2021 contest results

The complete results are posted below. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to our volunteer judges.


First Place: Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Mara Kardas-Nelson and Levi Pulkkinen, Investigate West, Seattle.
Third Place: Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle.

Rosanna Xia takes first place with “A toxic secret lurks in deep sea,” which found that as many as half a million barrels of the pesticide DDT were dumped into the ocean after World War II and could still be underwater today.

“Exhaustive and meticiulous reporting leads to deeply disturbing revelations about DDT toxins polluting our oceans,” the judges wrote. “Riveting package – with spectacular visual assets – from beginning to end.”

Second place goes to Mara Kardas-Nelson and Levi Pulkkinen for “As wildfire smoke seeps indoors, is government doing enough to respond?”

“A unique take on the well-covered, long-term effects of wildfire smoke on the human body,” the judges wrote. “Visually engaging, with excellent use of graphics and video.”

Kurtis Alexander wins third place with “Delta on the Edge,” a series that explored how climate change, drought and California’s unrelenting thirst have pushed the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the brink and reignited the state’s water wars.

“A beautifully executed narrative that exposes a growing problem through the eyes of the residents and businesses most impacted by it,” the judges wrote.

Judged by Ginger Rough, former senior news director, Alvie Lindsay, news and investigations director, Sarah Bowman, lead environmental/investigative reporter and Binghui Huang, business reporter, Indianapolis Star. 27 entries.


First Place: Cindy Carcamo and Molly O’Toole, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Jackie Botts, CalMatters, and Kate Cimini, Salinas Californian.
Third Place: Alfredo Corchado, Dianne Solis and Valeria Olivares, Dallas Morning News.

Cindy Carcamo and Molly O’Toole earn first place with a look at how the Trump administration used public health to endrun U.S. laws and dismantled decades-old protections for migrant children and asylum seekers, including “Central America fears Trump could deport the coronavirus,” “Migrants deported by U.S. make up more than 15% of Guatemala’s coronavirus cases” and “Citing coronavirus, Trump officials refuse to release migrant kids to sponsors — and deport them instead.”

“This series started with a simple question: Would the U.S. deport the coronavirus along with undocumented immigrants? Not only did it prove this was the case, it delved deep into the way U.S. immigration policy was hurting children,” the judge wrote. “Strong accountability work on a global scale.”

Second place goes to Jackie Botts and Kate Cimini for “Covid rips through motel rooms of guest workers who pick nation’s produce.” with followup stories that include
“‘The perfect storm of vulnerability’: Protection in the fields doesn’t follow farmworkers home” and “State mandates emergency workplace COVID-19 protections, less crowding for guest farmworkers.”

“This series focused on the way the government let down vulnerable farmworkers, held them to account and offered concrete explainers for anyone who wanted to seek help – in English and Spanish,” the judge wrote. “Their work changed policies that certainly saved some lives and it was a real work of public service journalism.”

Alfredo Corchado, Dianne Solis and Valeria Olivares take third place with border coverage that includes “Coronavirus arrives in El Paso, Juarez, leading many to brace for a border shutdown,”
“Border towns see run on drug touted by Trump but unproven as coronavirus cure” and
“Cameroonian asylum-seeker who says he was abused in detention fights deportation: ‘I’m just trying to hold onto another day.'”

“The Morning News did a real public service in a catastrophic year with powerful and compelling border coverage,” the judge wrote. “This was a strong mix of straight up beat reporting at the border, accountability journalism and documentation of a traumatic year for immigrants, migrants and asylum seekers.”

Overall, the judge added, “Wow … what a competitive category. There was exemplary work from news outlets throughout the West here.”

Judged by Kate Howard, director, Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. 12 entries.


First Place: Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Emilie Eaton, San Antonio Express-News.
Third Place: Anita Hofschneider, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Maxine Bernstein wins first place with “The wrongful arrest of Michael Fesser,” coverage of how a surburban police chief initiated an unwarranted, racially motivated surveillance and arrest of a Black Portland man as a favor to the chief’s fishing buddy.

“The series on Michael Fesser peeled back another layer of how bad apples in law enforcement continue to terrorize Black people and encourage others to play their game,” the judge wrote. “The series did an excellent job at exposing the situation so hopefully it saves others from enduring a similar situation.”

Second place goes to Emilie Eaton for “Flaws in the justice system – from police to courts to jails,” “Man beaten by police officers remains in prison” and “Inmates urge local state to rethink parole guidelines as coronavirus spreads.”

“The series perfectly laid out how the innocent are kept under lock and key for unjust reasons,” the judge wrote. “It showcased the systemic failures within the criminal justice system and hopefully put institutions on notice that it won’t be tolerated any longer.”

Anita Hofschneider takes third place with “Hawaii’s pandemic: hardest hit communities.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has upended everyone’s lives, from A to Z. The detailing of how its affected Hawaii’s diverse population painted a stark image of what we don’t see nationwide,” the judge wrote.

“We read and watched about other communities on national newscasts, but they didn’t go in-depth about Hawaii’s population. You mostly heard about large and small cities, and how rural communities were affected. It was emotional to learn about Hawaii. The Honolulu Civil Beat did a fantastic job of educating the masses about their pandemic plight.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Thanks for the opportunity to read more about cities I don’t get a chance to more than once a month. It was refreshing to catch up on stories by great journalists around the nation, and to get further confirmation that print journalism is here to stay.”

Judged by Kathy Chaney, deputy managing editor of breaking news and staff development, Chicago Sun-Times. 57 entries.


First Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Rio Lacanlale, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: No award.

