2015 contest results

Here are the final results of the 2015 contest. Some of them were revised after the discovery of an error in the processing of entries in contest software.


First Place: Rob Davis, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Paul Rogers, Lisa M. Krieger and Aric Crabb, San Jose Mercury News.
Third Place: Brandon Loomis and David Wallace, Arizona Republic.
Honorable Mention: Anita Hofschneider and PF Bentley, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Rob Davis earns first place with his coverage of trains moving oil across Oregon, starting with this piece.

“People are safer and natural treasures protected thanks to the work of Rob Davis in reporting on the oil trains of Oregon. He bit down on this story like a bulldog and never let go, exposing corruption and incompetence among officials in government and business who appear motivated largely by greed and self-interest,” the judge wrote.

“With disturbing revelations around every bend over the five months this scandal unfolded, The Oregonian drove the story and its outcomes. This is a true newspaper crusade, written with the authority that can only come from thorough, painstaking investigation.”

Paul Rogers, Lisa M. Krieger and Aric Crabb take second place with their reporting on the California drought, including a special report following water from the source, speculation on the severity and length of the drought and a breakdown of water use.

“This series was developed from beginning to end with the audience in mind, bringing home — right to their lawns and faucets – the whys and hows of a looming existential crisis for the Golden State. It is far and away the best among the many contest entries focused on the drought, in large part because it is the best-written. Complex scientific topics are made clear, even compelling. This is, of course, a story about water, but in the way it is told by the Mercury-News, it is more importantly a story about people,” the judge wrote.

The entry “represents explanatory journalism at its best,” the judge added.

Third goes to Brandon Loomis and David Wallace for a series on uranium mining on Navajo land (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

“The Republic shows in a series of searing stories and images how new plans to ramp up uranium mining tear open a wound that never healed,” the judge wrote. “So bleak and painful are the tales told here from the Navajo reservation they bring a tear to the eye. That this dark chapter in Southwest history may play itself out again gives this series vital importance.”

Anita Hofschneider and PF Bentley receive an honorable mention for “Promised Land.”

“‘Promised Land stands out as a definitive, magazine-level exploration of a topic that is itself remarkable – the conflict between ancient tradition and modern warfare against a backdrop of tarnished beauty,” the judge wrote. “The work is strengthened by visual storytelling that enlivens this ‘most bombed island in the Pacific.’ With engaging writing and presentation, ‘Promised Land’ shows how history and politics play out in the lives of people who cherish this land and of those who have exploited it.”

Overall, the judge continued, “Many of the 34 entries hit some of the marks established in the contest rules but few beyond the winners hit them all. Many tackled the topics of drought and energy extraction, and in a variety of ways, showing a welcome willingness to take on the biggest issues in the region. I applaud those teams who showed creative approaches to telling their stories and especially those who also gave more than lip service to relevance by demonstrating how the story hits their readers right where they live. ‘Community importance,’ a quality prized in Best of the West, arises from individual importance, as a number of entries seemed to recognize.”

Judged by Dennis Joyce, metro editor, Tampa Tribune. 34 entries.


First Place: Daniel Gonzalez, Bob Ortega and Michael Kiefer, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Rob O’Dell and Bob Ortega, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Tovin Lapan, The Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Perla Trevizo and Carli Brosseau, Arizona Daily Star.
Honorable Mention: Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News.

Daniel Gonzalez, Bob Ortega and Michael Kiefer win first place with “A Pipeline of Children: Child Migrant Crisis at the Border.”

“We’re taken into the Central American countries where the flood of children originated,” the judge wrote. “This gives us, the reader, a much greater understanding of the problem that we could get from reporting only on our side of the border. Kudos to this team for expending the time and effort to do all this.”

Rob O’Dell and Bob Ortega take second for the project “Force at the Border.”

“Many times we’ve read stories about Israeli troops responding to Palestinian rock throwers with deadly force. To learn it is happening along our own border was shocking. Kudos for all the record work invovled.”

Third place goes to Tovin Lapan for “Maroooned in Mexico,” the tale of a U.S. resident and assumed citizen who has been deported three times.

“Such a human story,” the judge wrote. “Really made me empathize with the subject.”

Perla Trevizo and Carli Brosseau receive an honorable mention for their project investigating the impact of the controversial Arizona law SB 1070.

Marjorie Cortez, who chronicled one family’s successful immigration story from Sudan and Kenya, also gets an honorable mention

Judged by Ron Brackett, deputy managing editor, Tampa Bay Times. 13 entries.


First Place: Dennis Romboy, Lisa Riley Roche and Pat Reavy, Deseret News.
Second Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Staff, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Honorable Mention: Staff, Denver Post.

Dennis Romboy, Lisa Riley Roche and Pat Reavy earn first place for their coverage of the charges filed against two former Utah attorneys general (1, 2, 3, 4).

“While the breadth and depth of this day’s coverage was remarkable, I was just as impressed with the quality of the writing. It was gripping from start to finish, even for a judge who had no previous knowledge of the events or the players in this drama,” the judge wrote.

“The reporters and editors laid out the facts in a clear and compelling manner but then took readers beyond to explore the broader implications. This wasn’t navel gazing. It was insightful analysis of a big story for Utah. And the timeline, by the way, rocked.”

The staff at the Seattle Times grabs second with coverage of a deadly mudslide in Oso, Wash.

