2012 Contest Results

GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING

First Place: Becky Kramer and Jed Conklin, Spokane Spokesman-Review.
Second Place: Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Bruce Finley, Denver Post.

Kramer and Conklin take first place with “Radiation on the reservation,” a package of articles on members of the Spokane Tribe who once worked on uranium mines and are dying because of their exposure to radioactive material.

The judge wrote, “Kramer weaves the human with the technical to build a strong case that this tribe’s ills are rooted in careless practices that exposed them and their families to radioactive ore. It is an astonishing piece of reporting that casts a bright light on a little-known period of the country’s history and how it reverberates in troubling ways to the present.”

The judge also commented on Kramer’s “engaging writing rich in detail and humanity” and Conklin’s “dramatic photography” to accompany the pieces.

Second place goes to the Cocke’s series “Up in the Air” about a controversy in Hawaii regarding wind farms and their impact of the environment and the community.

“Moving with the controversy from island to island, Cocke puts us right in the middle of passionate debates by local residents about how to develop energy without destroying the environment that is so valuable both to residents and the tourism industry. Cocke’s fine writing is further enriched by terrific videos online that capture not only the strong feelings of residents, but the unrelenting wind in the background,” the judge commented.

“What could have been a dry utility story is passionately human in this writer’s hands.”

Third place is awarded to Bruce Finley for coverage of the issues surrounding oil and gas drilling, including an article exploring how towns on Colorado’s Front Range can fight back using zoning policies.

“With the clarity and relentlessness of an investigative reporter, Bruce Finley examines the environmental hazards of increased oil and gas drilling in Colorado and what it means for the environment. Finley captures the pressure on the state to up production and at the same time protect environmental resources,” the judge wrote.

“Finley moves logically from one layer of the story to next. This is very fine accountability reporting.”

Judged by Kate Parry, assistant managing editor for special projects and features, Minneapolis Star Tribune. 30 entries.

IMMIGRATION AND BORDER REPORTING

First Place: David Montero, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: Brady McCombs, Arizona Daily Star.
Third Place: Keegan Hamilton, Seattle Weekly.

Montero wins first place for a several articles on Utah’s and Arizona’s immigration laws, including “Utah Compact had big impact on Immigration debate.”

“A deep and comprehensive examination of Utah’s immigration movement – the Utah Compact – and why it’s making a profound impact on one of the most explosive issues of our time,” the judge wrote.

McCombs nabs second place, with “Once welcoming, borderlands now forever divided.” This piece covers the many changes that have affected people’s ability to cross border, legally or illegally.

“The Arizona Daily Star shows how drastic shifts in U.S. immigration policies shattered the fabric of life in border towns that once peacefully co-existed,” the judge wrote.

Third goes to Hamilton, who covers an expansive raid on immigrants in Washington, in “The War on Mexicans Strikes Ellensburg.”

“A well-reported story on how an errant government crackdown on a small town became a microcosm of everything that went wrong with America’s immigration enforcement policies,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Michael Sallah, investigations editor, Miami Herald. 20 entries.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

First place: Staff, Arizona Daily Star.
Second place: Staff, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third place: Staff, Seattle Times.

The Star staff earns first place with its coverage of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a political event outside a Safeway store in Tucson.

“The staff of 35 jumped all over this truly breaking news event, when Gabby Giffords and more than a dozen others were shot, with six killed,” the judge wrote.

“The staff updated the Web story nearly 170 times, when the public was hungry for information, and then came back to address different facets of the shooting – and those affected – throughout the day. For a small staff, this is truly thorough and remarkable work.”

Second place goes to the Civil Beat staff for its coverage of the tsunami threat to Hawaii after the Japanese earthquake, including reports about the homeless being left out of evacuation plans, the AT&T cellular system breaking down, and the state and county websites failing to serve the public.

“Here’s an example of covering all aspects of a story and making a difference,” the judge wrote. “In this example, Civil Beat told readers about homeless who were left during the evacuation as the tsunami approached. The paper also effected change when it revealed that the state’s cell system failed during the tsunami, prompting AT&T to dedicate money to fix the system ahead of future emergencies.

The Times staff grabbed third place with its coverage of a federal Justice Department report finding that Seattle police routinely and illegally use excessive force.

“This is masterful and well-researched coverage of the breaking news of a report of excessive force against people of color by Seattle police officers,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Paige Mudd, senior editor, Richmond Times Dispatch. 20 entries.

GENERAL REPORTING

First Place: Ben Anderson, Alaska Dispatch.
Second Place: Craig Harris, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: James King, Phoenix New Times.

Anderson earns first place, with “Will $77 million airport in remote Alaska prove inaccessible?” about a project that includes helicopters and hovercrafts.

“A great example of classic watchdog reporting, this story is a well-woven dissection of a multi-million dollar project in a state that is well known for its ‘largesse,'” the judge wrote. “The deeply reported story peeled back layer after layer with clear, crisp writing – raising serious questions about the viability of what may become the next Alaska boondoggle.”

Second goes to Harris for an article on the high cost of retiring state employees cashing in their sick days.