The Los Angeles Times staff wins first place with “Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna among 9 dead in helicopter crash in Calabasas,” “Kobe Bryant, from the start, was an athlete like no other,” “Kobe Bryant’s death in helicopter crash stuns the world, leaves L.A. grieving” and “How can Kobe Bryant be gone? His legend wasn’t supposed to end this way.”

“The Los Angeles Times’ speedy, comprehensive, multimedia and wall-to-wall coverage exemplifies excellence in dominating breaking news of national and international significance,” the judge wrote.

“As the timeline showed, the outlet leaned on the expertise of its staff and stood out as a voice of authority on social media and on its website as the news developed.”

Second place goes to Rio Lacanlale for “5 bicyclists killed, 4 others injured in crash involving truck.”

“With a combination of shoeleather reporting and quick thinking, the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s coverage of this tragedy stood out as an excellent example of comprehensive breaking news coverage that stood out in a competitive news cycle,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Michelle ye-Hee Lee, reporter, Washington Post. 29 entries.


First Place: Molly Solomon and Erin Baldassari, KQED, San Francisco.
Second Place: Amy Silverman and Alex Devoid, Arizona Daily Star and ProPublica Local Reporting Network.
Third Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.

Molly Solomon and Erin Baldassari earn first place with “Sold Out: Rethinking housing in America,” a five-episode podcast exploring how California is the epicenter of the nation’s housing affordability crisis, plus stories on such topics as “5 reasons why it’s so expensive to build housing in California,” “The racist history of single-family home zoning” and “How Moms 4 Housing changed laws and inspired a movement.”

“Impressive reporting delivered in a highly immersive podcast, with lots of digital extras,” the judge wrote. “Makes me think podcasts are the best way to deliver explanatory journalism.”

Second place goes to Amy Silverman and Alex Devoid for “State of Denial,” a series that included “Arizonans with developmental disabilities were promised help. Instead, they face delays and denials,” “He has a developmental disability and needs a caretaker. Arizona suggested diapers instead” and “She needs a device to communicate. Arizona kept it from her for 18 months.”

“I liked everything about this entry, from the personal stories of the families to the concerted effort by the team behind it to explain the complex issues at play,” the judge wrote.

The Los Angeles Times staff takes third place with “Chicano Moratorium: 50 Years Later,” about a 1970 anti-war protest that galvanized a generation of Mexican-American activists who transformed a community politically, socially and culturally.

“Strong use of personal stories, multimedia and photography to shine the light on an important civil rights issue, made more relevant today by the deaths of George Floyd and other people of color at the hands of police,” the judge wrote. “I’m so glad I got to read this package.”

Overall, the judge added, “There were few, if any, duds in the 50+ entries. So hard to pick winners when there clearly were thousands of hours invested collectively in the reporting. I wish I could pick 10 winners, because there were that many entries that stood out to me.”

Judged by Russ Walker, watchdog editor, LNP | LancasterOnline, Pennsylvania. 53 entries.


First Place: Staff, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Karina Bland and Mark Henle, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Ethan Bauer, Deseret News.

The Review-Journal’s staff wins first place with a year-long investigation into a fire at the Alpine Motel Apartmetns that killed six and injured 13. The stories include “Alpine motel apartments fire: 1 year later,” “Police called Alpine ‘the worst of the worst’ and tried to close it. Las Vegas officials said no.” and “Once a teacher, this secretive Vegas landlord built an empire. Then 6 died.”

“Over the course of a year, the Review-Journal doggedly pursued the story of a motel fire that killed six people, revealing government failures, safety violations, a disabled fire alarm and problems plaguing the wealthy owner’s real-estate empire, including a federal investigation of ties to Mexican drug cartels,” the judge wrote.

“Tracking down hard-to-find witnesses and official interview reports, the newspaper capped its coverage with a gripping, minute-to-minute retelling of the tragic fire.

Second place goes to Karina Bland and Mark Henle for “‘Let it not be Miami’: Pulling together as a pandemic rages beyond a small Arizona town,” “Empty halls, but in the classrooms at this Miami school, teachers still find ways to teach” and “In a small AZ town, the virus strikes 2 women, as life and death cross paths.”

“This portrait of a small town in the pandemic is a well-told narrative with vivid imagery, sharply etched characters and compelling story lines,” the judge wrote.

“The author combines rich detail and storytelling to reveal the pandemic unfolding over several months, culminating with the life-and-death saga of two women who know one another fighting for their lives.”

Ethan Bauer takes third place with a selection of the 50 stories he did on people of the pandemic over 50 days, including “A long goodbye: A month after writing about hope while his best friend was on a ventilator, he comes back to the keyboard one more time,” “ER doc: ‘This is a lot harder than being in Iraq'” and ” Faith over fear, from sanctuary to parking lot: A small-town Florida pastor balances the health of his congregation with its desire to worship.”

“This moving series reveals the many faces of the pandemic in sharply etched, concise sketches,” the judge wrote.

“The author shows imagination and creativity in choosing and illuminating his subjects, including a doctor in Africa, a small-town pastor, a patient on a ventilator, a professional wrestler-turned-mayor and a sad clown.”

Judged by Mike Stanton, journalism professor at University of Connecticut and former sports writer and investigative reporter at the Providence Journal. 53 entries.


First Place: Ed Williams, Wufei Yu and Don Usner, Searchlight New Mexico, Santa Fe, and Initium Media, Hong Kong.
Second Place: Jack Dolan and Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Kiera Feldman, Los Angeles Times.

Ed Williams, Wufei Yu and Don Usner win first place with “Chaos and cannabis: How human trafficking, child labor and black-market marijuana took root on the Navajo Nation.”

