2020 contest results


First Place: Staff, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Angus M. Thuermer Jr., WyoFile.
Third Place: Tony Davis, Arizona Daily Star.

The Review-Journal’s staff takes first place with a series looking at how long water from the Colorado River can be counted on to sustain Las Vegas.

“The Las Vegas Review-Journal tackles a complex and crucial topic and produces understandable, digestible, interesting explanatory journalism,” the judge wrote.

“The series clearly laid out the problem, how the state got there and what the solutions are going forward. Anyone who read this was a lot smarter about one of the biggest issues facing southern Nevada. Love the then-and-now, drag-the-bar photos.”

Second place goes to WyoFile for exposing how the state was preparing to permit the dumping of 8.27 million gallons a day of tainted water into a reservoir that provides drinking water to the town of Thermopolis. The water then would flow into the Wind River, which has Wyoming’s highest water quality designation and is a prized fishing destination.

“It’s safe to say that things played out entirely differently with the expansion of the Moneta Divide oil and gas field thanks to the keen eye and sharp reporting of Angus Thuermer and WyoFile,” the judge wrote.

“His reporting woke communities up to what was about to happen and forced a deeper look before the expansion was approved. In the end, thanks largely to Thuermer’s reporting, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality changed its stance. This was a news outlet serving as the watchful eyes and ears of a community and state.”

Tony Davis grabbed third place with “I got ‘rolled’ to ease way for housing development,” the confession of a former top U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official in Phoenix who bowed from political pressure and reversed a key decision on endangered species.

“The Arizona Daily Star’s Tony Davis not only broke national news, he uncovered facts that altered the course of a major local development that directly affects Star readers,” the judge wrote.

“Davis showed how officials high in the Trump administration inserted themselves to overturn one expert’s legal and scientific findings about the effects of a new development. After his first scoop, Davis kept digging to get to the bottom of the story. Smart, persistent, original reporting.”

The judge added, “What incredibly impressive journalism! Every entry was strong, and there were at least another dozen that could have placed. It’s heartening — for both journalism and the environment — to see such depth and reporting that makes a difference and gets results. That’s especially true in this era of slimmer newsrooms and an environment under assault daily. These projects were enlightening and important, and the multimedia component to so many added a lot. This work can serve as a model for others nationwide.”

Judged by Taylor Batten, managing editor, Charlotte Observer. 53 entries.


First Place: Staff, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Jessica Prokop and Amanda Cowan, Vancouver Columbian.
Third Place: Staff, Seattle Times.

The Morning News staff takes first place with a collection of stories on immigration, including “‘This is all one big lie.’ Why this migrant just wishes he could go home,” “Between Donald Trump and the border wall stands Father Roy Snipes” and “A year and a half in the lives of northwest Dallas immigrant students.”

“Top-notch reporting and writing, showing a deep understanding of the issues,” the judge wrote. “Strong photography and design round out this clear winner.”

Second place goes to Jessica Prokop and Amanda Cowan for “Bridging the Border: A Family Divided,” a profile of a Vancouver, Washington, business owner who was deported to Mexico after Motel 6 shared his name with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

“A simple but elegantly told story that illuminates a broader issue,” the judge wrote. “The reporter achieved a remarkable intimacy with her subjects.”

The Times staff grabs third place with “Beyond the Border,” including a look at asylum seekers stuck in Tijuana and profiles of two families with Seattle roots starting over in Mexico.

“This project was marked by wonderful design, photography and video,” the judge wrote. “The stories were best when they stuck closer to characters.”

Judged by J. Patrick Coolican, editor in chief, Minnesota Reformer. 21 entries.


First Place: Staff, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Eli Francovich, Spokane Spokesman-Review.
Third Place: Denver Pratt, Julie Shirley and Kie Relyea, Bellingham Herald.

The Review-Journal staff takes first place for coverage of a fire at an apartment house that killed six and injured 13 and sent tenants jumping from second- and third-story windows to escape the blaze.

“Great accountability journalism,” the judge wrote. “I appreciate that the reporters found the code violations the same day, and the story of the maintenance man. Good writing on ledes, good visuals. I appreciate the timeline of events and the urgency.”

Second place goes to Eli Francovich for coverage of an avalanche in the Canadian Rockies that left renowned alpinist Jess Roskelley presumed dead and two other climbers missing.

“Great presentation,” the judge wrote. “The visuals up high on the front page, the photos and graphics, pull me in. Good background, narrative, science, history, drama.”

Denver Pratt, Julie Shirley, Kie Relyea snag third place with coverage of the shooting death of an elementary school principal by her husband, who then suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“Appreciate the big coverage on the front page with multiple stories,” the judge wrote. “Clearly a team effort and responsive to the community. A good job in the sidebar of giving insight into the shooter’s actions. Coverage has depth, human dimensions.”

The judge added, “Lots of great work by papers across the West. Much of it unique to the communities and culture they cover. We appreciate what you do!”

Judged by Ian Cummings, breaking news editor, Kansas City Star. 14 entries.


First Place: Rob Davis, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Stewart Yerton, Brittany Lyte and Carlie Procell, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Ed Sealover, Denver Business Journal.