“This was surely a talk story, red meat for readers struggling amid a still sputtering economy,” the judge wrote. “The story examined the public cost of a common perk among government workers: cashing out unused sick time, a perk that is unheard of in the private sector.”

“Excellent reporting in pulling together detailed numbers, well-told, with a strong visual presentation. It is precisely the kind of reporting that highlights the importance of the newspapers’ continued vigilance.”

King grabs third for his article “Brocked Up: Supervisor Fulton Brock Attempted to Cover Up the Sexual Liaisons Between His Wife, Daughter and a Teenage Boy.”

“This rich narrative pulled together all of the threads in the strange and twisted tale of sexual abuse, politics and religion,” the judge wrote. “Relying largely on documents, the reporter was able to weave a complex tale in a compelling read.”

The judge added, “Overall, the three winners highlight the important watchdog role of the media as the eyes and ears of readers. The task is all the more important now in the midst of seismic industry changes – and these stories delivered. Bravo.”

Judged by Mindy Marques, executive editor, Miami Herald. 59 entries.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

First Place: Anne Ryman and Pat Kossan, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Sara Israelsen-Hartley, Deseret News.
Third Place: Michael Levine and John Temple, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Ryman and Kossan take first place for “The Race to Online,” a series on Arizona’s initiatives to promote virtual education.

“Online education is often reported on by technology media outlets or business reporters with a booster-ish tone and a celebration of yet another way the Internet can make life easier,” the judge wrote. “The Republic, instead, carefully described how online education works for parents and students, the fiscal pressures pushing Arizona to embrace it, and the businesses trying to profit from it.

“The depth of reporting is impressive. Each installment is a compelling read, and the multiple stories about real students and families complements the detailed reporting on test scores, budget cuts and education policy.”

Israelsen-Hartley earns second place for her report on the resurgence of the pro-life movement.

The judge admired how “the Deseret News and reporter Sara Israelsen-Hartley tackled an issue that has divided politicians, voters and newsrooms for decades … and did it for an audience that many editors (I believe) would shy away from offending.

“There’s no screaming in this piece, in that it avoids the extremes of the abortion debate. It treats the readers like adults … introducing them to thoughtful voices on both sides. In the future, I’ll assign this as required reading for any reporter who’s tasked with reporting on abortion and reproductive health.”

Levine and Temple win third place, the judge wrote, for their “exceptional use of the public record to illustrate conflicts of interest among Hawaii’s legislators.”

The series “lays out the information clearly and fairly,” the judge added.

Referring to Levine and Temple’s use of social media, the judge noted that “the use of case studies and call to readers to evaluate them impressed this reader. This project ought to spur similar reporting on state and local governments across the country.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “this was an extremely difficult category to judge. All but a few entries are contest-winning works of journalism and the reporters and editors who worked on them deserve recognition. I was particularly impressed with the entries from the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star, as well as those submitted by the Sacramento Bee and the Seattle Times. These four news organizations supported multiple long-form and multi-part reporting projects tackling issues important to their communities, regions and even the country at large.”

In closing, the judge noted that “it’s hard to be a cynic about the state of journalism today after reading these 38 entries.”

Judged by Russ Walker, former projects editor, Politico. 38 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First place: Shaun McKinnon, Arizona Republic.
Second place: Brandon Loomis, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third place: Benjamin Hochman and Ryan Casey, Denver Post.

McKinnon wins first place with his three-part reconstruction of the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a political event in Tucson.

“This is a story we all knew – or thought we knew until we read “Collision Course Toward Morning,” the judge wrote. “Shaun McKinnon doesn’t wear out his reader, rather he contrasted the ordinariness of what started as a typical day but ended with extraordinary tragedy.”

“Breaking it into three parts was a great way to present it to readers. It was so well told. We applaud this kind of work.”

Loomis takes second place with an in-depth series on the perils facing the Alpine forests of the American West due to beetle infestation caused by global warming.

“Masterfully told and presented,” the judge wrote, “‘Our Dying Forests’ goes beyond ‘just another global warming story.’ We could feel the pain of the residents who had watched as the pines are being destroyed by beetles. Excellent writing and exceptional visuals made this piece stand out in a category where the competition was truly fierce. Reading “Our Dying Forests” reminded us of some of the writings of conservationist Aldo Leopold.”

Hochman and Casey take third place with their three-part package on the increasingly intense world of high school athletics.

“This is a story every community in America could do, but doesn’t. The Post did, and did it well,” the judge wrote. “Great research, fascinating statistics and done in a way that was balanced. Wish we had done it!”

Judged by Carol Stark, editor, Joplin (Mo.) Globe. 34 entries.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First place: Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong, Seattle Times.
Second place: Staff, Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch.
Third place: Charles Piller, Sacramento Bee.

Berens and Armstrong win first place with “Methadone and the Politics of Pain.”

“It would have been enough if reporters Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong had simply uncovered that up to 2,173 people died after taking the painkiller methadone, a drug recommended by the state of Washington as part of an effort to save money,” the judge wrote. “That alone would have been scandalous.