“Sometimes the measure of a great breaking news story is the struggle to overcome reporting obstacles,” the judge wrote. “The Times’ riveting online and print accounts were in spite of the inability to get reporters and photographers to the scene of the disaster. Nevertheless, the Times’ persistence and resolve to get the facts yielded a powerful example of what journalists can do when confronted with a challenge.
“I was particularly impressed with the Times’ online coverage, which was immediate but also careful. In print, the Times’ stories were gripping from beginning to end and accompanied by superb photography and presentation.”

Third goes to the staff at Las Vegas Review-Journal for coverage of a spree of murders allegedly committed by two professional burglars (1, 2).

“This was a dandy example of breaking news storytelling. The reporters demonstrated a superb eye for detail and didn’t make the critical mistake of bogging down the top of the story with a bunch of cop-speak,” the judge wrote.

“The events were laid out logically and economically, with plenty of details to keep the reader riveted. The reporters scored some vital interviews and used the information in just the right way.”

The Denver Post staff grabs an honorable mention for reporting on the Denver Broncos’ loss at the 2014 Super Bowl. The entry included basic coverage of the game, columns by Mark Kiszla and Woody Paige, a piece on the telecast, and a slideshow.

“It’s clear that a great deal of planning went into the coverage of the 2014 Super Bowl, and this is an example of where great planning paid off,” the judge wrote. “From stories to photos to graphics, the quality of the coverage was first-rate, even though the writers, artists and editors might have gotten a jump on things considering the way the game was going early on. Even still, it’s an achievement to produce and deliver this much excellent journalism under such tight deadline pressure. The Post staff should be proud.”

Overall, the judge added, “Breaking news isn’t just murder and mayhem, even if we’re known for that here in Florida. It might be politics, it might be sports.”

The entries “reflected that diversity and made this category both fun and difficult to judge. I gravitate toward stories that are clearly told, make the best use of detail, and take advantage of storytelling opportunities. It’s clear the news organizations in this contest know a big story when they see it, and they’re willing to dedicate the resources they need to cover it well.”

Judged by Mike Lafferty, breaking news/communities editor, Orlando Sentinel. 24 entries.


First Place: John Ingold, Joe Amon and Lindsay Pierce, Denver Post.
Second Place: Matt Drange, Susanne Rust and Guardian US Interactives Team, Center for Investigative Reporting.
Third Place: Nathan Eagle and Bob Porterfield, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Honorable Mention: Jennifer Robison, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

John Ingold, Joe Amon and Lindsay Pierce take first place for “Desperate Journey,” a package following one child and his family who moved to Colorado for access to medical cannabidiol.

“A gripping exploration of the desperation that has driven a seven-fold increase in the number of children on Colorado’s medical marijuana registry in the year since CNN aired the story of Charlotte Figi. Through Ana Watson and her son, Preston, the story describes this real-life medical experiment that has little oversight and no measurement of true outcomes. The migration of parents to the ‘state of hope’ is achingly told in words, images and video,” the judge wrote.

Matt Drange, Susanne Rust and the Guardian US Interactives Team snag second with “Toxic Trail.”
“Through clear, vivid writing, reporters provide an alarming answer to the question they sought to answer: Where does toxic waste go when it leaves a Superfund site? This is true explanatory writing that uses a wide range of tools beyond text, including graphics, interactive graphics and animation. All work together with clear, engaging writing to tell a disturbing story,” the judge wrote.

Third goes to Nathan Eagle and Bob Porterfield for their “Pension Promises.”

“Reporters painstakingly drew a picture of just how deep Hawaii’s public pension hole is – a difficult undertaking given the lack of public records and accountability surrounding the pension system,” the judge wrote. “While many states and municipalities are likewise struggling with enormous pension burdens, reporters found after months of work constructing a true picture of Hawaii’s problem that in comparison, its pension problem was comparable to that of states with far larger populations and many more public employees. Great work on a topic that’s difficult to make understandable.”

An honorable mention is awarded to Robison for her coverage of the Nevada health insurance exchange, including a basic explanation of its failures, the contractor behind it, its impact on the public at large, and a follow-up late in the year.

“Exceptional explanation of the forces causing nightmarish problems for Nevada residents trying to sign up under the state’s new health care registry,” the judge wrote. “Stories clearly detail where the contractor failed in executing the registry and the resulting pain for residents – and also why the state’s initial expectations contributed to the fiasco.”
Judged by Sherry Chisenhall, editor and vice president of news, Wichita Eagle, and Pulitzer Prize juror. 53 entries.


First Place: John Canzano, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Eric Pape, Anita Hofschneider and Alia Wong, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Les Zaitz, The Oregonian.
Honorable Mention: Jennifer Brown, Joe Amon and Mahala Gaylord, Denver Post.
Honorable Mention: Mark Grossi, Tim Sheehan and Carmen George, Fresno Bee.

John Canzano takes first place for his project on alleged gang rape victim Brenda Tracy, starting with this story.

“Reporter John Canzano does a masterful job of taking a powerful story and getting out of its way. The portrayal of Brenda Tracy is intimate and unflinching. The story changed the life of its subject and forced university officials, prosecutors and police to face the truth about an old wrong. Rare is the story that succeeds on so many levels,” the judge wrote.

Second goes to Eric Pape, Anita Hofschneider and Alia Wong with “Living Hawaii.”

“As news editors seek ways to remain relevant, they would be well served to read Honolulu Civil Beat’s ‘Living Hawaii’ series, a deeply reported and well written series on the cost of living in America’s 50th state,” the judge wrote. “The stories were smartly conceived, well reported and crisply written.