Rob Davis wins first place with “Polluted by Money,” a look at how corporate cash corrupted one of America’s greenest states.

“This project demonstrates what good data journalism, combined with great writing and the context of a compelling narrative, can accomplish,” the judge wrote. “It would be impossible to continue business as usual after The Oregonian shown this sterilizing spotlight on the issue. And it should be an easy decision for voters in November. Great work.”

Second place goes to Stewart Yerton, Brittany Lyte and Carlie Procell for “Tourism’s Tipping Point,” a look at how a crush of 10 million visitors a year is pushing the limits of the state’s beaches, hiking trails and aloha spirit.

“From the claustrophobic photos to the creative digital presentation to the sweep of reporting – this was enjoyable to read and easy to explore,” the judge wrote. “This project had the stamp of thoughtful planning and implementation. It’s a hallmark piece of service journalism and community leadership.”

Ed Sealover garners third place with “Why Molson Coors had to leave Denver.”

“Does a great job of building up the characters, weaving in context, history and data into a compelling story of both a business, a place and the cultures that surround them both,” the judge wrote. “It was a deeply informative and compelling course in change that kept me thinking and debating long after I stopped reading.”

Judged by Autumn Phillips, managing editor, Charleston Post and Courier. 73 entries.


First Place: Julie Cart, Judy Lin and Byrhonda Lyons, CalMatters.
Second Place: Jesse Hyde, Spenser Heaps and Rex Warner, Deseret News.
Third Place: Staff, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Julie Cart, Judy Lin and Byrhonda Lyons earn first place with “California’s worsening wildfires, explained,” including a “So why don’t we …?” analysis.

“I love this entry for its clarity, focus and its obvious desire to show, not tell, all the while respecting the subject, the reader’s intelligence and the reader’s time,” the judge wrote. “May others learn from this supreme example of sharp exposition.”

Second place goes to Jesse Hyde, Spenser Heaps and Rex Warner for “Faith, devotion and death: Can the vision of an American nun save the Amazon?” with an accompanying video.

“The nun’s story was powerful but, the reporter’s ability to tell a much larger story apart from hers was just riveting,” the judge wrote. “The writing should be noted. It was stellar, starting with a lede that, indeed, lead somewhere.”

The Honolulu Civil Beat staff takes third place with “Hawaii 2040: Climate changes s here. And we’re running out of time,” a year-long examination of the issue.

“Delivered in a much digestible monthly form, this project led readers into a world that likely will look very different than it does today,” the judge wrote.

“The work was easy to consume without condescension and thorough without being exhaustive. The use of many tools – the podcast, for example – made it work for all kinds of consumers of the work. Well done.”

The judge added, “This was a joy and, admittedly, a weighty burden. So much great and important journalism here. There was not a one of the 54 entries that didn’t deserve an award for courage and tenacity. Not a one that shouldn’t have earned subscribers and acclaim.

“My only takeaway from reading all of them was how glad I am that work of this quality continues in hard times and that we must learn how to do it even better. The projects I admired the most were restrained in their focus. That is, they did not have to ‘show all their work,’ it was there, inside their beautiful and commanding sentences. I was not just told things, I came away genuinely informed.”

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


First Place: Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network.
Second Place: Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Daniel Gilbert, Seattle Times.

Kyle Hopkins takes first place with “Lawless,” the first comprehensive investigation to reveal how indigenous people in Alaska are systematically denied public safety services.

“‘Lawless’ had it all: sharp data analysis, a mountain of damning findings, an unexpected arc,” the judge wrote. “What’s more, its strong storytelling and crisp writing transported readers to the snow-covered streets of rural Alaska.

“Lawless was one of the most ambitious, innovative and downright shocking investigations of the year. And it had tremendous impact. This series is most deserving of top honors.”

Second place goes to Shane Dixon Kavanaugh for “Fleeing Justice,” which reported a pattern of cases in which the government of Saudi Arabia has helped its citizens avoid criminal prosecution in the United States.

“‘Fleeing Justice’ is a great example of what happens when an enterprising reporter notices an unusual pattern and digs deep,” the judge wrote. “This story was smart, unexpected and stayed with me after I finished reading.”

Daniel Gilbert grabs third place with “Public Crisis, Private Toll,” which traced how Medicaid expansion led to the rise of for-profit psychiatric hospitals that converted previously uninsured residents into a business opportunity and endangered patients.

“‘Public Crisis, Private Toll’ is a masterclass on how to mine public records for critically important stories,” the judge wrote. “Reporter Daniel Gilbert knitted together thousands of police reports, inspections and medical records to show how private psychiatric hospitals across Washington put vulnerable patients at risk — and how regulators fell down on the job. It’s no wonder Washington lawmakers were moved to take action to fix a broken system.

Judged by Kathleen McGrory, deputy investigative editor, Tampa Bay Times. 43 entries.


First Place: Jeremiah Dobruck, Long Beach Post.
Second Place: Jennifer Brown, Colorado Sun.
Third Place: Mike Carter, Seattle Times.

Jeremiah Dobruck earns first place with “Broken: How the paths of two strangers — a mentally ill young man and a devout older women — became intertwined in a shocking crime.”