“But this powerful series of stories went far beyond – capturing the pain for victims and families, the role of clueless state health officials, the recklessness of a new state law, and the fact that the state’s poorest citizens were the most likely to be victimized. For readers, it helps that the stories are simply told and accompanied by powerful photos, graphics, and video. This is classic public service journalism on a topic that spent years hidden from public view.”

Second place goes to the staff of the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch for “Decoding Prime.”

“U.S. health care is in crisis mode at every level, and these revelations help readers understand why,” the judge wrote.

“Using a massive database to sort through 51 million patient records, California Watch was able to document how a hospital chain could bleed money from Medicare by diagnosing patients with more severe and obscure diseases than they likely had. It’s the kind of behavior long suspected in the field, but this series provides the proof. An FBI and state investigation are in progress.”

Piller takes third place with “Questions raised on Bay Bridge structural tests.”

“Reporter Charles Piller’s investigation of California’s biggest public works project in history produced immediate results – public outrage, legislative hearings, and a criminal investigation,” the judge wrote. “And much of it happened within days of his first report.”

“Clear writing and excellent graphics helped readers grasp the technical aspects of the story. And Bay Area citizens will benefit from the new safety tests ordered up in the wake of the revelations about current and past problems.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “this was an incredible collection of fine work from across the region and narrowing the field to only three winners proved difficult. Reporters and editors at over a dozen newspapers (and investigative nonprofits) uncovered dangerous drugs and schools, rogue police departments, water scandals, prisoners denied habeas rights, the perils of private prisons, and a corrupt congressman. These watchdogs found questionable spending on homeland security, state employee pensions, and by a school superintendent who solicited birthday gifts for his daughter from contractors.

“Many of the results were published in compelling online presentations with video and interactive graphics. Despite everything going on in the business of journalism, these entries prove there is much inspirational – and critically important – public service work being done.”

Judged by Jim Walser, projects editor, Charlotte Observer. 32 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, SHORT FORM

First Place: Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Bob Young, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Daniel Brown, San Jose Mercury News.

Powers takes first place with “End of the road for the shoe tree,” the tale of a popular tree along the highway in Nevada and its controversial “murder.”

“The story of a felled tree is surprisingly moving in this writer’s hands,” the judge wrote. “She conveys the tree’s impact on the people who saw it, and the descriptions add emotion to the scene. … The writer also creates a sense of place with the people she interviewed and the history of this small stretch of highway.”

Young earns second with a piece on a Seattle resident who is “serious about eating locally.”

“The writer takes the meaty subject of urban squirrel eating and shows how followers of the locavore movement can take it to the extreme. The story is told with great detail and humor,” the judge wrote.

“The writer’s light touch made the story an entertaining, and educational, read.”

Third place goes to Brown for a feature “Will They Huddle Again?” on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s relationship with his mentor, Tom Martinez, who died early this year after a long battle with diabetes.

“The writer tells an inspiring story of an ailing coach and his famous student, Tom Brady,” the judge wrote. “He avoids getting overly sentimental. Personal details about their 20-year relationship help bring the story to life.”

Overall, the judge noted, “entries for this category had such a broad range: decorated war veterans, survivors of serious health problems … and a woman who eats squirrels. When considering the judging criteria – literary quality, creativity and flair – the three winners stood out for their commitment to their craft.”

Judged by Jody Mitori, features editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 31 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, LONG FORM

First Place: Jamie Rogers, Missoula Independent.
Second Place: John Nova Lomax, Houston Press.
Third Place: Julia Prodis Sulek, San Jose Mercury News.

Rogers wins first place for “The Reckoning,” which tells the somber story of a young man’s drunk driving accident and the two girls it killed.

The judge comments, “The writer of this beautiful and brave story must have a heart as big as Montana, and the soul of a poet.”

“Such exquisite details here. Such powerful understatement. It left me sobbing.”

Lomax takes second with “Texas Tweakers” an article about the meth scene and one of its central figures, James “Bull” Durham.

“This remarkably talented, smart writer uses first-rate reporting and humor to inform and entertain his readers. The result is a powerful look into the world of the Texas Tweakers that’s full of characters drawn so well you can smell them,” the judge writes.

The judge adds, “The story is so daring and creative that I’m surprised it saw the light of day in its current form in a newspaper. (Kudos to the editors. You are rock stars, too.)”

Third place goes to Sulek for an article on the voice messages left for a passenger on Flight 93, and how some callers have dealt with Sept. 11 over the past ten years.

“The power of this heartbreaking piece comes from the writer’s brilliant choice to go small to say something big – by using the voice messages left on one 9/11 victim’s cell phone as the framework,” the judge wrote.

“Maybe the best anniversary story ever written.”

The judge added, “The editors of these top three pieces are heroes for supporting such great stuff, and not dumbing it down. I’ll remember these stories for a long time.”

Judged by Colleen Kenney, director of publications, University of Nebraska Foundation. 73 entries.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First place: Craig Hlavaty, Chris Gray and Shea Serrano, Houston Press.
Second place: David Stabler, The Oregonian.
Third place: Ian S. Port, SF Weekly.