“Writing about what matters to readers is a sure recipe for success, and the writers accomplished the task masterfully.”
Third place is awarded to Les Zaitz for “Hooked on failure.”

“Reporter Les Zaitz tackles a complex societal problem and dissects it brilliantly in this extremely well-reported examination of addiction programs in Oregon,” the judge wrote. “He identifies system failures at the highest levels of government, while also humanizing a problem that effects thousands. In the process, he also reveals a journalist of extraordinary ability.”

Honorable mention goes to Jennifer Brown, Joe Amon and Mahala Gaylord for “Trying to Live, Trying to Learn” about the plight of Colorado’s hidden and growing class of homeless children at atime of prosperity in many communities across the country.

Another honorable mention goes to Mark Grossi, Tim Sheehan and Carmen George for their submission
Yosemite at 150
about the history of the scenic national park.

Overall, the judge wrote, “Entries in the Project Reporting category were outstanding. More than one-third made a group of finalists considered for the top three slots, reflecting the overall strength of the group. Media organizations have faced challenges in recent years, but entries in this category clearly demonstrated that ambition, quality and execution are not suffering.”

Judged by Ken Foskett, senior editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 41 entries.


First Place: Karen de Sa and Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News.
Second Place (tie): Tod Robberson, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place (tie): Michael J. Berens and Mike Baker, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Rob Kuznia, Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci, Los Angeles News Group.

First place goes to Karen de Sa and Dai Sugano for a year-long investigative project “Drugging Our Kids.”

“The standout winner in the investigative reporting category, this exhaustive series shined a much-needed light on the overuse of psychotropic drugs in foster kids and forced the state to make changes,” the judge wrote. “This isn’t the first time this subject has been tackled, but it may be the most ambitious and effective journalism on the subject yet.
“Especially outrageous was the Merc’s finding that much of the overuse appeared to be driven by drug makers who ‘spent more than $14 million from 2010 to 2013 to woo the California doctors who treat this captive and fragile audience of patients at taxpayers’ expense.'”

Tod Robberson snags second with a series called “Profiting off the poor,” exposing a Dallas real estate criminal, including a map, infographic, and video.

“Dubbing him the ‘real estate catburgler,’ reporter Tod Robberson meticulously and exhaustively unraveled the netherworld of one Chase Fonteno, forcing Texas lawmakers to take a hard look at the doctrine of adverse possession. After trolling poor neighborhoods for abandoned houses, Fonteno and his associates would create the appearance of a legal claim, then sell the houses out from under the true deed holders, creating two victims with one transaction,” the judge wrote.
Michael J. Berens and Mike Baker also win second with “Sell Block: The empty promises of prison labor”.

“The Seattle Times’ three-part series “Sell Block” was a masterful look at an often-forgotten element of America’s massive prison system,” the judge wrote. “Mike Berens and Mike Baker dug for a year to uncover a secretive and incredibly wasteful program that included a fish farm, furniture factories and a sleezy mattress reconditioning program. The whole sordid mess cost taxpayers millions because the state was required to buy prison-made products at huge markups.”

Third goes to Rob Kuznia, Rebecca Kimitch and Frank Suraci for their investigation into the Centinela Valley Union High School District.

“Dogged reporting pulled back the veil on the shenanigans of a small, financially strapped school district. In a series reminiscent of a similar scandal several years ago in Bell, Calif., reporters deconstructed a complex employment agreement to find that the head of the small district was pulling down $660,000 for a partial work year,” the judge wrote.

“But it doesn’t stop there. They also uncovered questionable payments to board members by contractors, ridiculously high legal bills and continuing problems with student performance. Outrageous.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “There were so many great examples of solid investigative reporting here, the contest was especially hard to judge. I wish I could have also found a way to honor several additional strong efforts.

“This is my first time judging this contest and I’m mightily impressed. The entries give me great hope about the future of investigative reporting.”

Judged by Mike McGraw, special projects reporter, Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT in Kansas City. 35 entries.


First Place: Ken Armstrong, Craig Welch and Mike Carter, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Bob Ortega, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Ed Komenda, The Sunday.
Honorable Mention: Brenda Gazzar, Los Angeles News Group.
Honorable Mention: Staff, Equal Voice News.

First place goes to Ken Armstrong, Craig Welch and Mike Carter for “So Many People Yelling For Help.”

“Just wow. This is a riveting account of the mudslide in and around Oso, Washington, that claimed 40 lives,” the judge wrote. “The writing is authoritative, supported by extremely deep reporting about the events as they unfolded, the people who lived through it, those who died, the rescuers who braved treacherous conditions to save people and the one man who had warned officials of the looming disaster years earlier. Bravo!”

Second is awarded to Bob Ortega for “Descent into Chaos: Long Simmering Crisis.”

“This powerful series answers a question many Americans have posed: Why would so many children from Central America risk death to come to the U.S.?” the judge wrote. “These stories, superbly written and reported and illustrated by powerful photographs and video, expose the causes underlying this desperate migration and the American culpability underlying much of the chaos. These real stories of real kids forced to flee their homes and take a deadly 1,000-plus mile journey often alone to escape violence and corruption are almost unimaginable.”

Ed Komenda grabs third for “The World Through Militia Eyes.”