“Incredible work tying the lives of these two people together and putting a spotlight on growing problem of people who need mental health counseling and medications,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Jennifer Brown for “A Snapchat video of a 13-year-old boy’s suicide roiled a Colorado town — and left police chasing social media ghosts.”

“This story really challenged for top spot because it is the one out of 86 I could not get out of my mind … really good writing and a sad commentary on today’s youth and social media,” the judge wrote.

Mike Carter snags third place with “Deadly sting, wrong target: How the death of a cop’s son led King County deputies to kill a Des Moines teen.”

“Lots of legwork went into this story, and I am sure the writer faced many obstacles from law enforcement to get it written,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, “The writing I saw was just top notch. So many good entries. It was very difficult to pick top three — I had at least seven I was considering for No. 1-3. The top two stories were two I could not get off my mind after reading them. Journalism is alive and well in the West.”

Judged by John Hackworth, commentary editor, Sun Newspapers, Port Charlotte, Florida. 86 entries.


First Place: Byard Duncan, California Sunday Magazine.
Second Place: Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Devin Boone, Capital & Main.

Byard Duncan wins first place with a profile of a twin brother and sister who left Paradise, California, with just 35 minutes notice as a wildfire destroyed the town, including their home. They returned to finish high school but then left again, for good.

“‘Grab it and go’ was a very well-crafted, empathetic look behind the headlines of a major news story,” the judge wrote. “By making that brother and sister so vivid for readers, it showed the lasting impacts of a tragedy like the Paradise fire — and that it’s important to follow up because people trying to rebuild lives is often the more resonant human story.

“Fast-moving narrative from the beginning, with great and wrenching detail. Writer put you in the car, at home, in the dorm room. Great ending, shows how these things linger.”

Second place goes to Moira Macdonald for a profile of Reckless video, the last family-owned video store in Seattle, as it was on the verge of closing down.

“‘Last video’ put a compelling personal spin, the writer’s and the owner’s, onto a story that’s almost a cliche in journalism, the disappearing whatever,” the judge wrote. “It made you feel what the owner was afraid of losing — and it wasn’t afraid to ask for and use actual numbers, which made the tough reality more concrete.”

Devin Boone takes third place with “An Arizona activist who can’t vote gets out the vote,” a profile of an undocumented immigrant who responded to passage Arizona’s anti-immigrant law by running 20 political campaigns, winning all but two of them.

“There have been a lot of stories told about, and by, undocumented immigrants in recent years — it’s a topical story and needs to be told. But in the hands of mediocre writers those stories sometimes seem to blur together,” the judge wrote.

“This one pulled me up short with its fresh subject matter — the politically active undocumented former college student, wannabe Marine — and mostly from the details: How writer Devin Boone articulated the anxieties of his mom. The Pat Buchanan-supporting representative. The authentic moment with the Marine recruiter.”

Judged by Amy Carr, assistant managing editor for features, Chicago Tribune. 63 entries.


First Place: Charles Scudder, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Sofia Jeremias, Deseret News.
Third Place: Mike Vorel, Seattle Times.

Charles Scudder earns first place with a two-part series about the death of a 92-year-old resident of a luxury senior living complex that appeared at first to be from natural causes but turned out to be a murder by a prolific serial killer.

“Extraordinary storytelling — from the drama of the first murder to the details from public records linking the suspect to other killings,” the judge wrote. “Powerful and moving.”

Second place goes to Sofia Jeremias for “Waiting for 911: Ambulance drivers struggle to find rural homes without addresses.”

“The frenzied heartbreak of loved ones trying to get emergency services to save a family member or save a home on remote reservation lands sets up a poignant, explanatory piece with exceptional writing,” the judge wrote.

Mike Vorel takes third place with a two-part profile of Faatui Tuitele, a freshman defensive lineman at the University of Washington who grew up in the projects and overcame a high school football injury that left a dent in his chest.

“The color details — rats feet tapping on the floor, broken glass in a field used for football, the initials in a back tattoo — and the use of compelling quotes paint a picture in words and capture the attention of a reader in this moving narrative,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Maria De Varenne, executive editor, Nashville Tennessean. 130 entries.


First Place: Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Ada Tseng, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Mike Brunker, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Mark Lamster earns first place with “The epic tale of the House of the Century, the trippy Texas icon that defies polite description.”

“What a fantastic, winding story through an architectural marvel,” the judge wrote. “I really appreciated the detail and depth here that allowed me to go to a world I’d never heard of before, and stay there for awhile. Nice work.

Second place goes to Ada Tseng for “From refugees to ballroom dancers: How immigrants’ story became an Oscar contender.”

“Fantastic article about a story that felt important to tell,” the judge wrote. “The writer brings us into their world.”

Mike Brunker snags third place with “The legend of ‘Spittin’ Jerry,” a pinball wizard.

“Totally bizarre story,” the judge wrote. “I love that even by the end, I wasn’t sure if any of it was true. Loved the ride.”

The judge added, “Congrats to the writers. This was a tough competition to judge. My favorite stories led me into the subjects’ worlds and kept me there, wondering if I could stay even after the article was over. Thank you for your hard work.”

Judged by Alicia Eler, visual art critic and arts reporter, Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 39 entries.