Hlavaty, Gray, and Serrano earn first place with “Getting Past the Bouncer,” a look at how minorities are routinely turned away from hot clubs in Houston.

“What a great story! Nothing can replace get-out-of-the-office shoe leather reporting and this story proves it,” the judge wrote.

“This piece deserved first place for going where readers live their everyday lives and exposing the racism they encounter every day. Stories like this end up making the world a better place. Bravo.”

Stabler grabs second place with his incisive profile of Carlos Kalmar, the polarizing music director at the helm of Portland’s Oregon Symphony.

“The lead grabs the reader by the throat, keeps them riveted with telling detail and rings with great authority,” the judge wrote. “The business could use a lot more storytelling like this.”

Port wins third place with “Pomplamoose Calls the Tune,” a look at the San Francisco outfit’s alternative approach to the ever-in-peril music business. “What could have been a routine profile of an alternative band soared,” wrote the judge. “Nice writing touches throughout and it made readers smarter.”

Judged by Roland Wilkerson, assistant features editor, Charlotte Observer. 42 entries.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING

First Place: Gene Maddaus, LA Weekly.
Second Place: Craig Malisow, Houston Press.
Third Place: Rob O’Dell, Arizona Daily Star.

Maddaus earns first place with the story of a movie producer’s wily ways and his run-in with the FBI, titled “Glen Hartford’s Hollywood Dream and How It Came to Ruin.”

“It’s not often that you read a story about a con man and actually feel sorry for him,” the judge wrote. “But that is just one of accomplishments of Greg Maddaus’ superbly written and reported piece about B-movie maker Glen Hartford.”

“This story is so compelling that it could be the basis for its own movie,” added the judge.

Second place goes to Malisow for “Down the Hatch,” a piece on a pharmaceutical for schizophrenia and the pill’s controversial history.

“This is great tell-all about how drug companies illegally promote their products for unapproved uses,” the judge wrote. “While the story is based partly on a lawsuit by the Texas attorney general, it digs deeply into the underside of how drug companies make their money, often to the harm of patients.”

O’Dell takes third place with “Bailed-out banks snap up tax liens”. The article focuses on how major banks are buying homeowners’ tax debts despite being expected to help people avoid foreclosure.

“If you didn’t have a high opinion of banks, it is only going to get worse after reading this report. This is an extremely well-reported piece on a shaddy underside of the banking business – banks that buy up tax liens when homeowners are unable to pay their property taxes,” the judge wrote.

Judged by John Fauber, medical reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 53 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING

First place: Craig Harris, Dennis Wagner and Pat Flannery, Arizona Republic.
Second place: Staff, Denver Post.
Third place: Joel Warner, Denver Westword.

Harris, Wagner and Flannery earn first place for their reporting on lavish spending by the Fiesta Bowl, which led to three criminal investigations and IRS and FEC inquiries into the bowl, along with other judicial actions and a series of reforms instituted by the NCAA.

“A newspaper’s job is to be a watchdog for its community, and the Republic owned this story from the beginning,” the judge wrote. “They helped expose possible wrongdoing, served as a vehicle for change and explained it in proper context very well on deadline.”

The Denver Post staff takes second place with its coverage of the Carmelo Anthony trade by the Denver Nuggets.

“Breaking a big story,” wrote the judge, “especially one that has been brewing for months, is difficult enough. Putting it in the proper perspective and explaining every last detail the way the Post did is extraordinary.”

“Obviously,” the judge continued, “the writer and staff knew that trade day would come eventually. When it did, they were more than ready and covered it from every angle. First-rate reporting, analysis and commentary.”

Warner garners third place for his piece on triathlete Diane Israel and the tolls her career have taken on her body and mind.

The judge called it “the raw story of one woman’s struggles to find her way in life” and praised the story for being “packed with details and emotion. Well done.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “the stories covered a wide range of topics and helped reaffirm that there is quality sports journalism taking place throughout the country on a daily basis. Depth in reporting separated the top three selections, but there were many other high quality entries. Thank you for allowing me to participate.”

Judged by Steve Bradley, lead local editor for sports, Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle. 43 entries.

GENERAL INTEREST COLUMN WRITING

First place: Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times.
Second place: Josh Brodesky, Arizona Daily Star.
Third place (tie): John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review Journal.
Third place (tie): Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian.

Brodeur earns first place for her portfolio of columns.

“Brodeur’s work stood out among an outstanding field for a number of reasons,” the judge wrote. “I loved the variety and unpredictability of her topics and stances. She fearlessly takes on the most heated of topics in her powerful column about the Swedish Medical Center’s decision to stop performing elective abortions. “Brodeur’s writing style manages to be confident and elegant, yet conversational and personal at the same time.”

“There’s lots of good reporting here too,” the judge continued, “Brodeur doesn’t just sit in her office contemplating the issues; she visits the Suquamish reservation, where the 1,000-member tribe becomes the first place in the state of Washington to approve same-sex marriage.

Brodeur’s columns are interactive in a fascinating, multi-faceted way. In many columns, she interacts directly with her subjects, and she subtly brings the reader along, too. It’s a ‘you-are-there’ approach to column-writing that’s as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking.”