“Months of sourcing despite many obstacles in a remote part of New Mexico revealed that a massive hemp farm actually was cover a huge illicit marijuana operation that relied upon Asian immigrants who had been subjects of human trafficking,” the judge wrote.

“The reporting was difficult to build sources and cross language barriers. Searchlight New Mexico’s exclusive coverage led to a swift and dramatic impact. After publication, law enforcement seized potentially up to $1 billon in illegal marijuana and saved the immigrants from further exploitation. The Searchlight coverage triggered multiple investigations across a number of jurisdictions regarding illegal drugs and human trafficking.”

Second place goes to Jack Dolan and Brittny Mejia for “Deadly delays,” including “L.A.’s poorest patients endure long delays to see medical specialists. Some die waiting,” “Three L.A. County patients wait months for care. Two die waiting” and “California regulators launch review of long, deadly delays in L.A. County specialty care.”

“Exhaustive reporting by the Los Angeles Times yielded a large database of medical referrals to specialists within the the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services with delays averaging 89 days when the goal was within 15 days,” the judge wrote. “The reporting showed that the long delays literally cost lives. The coverage prompted investigations and efforts for the large medical system to reform its policies to prevent such deadly delays.”

Kiera Feldman takes third place with “Fumed out: How toxic fumes seep into the air you breathe on planes.”

“Airline employees had long complained of toxic fumes leaking into airplanes affecting them and passengers,” the judge wrote. “But those complaints had been disregarded.

“The Los Angeles reporting documented through records how fumes leak into into planes and their toxic effects. The airline industry and FAA had balked at such claims previously. This coverage based on safety reports led federal elected officials to seek legislation and regulatory reforms to address the toxic fumes. Airline unions also said they will call for congressional hearings into the problem that sickens those on board.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Many entries revealed problems and led to investigations or changes for the betterment of the local communities.”

Judged by Gilbert Bailon, editor-in-chief, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 43 entries.


First Place: Andy Viano, Flathead Beacon, Kalispell, Montana.
Second Place: Mike Reicher, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Debra Krol, Arizona Republic.

Andy Viano wins first place with “The System Failed,” a look at how a violent man with a documented history of abuse wasn’t stopped before it was too late.

“From the very first sentence, this story about how one domestic violence case in a small Montana community ended in the murder of four people does what the great ones do: It grabbed the reader and didn?t let go,” the judges wrote.

“The writing was stellar and authoritative, reflecting muscular reporting and a confidence on the keyboard. And it shined a critical spotlight for its community on an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Second place goes to Mike Reicher for “Fired, but still a cop: How Washington state’s decertification process leaves troubled officers with their guns.”

“A sweeping story that expertly weaves data, context and narrative writing to expose a flaw prevalent not just in Washington but in multiple states,” the judges wrote. “The reporting was deep but fair and, like so many good stories, it landed with impact.”

Debra Krol takes third place with “In Phoenix, rising temperatures day and night kill more people each year.”

“The story was both fascinating and frightening, showing how climate change is literally killing more people each year but also chronicling the steps communities are taking to battle the heat,” the judges wrote.

Judged John P. Martin, Yvette Ousely, Nancy Phillips, Molly Eichel and Dan Hirschhorn, news editors, Philadelphia Inquirer. 103 entries.


First Place: Lauren Gallow, Gray magazine, Seattle.
Second Place: Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Daniel Rothberg, Nevada Independent.

Lauren Gallow wins first place with a profile of a design disrupter working everywhere from Portland to Seoul.

“This piece on interior designer Andee Hess takes the reader into the interior motivations of the designer,” the judge wrote. “It provides vivid detail about Hess’ work and aspirations. The writer’s confidence about her subject matter shines through, and her command of language makes this an enjoyable and informative story.”

Second place goes to Priscilla Totiyapungprasert for “Meet Dine chef Jaren Bates, a new champion of Native foodways and Arizona’s natural bounty.”

“This entry demonstrates a mastery of descriptive writing,” the judge wrote. “It also showcases an outstanding use of detail, while keeping the narrative moving along. In this piece, readers learn about the influences in the chef’s life – his experiences, memories and training. They also learn about the chef’s desire to push the boundaries regarding how Native American food is viewed. This story was a pleasure to read.”

Daniel Rothberg takes third place with a look at the reintroduction of bighorn sheep to Nevada’s Lake Range, the culmination of decades of work by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, conservationists and state wildlife managers.

“This piece is characterized by its beautiful use of language,” the judge wrote. “The writer takes readers on a journey to reintroduce bighorn sheep on tribal land. He uses outstanding descriptions to paint mental pictures. He weaves in historical and factual information, without weighing down the narrative. He takes the reader from place to place, through his effective story-telling.”

Overall, the judge added, “This category was very competitive, attracting 89 entries. Overall, the quality of entries was quite good.”

Judged by B.C. Manion, editor, Laker/Lutz News, Florida. 89 entries.


First Place: Lizzie Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle.
Second Place: Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times.

Lizzie Johnson takes first place with “The evidence burns away.”

“‘The evidence burns away’ is a deeply reported psychological thriller that reconstructs the investigation of a suspected arsonist,” the judge wrote. “And like any good thriller, the vivid writing compels the story forward, while bringing into focus California’s wildfire crises. It’s a gripping story with a complex villain, clever heroes and victims – the communities and individuals who suffered devastating loss.”

Second place goes to Jaweed Kaleem for “A white mom marched alone to say ‘Black lives matter.’ Her Black son urged her to do more.”

“This story of a white mother and her Black son in a small Minnesota town is a personal account that reflects conversations taking place across the country in the immediate aftermath of the George Floyd killing,” the judge wrote. “A complex topic laid bare with dialogue, details and context.”

