food and the people who make it. The pictures are important. Plus, the blogger mixes it up with the content.

Every item isn’t a reading assignment. I love that sometimes it’s a recipe, sometimes it’s a Q&A with an interesting person — and then there was a look at the best restaurant restrooms. A nice tweak on the topic.

The blogger isn’t afraid to use links — too few do. And while it doesn’t get zillions of comments, it clearly has an audience and the blogger is right in there with replies. High marks for acknowledging an error pointed out by a reader and fixing it.

Judged by Kurt Greenbaum, social-media guy for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 25 entries.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: “Oppressive Heat,” John Walker, Fresno Bee

This photo of a homeless woman sweating out a hot day in her makeshift lodging at a tent city makes nice use of available light. The blue color cast from the tarp really adds to the mood. The gesture (the woman mopping her brow) is also nice.

Really strong photo, composition, moments, and color that made it the clear winner.

Second place: “Family’s painful tears,’ Kristopher Skinner, Oakland Tribune

The jduges lauded the photographer’s ability to catch the emotional moment of a woman walking through a fire-ravaged house. It’s a tough shot to get.

The technical quality of light and dark on the subject makes this a really nice frame.

Third place: “In Tribute,” Joe Amon, The Denver Post

This tight frame of a tear rolling down the face of an American Legion member during Barack Obama’s inauguration captures an emotional moment and brings an intimacy to a national story.

The tear is powerful and makes us want to know more about what’s going on.

Judged by Jacquelyn Martin and Pablo Monsivais Martinez, The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. 19 entries.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: “Second Thoughts,” Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post

This photo of a soldier waiting to be processed into the Army captured a wonderful moment.

The photographer was in the right location and prepared for this photograph. The clock and the “I Want You” poster on the wall, the chair with “Army” on the backrest next to the soldier and both the body language and the expression on the soldier’s face combine to make this a very well-done storytelling photo.

Second place: “Good Luck Kiss,” RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

The photograph appears uncomplicated at first glance: a simple portrait of a boy and his pet. It was taken straight on.

The use of telephoto lens eliminates any background distractions and forces the viewer to

look into the boy’s eyes, (Is he worried? Hopeful?) then to the chicken, Puck, and the feathers pressed to the boy’s lips.

Cropping tight on the top of the boy’s head also draws attention to the eyes. The tight composition provides only what is needed to convey the emotion of the moment.

It’s truly a “decisive moment.” It’s simple but multi-layered. Timeless. Classic.

This is one of those photographs you can look at again and again and never tire of its quiet beauty.

Third place: “Say What?” Judy DeHaas, The Denver Post

This photo of a fourth grader leaning over the lunch serving line to talk to an aproned server is a Norman Rockwell moment.

The composition is clean and includes only what is essential. The colors add interest, as does the body language of the man the girl, who are leaning toward each other. The photo makes you smile.

The expression on both faces are priceless. Rockwell couldn’t have conveyed them any better.

Even the background — posters of the Statue of Liberty and a “Justice for All” appeal — contributes to the American feel of the photo.

Judged by John Scanlan, director of photography, Hartford Courant. 35 entries.

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: “Championship Tears,” Rob Schumacher, The Arizona Republic

This image of an Arizona Cardinals player celebrating the NFC championship title with an overt emotional display is one of those nice moments we all hope to photograph. It is a well composed photograph that shows a great deal of emotion. Whether the team won or lost , it tells a story to viewers.

Second place: “Overhead,” John Leyba, The Denver Post

This photograph of a Denver Nugget basketball player going up for a shot as an LA Lakers player defends it is in your face action.

Shooting a remote camera through the glass backboard takes initiative and know-how and puts a camera closer to a player’s face than anything else you can do.

Looking down at the players looking up at the ball is a great angle from which to shoot a picture. Because the camera is so close to the actual action you can feel the players jostling for position to take possession of the ball.

Third place: “Touchdown,” Rob Schumacher, The Arizona Republic

This image of a wide receiver going horizontal to land a touchdown captures peak action. It is great to see a photographer ready with a wide angle lens and actually able to use it. A wide-angle image at football like this gives perspective, showing where other players were on the field when this touchdown was scored.

Judged by Gary Hershorn, Reuters news pictures editor – North America; Terry Bochatey, Reuters chief photographer – USA; and Molly Riley, Reuters photographer – Washington. 22 entries.

SLIDESHOW

First place: “In Cuba, Life is Finding Work and Making Do,” Erika Schultz, Seattle Times

These photos were beautifully shot and composed with micro-fine precision.

The colors are rich, and the story behind each image is complex. The captions add details to the photos instead of repeating what is obvious in each one.