“Second place goes to a rookie columnist,” the judge wrote of Josh Brodesky, “who shows a self-assurance and sophistication beyond his experience.

“I was very moved by his column about 19-year-old Pedro Espinoza, “an immigration Rorschach test” that highlights the inhumanity of our treatment of kids who are American in everything but the name. He boldly outlines the problem, and the cruelty, of treating immigrant children like criminals when they have been raised here since early childhood.”

“In another moving column,” the judge added, “Brodesky writes about veteran fellow reporters who are being laid off. Many, many reporters are experiencing similar emotions these days, but few have the courage, or the forum, to write about them.

“If Brodesky is this good in his first year as a columnist, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

The judge awarded a tie for third place, noting that “the two third-place winners are a study in contrasts, yet both exemplify the best in column-writing.”

“John L. Smith’s work begs to be described as ‘pull no punches,’ cliche though it may be,” the judge wrote. “I admired his lively writing style and hard-hitting stance on a variety of important issues, from second-hand smoke in casinos to the charity — or lack thereof — of the Nevada mining industry.

Susan Nielsen’s mature, thoughtful columns illustrate another cliche perhaps: shedding more light than heat. Yet despite the elegant, understated writing style, she takes a strong stance, particularly in her column about faith healing.

Overall, the judge wrote: “Wow — what a great group of entries. It gives me faith in the future of column-writing, even in these difficult times for our industry. I was particularly impressed with The Seattle Times’ strong roster of columnists and editorial writers. It’s clearly a place where a lot of good writing and profound thinking are going on.”

“Due to the many superb entries,” the judge continued, “this is one of the toughest judging assignments I’ve ever had. Some of my favorite pieces were written by columnists who didn’t end up winning; in my final decision, I looked for consistency and range.”

Judged by Mary McCarty, columnist and reporter, Dayton Daily News. 35 entries.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First place: Karina Bland, Arizona Republic.
Second place: John Katsilometes, Las Vegas Sun.
Third place: Ron Kantowski, Las Vegas Review Journal.

Bland takes first place with “My so-called midlife,” a portfolio that included columns on how she carries on the tradition of her late father, a Marine, by buying a round of drinks for Marines at a local bar and how she, as a single mom, considered insomnia a blessing one night because it gave her a few hours to herself.

“Simple moments that showed how profound they are,” the judge wrote. “I loved these columns. Well done!”

Second place goes to Katsilometes for “The Kats Report,” a portfolio that included columns capturing a special moment as Paul McCartney performed a song about John Lennon’s death to an audience that included Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon and providing a tribute to a favorite grandfather that he knew as “The Funny Man.”

“These columns entertained, as well as took personal risks,” the judge wrote. “I liked them a lot.”

Kantowski takes third place with a portfolio that includes columns on the dangers of Wiffle Ball and the death of race car driver Dan Weldon.

“The story of the brain tumor was top notch,” the judge wrote. “These columns are well-written with great description and story.”

Judged by Lee Hill Kavanaugh, Kansas City Star. 45 entries.

HEADLINE WRITING

First place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review Journal.
Second place: James Yu, The Oregonian.
Third place: Ron Jenkins, The Oregonian.

Riggle takes first place with a package of headlines, including“Loving sports fan can be rah deal” on a woman’s column about her football-loving fiancé and “Sultan of smack Harper simply being 18-year-old” on a column about the outcry over a hitter who blew a kiss at the pitcher after he blasted a home run.

“All of the headlines in the entry from George Riggle of the Las Vegas Review-Journal are spot-on for their tone,” the judge wrote. “He shows a great talent for using words in clever ways that add depth to his headlines. In no case does he sacrifice accuracy or accessibility for his wordplay.

“For example, ‘Old-whirl charm’ invites us to read about an old carousel in a new location. For a story about the county that’s home to the Jack Daniel’s distillery and its search for new revenue, we are treated to ‘County’s fiscal plan: taxing the pour.’ A poignant headline about a transplant patient makes readers think, but, more importantly, will make them want to read: ‘Not an organ donor? Consider a change of heart.’

Second place goes to Yu for headlines that include “Totally spineless, but completely mesmerizing,” on an article about teens learning about invertebrates as part of a Portland naturalist program and “More funds … or its curtains” on an article about the Vancouver Symphony pleading for $100,000 in donations to stay afloat.

“James Yu of The Oregonian showed great ingenuity in saying a lot with very few words,” the judge wrote.

“He packs multiple levels of meaning into his headlines. Two lead sports stories illustrate this. The Ducks lost a key game to USC when their kicker missed a last-second attempt, wide left, and thus cost the team a chance at the national title. Yu covered all of that by writing: ‘Left – out of the picture.’ Earlier in the season, they lost to powerhouse LSU, and Yu covered the national implications by writing: ‘S-E-C you later, Ducks.’ His overline for a photo of an old gent who returned to the University of Oklahoma to get his degree after 61 years was simple and elegant: Sooner, much later.’

Jenkins garners third place with a portfolio that includes “Sugar high with a tequila chaser” on a review of a Kenny Chesney concert and “Oregon not ready to rumble” on an article looking at preparations for a major earthquake.