Maria L. La Ganga wins third place with “A family wonders if they should hope a loved one with COVID-19 lives or help him die.”

“The beautifully written story of a husband and father’s final days draws the curtain back on both the family’s grief and the palliative care team’s sensitive care,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “What a year to be a storyteller. What a tough year to be a judge of stories of COVID tragedies and racial injustice, of natural and manmade environmental threats, of bigger than life characters and simple human decency. So many of the stories had a strong sense of place, of community and of the issues at play. Journalists across the West are serving their readers well.”

Judged by Gretchen Day-Bryant, assistant managing editor, South Florida Sun Sentinel. 127 entries.


First Place: Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle.
Second Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Christopher Lawrence, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Peter Hartlaub earns first place with “‘Toy Story’ at the start,” a look back 25 years at how old-school animators worked with software engineers to create the groundbreaking film.

“Wow. What a fantastic, compelling story that takes the reader deep behind-the-scenes into the life of Pixar and the birth of ‘Toy Story,'” the judge wrote.

“The detail in this story, gathered over years and through countless interviews, is breathtaking. The saga of the studio – and the constant fear they would be shut down – adds a layer of ‘what could happen next?’ to the story. The strong use of photography and attention to detail and design made this a clear winner.”

Second place goes to the Los Angeles Times staff for “Rise of the Dancefluencer,” a look at how the internet is helping nontraditional talent break into the industry.

“Easily the most visually stunning entry in this category,” the judge wrote. “The use of video and photography, along with its longform design, made this a visual treat.

“The reporting was crisp and narrative, and each person / group profiled had depth, personality, and relatability. A wonderfully reported piece on the modern collision of dance and social media.”

Christopher Lawrence grabs third place with “Looking back at ‘Casino,’ perhaps the definitive Las Vegas movie, at 25.”

“Top-notch writing,” the judge wrote. “The use of compelling quotes and anecdotes throughout this piece brought ‘Casino’ and the city of Las Vegas to life.

“The nostalgia surrounding the ‘glory days’ of the film helped provide a strong narrative hook and ‘Casino’ production stills were used incredibly well in the thoughtful design. The writer did a wonderful job of personifying the Las Vegas that not everyone gets to see.”

Overall, the judge added, “This was a very hard category to judge. I would have easily given out three more awards. Fantastic work here! A pleasure to judge.:

Judged by Kathryn Gregory, lifestyle and features editor, Louisville Courier Journal. 38 entries.


First Place: Clay Carpenter, Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
Second Place: Kim Christensen and Ben Poston, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Markian Hawryluk, Kaiser Health News.

Clay Carpenter takes first place with “Halls of game: Bingo centers are unheralded pillars of the Corpus Christi community.”

“This could have been a basic feature story,” the judge wrote. “Instead, it gave insight into how significant bingo halls are to the finances of nonprofits in Corpus Christi. The descriptive writing draws the reader in at the first sentence.”

Second place goes to Kim Christensen and Ben Poston for “Dying for dollars,” a two-part investigative report that lays bare serious quality-of-care issues and a glaring lack of government oversight of hospice treatment for some of California’s most vulnerable residents

“This is a riveting, well-written story about the business of end-of-life care and how significant the fraud is that is sometimes associated with it,” the judge wrote. “The writer made good use of data for a topic that is not commonly covered.”

Markian Hawryluk takes third place with “Not pandemic-proof: Insulin copay caps fall short, fueling underground exchanges.”

“This was a story that needed to be told,” the judge wrote. “The topic – underground insulin exchanges – is not widely discussed but it’s important. The writer did a good job shining a light on this topic and showing the real-life effects. The writing was clear.”

Judged by Tory Parrish, business reporter, Newsday. 55 entries.


First Place: Joseph Hoyt, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Geoff Baker, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Caitlin Schmidt, Arizona Daily Star.

Joseph Hoyt wins first place with “Coronavirus doesn’t exist in Borden County. This tiny Texas town knows the return of high school football might change that.”

“There were many entries that dealt with the pandemic and its effects on sports,” the judge wrote. “But this one did a wonderful job of portraying the human side of a conflict we all lived through in 2020, with vivid details, great story structure and a conversational style of writing that really draws the reader in and gives a sense of place.”

Second place goes to Geoff Baker for “‘I needed to be rescued’: Former Seattle teen soccer star says youth coaching safeguards failed to protect her from sexual abuse.”

“This is an important public-service story, and the kind of journalism that can open eyes and maybe even save lives,” the judge wrote. “Excellent reporting, made more difficult by the time lapse, helps explain the depth of a problem that affects an entire community.”

Caitlin Schmidt takes third place with “Athletes speak out against misconduct on University of Arizona cross-country team”

“Strong reporting and explanatory writing that reveals systemic problems with a university’s Title IX oversight,” the judge wrote.

Judged by John Niyo, sports columnist, Detroit News. 50 entries.


First Place: Shawn Vestal, Spokane Spokesman-Review.
Second Place: Lee Cataluna, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.

Shawn Vestal wins first place with a portfolio of columns on such topics as the debate over reopening schools during the pandemic, conspiracies about wildfires in the West and a community foundation’s financial support for an organization that has been called a hate group.

“Shawn’s school open/not-open column took a unique, dynamic and effective approach,” the judge wrote. “His newspaper column avoided a gratuitous, self-serving tone to make a meaningful point. A powerful package.”

Second place goes to Lee Cataluna for columns on such topics as
a free grocery drive-thru that draws 500 cars a week Hawaiians love/hate relationship with waiting in line and a governor who cannot lead.