“This reporter put himself at personal risk to explore why armed men, many of them veterans, joined the resistance of rogue rancher Cliven Bundy and his dispute with the federal government over grazing rights,” the judge wrote. “The story offered insight into a world that most Americans don’t know or understand.”

Honorable mention goes to Brenda Gazzar, who submitted three pieces on distracted drivers of emergency vehicles in California: 1, 2, 3.

“This reporter took what appeared to be an isolated incident – the fatal crash of a bicyclist and a Los Angeles County sheriff’s squad car – and discovered that distracted driving by police is a growing problem,” the judge wrote. “The report showed that as more technology is placed in squad cars, the threat of distraction grows. The stories also explored efforts by various police departments to enact policies aimed at curbing distractions.”

Also receiving honorable mention was the staff at Equal Voice News for “In Border Disaster, Advocates Seek Names of the Dead.”

“This story ably explains why thousands of migrants who have died crossing the U.S. border with Mexico have gone unidentified,” the judge wrote. “The causes range from lack of missing person reports to remains too decomposed to identify. The story also traces the rise in deaths to enforcement strategies that prompt border crossers to take more dangerous routes. The story also highlights groups and local governments that are trying to identify the dead so their families can find closure. This is an important story exploring a largely invisible problem affecting marginalized people.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was an extremely difficult contest to judge. Each of the winners – and dozens of stories that didn’t win – used stellar writing and deep reporting to explain complex issues and situations. These stories stepped back from the 24-hour news cycle to provide important context and detail to help readers understand important issues, which should be the goal of any news organization. Great work all around!”

Judged by Dee J. Hall, reporter, Wisconsin State Journal. 62 entries.


First Place: Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Mike Gordon, Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Third Place: Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Kate Linthicum takes first place with Honduran parents, daughters are a family at last – for now,” a profile of a family temporarily reunited while the daughters await a deportation hearing after the daughters were caught crossing the U.S. border.
“Cuts through shrill voices on all sides of an international controversy to show that the conversation really centers on families,” the judge wrote. “Variety of sentence lengths allows the narrative to develop its own rhythm. Great detail; quotes propel the story forward. Universal themes in a uniquely Western setting.”

Second place goes to Mike Gordon for “Memories of Dad,” a piece looking at how his relationship with his father shaped his approach to parenthood.

“First person is difficult to pull off but Mike Gordon is successful with a chronicle of self-discovery – uncovering the roots of his determination to be a good father and uncovering what his father meant to him. Rings true,” the judge wrote.

Henry Brean earns third place with Quest for quiet leads Henderson man into the wild.
“A uniquely Western look into the “quest” of a uniquely Western character,” the judge wrote. “Unexpected, engaging. Makes us all stop for a moment to consider the noise that surrounds us in our everyday lives.”

Judged by William Crum, local news reporter, Daily Oklahoman. 69 entries.


First Place: John Ingold, Denver Post.
Second Place: Ashley Powers, California Sunday Magazine.
Third Place: Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News.
Honorable Mention: David Montero, Los Angeles News Group.

John Ingold takes first place with “Desperate Journey,” a piece following one child and his family who moved to Colorado for access to medical cannabidiol.
“Deep reporting and taut, vivid storytelling bring to light a timely and important subject. Ingold writes with authority, compassion and control,” the judge wrote.

Ashley Powers snags second for her feature “Their Town” about a former Latter-Day Saints fundamentalist who moves back to his hometown.

“Gorgeous storytelling about a culture and landscape that feel impenetrable,” the judge wrote. “The best kind of story – it transports us to a place we would otherwise never go.”
Third goes to Lisa M. Krieger, for “From Mountaintop to Water Tap.”

“A fresh, inviting take on a critical issue,” the judge wrote.

David Montero receives honorable mention for his piece on a homeless man killed by a car that crashed into a donut shop.

“A classic story, so well done,” the judge wrote.
Overall, the judge wrote, “The winners rise above all the cliches of feature writing. They are rich and rewarding reading experiences that answer questions we didn’t yet think to ask, and take us inside perspectives we would otherwise never pause to consider.”

Judged by Kelley Benham French, professor of practice, Indiana University Media School. 84 entries.


First Place: Ray Mark Rinaldi, Denver Post.
Second Place: Erin Ryan, Las Vegas Weekly.
Third Place: Sam McManis, Sacramento Bee.
Honorable Mention: Cathalena Burch, Arizona Daily Star.

First place is awarded to Ray Mark Rinaldi for “DEVO’s Mark Mothersbaugh gets an exhibit at Denver’s MCA.”

“This is a superb piece, filled with brio and expertise,” the judge wrote.

Erin Ryan snags second with “The hip-shaking, hit-slinging, all-out appeal of Earl Turner.”
“Impressively atmospheric, and personal without being self-indulgent, this profile sings and shimmies with energy,” the judge wrote.

Sam McManis takes third for “Poetry With Ranch Dressing.”

“Beautifully written and reported,” the judge wrote.
An honorable mention goes to Cathalena Burch, who submitted “Bisbee’s style suits comic Doug Stanhope.”

“This profile is constantly surprising and always illuminating,” the judge wrote. “The author remains impressively non-judgmental.”
Judged by Julia Keller, author and Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing. 49 entries.


First Place: Paul Giblin, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Lane Anderson, Deseret News.
Third Place: Christina Jewett and Will Evans, Center for Investigative Reporting.
Honorable Mention: Craig Malisow, Houston Press.
Honorable Mention: McKenzie Romero, Deseret News.