The images are intimate and help the viewer get to know the people and culture of Cuba. The title of the gallery ties all the images together thematically, and each photo relates back to the main theme.

The editing is nicely paced and deliberate with no repetition in style or feel. Although the essay has a distinct beginning, middle and end, viewers are left wanting to see more. Well done!

Second place: “It’s All in the Garage,” Alan Berner, Seattle Times

This is a well-executed concept on a single theme: The stuff people keep in their garage.

The photographer appears to have done a lot of research to find this diverse group of people and seek out the various activities that happen in their garages.

The photos are interesting, unusual, and capture the intimate moments of every day life. Good use of natural lighting in what could have been a dark or uninteresting visual situation.

Editing is tight, except toward the end of the gallery, where the judge found a photo of a band member redundant.

Overall – nice work and a touching feature!

Third place: “Life Details,” Tiffany Brown, Las Vegas Sun

This essay on the littlethings in life hangs together well visually and thematically, and was carefully edited.

Each photo seems deliberately chosen, with each being a visual clue, or tease, to the next one. The colors and patterns lead the viewer visually from photo to photo, cleverly using color, shape and mood to tie the images together.

This gallery is well thought out and edited. It’s a fun look at the little details in life that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Judged by Coburn Dukehart, picture and multimedia editor, NPR Digital News, Washington D.C. 16 entries.

INFORMATIONAL GRAPHIC

First place: “SF Sound: A Partial Survey of the Past 50 Years of popular Music in the SF Bay Area,” The San Francisco Panorama

The design of this graphic that resembled a record (or a disc) captured the essence of the music scene on many levels: brightly (rainbow) colored, pulsing with energy from a core, and reflective of the great Art Rock posters from Bay Area artists.

Although it isn’t a complete record of Bay Area music, the design is still very deep and well-researched. There’s plenty to look at and the graphic links together bands and labels, spanning the five decades that the graphic covers.

Second place: “What Ails Our Reefs?” Mark Milligan and Martha Hernandez, The Honolulu Advertiser

There is quite a lot going on in this doubletruck on Hawaii’s reefs, and the color palette holds some of the disparate elements together – there are vector elements, hand-painted elements and photographic elements.

The image is easy to navigate and is well-reported, and serves as a good primer for readers who wish to learn how to take care of the reef system.

It is an ambitious graphic and is the kind that serves the reader – and quite possibly a number of Hawaiian classrooms – as a great educational and ecological awareness tool.

Third place: “Words From Dad,” Cindy Enright, Severiano Galvan, Andrew Lucas, Jonathan Moreno and Thomas McKay, The Denver Post

I loved this page, the judge said.

The drawings of of various bromides and truisms from fathers (“When I was your ageā€¦.,” “Go ask your mother,) were fun and immediately brought to mind a few of he judge’s own ‘Dad-isms’.

Having the Art Dept contribute with their own memories and then illustrating those memories was a great idea.

This is a fun page that probably was shared in many Denver households. Just a fun, light-hearted graphic page.

Judged by Chris Morris, a freelance illustrator based in Dallas. 32 entries.

EDITORIAL CARTOONING

First place: Lisa Benson, Victor Valley (Calif.) Daily Press

Clean, strong images and an economy of words express this artist’s opinions.

Benson’s portfolio focuses on events out of Washington D.C.: An exasperated construction worker studying a job-posting board, only to see the only job openings are for “czar;” melting snowmen in the wake of the climate-change summit in Copenhagen; and a new twist on the British fox hunt with President Obama in full riding gear getting a shot off at Fox News.

Second place: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star

A very attractive, old school, retro look combined w/ a strong message.

Fitzsimmons’ entries covered a wide range, from a newsboy doing a “read all about it” sales pitch about disappearing newspapers to a three-panel commentary on state budget cuts that “hit hard” by cutting services to abused children.

Third place: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

Manic line, outside-the-lines palette and witty perspective highlight Bagley’s work. The portfolio skips from the national health-care debate, (a convoy of ambulances held up by an elephant) to an explanation of why the pro-life movement may have provoked the shooting death of an abortion doctor.

Judged by Mike Lester, editorial cartoonist, Rome (Ga.) News Tribune. 21 entries.

PAGE DESIGN

First place: “Lincoln: The Man Under the Hat,” Jeff Paslay, The Seattle Times.

This linear design which gives an exaggerated length to Abe Lincoln’s hat in a review of a local theater production is simple and powerful. The way the illustration guides the reader down the page is great. It steals looks.