“Lee’s package showed a terrific versatility, from tongue-in-cheek wit to a passion in taking on topics and individuals that deeply affected her,” the judge wrote. “Her topics were local, but easily resonate beyond her readership area.”

Heather Knight takes third place with columns on such topics as gadflies whose appeals have stymied bike lanes and other climate-friendly moves, lavishly paid civil servants allegedly being bribed for very little and the mayor attending a fancy birthday party while telling others to avoid gatherings in the pandemic.

“Beyond her obvious writing talent, Heather’s columns were a tribute to hard work,” the judge wrote. “Her use of multiple sources and background, and the variety of topics with local impact helped her deliver her points with clarity – and guts.”

Overall, the judge added, “Judging this competition was one of the most challenging (and rewarding) tasks I’ve had in some time. Especially worthy was its inclusion of viewpoints spanning the political spectrum, along with humor, faith-based concerns, national topics and many local issues that would have unfortunately flown under the radar were it not for the attention of the writers. The sheer diligence of the entrants shared high ground with their writing talents. Any one of a dozen or more entries merited top-3 consideration.”

Judged by Ron Chimelis, columnist and opinion writer, Springfield Republican, Massachusetts. 40 entries.


First Place: Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.
Second Place: Glenn Nelson, Crosscut and South Seattle Emerald.
Third Place: Lucas Kwan Peterson, Los Angeles Times.

Heather Knight earns first place with columns on drug addiction in San Francisco, including The Castro’s shame: Addiction and mental illness devastate iconic SF neighborhood, “‘If I stay here, I’m going to die’: As one man overdosed, a Tenderloin church offered a sacred death” and “‘It’s devastating’: The Tenderloin sinks deeper into misery, and no one is coming to the rescue.”

“A profoundly undercovered topic, tackled with the humanity, courage and urgency it deserves,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Glenn Nelson for columns on racial justice and equity, including “Last words on a forgotten era in Seattle’s racial history, “A ‘trail of ghosts’ in Seattle, 78 years after Japanese incarceration” and
“The joys and risks of being a Black birdwatcher in Rainier Beach.”

“Tremendously smart localization and elevation of topics we all needed to keep our eyes trained on in 2020,” the judge wrote.

Lucas Kwan Peterson garners third place with columns that include
“How I learned to stop worrying and love my Asian Glow,”
“The official Halloween candy power rankings” and
“When it comes to restaurants, whose dish is it anyway?”

“Brilliant commentary on the ways that food and family and culture and identity all intersect,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Heidi Stevens, parenting and lifestyle columnist, Chicago Tribune. 42 entries.


First Place: Gary Dymski, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Carolyn Horwitz, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Dave Bowman, Los Angeles Times.

Gary Dymski takes first place with a front page centerpiece headline, “Knight Shift: Major shuffle sees Gallant fired, DeBoer hired.”

“Forced into an unsparing head count that allows not more than a couple of words on a section front centerpiece, the headline writer makes clever use of a hockey term (shift) and the name of a local team (Knights) to create a main head that nails the topic of the story: a coaching change for the team.

“Readers could find the names of the incoming and outgoing coaches in the subhead, and the photo verifies we’re talking hockey, but the main head holds its own with just two words.”

Second place goes to Carolyn Horwitz for “Pencils down. The AP exam is going virtual.”

“Anyone who’s graduated high school has heard the phrase that anchors this headline, so ‘Pencils down’ is the perfect wording to evoke the story’s subject: an end to in-person, handwritten AP testing.

“The two-column, three-line, top of page head specs could be challenging, but the writer does a good job of informing readers while drawing them in.”

Dave Bowman garners third place with “At AMC Theatres, a fade to red, not black.”

“This headline tweaks the description of a familiar film technique (fade to black) for a clever take on the financial travails of the business story’s subject, a movie theater chain. The headline overcomes its limited one-line specs by creating this strong allusion to both red ink and the movie business.

Overall, the judge added, “I was pleased to find so many strong candidates in this headline competition, coming as it does amid the many cutbacks on newspaper copy desks across this country. It was difficult to choose among some of the stronger candidates, and even those that didn’t make the top of my list would have been headlines that drew me to read their stories.”

Judged by Mary Kay Wayman, former copy editor, Omaha World-Herald. 33 entries.


First Place: Helen Jung, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Staff, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: John Kerr, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Helen Jung earns first place with “Not under siege, but a city in need,” which rebutted Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf’s description of Portland as “under siege” and calling on local leaders to say that destructive protests “have no place in our city.”

“This is a powerful, balanced and well-conceived editorial that strikes back at the official manipulation of protests that became political fodder in an especially contentious presidential campaign,” the judge wrote. “The right message at the right time.”

Second place goes to the Tribune’s editorial board for “Homelessness. It’s about the money,” which called on the Legislature to provide the funding needed for a range of services needed “to truly deal with the issue.”

“Pointed and exceptionally well written, this editorial makes important observations about the difficult and critical issue of homelessness, and does it in an engaging and even entertaining way,” the judge wrote. “Really well done.”

John Kerr garners third place with “Tax hikes should be suicide duirng crisis.”

“A strong, well reasoned editorial calling for government action on an essential issue as the state contended with the unexpected costs of the pandemic,” the judge wrote. “Clear, concise and persuasive.”

Overall, the judge added, “This was painful for me, and that’s a compliment. All the entries were worthy of consideration and all thoughtfully dealt with issues of importance to readers. The main differentiator was some combination of exceptional writing, important subject matter and persuasiveness. Congratulations to the winners and well done, all. You do credit to the job.”