Paul Giblin earns first place for “F-35 behind schedule, over budget,” plus two sidebars.

Second place goes to Lane Anderson for “Can the simple innovation of paying moms for milk save newborns?”

Christina Jewett and Will Evans snag third for “Medical firm profited on pain with knockoff spine surgery hardware.”

Honorable mention goes to Craig Malisow for “Selling Homes, Ruining Lives: Getting Rich in Real Estate the Scott Wizig Way,”.

Another honorable mention is awarded to McKenzie Romero for “A slice of success: Family pizza business moving from parking lot to indoor eatery.”

Judged by Mike Kellams, associate managing business editor, Chicago Tribune. 49 entries.


First Place: Daniel Brown, San Jose Mercury News.
Second Place: Geoff Baker, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Keith Sharon, The Oregonian.
Honorable Mention: Ed Graney, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Daniel Brown captures first for a piece on San Francisco Giant Sergio Romo’s relationship with a teen with cancer.

“Very moving piece, told masterfully with understated clarity,” the judge wrote. “Great detail as to Ariel’s weakening condition but undying fight, and well-executed questions to Ariel’s mom, Crystal.

“The lead was just right, using a great example of Sergio Romo’s concern for the girl who would become his close friend. Far and away, the best of the bunch.”
Geoff Baker snags second place with “Soccer-team owner accused of sexual assault, harassment.”

“This was investigative reporting at its best,” the judge wrote. “It was thorough and detailed, with both sides of the assault charges quoted. Getting the owner himself to comment – and at length – was very good. And no side of the assault was left untold.”

Keith Sharon takes third place with “Linfield quarterback Sam Riddle’s long journey home.”

“I was impressed with the lead and how the writer kept me wondering what Riddle’s secret was. There wasn’t much waiting to find out – which was good – and I was quickly engulfed in Riddle’s life-altering dilemma through a series of subplots and comments from the principle characters/voices of the piece,” the judge wrote.

An honorable mention goes to Ed Graney for “Peers explain what made Maddux smartest pitcher ever.”

“I learned a lot about Greg Maddux through a nice choice of different voices and their stories about the pitcher. The writing was very good, with smart turns of phrase and clarity in what was being laid out,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Don R. Skwar, coordinating producer, ESPN. 28 entries.


First Place: Gordon Keith, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Denby Fawcett, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Glenn Cook, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Gordon Keith takes first place for his portfolio of columns, including “Shell of a former self,” “Missing the mark,” and “Slow dancing in their dreams.”

“Gordon Keith of The Dallas Morning News took my breath away. The heart of his stories beat lively in a reader’s mind. He distills the larger-world experience of being human – public ridicule, failing health, loss of a mother – through storytelling zest and insightful facts. His use of dialogue in columns – a man’s slow paralysis, or why Keith’s mother saved a shell from his boyhood – consistently hits an emotional bullseye,” the judge wrote.

Second is awarded to Denby Fawcett for columns including “A Pidgin Guide to the Fall of Abercrombie,” “For Reporters, Jihadist Wars More Dangerous Than Vietnam,” and “Domestic Violence in Hawaii.”

“Hawaii’s Denby Fawcett exudes originality with regionality, a rarity in a homogenous era,” the judge wrote. “She uses an enlightening smatter of Hawaiian pidgin English to explain what an incumbent governor doesn’t get about the people he serves and why he lost the election. In another column about domestic violence, she exposes a police culture of dismissing victim’s complaints and many who beat up their own spouses. In another column … she contrasts her reporting experiences in Southeast Asia with risks journalists face today in the Middle East: abductions, imprisonment, and beheadings.

“She writes commentary that opens eyes, and changes minds.”

Glenn Cook snags third place with such pieces as “Gun control lobby wrong on Wilcox,” “On pro sports, proceed with caution,” and “Sounding the alarm on pension reform.”

“Glenn Cook of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has a commanding, get-to-the-point writing style. He launches direct assaults against policies, such as how the lack of a residency requirement for firefighters in North Las Vegas results in a majority of employees who live far outside the area, including Alabama. Whether he is confronting issues such as gun control, bringing in major league sports teams to Las Vegas, or pension reform, his demand for accountability is fueled by sound research. He is a formidable opponent,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was a super duper difficult category to judge because all the submissions were outstanding and very different in voices, styles, and approaches; there was excellence on all fronts.”

Judged by Suzette Martinez Standring, author of The Art of Column Writing. 22 entries.


First Place: John Canzano, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Ed Graney, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Stephen Lemons, Phoenix New Times.

John Canzano takes first place for his portfolio, which includes two columns on a victim of sexual violence involving former Oregon State University football players (1, 2), “The Olympian in Room 48 is very much alive,” and “Even the sad stories can have true heroes.”

“Canzano is the class of the competition, a first-class storyteller who understands that point of view must be educated by strong reporting. His columns are compelling, detailed and hard-hitting,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Ed Graney for his portfolio, including “The birthplace of Little League,” “U.S. loves soccer but can’t play it — yet,” and “Clean base hit is tangible triumph for autistic boy.”

“Ed Graney is that rare sports columnist who writes about life through the lens of athletic competition. Good balance between opinion and storytelling. Sometimes touching, other times he offers a punch to the gut,” the judge wrote.