First Place: Yereth Rosen, Arctic Today.
Second Place: Michael Scott Davidson and Lauren Flannery, Las Vegas Review Journal.
Third Place: Markian Hawryluk, Kaiser Health News.

Yereth Rosen wins first place with “As sea ice melts, momentum grows for Nome’s Arctic port plan.”

“This story is absolutely fascinating,” the judge wrote. “On the surface, it’s a story about a possible port expansion but because of the setting, it’s also about climate change, the environment, the economy, history, saving traditional ways of life.

“The writer does a superb job of being nonjudgmental, instead giving all sides equal respect. Truly riveting.”

Second place goes to Michael Scott Davidson and Lauren Flannery for “‘It was Unbearable: Home renters allege landlord ignored repairs, rushed evictions.”

“An excellent job of digging into real estate records and turning that tedium into a compelling and important story,” the judge wrote. “I hope reporters around the country read and emulate.”

Markian Hawryluk grabs third place with “Why Hospitals Are Getting Into The Housing Business.”

“It came as an absolute surprise that hospitals are getting into the housing business, and that’s a pretty good way to start a story,” the judge wrote. “The explanation is both logical and maddening — is this really the way health care should work? Great story.”

The judge added, “I’m not sure I’ve ever judged a contest with this number of entries where so many were so good. I was thrilled to see the broad range of stories that came in under the “business” category; anyone who thinks business reporting is dull needs only to page through this collection. Great work all the way around.”

Judged by Dave Hendrickson, growth and business editor, Raleigh News & Observer. 66 entries.


First Place: Marc Lester, Anchorage Daily News.
Second Place: Courtney Tanner, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News.

Marc Lester wins first place with “Jason Campeau nearly froze to death during the 2018 Yukon Quest. His rescue was just the start of his Iditarod journey to Nome.”

“This was a masterpiece in storytelling, brilliantly told from start to finish. Drama built from the very earliest moments,” the judge wrote.

“Although CTE has been widely written about, this was unique for so many reasons. Wonderful attention to details, to the search and recovery, to dealing with mental illness.”

Second place goes to Courtney Tanner for “How a Utah coach responded after two boys on his lacrosse team died by suicide.”

“There was so much about this story that I loved. It was a long read — and despite that I could not put it down. Tension built throughout. Characters were richly developed. The grief of teen suicide was perfectly handled. It was both sensitive and direct. Bravo.”

Michael Gehlken takes third place with “Purgatory in paradise: A behind-the-scenes look at Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout and how the Cowboys ended it.”

“What captivates me most about this piece was the wonderful details: the description of the resort Ezekiel Elliot stayed in; the sushi roll with wagyu beef; the Popeye’s fried chicken sandwiches,” the judge wrote.

“The story had great pacing and was a surprise because few pro athletes’ agents would be willing to share all of this. A treasure trove of information.”

Judged by Marty Klinkenberg, national sports editor, Globe and Mail, Toronto. 44 entries.


First Place: Robert Wilonsky, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Gilbert Garcia, San Antonio Express-News.
Third Place: Joline Gutierrez Krueger, Albuquerque Journal.

Robert Wilonsky earns first place with a portfolio of columns that include “How a drug-infested motel in northwest Dallas ‘ruined many, many lives’ in Coppell,” “How a career criminal from West Dallas wound up shot to death in downtown Friday — as an innocent bystander” and “At Dallas complex where 3 kids have been shot to death in just a few weeks, the death, too, of innocence.”

“Good columns are the result of good reporting, and this is terrific, vivid, gritty reporting from the streets,” the judge wrote. “Once you start reading, you can’t stop.”

Second place goes to Gilbert Garcia for columns that include “(Rick) Perry wants us to believe in Trump exceptionalism,” “(Beto) O’Rourke’s assets became liabilities in presidential race” and (Gov. Greg) Abbott loses his taste for Chick-fil-A.”

“Excellent examples of reporting and writing with authority. Columns are tight; no wasted words.

Joline Gutierrez Krueger garners third place with columns that include “After public suicide, widow describes a good man, lost,” “The last ride: Couple lose legs in 2016 crash, patience with justice system as case languishes” and “Who is the Mona Lisa of I-40?”

“Great variety of subjects that would be ‘talkers’ in any community,” the judge wrote. “Nice, conversational tone.”

The judge added, “The range of topics and the quality of the work was impressive. The best columns had strong reporting and a clear, confident voice.”

Judged by Thomas Koetting, deputy managing editor for enterprise and storytelling, Milwaukee Journal. 31 entries.


First Place: Naomi Ishisaka, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Josh Brodesky, San Antonio Express-News.
Third Place: Chris Malloy, Phoenix New Times.

Naomi Ishisaka earns first place with columns on social justice, including barriers to legal immigration, a fight to gain landmark status for a Native American religious site and deepening racial divides from the use of Ring and other surveillance technologies.

“Naomi’s columns are piercing in their prose and perspective,” the judge wrote. “The way she writes cuts to the heart of her city’s most intersectional issues. Naomi’s column’s weave together her perspective and the experiences of the people in her city, to create a symphonic blending of voices and stories.