Second place: (tie)

“KPOO!” McSweeney’s staff, The San Francisco Panorama

“Obama’s Rise to Power,” Tiffany Pease, Ron Kitagawa, Geri Migielicz, Jami Smith, Herschel Kenner and Frank Michale Russell, San Jose Mercury News

KPOO!” explodes and surprise. The page is packed with phrases, logos and photos that recall great moments in the life of a San Francisco Bay-area radio station. These evoke different emotions in the reader. The page is topped with a label to tease to stories inside the section, which provides contrast, the judges said.

Obama’s Rise to Power” is a very good example of great execution by a great team, the judges said. The cover of Obama trotting up the Capitol steps is simply amazing, the graphics breaking down the electoral and popular vote are very illustrative and the design does what it must do: help the reader navigate the story.

Third place: (tie)

“Tuition tax credit: Lawmakers Must Act to Save It,” Keri Hegre, The Arizona Republic

“A Show of Hands,” Luke Knox, The Arizona Republic

“Time to Deliver,” Luke Knox, The Arizona Republic

The tuition-tax credit cover uses an education icon — an apple — being eaten away down to a barren core. It illustrates the point of the editorial, that a program is being “devoured by opportunists.:

A very bold idea for an Editorial section, the judges said. This is simple, yet powerful enough to hook the reader.

“A Show of Hands” focuses on the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald and his spectacular receiving statistics. The title is play on Fitzgerald’s sure hands for catching passes. The page has a great photo and a bold approach in the graphic treatment of the title.

“Time to Deliver” uses a strong color photo to play up a column about the new baseball season and hopes for the local team. This page is “one for the sports fan,” the judges said, with great photo, great title and great layout.

Judged by Gustavo Belman, designer and Victor Sanchez, art director, both with Danilo Black Inc. 71 entries.

VIDEO STORYTELLING

First place: “Holiday Crowds Pack Loveland Ski Area,” Eric Lutzens, Denver Post.

This entry was a fast-paced look at a day on the slopes, as well as the night-time cleanup. The judge said it stood out among the entries due to its command of the craft and ability

to hold the viewer’s attention to the story.

Eric Lutzens took an everyday story and made it entertaining with beautifully composed images, made with a unique shift/tilt perspective, stop action stills timed to music. There are no words, and no natural sound in this video. And, it works.

Yes, we’ve seen these devices before, and haven’t we all done the story – “Holiday crowds pack XYZ?” Well, Eric Lutzens turned a typical story into a poetic video, that you could ski to. Seriously, we didn’t need the literal story of someone stating the obvious quotes about crowd size and quotes, “I like to ski.”

Bravo to Eric for making art out of the mundane.

Second place: “Inside the WaMu Collapse: Barbara Simonson,” Erika Schultz, David Heath, The Seattle Times.

The reporters took a complicated and important subject and made a compelling video story by presenting the saga of one victim of fraudulent lending practices.

The visuals and quality of the sound were strong, especially given that it was a video made after the fact, re-telling what had happened rather than watching it unfold in front of the camera.

The video was able to clearly show the difference between the victim’s original home and the one she moved into. You could literally see the difference. The reporting was vitally important to tell the story and explain the issue with the bank’s methods. Well done.

Third place: “Laughter video,” Rick Egan, Salt Lake Tribune.

This entertaining and informative video grabbed the viewer’s attention and kept it.

It even induced … laughter!

The audio track combines interview with natural sound. Shooting angles gave the feeling of being in class with the students and the laughter.

Judged by Nancy Andrews, managing editor for digital media, Detroit Free Press and freep.com. 15 entries.

MULTIMEDIA STORYTELLING

First place: “Badwater Ultramarathon,” Justin Yurkanin, Michael Quine and Nate Tannenbaum, Las Vegas Review-Journal

Enjoyed the back and forth between Ms. Sheridan and the giant undertaking of her participation in the Badwater event, the movement between the macro effect and the micro.

Also liked that the crew’s role was followed for a multi-layer exploration of the story, as well as the inclusion of the interactive map. High marks for sound design and execution, too.

Second place: “Bottoming Out: Gambling Addiction,” Las Vegas Sun staff

This entry explored many different aspects of gambling. The video-diary film of the gambler in recovery was very straightforward, personal and revealing, both through his self-generated video and the other.

The interactive slot machine was very interesting as well, though we agreed more information could have been shared via the tool.

Third place: “Childhood poverty in Colorado,” Meghan Lyden, The Denver Post

Beautiful imagery, sharp presentation. This series excelled in presenting people in dire and often self-imposed situations yet in a non-judgmental, vulnerable and very human way.

Judged by Ben Estes, editor, chicagotribune.com, and Amy Guth, digital news editor, Books Section, chicagotribune.com. 35 entries.