Third is awarded to Stephen Lemons with such columns as “Tom Horne, ‘General Lawbreaker,’ Is So Guilty Even His Denials Sound Like Admissions,” “Joe Arpaio’s Investigating Federal Judge G. Murray Snow, DOJ, Sources Say, and Using a Seattle Scammer To Do It,” and “Casting Millstones: Ugliness and Hysteria Has Been the Response of Too Many Americans to the Plight of Migrant Kids.”

“Lemons lays out the facts and lets them tell the story, not offering too much of his own opinion before his readers have enough information to make up their own minds. Excellent reporting. Lively style,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Tony Messenger, editorial page editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 36 entries.


First Place: Matthew Crowley, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Chris Ledermuller, Los Angeles News Group.
Honorable Mention: Jake Arnold, The Oregonian.
Honorable Mention: Robyn Vines Smith, Albuquerque Journal.

Matthew Crowley takes first with his portfolio of five headlines.

‘Wrappers’ Delight’ and ‘Cook ’em Danno’ are retro-pop-culture references that just make me happy – and they work,” the judge wrote.

“There’s no fat in ‘Hazardous Waists.’ But the clincher, the best headline I’ve seen this year, is ‘Now in previews: The vagina analogues.’ Inspired risk-taking at its best.”

Second place goes to George Riggle for his portfolio.

“More great popular culture twists: ‘It’s not easy fleeing green,’ (Kermit vs. Godzilla?); ‘In death, Michael Jackson King of Popping Back Up’ is a sweet play on Michael’s regal title; ‘Y’all Strum Back Now’ had me filling in the ‘Hear?’ from the ‘Beverly Hillbillies,'” the judge wrote.

‘Flip the Scripture’ nailed what ‘The Book of Mormon’ is all about. Then there’s the perfect word choice in ‘Indelible Mark.’ It works alone over Twain’s picture, evoking the writer’s importance, but the subhed delivers the news that it was he who was marked by his hometown.”

Chris Ledermuller grabs third place.

“Inviting and well-executed wordplay on ‘Jalapeno paupers?’ ‘Piquing duck’ works perfectly above the picture, quickly tells the story and is just lots of fun. ‘When they pour, they reign’ is a nifty mix-up of the old expression. Well done,” the judge continued.

Honorable mention goes to Jake Arnold for his portfolio, including “Steady hand finds fit at Puppet Labs” and “Communicable Fear.”

‘Lillard’s engine runs on doubt. It just got fueled’ nicely describes the player’s situation and motivation. The headline turns the ignition for for readers of that column. That’s what great headlines do,” the judge wrote.

Robyn Vines Smith gets an honorable mention for entries that include “Don’t hit PAWS,” “Holy ‘hoppers.”

‘The People Speak” is a good overline for the package; then the deck slyly delivers the news that the council will continue to ‘limit the time it listens.’ Good one-two punch. And how could any dog-loving reader not love ‘Heal, boy’?” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “Very strong feature headlines from some obviously talented people.”

Judged by Rich Mills, copy editor, Omaha World-Herald. 29 entries.


First Place: Staff, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Second Place: Mark Hester, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Glenn Cook, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The staff at Honolulu Civil Beat takes first with “Homeless Policy: Sand Island Camp Is a Waste of Money.”

“The authors provide a well-researched, clear argument about an important and well defined public policy issue,” the judge wrote.

Second is awarded to Mark Hester, who entered “Time for longshore union to admit it’s wrong: Editorial Agenda 2014.”

“Long on context, this editorial has a strong voice and makes a compelling argument,” the judge wrote.

Glenn Cook snags third place for an editorial on the handling of the standoff with Cliven Bundy and the federal Bureau of Land Management’s long-standing secrecy.

“This editorial shows tremendous institutional knowledge about the BLM and is filled with a wealth of examples to back up its point,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Andrew Green, opinion editor, Baltimore Sun. 27 entries.


First Place: Will Lester, Los Angeles News Group.
Second Place: Karl Mondon, San Jose Mercury News.
Third Place: Roberto Rosales, Albuquerque Journal.

First place is awarded to Will Lester for a photograph of a firefighter with Southern California’s Colby Fire in the background overwhelming the home of the Singer family of Singer sewing machines.

“Judges were impressed that the photographer was able to be there in the thick of the fire as it was starting to spread,” the judge wrote.

Karl Mondon earns second with his shot of a bloody burglary suspect who kept police at a 13-hour standoff in San Jose.

“Unusual and dramatic,” the judge wrote.

Roberto Rosales snags third place with his photograph of rescue workers pulling a man out of an arroyo in Albuquerque.

“The arroyo rescue photo, like first and second place, showed the value of being there and communicating clearly,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, “Contestants showed creative looks at general news, but the spot news entries rose to the top.”

Judged by John Sale, visuals editor, Memphis Commercial Appeal. 25 entries.


First Place: Johnny Nguyen, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Craig F. Walker, Denver Post.
Third Place: Drew Perine, Tacoma News Tribune.
Honorable Mention: L.E. Baskow, Las Vegas Sun.

First place is awarded to Johnny Nguyen, who snapped “The Hug” from a post-Ferguson protest in Portland.

“First place was a ‘photo of power,'” the judge wrote. “Clearly an important photo from last year. The authentic, emotional, human-focused and storytelling content drove the power of the image.”

Craig F. Walker takes second for his photograph of a mentally ill Denver man.

“Second place gave us an authoritative glimpse into a timely and hugely important topic: the struggles of people with mental illness,” the judge wrote. “The image presents as a portrait that allows us a rare look into the subject’s chaotic world. It, too, is a powerful image that’s driven by the emotional and storytelling content, and clear sense of humanity.