“It was hard to pick a first place winner, but in the end I went with Naomi’s columns because of her heart for justice, her deep knowledge of the city and the way her columns feel like clear bright mirrors reflecting the realities of her city and our country back to us.”

Second places goes to Josh Brodesky for columns on criminal justice, including a broken culture in the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, the new district attorney’s cite-and-release program for low-level offenses and a judge’s problematic embrace of motions to revoke probation.

“Josh’s words are a paring knife that cut to the truth in just a sentence,” the judge wrote. “On a technical level, his ability to build contrasts between the words and the reality of his subjects is lyrical. But his depth of knowledge is that of an investigative reporter. How can you read Josh’s columns and not be moved, not be outraged, and not learn about what justice looks like?”

Chris Malloy grabs third place with columns on Arizona cuisine, including the small, round chiltepin pepper, beer brewed in the wilderness and ancient and wild foods of the Sonoran Desert.

“Chris’ columns read like love poems to Arizona. Their lyrical power make me me feel like I’m drinking the beer brewed in streams, my mouth is burning from peppers, or I too am standing on the cracked dirt of a bean field. His descriptive power is about more than beauty or feeling though,” the judge wrote.

“His words make a place and people and a food come alive in a way that tells the story of place in a way nothing else can. He writes in scenes and moments that make his depth of knowledge and research seem almost seamless. What a pleasure to read. What a powerful way to understand a place.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “I began judging these columns right when the coronavirus crisis hit my state. As I read, I was impressed not only with the depth and breadth and passion of columnists throughout America, but also impressed at the newspapers that still find value in voices and perspectives and giving space to columnists who can make sense of an incomprehensible world.

“As I began judging, the virus spread and my own newsroom began to feel the effects of the crisis. We, like everyone, are facing slashed ad budgets, empty pages, looming job cuts. We, like everyone, are working overtime, we are coming up with creative ways to survive, but I hope that we and other newsrooms will still value these voices on our pages.

“Each of these winners are able to synthesize the narratives of their columns in a way that reveals the true balance of power, the meaning, and the culture of their place. They write with an eye toward justice, beauty, and a moral center. Their voices are essential now more than ever in a wild and weird and dangerous time when we require this kind of piercing perspective to help us all see our way.”

Judged by Lyz Lenz, columnist, Cedar Rapids Gazette, author of “Godland” and former editor of The Rumpus. 33 entries.


First Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Martha Sheridan, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

George Riggle wins first place with a portfolio of headlines that include “Don of the dread,” “Scene Steeler,” “O’s and ah’s,” “Fears of a clown” and “Hasta la vista, maybe?”

“Headline writer obviously had fun, to the benefit of the reader,” the judge wrote. “The heads are clever, clear and easy to understand at a glance. The writer made good use of decks, and heads work very well with the art to enhance the stories and draw the reader in.”

Second place goes to Martha Sheridan for headlines that include “Fast fasion makes a heap of trouble,” “Find the cost of freedom / Buried in the ground,” “The name’s Bond, Porfirio Rubirosa Bond,” “One potato, two potato, sweet potato — four” and “Parks and Re-creation.”

“These heads help tell the story in a very unique and creative way,” the judge wrote. “The words work seamlessly with the art and other design elements and manage to be clever without sacrificing meaning or forcing the reader to work too hard to figure out what the story is about. The writer makes the most of space allotted.”

Riggle also takes third place with a portfolio that includes “Wick and the dead,” “Turn that clown upside down,” “Raise a little shell,” “Crawl of the wild” and “Pennywise, pond ghoulish.”

“These headlines feature wordplay that captures the readers’ attention and draws them in,” the judge wrote. “Heads work very well with the art to reflect the tone and meaning of each story.”

The judge added, “Contest showcases the talents and creative efforts that allow headline writers in the West to produce outstanding work on a daily deadline.”

Judged by Beth Harrison, features headline writer, Charleston Post and Courier. 12 entries.


First Place: Josh Brodesky, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Ric Anderson, Las Vegas Sun.
Third Place: Editorial Board, Salt Lake Tribune.

Josh Brodesky earns first place with “Another avoidable tragedy in the Bexar County jail,” an editorial about the death of a homeless and mentally ill man who was arrested on criminal trespass charges and couldn’t afford a $500 bond.

“Terrific detailed reporting on the tragedy of jailing a mentally ill man,” the judge wrote. “This is a fine example of editorial writing exposing cruel injustice in our justice system. Bravo.”

Second place goes to Ric Anderson for the editorial “Prisoners of Ware are treated better than refugees at our southern border.”

“Clear, shocking comparisons of immigrant mistreatment and Geneva Conventions,” the judge wrote. “A true eye-opening comparison that starkly demonstrates our government’s cruelty.”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Editorial Board takes third place with the editorial “Utah should ban conversion therapy, no matter what the LDS Church says.”

“Clear call to ban conversion therapy and a bold rebuke to the church,” the judge wrote. “Effective, pointed and well-crafted.”

Judged by Miriam Pepper, retired vice president and editorial page editor, Kansas City Star. 13 entries.


First Place: Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
Second Place: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News.
Third Place: Francisco Kjolseth, Salt Lake Tribune.

Will Lester earns first place with his photo of an elderly resident of a healthcare center being evacuated as flames and smoke from a wildfire approached.