Judged by Kevin Walter, editorial page editor, Buffalo News. 28 entries.


First Place: Dave Killen, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Third Place: Adolphe Pierre-Louis, Albuquerque Journal.

Dave Killen wins first place with a photo of a naked woman facing off with police during social justice protests in Portland.

“A striking image,” the judge wrote. “This photographer was covering the Portland protests and was nearing the end of his late night shift when he made this image. It’s clear this woman wanted to make a bold statement and this photographer captured the moment in an equally bold photo.”

Second place goes to Jeffrey D. Allred for a photo of a protester in Salt Lake City.

“The SaIt Lake City police were the target of the water bottle being thrown by the photo’s main subject,” the judges wrote. “The image is a great example of a photographer putting the reader right in the middle of the action, despite the dangers of having to shoot in such a chaotic situation.”

Adolphe Pierre-Louis takes third place with a photo of prople running for cover after a protester was shot outside the Albuquerque Museum. Protesters were trying to tear down a bronze statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate.

“This stark photo orginates from a protest that quickly became a violent breaking news scene. The resulting image is layered, showing not only the shooting victim lying in the middle of the road but also the unmitigated emotion of those running away from scene.

Overall, the judge wrote, “There are so many great images in this category. Kudos to every photographer who put themselves in harm’s way to cover protests and wild fires, who worked during a pandemic, and who risked getting sick even on routine assignments to get the job done. They all deserve recognition for continuing to tell stories through photos during this historic time.”

Judged by Merrily Cassidy, photographer, Cape Cod Times. 76 entries.


First Place: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Lynda M. González, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: Loren Holmes, Anchorage Daily News.

Jerry Lara wins first place with “Birth in the time of Covid,” which shows a father watching the birth of his daughter through a hospital window.

“This image evokes feelings of extreme heartbreak when thinking of what this pandemic has taken from us and yet, hope for the future seeing a new life that hopefully has a better future,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Lynda M. González for “Great Dane on a plane,” which captures an airline ticket agent’s surprise as a passenger arrives to check in at Dallas Love Field with her Great Dane.

“In a year where masks protected us, yet hide our emotions, this image beautifully captures emotions via the eyes,” the judge wrote. “A wonderful breath of fresh air from a year marked with so much sadness.”

Loren Holmes takes third place with “Planting,” which shows farmworkers planting 100,000 starts of lettuce, broccoli and cabbage at a farm near Palmer, Alaska.

“Drone or aerial images can become cliche with so much more availability, but this image is anything but cliche. Beautifully composed with planting lines in the field and littered with curious colors,” the judge wrote. “It was nice to get lost in it for a while and wonder about the people and their produce.”

Judged by Z Long, director of digital, photo and video, Omaha World-Herald. 70 entries.


First Place: Rob Schumacher, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Smiley N. Pool, Dallas Morning News.

Rob Schumacher won first place with his photo of Seton Catholic Preparatory guard Lee Willis jumping for joy after defeating Sahuaro High to win Arizona’s 4A Girls basketball championship.

“Great moment capturing jubilation and dejection in a single frame,” the judge wrote. “With multiple layers only making the photo stronger.”

Second place goes to Robert Gauthier for his shot of Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tagging out Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson to start a crucial double play in the fourth inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, won by the Dodgers.

“The full body stretch of the third baseman with his tongue out and the cross flying from around his neck was just the absolute peak moment of the play making this photo rise above other great action moments,” the judge wrote.

Smiley N. Pool grabs third place with his photo of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s right leg being twisting awkwardly as he was tackled by New York Giants cornerback Logan Ryan. Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle that ended his season.

“One of those sports moments you hate to see anyone suffer,” the judge wrote. “But once you see that single frame, you can feel the pain just through the image.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Despite the impact of COVID-19, photographers were able to tell capture many peak moments and storytelling images throughout the past year. It came down to the littlest of details separating a photo from placing and just coming up short.”

Judged by Matt Gade, photojournalist, Daily Republic, Mitchell, South Dakota. 42 entries.


First Place: Smiley N. Pool, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Staff, San Jose Mercury News.
Third Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.

Smiley N. Pool wins first place with “Space in between us,” a collection of photos from day-to-day assignments showing how concepts of space crept into our lives.

“There were some simple, some unexpected, and some interesting, but every single of the many photos in the first place Dallas entry was very deliberate,” the judges wrote. “Each picture seemed fresh and vibrant and made excellent use of light and composition and unusual angles (and not just the aerial/drone?) views.”

“The photographer’s vision of the ‘The space between us’ concept of the title totally worked. And as his sub-head read, the ‘images show the unique reality of a time unlike any other.’

“Whether the idea came after the photographer looked at a body of his work, and saw the distance between people, or if he was emphasizing that space from the very beginning of his pandemic coverage, it worked. It is just a really smart look back at a really extraordinary year.”

Second place goes to the San Jose Mercury News staff for “Empty streets, solitary lives,” showing how a 30-day stay-at-home order reshaped life for Bay Area residents.

“There were other pandemic stories in contention, but the Mercury News gets second place as it was just a little bit better edited, and had a just a few more interesting and different photos,” the judges wrote.

The Los Angeles Times staff garnered third place with coverage of protests in response to the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“Among the many stories of the Floyd protests, the LA Times coverage was the best, with many impactful moments that gave the viewer an intimate sense of the chaos and tension,” the judges wrote.

Judged by Tom Gralish, Jessica Griffin and Timothy Tai, photographers, Philadelphia Inquirer. 25 entries.


First Place: Marcus Yam, Alan Hagman and Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Hart Van Denburg and Jim Hill, Colorado Public Radio.
Third Place: Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times.