“It is work like this that can build understanding, and address the barriers and stigma that people with mental illness face.”

Third goes to Drew Perine for his photograph “Downpour doesn’t dampen spirit” from a college graduation.

“Third place edged-in because of the value of the moment and emotional content,” the judge wrote. “I can see how this image could motivate the newspaper page (or story/webpage) that it’s on. Simple. Clean. Just fun.”

L.E. Baskow earns an honorable mention for “Lanterns In The Sky.”

Baskow’s photo “was a thoughtful and visually innovative approach – a simple and arresting standalone feature of a lantern festival, where a time exposure captured the lanterns as they took flight into the sky. This made for an intriguing image and a visual treat for readers.”

Judged by Martin Smith-Rodden, photojournalist, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. 42 entries.


First Place: Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal.
Second Place: Steve McCrank, Los Angeles News Group.
Third Place: Derreck Barlow, Houston Press.

Greg Sorber earns first place with a photo of a high school basketball player.

“The first place photo of the La Cueva basketball player works at many different levels,” the judges wrote. “Great moment with player showing his bloody hand. Good context with adjacent broken window. Credit the photographer for staying with this player away from the game action. Strong story telling image.”

Second place goes to Steve McCrank, who entered “Painful fall” of a high school runner.

“‘Painful fall’ is the moment,” the judges wrote. “Runner’s expression is nicely framed by the flying feet and the bloody shin. A moment either side of this one and everything would have changed. Judges thought it was a ‘hell of a frame!'”

Third is awarded to Derreck Barlow for “Bull Run Selfie.”

“Judges laughed out loud when first viewing ‘Bull Run Selfie,'” the judges wrote. “The picture works nicely both as a sports action photo and cultural comment with the ‘selfie.’ In a few years this photo could be a nice comment on our times.”

Overall, the judges added, “The sports photography category contained nice action and feature. Many dramatic and emotional moments, peak moments and lots of humor. And the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.”

Judged by Jeff Wheeler, photographer; Brian Peterson, photographer; Jerry Holt, photographer; Mark Vancleave, visual journalist; Tom Sweeney, photo editor; and David Denney, photo editor; all of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). 46 entries.


First Place: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Roberto Rosales, Adolphe Pierre-Louis and Greg Sorber, Albuquerque Journal.
Third Place: Mark Reis, Colorado Springs Gazette.
Honorable Mention: PF Bentley, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Nick Oza takes first place with his slideshow on the protests and riots in Ferguson.

“Really nice set of photographs,” the judges wrote. “Photographer was in the middle of the action and covered a variety of angles and subjects.”

Roberto Rosales, Adolphe Pierre-Louis and Greg Sorber earn second with their slideshow from a protest march against the Albuquerque Police Department.

The slideshow “would probably have looked stronger with 20-24 photos instead of 30,” the judges wrote. “But the photogs covered a variety of scenes and focused on both wide events and tight action. The photographers put themselves in the middle of the action which was key to many strong images.”

Third place goes to Mark Reis and his slideshow from the Olympic Games in Sochi.

“Lots of excellent sports action photographs and graphic visuals. Really nice set of images. Photographer has a real knack for moments of peak action or gesture on the part of the subjects,” the judges wrote.

An honorable mention is awarded to PF Bentley for his slideshow about the homeless in Waikiki.

Judged by Nick Krug, Richard Gwin and Mike Yoder, all staff photographers, Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. 7 entries.


First Place: Craig F. Walker, Denver Post.
Second Place: Joe Amon, Denver Post.
Third Place: Patrick Tehan and Jami Smith, San Jose Mercury News.

First place is awarded to Craig F. Walker for “Breakdown: Mental Health in Colorado.”

“Powerful storytelling by Craig Walker about people with serious mental illnesses going without treatment in Colorado. From the image of a man unraveled by polar disorder sitting on a bed by ramblings on his wall to the hopeful photo of a suicidal man walking confidently down the street in a suit, resumes in hand, great range,” the judge wrote.

Second goes to Joe Amon for “Trying to Live, Trying to Learn: The Monroe/Jacko Family” about a family of eight struggling to get by and find adequate housing.

“Joe Amon captured the faces of homeless children attending Colorado schools,” the judge wrote. “The crowded living conditions with bed bug infestations, but hope on their faces in the most subtle ways.”

Lastly, Patrick Tehan and Jami Smith take third for a slideshow showcasing the Bay Area’s cultural diversity.

“Patrick Tehan captured the beauty, energy and character of a wide range of Bay Area residents. The vibrant colors of diversity were reflected in this well done photo essay,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, “The richest storytelling reported the trials and tragedies, but also included images of hope. Not easy to find but they exist in the darkest places. Good photographers stay with the story to find them.”

Judged by Tom Callinan, former editor, Cincinnati Enquirer. 13 entries.


First Place: Aric Crabb, Lisa Krieger and Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News.
Second Place: Staff, Equal Voice News.
Third Place: Ariane Wu, Center for Investigative Reporting.
Honorable Mention: Ani Ucar, LA Weekly.

Aric Crabb, Lisa Krieger and Dai Sugano win first place with a video about digging for water in the California drought.

“Well-reported story about the impact of California’s Central Valley drilling on the water table and the land. It foreshadows this year’s headlines about water regulation,” the judge wrote.