“This image is extremely powerful and tells the story immediately,” the judge wrote. “Fantastic composition and moment. Would have loved to see names in this caption, but I do understand that can sometimes be impossible. If you are there, always make an attempt.”

Second place goes to Scott G. Winterton for his photo of a rabbi praying in a courtroom hallway after his former nanny was found guilty of sexually abusing him while he was a child.

“This is right place, right time and finger ready on the shutter to capture the moment,” the judge wrote. “Great job. Would have maybe a tighter crop so we don’t see the missing foot.”

Francisco Kjolseth grabs third place with his photo of a 15-year-old boy using a garden hose to fight a grass fire as his neighbors cut tall grasses and a helicopter drops water on the fire.

“Fantastic use of layering, which completely tells the story,” the judge wrote. “Great image.”

The judge added, “Lots of great images! Everyone that submitted should be proud because this was a difficult choice. These images rose to the top for how storytelling the images are. The captions were helpful with the images and the moments captured were photographers being there and being ready.”

Judged by Jessica Gallagher, photographer, Quad-City Times. 45 entries.


First Place: Kathy Plonka, Spokane Spokesman-Review.
Second Place: Loren Holmes, Anchorage Daily News.
Third Place: Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star.

Kathy Plonka earns first place with “It’s sticking,” which captured snow beginning to gather on the hat of a passerby.

“What a wonderful eye to see this and capture,” the judge wrote. “Lens selection is perfect, and the color palette is subtle. It’s just a different look on the world and gives the reader something lovely and yet story-telling. Great frame!”

Second place goes to Loren Holmes for “Ice skating at sunset.”

“I love this landscape, the light and the placement of the skaters,” the judge wrote. “A wonderful photograph that deserves a six-column treatment.”

Kelly Presnell garners third place with an 11-year-old boy winning an apple-bobbing contest at a World Refugee Day celebration.

“What I love so much about this photograph is that it is making something fun and unique from what could have been a relatively ordinary assignment,” the judge wrote. “Great angle, and great to fill the frame to accentuate the distortion caused by the tub.”

The judge added, “Superb category with some strong photographs that would have received honorable mentions such as Luncheon Serenade and Rodeo Dancers.

“There were also some wonderful graphical photographs showcasing landscape and nature, and they were quite good, but felt the top three stood out for the unique views that they gave readers and the strong work ethic of ‘looking’ to find them.”

Judged by Paul Gero, freelance photographer, Wisconsin. 68 entries.


First Place: Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News.
Second Place: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.
Third Place: Arianna Grainey, Scottsdale Independent.

Hans Gutknecht grabs first place with a shot of Robbie Lawler picking up Ben Askren and throwing him enroute to a UFC 235 victory.

“Amazing shot! This image frames both moving athletes and captures a great unpredictable moment! Great composition!” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Kristin Murphy for a photo of softball player Sadee Watkins diving for the ball and missing it during a 6A softball championship game.

“Love the composition of this image where you can see the athlete diving as well as the athlete running in the background! Awesome moment captured and amazing composition!!

Arianna Grainey snags third place with a photo of an Ohio State receiver’s leaping catch against a Clemson defender in the Fiesta Bowl.

“What an amazing frozen moment! That’s all I can say!” the judge wrote.

The judge added, “With so many great submissions, this was a difficult task! Congratulations to all the amazing photographers that submitted in this competition! Everyone of you submitted amazing, compelling work!”

Judged by Bee Trofort, freelance photographer. 44 entries.


First Place: Bob Owen, Jerry Lara and Ivan Pierre Aguirre, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Roberto Rosales, Albuquerque Journal.
Third Place: Eddie Moore, Albuquerque Journal.

Bob Owen, Jerry Lara and Ivan Pierre Aguirre win first place with “The Youngest Migrants,” about a wave of Central American children arriving on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The decision to highlight the injustice of children humanizes an often-told news story in a very intimate and emotional way,” the judges wrote. “This staff entry moves the reader beyond words. The treatment of black and white helps to highlight and connect the children’s humanity.”

Second place goes to Roberto Rosales for “8 Hours on the Border: U.S. Border Patrol agents encounter a record influx of migrant families seeking asylum.”

“A great approach to ‘8 Hours’ and a fairly tight edit help this entry elicit a mood that only one can imagine what the subjects were feeling,” the judges wrote. “Great execution and craft were exhibited here.”

Eddie Moore grabs third place with “Behind the Boom,” about a record surge in oil production in New Mexico.

“The photographer’s ability to deliver a strong sense of place elevated this entry,” the judges wrote. “A good variety of images also helped.”

Judged by Boyzell Hosey, deputy editor, photography; John Pendygraft, senior photojournalist; and Martha Asencio-Rhine, photojournalist, all of the Tampa Bay Times. 10 entries.


First Place: Jeffrey McWhorter, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Benjamin Hager, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: L.E. Baskow, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Jeffrey McWhorter wins first place with “The time we have here: A year and a half in the lives of northwest Dallas immigrant students.”

“A complete narrative that was well-crafted and brought us close to the subjects and into their worlds,” the judges wrote. “We felt we really got to know this team and the personalities.