“Ron Jenkins of The Oregonian has fun with his headlines, and no doubt his readers do as well,” the judge wrote.

“For a column about a power-hungry water bureau chief, he writes: ‘Leonard’s leaky bureau soaks us all.’ For a business column about a woman who had a dispute with a small business: ‘Landscaper keeps check; homeowner feels clipped.’ For a feature about a skateboarder: ‘Elder skatesman fends off young board rivals.’ You know a headline writer is on the right track when all of his entries are concise, creative and compelling.

Judged by Dan Duke, copy editor for The Virginian-Pilot and online producer for PilotOnline. 18 entries.

EDITORIAL WRITING

First Place: Glenn Cook, Las Vegas Review Journal.
Second Place: Doug MacEachern, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: John Kerr, Las Vegas Review Journal.

First place goes to Cook for the editorial “RTC bus contract goes round and round,” criticizing the extended process of negotiating the Las Vegas bus contract.

“This piece begins with an adaptation of a childhood ditty, the kind of approach that can often go awry,” the judge wrote. “But Glenn Cook is creative and clever enough to pull it off. He then switches gears, explaining in plain English a somewhat complicated set of circumstances. The rare combination of creativity and clarity makes it a winner.”

MacEachern earns second place with “Citizens suffer in Arpaio’s wars.”

“Doug MacEachern penetrates the bluster and posturing that Sheriff Joe Arpaio uses to deflect criticism by focusing intently on the sheriff’s dismal performance of his job duties. In the best traditions of journalism, MacEachern deftly documents how Arpaio’s incompetence has denied justice and protection to innocent victims,” says the judge.

Kerr takes third for the editorial “Separation of powers,” about a lawsuit in Nevada over a state senator’s multiple positions.

The judge writes, “John Kerr’s clear language and logical argument bring clarity to a complex issue, producing a thoroughly convincing argument. Well done.”

Judged by Jay Bookman, columnist and blogger, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 15 entries.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: Joe Amon, Denver Post
Second place: AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post
Third place: Michael Chow, Arizona Republic

Amon wins first place with his shot of an Occupy Denver protester being arrested by Colorado State Patrol officers.

“The photographer captured high emotion and action with dramatic light,” the judges wrote, “and the photo has an immediacy that puts the viewer in the action.”

Ontiveroz takes second with his photograph of bloodied 26-year-old Brenda Gutierrez reeling from a serious car accident.

“All space contributes to the story, and the backlighting brings attention to the woman,” the judges wrote. “Her body language is very expressive and emotionally compelling.”

Chow earns third with his unnerving shot of a baseball fan nearly falling over the centerfield railing at Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby.

“Composition and lens choice put the viewer in the middle of the action, and the tilt of the frame adds energy and tension to the image,” the judges wrote.

Overall, the judges noted, “many strong images, especially from the Occupy movement, but few images that rose above quality daily work.”

Judges: Liz Martin and Cliff Jette, staff photographers, The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 30 entries.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Michael Chow, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Casey Page, Billings Gazette.
Third Place: Joe Amon, Denver Post.

Michael Chow takes first place for a photo of bighorn sheep climbing a hill under a rising moon,

The judge commented, “What a great image. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of patience required to capture this image. A lot of forethought too, I’m sure.”

Page wins second place, with the image pf young dancers in white on their way to the stage and a crossing guard to help them get there.

The judge called the photo “A true slice of life,” and “Just a great ‘found’ situation that epitomizes the definition of a feature.”

Third place goes to Amon for the a photo from Estes Park capturing a fisherman’s encounter with an elk in a mountain stream.

“What are the chances!” exclaimed the judge. “Perhaps not the best aesthetically. but a surprising photo nonetheless and a true found moment.”

For the category overall, the judge wrote, “There were a lot of strong entries and it was a tough choice for second and third place.”

Judged by Michel Fortier, director of visuals, Naples Daily News. 44 entries.

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

First place: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times
Second place: Michael Chow, Arizona Republic
Third place: John Locher, Las Vegas Review Journal

Gauthier earns first place with “Head-Turner,” his photograph of UCLA linebacker Sean Westgate being brought down by the face mask by Colorado’s Ryan Deehan after an interception.

“great moment. Technically superb,” the judge wrote.

Chow wins second place with his bird’s eye shot of Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips laying on the ground after being tagged out at home by Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Henry Blanco.

“Perfect illustration [and an] unusual point of view,” the judge wrote.

John Locher takes third place with his take on Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s crushing blow to Victor Ortiz during the World Boxing Council Welterweight title fight.

“Boxing action doesn’t get better than this,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, there were “some fine entries here. But these three are clearly the winners in sports. It’s almost always about timing with the best sports pictures and the football and boxing photos are the right instant. Great work and kudos to all.”

Judged by Gary Kemper, director for North America, European Pressphoto Agency. 43 entries.

SLIDESHOW

First place: Craig F. Walker, Denver Post.
Second place: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.
Third place: Staff, Denver Post.

Walker wins first place with “Welcome Home: The Story of Scott Ostrom,” a profile of a U.S. Marine suffering from PTSD after two tours in Iraq.