Marcus Yam, Alan Hagman and Andrea Castillo earn first place with “The long road: An exodus from Venezuela.”

“First really stood out as every image worked both by itself and each effectively advanced the story,” the judges wrote. “It was also tightly edited, in contrast to many of the other stories entered. It was the clear winner.”

Second place goes to Hart Van Denburg and Jim Hill for “Pregnant and on a ventilator: This Colorado mom survived coronavirus and just gave birth.”

“Second had a lot of intimate moments, and in a category with many Covid stories the photographer made effective use of framing and composition and layering to keep every hospital room photo from looking the same,” the judges wrote.

Robert Gauthier took third place with “Wrestling with Covid-19.”

“Third could have been a boring, but the photographer combined his creative style with the theatrics and choreography of the athletes to produce a story was probably welcome relief from the pandemic for readers,” the judges wrote.

Judged by Tom Gralish, Jessica Griffin and Timothy Tai, photographers, Philadelphia Inquirer. 30 entries.


First Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Aaron Scott, Peter Frick-Wright and Robbie Carver, Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Third Place: Andy Viano and Justin Franz, Flathead Beacon, Kalispell, Montana.

The Los Angeles Times staff wins first place with the opening episode of “Chasing Cosby,” a podcast chronicling the rise and fall of Bill Cosby.

“Immersive and exceptionally reported,” the judge wrote. “This is a great pairing of story and medium, and a perfect pairing of print reporter and podcast host.

“Weisensee Egan’s superbly structured narrative navigates decades of material while raising timely questions about the criminal justice system and why the accounts of women are so often ignored. ‘Chasing Cosby’s’ expansive reporting footprint, exceptional use of archival sound, crisp original audio and judicious editing are an audio storytelling achievement.”

Second place goes to Aaron Scott, Peter Frick-Wright and Robbie Carver for two installments of the podcast “Timber Wars,” about a groundbreaking 1989 protest over logging in old-growth forests and the scientists whose research inspired the environmentalists.

“This considerate and engaging retelling of a pivotal moment in the environmental movement offers a front-row seat to humanity’s changing relationship with the natural world,” the judge wrote.

“An energetic score often surprises in its variety without distracting from the story, just as ambient and interview audio immerse us in an array of locales – from noisy car interiors to rain-soaked forests – without sacrificing intelligibility. By thoughtfully giving voice to those agitating for change and those wedded to a traditional way of life, ‘Timber Wars’ offers a blueprint for inclusive reporting on land use and environmental policy.”

Andy Viano and Justin Franz take third place with an episode of “Project 7,” a true-crime podcast about a militia leader who led police on a chase through the forests of western Montana in 2011 and then disappeared.

“‘Project 7’ elevates an obscure tale of one man’s gravitation toward extreme anti-government behavior from the realm of local legend to a story with startling national relevancy,” the judge wrote.

“With its impressive patchwork of interviews, unusual archival sound and frequent narrative detours into regional history and touchstone news events, this displays a rare comfort serving as both a gripping mystery and keen social and political conversation-starter. Come for the true-crime, stay for the reflections on the role of government, the inciting power of media personalities and the fine line between protest and insurgency.”

Judged by Luke Vargas, senior audio producer, theSkimm, New York City. 25 entries.


First Place: Arya Surowidjojo, MacGregor Campbell and Jan Boyd, Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Second Place (tie): Adrienne St. Clair, Rex Warner and Amber Perry, Deseret News.
Second Place (tie): Rachel Aston, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Mackenzie Behm, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Arya Surowidjojo, MacGregor Campbell and Jan Boyd earn first place with Kassa Overall: Backpack Jazz Producing In Portland,” a profile of the idiosyncratic artist.

“A well-told story,” the judges wrote. “Judges liked the creativity and flow of the story. It had different layers to the story. Creatively shot and edited. Audio edits were smooth. Great setups and reveals.”

Second place goes to Adrienne St. Clair, Rex Warner and Amber Perry for Murder!: The unknown story of the invention of Clue,” a profile of the British couple who created the legendary board game while hiding out from Nazi air raids during World War II.

“Creative editing,” the judges wrote. “Great use of graphics to tell the story. A great way to tell the origins of a board game.”

Second place also goes to Rachel Aston for “The future of live performance,” a profile of Cirque de Soleil performers training while in quarantine because of the coronavirus and looking forward to their return to the stage.

“The elements of the story solidly brought a really good understanding of what the performers are going through,” the judges wrote.

Mackenzie Behm takes third place with “Navajo Nation,” a look at the heavy toll taken on the Arizona tribe by the coronavirus.

“Great natural moments that helped tell the story,” the judges wrote. “Well shot and edited.”

Judged by Lance Washington, director of photography, and photojournalists Jim Pennison, Kia Callia and Tim Guidry, WVUE-TV, New Orleans. 44 entries.


First Place: Tony Morales, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: John Osborne D’Agostino, CalMatters.

Tony Morales wins first place with a multimedia package about construction of the Circa Resort & Casino, starting with a 70-second drone video of the hotel going up and then listing key facts with photos – 35 stories, 777 rooms, 1,000 construction workers and more.

“Great planning and execution of the drone video opening; it made me really want to see what came next in this story,” the judge wrote. “The breakdown by numbers of what went in this construction project was fascinating. Very well done project.”

Second place goes to the Los Angeles Times staff for “Tracking the coronavirus in California,” which became the most comprehensive source of Covid data in California.

“This was quite detailed, in-depth information handled in a way that will keep readers engaged and learning,” the judge wrote.

John Osborne D’Agostino takes third place with “An interactive guide for figuring out how to vote on California’s ballot issues.”