Second is awarded to the staff at Equal Voice News for a video “L.A. Skid Row Residents: In the Heart of Hope.”

This entry “amplifies the voices of those whose voices too often go unheard; and places in stark relief the needs of those living on the streets against the policymakers,” the judge wrote.

Third goes to Ariane Wu for “A Brief History of the Modern Strawberry.”

“Creative and innovative use of multimedia,” the judge wrote.

Ani Ucar receives an honorable mention for “Inside the Gay Wing of L.A. Men’s Central Jail.”

Judged by June Cross, professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. 22 entries.


First Place: Michelle Doe, Denver Post.
Second Place: Jessica Randklev, Tacoma News Tribune.
Third Place: Mark Graves, The Oregonian.
Honorable Mention: Severiano Galvan, Denver Post.

Michelle Doe takes first with her infographic on homeless children in Colorado.

“There is nothing flashy about the graphic; the information is the star here. The graphic artist behind this entry boiled down an overwhelming amount of information and presented it in a way that is clear and concise. Limited color, refined typography and choosing the right types of graphics to present the data makes this entry rise to the top,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Jessica Randklev for her infographics on water in the Nisqually Glacier.

“The graphic artist packed a lot of explanatory information and historical data into this map,” the judge wrote. “A clear typographical hierarchy, and smart use of color, guides readers through what could be a complicated layout. Very nice work.”

Third place is awarded to Mark Graves for his infographics on Heisman trophy winners (1, 2, 3).

“Some of these graphics work better than others, but they are all fun, interesting ways to present the data,” the judge wrote. “The depth of some of the pages made it difficult to navigate. I also wanted to see selections on one graphic reflected on other graphics on the same page. If I highlight a player on the height chart, it should highlight the same player on the weight chart. Making the reader hunt for the information makes the graphic a lot less fun, and useful.”

Severiano Galvan earns an honorable mention with his submission on a machine that extracts CBD oil from marijuana.

“The artist concisely walks the reader through a complicated process. The path of the graphic is clear and easy to follow,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Mike Rice, features design director, Minneapolis Star Tribune. 15 entries.


First Place: Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee.
Second Place: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star.

First place goes to Jack Ohman for a portfolio that included cartoons on Dick Cheney’s relationship with torture, the NSA surveillance program, and his late mother’s time in Sacramento.

“Masterfully conceived and expertly rendered, Jack Ohman’s work reflects a cartoonist at the top of his game,” the judge wrote.

Pat Bagley takes second with his send-ups of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, xenophobia in the Republican Party, and the Central American immigrant experience.

“Pat Bagley is a true original in both style and approach. His work is an absolute delight (except to the targets of his cartoons),” the judge said.

Third place is awarded to David Fitzsimmons for cartoons such as “Benghazi,” “Vouchers,” “Plague,” and “VA.”

“David Fitzsimmons blends a strong visual sense and a strong viewpoint to produce standout work in the field of editorial cartooning.”

Judged by Clay Bennett, cartoonist, Chattanooga Times Free Press. 12 entries.


First Place: Staff, San Jose Mercury News.
Second Place: LeeAnn Elias, The Sunday (Henderson, Nev.).
Third Place: Corlene Byrd and Travis Jackson, Las Vegas Weekly.

The staff at the San Jose Mercury News earns first place for Drugging Our Kids.

“The package features a great balance of photography, graphics and story. There is a lot of information packed into these pages, but not once does the reader feel overwhelmed or lost. The use of white space and typographic hierarchy takes the reader by the hand and guides them through a series of sidebars and breakout boxes. In a world of ever-shrinking news hole, the amount of space dedicated to a single topic is admirable,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to LeeAnn Elias for designing “Your Best Holidays Ever!”

“A smart story form and fun illustrations gives readers an excuse to dive into this take on the annual holiday story. The package features a bold use of color, without going over the top,” the judge wrote.

Corlene Byrd and Travis Jackson snag third place with their design of “How To Be Awesomer”: 1, 2.

“Smart use of type and illustration,” the judge wrote. “The flow chart –which is a lot more difficult to design than many think – was well-done.”

Overall, the judge added, “There was lots of good work in this category, but the combination of strong visuals and good content quickly separated the winners from the rest. There were a few entries that were considered for the top three, but inconsistencies in infographics (unrelated illustrations, inaccurate charts, etc.) knocked them out of the running.”

Judged by Mike Rice, features design director, Minneapolis Star Tribune. 47 entries.


First Place: Staff, San Jose Mercury News.
Second Place: Casey Parks, Mark Friesen and Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Staff, Denver Post.

The Mercury News staff wins first place for the presentation of the investigative piece “Drugging Our Kids.”

“The use of striking photography, video and content makes this series engaging and beautifully displayed,” the judge wrote.

Casey Parks, Mark Friesen and Beth Nakamura take second with “Straight Outta St. Johns” about the rap scene in Portland.

“The integration of audio clips, black-and-white photography and infographics helps portray the story well. The simplistic layout and typography creates an elegant reading experience,” the judge wrote.

The Denver Post staff snags third for “Everything Matters.”

“The video in the header immediately gets the reader engaged. Great consistency of photography throughout the article, making it engaging, but not distracting from the content.”

Judged by Joey Kirk, curriculum developer for user experience and user interface at Bloc. 19 entries.

Note: The first-, second- and third-place winners were chosen by the judges listed. The honorable mentions were awarded by the Best of the West board of directors.