“This was such an undeniably powerful, important and stunning story,” the judges wrote.

“The judges work in a military area, and the magnitude of this story and social issue is hardly lost on us. Each photo was impeccably executed and self-evident. In addition to the meticulous execution of the images, the entry was held together with a very thoughtful, highly disciplined, and TIGHT edit. Absolutely every image was purposeful and meaningful, easily conveying the dire and desperate nature of Scott’s struggles. This entry began strong, ended strong, and was unrelenting throughout. The ending image – a storm as metaphor – was the perfect way to finish a story like this. Really. Nicely. Done.”

Oza achieves second place with his photographic profile a Mexican drug rehabilitation facility.

“Clearly, this was a very highly stylistic and lyrical set of images,” the judges wrote. “With the first-place story, it rose above the rest in the consistent style and execution of the images. Its strength was the consistent and arresting aesthetics of the images, which were cohesive in their vision and really ‘put the viewer there.’ Arguably, this entry conveyed a sense-of-place perhaps better than any other entry.”

“Over and above the seductive imagery, however,” the judges continued, “the collection of photos struggled to hang together. It was challenged by the discipline of the edit, which wasn’t as tight as it could have been (though it was tighter than the remaining finalists). In the end, it was less of a strong story than it was a poignant and sometimes dark photo essay, full of interpretive imagery, moments and haunting portraits, but ultimately coming short of an explicit, strong and overarching narrative, or message.”

The staff at the Denver Post takes third place with a portrait of Occupy Denver’s clash with the police, capturing the drama and intensity of the movement.

“Powerful photojournalism, among other things, takes people into places where they can’t go – or in this case, dare not go,” the judges wrote.

“So this very strong series of news images showing the clash between the Occupy Denver protestors and police rose to the top with the judges. Again, this entry was bolstered by a tight edit and consistently powerful and arresting (no pun intended) imagery. The photographers braved many risks by entering into the conflict, and the images put the readers there – and certainly much closer to the action than they’d want to go. Congratulations on an exemplary job at covering a news story.”

Overall, the judges wrote, “The editing among the entries seemed to make the difference and was the factor that parsed out the entries from one another. In general, the tighter the edit, the better the piece did in the contest. The loose-edited work suffered from redundant or secondary images and brought on viewer fatigue. Entrants are encouraged to think very critically about their selects and make every image count.”

Judged by Martin Smith-Rodden, daily sections photo editor and team leader; Randall Greenwell, director of photography; Ross Taylor, staff photographer; and Hyunsoo Leo Kim, staff photographer, all of the Virginian-Pilot. 25 entries.

INFORMATIONAL GRAPHIC

First place: Nathaniel Levine and Tony Bizjak, Sacramento Bee.
Second place: Staff, Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch.
Third place: Mike Tigas and Ryan Pitts, Spokane Spokesman Review.

Levine and Bizjakearns earn first place with “Inside Sacramento International Airport’s $1 billion upgrade, an interactive graphic about a new terminal and jet concourse building.

“This piece is very thorough in information,” the judge wrote. “The depth of each subtopic and range in detail is everything the viewer needs to know. All interactive possibilities was considered.”

Second place goes to the staff of the Center for Investigative Reporting and California watch for “The Price of Gas,” a journalism cartoon examining the external costs of gasoline use, including air pollution and health problems.

“The entire video animation flowed very well,” the judge wrote. “Everything seemed timed correctly, not overly fast, a pace that you can digest information. Visuals are kept stylized and transitions are clear so that the viewer can easily pass from one thought to another, section to section.”

Tigas and Pitts grab third place with an interactive
“Census 2010: Washington” package.

“The Census interactive is clear, easy to read and navigate,” the judge wrote. “As one would assume with a Census interactive, there is a huge quantity of information organized with the user in mind.”

Judged by Cindy Jones-Hulfachor, interim graphics editor/senior graphics reporter, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. 26 entries.

PAGE DESIGN

First place: Jen Levario Cieslak, Arizona Republic.
Second place: Colin D. Smith, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third place: Brandon Ferrill, Arizona Republic.

Cieslak takes first place with a front page package that used stark, black-and-white photos to illustrate a look back at the shooting that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a dozen others and killed six at a political event outside a Safeway store in Tucson.

“‘Tucson tragedy: A fatal chain of events’ is powerfully presented,” the judge wrote. “Bold, iconic photos are powerful in their simplicity, displayed perfectly in an organized and uncomplicated style. This entry was by far the most distinctive in this group of entries.”

Second place goes to Smith for his front page retrospective on the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2011.

“‘9/11′ is also powerfully presented,” the judge wrote. “I applaud the designer for taking such bold chances in an A1 design. Love the simple typography, torn edges in the lead image and the bold use of white space.”

Ferrill grabs third place with an NFL preview package.

“‘NFL preview 2011′ is an elegant presentation,” the judge wrote. “Love the stylized lead photo and the restrained use of typography.”

Judged by Christopher Kozlowski, director of graphics and multimedia, St. Petersburg Times. 72 entries.

