2023 contest results 

The complete contest results are posted below. Congratulations to the winners for their outstanding journalism, and thanks to our volunteer judges for their hard work in reviewing more than 1,100 entries.

GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING

First Place: Julie Cart, CalMatters.
Second Place: Hal Bernton and Loren Holmes, Anchorage Daily News and Seattle Times.
Third Place (tie): Rob O’Dell, Ian James and Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic.
Third Place (tie): Leia Larsen, Salt Lake Tribune.

Julie Cart wins first place with the package “Trial by fire: The trauma of fighting California’s wildfires.”

“An amazing series about the psychological price paid by the California Fire Service because of the escalating intensity and frequency of wildfires caused by climate change,” the judge wrote.

“A terrific example of beat reporting that leads to unprecedented access to a group therapy session by Cal Fire firefighters, gasp-worthy stats and quotes, and ability to write with authority about complex topics and take the reader inside a new world as if they were right there in the thick of a forest fire. Beautiful writing. Ryan’s story was gut-wrenching.”

Second place goes to Hal Bernton and Loren Holmes for “Scrambled Seas, a series exploring how a decade of rapid climatic changes derailed a spectacularly productive marine ecosystem.

“This collaboration between the Anchorage Daily News and the Seattle Times tagged all the bases: great writing, great photography, great topic of regional and national interest and great timing,” the judge wrote.

“In clear prose and an informative graphic, we learn about the role a decade of climactic change and melting sea ice plays in the changes transforming the Bering Sea, which provides 40 percent of the U.S. seafood harvest. The series transports readers to a world they’ve only seen on cable TV: out on the icy seas and into the real lives of fishermen on the front lines of climate change.”

Rob O’Dell, Ian James and Ryan Randazzo grab third place with “Arizona Water Woes.”

“‘Arizona Water Woes’ shows how the best deeply rooted beat journalism can yield a jaw-dropping gotcha in the form of Fondomonte, a Saudia Arabian company that can tap into unlimited amounts of the scarce water supply to grow thirsty alfalfa crops in the desert on land leased at below-market rates from the state that is shipped halfway around the world to feed its dairy cows in the Middle East,” the judge wrote.

“Water in the Southwest is a complex topic, but this story is a clearly written coffee spitter.”

Leia Larsen also takes third place with “At Water’s Edge.”

“At Water’s Edge is a wonderful example of a well written, well presented collaboration that takes a novel approach to covering the disappearing Salt Lake, moving beyond just telling people about the steadily drying up lake itself, and what the state isn’t doing to fix it or even monitor its decline, but by taking readers to two other salt lakes that had been facing the same fate and how they handled it (hint: one went badly, one offers potential solutions),” the judge wrote.

“Of note, other outlets have tackled disappearing salt lakes, but this one clearly stated the environmental harm of dust pollution, a fact that others never even mention.”

Overall, the judge added, “Environmental and growth reporting in the U.S. West is thriving as evidenced by such a strong group of beat and project work in this year’s Best of West. A dozen of these entries earned this judge’s top marks and could have earned a first place showing in another year. To decide, I gave extra points to entries that demonstrated sweep, strong use of visuals, data, and public records, a range of compelling and diverse characters, and gotcha or solutions angles.”

Judged by Penelope Overton, environment and statehouse reporter, Portland Press Herald. 63 entries.

IMMIGRATION AND BORDER REPORTING

First Place: Elizabeth Trovall, Houston Chronicle.
Second Place: Eli Cahan, Capital and Main.
Third Place: Texas Tribune staff with ProPublica, The Marshall Project and Military Times.

Elizabeth Trovall wins first place with “Haitian Odyssey.”

“In journalism, so often we hear editors telling reporters, ‘Don’t tell me the story. Show it.’ The story by Elizabeth Trovall, accompanied with the stellar photo images by Marie D. De. Jesus, is a prime example of what showing a story really means in a perfect sense,” the judge wrote.

“They brought me and enticed me into that physical and emotional journey or odyssey with the migrants, with such detailed observations. You can’t write that kind of vivid account without being a witness embedded in the situation. It took a tremendous amount of hard work and trust from the migrants to tell their stories in very challenging circumstances.

“Global migration is often too big, too difficult to write, but the author was skilled at organizing the story into the ‘journey’ theme, incorporating those big-policies into the human narratives to document how all these forces came together to push migrants to make difficult choices and take on these perilous trips.

“The author also painted these characters really well so they were not just numbers that made up the millions of people arriving at the southern U.S. border. The story had a prologue and was divided into chapters. It flows and reads really well like a novel, with the suspense of where these characters would end up, only that these are the real lives of migrants that we’re reading about and it’s no fiction.”

Second place goes to Eli Cahan for “Pregnant on the Other Side of the Border.”