“Very nice interactive guide,” the judge wrote. “It keeps the readers engaged at any level they want. Deep information for those that really want to dig into the topic, quick reads for those skimming. At every level you find the information you need.”

Overall, the judge added, “The winning entries all stood out for their ability to present information in ways that were useful and engaging.”

Judged by Sherman Williams, assistant managing editor for visual journalism, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 25 entries.


First Place: Betty Chavarria and Kelli Sullivan, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: LeeAnn Elias, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Jeff Meddaugh, Dallas Morning News.

Betty Chavarria and Kelli Sullivan win first place with “Exodus from Venezuela,” a Sunday front-page package.

“The presentation elevated an already powerful story on one of the biggest mass migrations in modern history,” the judges wrote. “The Los Angeles Times embarked on an ambitious project to document the exodus from Venezuela, immersing a reporter and photographer to observe the journey – from the shelters set up by good Samaritans; to the tiny towns along the highway; to the backs of trucks.

“As the Times wrote – no single story would capture the magnitude of the crisis. All of which meant the design of this special package was particularly important. This entry, perhaps more so than any other, serves as a perfect example of the importance of marrying content and design. The design never interrupted the storytelling. And the storytelling benefited from an elegant yet powerful design.

“The idea of using multiple inset locator maps to detail the various segments of the exodus was sophisticated and effective, and the maps guided readers through each step of the journey. Each page made strong use of photography, which captured the anguish and exhaustion of those who had embarked on an exodus rooted in despair. Relying heavily on photography allowed visuals to help carry the design. But each page – from the A1 story to the two pages inside – maintained a nice balance between typography and photographs.”

Second place goes to LeeAnn Elias for “Silver & Black Facts,” a special section.

“When the Raiders moved to Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal faced the task of helping the city prepare for the team’s first season in the city. The design of this special section, billed as a condensed playbook, was based on a strong concept that was executed flawlessly from beginning to end. It was engaging, informative and meaningful. And it benefited from thoughtful, sophisticated touches on every page, such as the use of typography and white space.

“But what really made this design stand out was the use bite-sized nuggets rather than long-form journalism. The ‘numbered’ approach allowed the newspaper to quickly capture the story of this celebrated franchise. The use of black and white photography not only elevated the nostalgic feel of the section, but they also reflected the franchise’s rich history. In the end, the Review-Journal delivered a beautifully designed keepsake section that truly offered something for everyone – whether they were already die-hard Raiders fans or just wanting to hold their own in cocktail party banter.”

Jeff Meddaugh earns third place with “Curious Nature,” a features section package.

“As the Dallas Morning News wrote, the Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion is quite unlike most art museum exhibitions,” the judges wrote. “Indeed, what ties the exhibition together is how each piece helps Texans to see and understand the natural landscape of the state. And this design helped capture the spirit of the exhibit.

“It represented great movement throughout, seamlessly weaving together visuals and white space. The cover helped carry the strong design, beginning with the use of typography and the headline, “Curious nature.” The cover sold the inside pages – and most importantly, the inside pages followed through on the promise of the cover.

“Designing two facing pages can be challenging, but the designer’s great attention to detail helped pull it all together. The pacing of the design, the various sizes of the photographs, and the illustrations of the main characters helped guide readers’ eyes through each piece of this story.”

Judged by Mark A. Waligore, managing editor and senior director; Rick Crotts, senior editor, print presentation, and Michael Perkins, senior designer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 52 entries.


First Place: Staff, Carnegie-Knight News21.
Second Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Corinne Chin and Erika Schultz, Seattle Times.

The Cronkite-Knight News 21 staff earns first place with “Kids imprisoned: Prisonlike facilities. Racial disparities. Employee abuse. Follow the path of America’s kids in the justice system.”

“News21’s ‘Kids imprisoned’ has the most extensive and creative online presentation of this year’s entries,” the judge wrote. “The landing page has a unique scrolling graphic that guides the reader through the series. There are numerous podcasts and videos available. The stories are packed with photos, illustrations, interactive graphics, document cutouts and related links, creating a well-rounded visual experience.

“Navigation at the bottom of each piece allows the readers to continue on without having to find their way back to the landing page. The expansive ‘extras’ section provides more related content in a visually appealing way. And the ‘stories’ tab provides a simple table of contents for readers who want a more basic rundown of the content.”

Second place goes to the Los Angeles Times staff for “Fumed out: How toxic fumes seep into the air you breathe on planes.”

“The Los Angeles Times incorporated a wealth of multimedia elements in this harrowing piece on commercial flight air quality,” the judge wrote.

“The piece begins with a jarring and claustrophobic video clip of a smoky aircraft cabin. Downpage, the reader is treated to striking photos, a slick moving graphic, an audio clip, a scrolling timeline, tweet embeds and pdf documents.”

Corinne Chin and Erika Schultz take third place with “Disappearing daughters,” which examines the resilient women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as they search for justice after losing their beloved daughters to femicide.

“This project from the Seattle Times was the best in the category in terms of being a truly immersive experience,” the judge wrote.

“As you scroll through the piece, the reader is presented gripping videos and photography, which the text seamlessly guides you through with snippets and pull quotes. Related links are integrated beautifully, and the story is fittingly available in both English and Spanish.”

Overall, the judge added, “There were so many visually-striking pieces in this year’s entries that it was painful to narrow it down to three winners. In one of the most significant news years of our lifetimes, these projects did an exemplary job of highlighting a range of important topics with superb multimedia elements and navigational components.”

Judged by Stephen Bohner, deputy editor for curation and platforms, Washington Post. 27 entries.