VIDEO STORYTELLING

First Place: Mahala Gaylord, Craig F. Walker and Meghan Lyden, Denver Post.
Second Place: Michael Chow, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Dai Sugano, Julia Prodis Sulek, San Jose Mercury News.

Gaylord, Walker and Lyden earn first place with the project “Welcome Home: The Story of Scott Ostrom,” about a Marine who served in Iraq and faced PTSD and personal conflicts after returning home.

“A stunningly shot, masterfully edited portrait of life after war,” the judge wrote. “Just when you think it’s gone on too long, it turns another corner and takes you deep into the recesses of a mind still haunted by where it has been and what it is supposed to do now.”

Second place goes to Chow for a video on two gay men from Phoenix who have adopted 12 children, “creating a home and a family with much joy and laughter.”

“Great character video, tight editing,” the judge wrote. “Just a fun piece with a lot of heart.”

Sugano and Sulek earn third with a Sept. 11 anniversary piece about one Flight 93 passenger’s voice mail messages.
“A fresh take on the 9/11 anniversary, showing how one lost life changed many,” the judge wrote. “The editing was a bit clumsy, but the story overpowered.”

Judged by Andrew Satter, former video producer, CQ Roll Call. 24 entries.

MULTIMEDIA STORYTELLING

First Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Staff, California Watch, Center for Investigative Reporting.
Third Place: Staff, Las Vegas Sun.

The staff at the Seattle Times wins first place for a package on the largest dam-removal project in North America, in the Elwha River valley.

“This piece was, in one word, elegant,” the judges wrote. “The display was logical – the judges knew where to click first. The main video was well-executed, the photography was stunning and the supplemental interactive media was well-balanced and fit within the sensibilities of the piece.”

The staff at California Watch takes second for expansive coverage of seismic safety at California public schools, titled “On Shaky Ground.”

“This was an impressive piece of journalism,” the judges wrote. “The use of media – from document clouds, to timelines, to iPhone app, to interactive maps – was thorough and at times exhausting.

“The biggest criticism about the piece was ease of navigation. The judges felt that with such a massive undertaking on the reporting and data collection, there needed to be clearer and more cohesive way to display the overall story with all its bells and whistles.”

The award for third place goes to the staff at the Las Vegas Sun for “The Turnaround: Inside Clark County Schools,” a yearlong project to examine an underperforming Las Vegas school district.

“A very good collection of stories, videos and graphics that paint a picture of community wanting change,” the judges wrote. “Clean and simple storytelling.”

For the category in general, the judges noted, “Very interesting submissions – that prompted a lot of discussion from the judges. Although traditionally we would critique heavily just on the quality of the videos, in this contest we took storytelling AND presentation as critical components to our judgments.”

Judged by Bumber DeJesus, multimedia editor, Newark Star-Ledger. 17 entries.

NEWS REPORTING IN SPANISH

First place: César Arredondo, Ahora Utah.
Second place: Laressa Watlington, Viva Colorado.
Third place: Normand Garcia, Lee Davidson and Josie Tizcareño Pereira, Ahora Utah.

Arredondo grabs first place with “Hispanos se indignan con el mundo en ‘Occupy SLC’,” an article on Hispanics who have joined the “Occupy Salt Lake City” movement over social and economic issues.

“Multiple sources and a well-written story help readers understand a worldwide movement – and shows that Latinos are part of it,” the judge wrote.

Watlington takes second place with her immigration series, which included a look at the Secure Communities program, and a profile of the undocumented children who became college students.

“Very good job reporting,” the judge wrote. “The story really shows the impact in Hispanic families.”

Third places goes to the Ahora Utah trio for a look back at an immigration raid at a Swift & Co. meat-packing plant five years ago in which 65 workers were charged with identity theft.

“A well-crafted report on a raid that shook the community,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Rafael Palacio of El Sentinel in Orlando. Fla. 3 entries.

FEATURE WRITING IN SPANISH

First place: Laressa Watlington, Viva Colorado.
Second place: César Arredondo, Ahora Utah.
Third place: Laressa Watlington, Viva Colorado.

Watlington earns first place with “Raices latinas en Colorado son profundas,” an article about the ethic intolerance faced by Hispanics despite their deep roots in the West, which drew their ancestors as early as 1500, decades ahead of the arrival of the Mayflower.

Second place goes to Arredondo for “Sundance vuelve latino,” which reported on the five Latino films among the 14 competing for the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Watlington takes third place with “Los tres grandes amores de Argentina: el tango, el fútbol y la comida,” a profile of the Argentine community in Denver.

Judged by Rafael Palacio of El Sentinel in Orlando. Fla. 5 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING IN SPANISH

First place: Josie Tizcareño Pereira and Michael C. Lewis, Ahora Utah.

Tizcareño and Lewis took first place for “Copa CONCACAF: Sueño de unos, desilusión de otros,” their coverage of the defeat of the Real Salt Lake soccer team by one from Monterrey, Mexico, for the CONCAF championship and a shot at the World Cup title.

Second and third place were not awarded.

Judged by Rafael Palacio of El Sentinel in Orlando. Fla. 1 entry.