Second place goes to Benjamin Hager for “Black History Month: Keep the legacy alive.”

“A fresh take on Black History Month by depicting a series of strong, well-executed environmental portraits,” the judges wrote. “The series went beyond the cliche and was forward looking.”

L.E. Baskow garners third polace with “Monumental makeover: Artist Ugo Rondinone.”

“The photographer’s vision and hard work paid off to elevate what could have been routine,” the judge wrote. “Each image was like eye candy, leaving the viewer wanting more.”

The judges added, “This category was very broad in approach. From traditional documentary to portraiture to strong daily work. What seems to be common place today with a lack of picture editing, many entries could have benefitted from more thoughtful editing. Overall, the category was strong, but the finalists easily rose to the top.”

Judged by Boyzell Hosey, deputy editor, photography; John Pendygraft, senior photojournalist; and Martha Asencio-Rhine, photojournalist, all of the Tampa Bay Times. 19 entries.


First Place: Staff, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting with InvestigateWest and Oregon’s Pamplin Media Group.
Second Place: Staff, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Laurel Rosenhall, Brian Howey and Cheryl Devall, CalMatters.

Reveal, Investigate West and Pamplin Media Group earn first place with “Lasting Impact,” which tells the story of Jonathan Boland, a talented young football player and charismatic team leader from an underdog high school on the edge of Portland – and the larger story of holes in youth concussion protection laws.

“This is very interesting story, made great by the use of sound. The marking of the concussions with sound and music not only gives it a cinematic feel, but helps the narrative along,” the judge wrote.

“The quality of the editing and music selection adds to the strength of this disturbing reporting. Kids and football and concussions are a dangerous mix and the breadth of voices and stories here illuminate a larger narrative; one that is bigger than just sports. Expert storytelling all around, especially concerning elements particular to audio journalism.”

Second place goes to the Republic’s staff for “Rediscovering: Don Bolles, a murdered journalist,” which profiled the paper’s reporter who was assassinated by a 1976 car bombing.

“It’s hard to reveal the life of someone who is dead and achieve a feel for who they were as a person,” the judge wrote.

“This podcast tells a story I had never heard with a rich cast of characters … No. 1 being Don Bolles himself. By digging up old cassette tapes of his phone calls made while reporting on the Mafia, you get an inside look at the person. This a well-told narrative with quality audio and music that really sets a tone and mood that vibes with the story. The pace is appropriate, and certainly tense in the right spots to keep me hanging on.”

Laurel Rosenhall, Brian Howey and Cheryl Devall take third place with “Force of Law,” part of a series that tracked the progress of a bill in the California Legislature to restrict when police shootings of civilians could be legally justified.

“As this podcast opens, we get to experience a woman watching a video or her partner being killed by the police. This demonstrates one aspect of the empathetic power of audio storytelling, and the pacing here works to uplift that feeling,” the judge wrote.

“The overall pacing with editing and music sets a solemn tone that matches the editorial content. Sound is integral, rather than an afterthought. There is a great breadth of voices and viewpoints, and the ‘show, don’t tell’ presentation of them really makes for an effective story.”

Judged by John Perotti, co-founder, Rococo Punch. 20 entries.


First Place: Duy Linh Tu and Jessica Koscielniak, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
Second Place: Lauren Frohne and Bettina Hansen, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Lauren Frohne, Erika Schultz and Corinne Chin, Seattle Times.

Duy Linh Tu and Jessica Koscielniak win first place with “The wait at Matmoros,” a look at hundreds of migrants waiting months for asylum hearings in poor conditions that resembled a refugee camp.

“Judges were impressed with the intimacy and depth of the story, complemented by excellent cinematography and production,” the judges wrote. “Very engaging. News video with heart.”

Second place goes to Lauren Frohne and Bettina Hansen for “We cannot be invisible any longer,” which profiled efforts by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement to call attention to Native American women who have gone missing or been murdered.

“Judges appreciated the time and craft dedicated to the families and their stories,” the judges wrote. “We’re looking forward so seeing the relationship with the subjects develop further as the series continues.”

Lauren Frohne, Erika Schultz and Corinne Chin take third place with “Let me show you who I am for real,” an exploration of the complexities of identity and sources of empowerment, joy and belonging for black, queer Seattle residents.

“Judges liked the creative use of interviews and video portraiture that reflected the ‘beauty’ of the subjects,” the judges wrote.

The judges added, “In a broad range of entries the judges believe that these finalists represent the fullest use of the medium to engage viewers with critical stories. They each use excellent craft to immerse us in the subjects’ lives and hold us there for the duration of the video. They are stories we couldn’t click away from.”

Judged by Mark Vancleave, photographer and video producer, and the video and photo team, Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 42 entries.


First Place: Emily M. Eng, Seattle Times.
Second Place: John Hancock, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: Jeff Goertzen, Orange County Register.

Emily M. Eng wins first place with a print graphic across two newspaper pages that combines graphs, charts and a clay orca model to show how orcas use sounds to communicate and how underwater sounds affect them.

“I love how this combination of photography and graphics tell a broader visual story on the page,” the judge wrote. “The scientific specifics about echolocation are smartly segmented, and are informative and interesting, without feeling too dense or overwhelming to the reader. The balance and pacing is just right, and the artwork is nice to look at, too!”

Second place goes to John Hancock for an interactive graphic showing the 26,375 shots taken by Dirk Nowitzki during his 21-year career with the Dallas Mavericks.

“At first glance, the amount of data here could be overwhelming, so the scrollytelling walk-through of Nowitzki’s career on a clean page was really great,” the judge wrote. “Each highlighted game was interesting and showed a different part of his career, but I wondered if the exploratory dashboard should be at the end rather than the beginning.

“Technologically, it’s an innovative use of MapboxGL to plot each of these on the canvas and allow the court to be pan or zoomable and each point hoverable. Really nice!”

Jeff Goertzen takes third place with a full-page print graphic examining the 30 deaths of horses racing on the Santa Anita track in 2019.

“Beautiful illustration work here, and each piece is layered so nicely, with smart data visualizations woven throughout to tell a compelling story about racing horses and the toll on the animals,” the judge wrote. “In some places, so much information can feel a little dense, and it might have benefited overall from a smidge more elbow room.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Several static and interactive pieces were in my top tier for consideration, and it was pretty tight!”

Judged by C.J. Sinner, data visuals editor, Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 27 entries.


First Place: Jeff Meddaugh, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Ian Racoma, Las Vegas Weekly.
Third Place: LeeAnn Elias, Severiano del Castillo Galvan and Wes Rand, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Jeff Meddaugh earns first place with “Halo Effect,” a features cover and inside pages about a Dallas parking lot being transformed into an urban park with a halo-like pavilion.

“Bold use of photography on both the cover and inside spread. Typically building mugs are dull and drab. Not here. This former parking lot turned park plaza is dressed for success. The stunning lines of landscapes appear to be flowing right off the pages. The imagery is presented with such elegance,” the judge wrote.

“Design flourishes, such as the simple text wrap on the start of the story, are so simple yet so fitting. They only enhance the wonderful ebbs and flows of the elements depicted. Restraint with use of typography and color choice allow the photography to take center stage. Yet, even with the minimal use of color, its use was well-crafted and no doubt strategically placed. The red “RE-” in the “PARKS AND RE-CREATION” headline makes for a wonderfully engaging headline treatment and a perfect play on words. If you are going to have use of a double truck, this is how you take full advantage of it.”

Second place goes to Ian Racoma for “The Herat of the City: Chinatown.”

“The cover story on Las Vegas’ Chinatown district is a feast for the eyes. The cover presentation clearly was thoughtfully conceived from start to finish. The styling of the main image and sophisticated layering and placement of typography makes for a succulent visual and lures the reader in,” the judge wrote.

“Once inside, the strong visual brand continues thanks to bold color choices and lively imagery. Navigational devices pull and point you in all the right directions to lead you across the pages and highlight key content. Striking visuals and big, bold, engaging page design.”

LeeAnn Elias, Severiano del Castillo Galvan and Wes Rand snag third place with “Las Vegas Valley’s future hinges on the Colorado,” a front page centerpiece and jump pages.

“The Review-Journal’s takeout on the importance of the Colorado River to the valley’s future is an interesting pairing of an artistic lead image and a unique play on an infographic,” the judge wrote.

“The ‘River divided’ graphic wonderfully displays the stark differences between the allotment of water granted to the seven Southwestern states (and Mexico), with Nevada garnering only a sliver of the proverbial pie. There are so many basic ways that information could be depicted, yet the streams of various thicknesses is a deft play on a river’s tributaries and creates a natural sense of movement on the page. Red and blue pops of color direct the reader’s eye to key elements of the package.”

The judge added, “The page design category boasted many worthy entries that made use of powerful imagery, graphics, display type and design tools to share inspirational stories on a wide array of topics. The very best of the entries showed significant restraint in identifying only the best of the storytelling tools that meshed perfectly with the subject matter being conveyed and allowing them to shine — uninterrupted — thanks to careful editing of art and text.”

Judged by Michael Babin, design studio team leader, USA Today Network. 51 entries.


First Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Staff, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Daniel Miller, Sean Greene and Tessa Bangs, Los Angeles Times.

The Seattle Times staff wins first place with “Beyond the border.”

“Visually impressive three-part package with strong images, the judge wrote. “Creative use of text throughout, including white type against a black background in one of the pieces. Also liked the use of brief audio quotes.”

Second place goes to the Honolulu Civil Beat staff for “Hawaii 2040.”

“A multiple-story package with strong photos, videos and audio,” the judge wrote. “It uses various interactive elements to engage readers, like the virtual tour of the native Maui forest.”

Daniel Miller, Sean Greene and Tessa Bangs snag third place with “Larger than life.”

“Compelling storytelling focused on a fascinating figure: A Los Angeles street racer whose name and story had once been widely known but who had fallen into obscurity,” the judge wrote.

“The project uses various formats: a webpage, essays and a Facebook page with more than 1,300 members that continues to engage readers. Particularly impressive is a seven-part documentary podcast.”

The judge added, “The contest featured impressive work from all the competitors.”

Judged by Chrisann Nigrin, online editor, Omaha World-Herald. 25 entries.