“In 4,456 words (I hope my count was right), the story sheds light on an issue that we often overlook in the bigger scheme of global migration — feminization of migration — and the subsequent challenges and vulnerabilities this particular demographic is faced with in the process,” the judge wrote.

“It explains to readers how the complex U.S. border policies and reduction in humanitarian aid and international development have contributed to the problem. To cap it off, the story shows the human impacts of these policies. What I particularly liked about the story is that the author did not lecture his readers on the morality of these policies, but just presented the story as what he saw and let readers make their own conclusions.”

The Texas Tribune staff with ProPublica, The Marshall Project and Military Times take third place with “Operation Lone Star.”

“It’s refreshing to see a story that takes an inside look into the impacts of government border measures. So often, we look at the implications of such policies on migrants,” the judge wrote.

“This project actually surprised me by looking at whether Operation Lone Star actually achieved what Gov. Greg Abbott and officials claimed it would in doing a job where the Feds failed. Media play an important role in holding authorities, especially our elected officials, accountable. Through data mining and dogged determination, the reporting team prowled through public records and followed the story over months to seek out the truths, often with little help from government officials.

“The one piece in the series fact-checking Texas leaders’ claims about Operation Lone Star was brilliant. I would also like to compliment the teamwork between Texas Tribune, ProPublica, The Marshall Project and Military Times. As legit print media struggles, collaboration, not competition, is the way to go!”

Judged by Nicholas Keung, immigration, refugee and diversity reporter, Toronto Star. 17 entries.

SOCIAL JUSTICE REPORTING

First Place: Thomas Heaton, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Second Place: California Divide Team, CalMatters.
Third Place: Laura Garcia and Libby Seline, San Antonio Express-News.

Thomas Heaton wins first place with “UXO: Lethal Legacy,” a series documenting death and injuries suffered in the Solomon Islands as a result of previously unexploded World War II-era bombs left behind by the U.S. and Japan.

“This package by the Honolulu Civil Beat is beautifully written and powerful testimony to the forgotten victims and damaging legacy of warring nations,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to the California Divide Team at CalMatters for “Unpaid Wages: A Waiting Game,” which the judge praised for “its methodical, well-told chronicling of how wages are routinely stolen from some of the state’s hardest workers who keep our society afloat

“Labor reporting is too often overlooked, as are low-wage employees who don’t speak English or are vulnerable to exploitation,” the judge added. “‘Unpaid Wages: A Waiting Game’ makes sure these stories are told and has already ensured accountability.”

Laura Garcia and Libby Seline take third place with “Access Denied,” which the judge called “a warmly told tale of tragic societal neglect revealing how health care deserts come to be.

“Reporter Laura Garcia of the Express-News brings us deep inside San Antonio’s south side to describe the depths of pandemic ravages in immigrant communities — a toll we must not forget,” the judge added. “Terrific data analysis by Libby Seline, making this a clearly stellar partnership. Why should where you live dictate your access to health care? These journalists remind us of that danger and make the case for solutions.”

Judged by Karen de Sa, executive editor, Imprint News. 43 entries.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Staff, Texas Tribune.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s staff earns first place for “Murder of Jeff German.”

“The Las Vegas Review-Journal staff rose to meet an unimaginable challenge in covering the murder of a colleague, allegedly by an elected official,” the judge wrote. “Staff members showed remarkable bravery in reporting the arrest of Robert Telles, and the package of stories did justice to the life and career of Mr. German.”

Second place goes to the Los Angeles Times’ staff for coverage of a racist comments in a leaked tape that upended L.A. politics.

“It was a story that not only upended L.A. politics, it reverberated across the country,” the judge wrote. “The L.A. Times broke it on a Sunday morning just hours after obtaining a copy of the recording, and supplemented the breaking news coverage with thoughtful commentary and analysis.”

The Texas Tribune’s staff takes third place with coverage of the Uvalde shooting and its aftermath.

“The Texas Tribune’s coverage of the Uvalde school massacre anticipated the political debate that would follow, without losing sight of the human tragedy,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Michael McDermott, managing editor, Providence Journal. 13 entries.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

First Place: Alicia Inez Guzmán, Michael Benanav and Lindsey Fendt, Searchlight New Mexico.
Second Place: Christopher Osher and Julia Cardi, Colorado Springs Gazette.
Third Place: James Brooks, Alaska Beacon.

Alicia Inez Guzmán, Michael Benanav and Lindsey Fendt win first place with “Fire and Rain,” an in-depth look at the destruction from a prescribed burn that went out of control and became the largest wildfire in New Mexico history.

“A truly sweeping view of the devastation of a community,” the judge wrote. “The series situates the wildfire not just in history and in the context of climate change, but follows the victims to show what happens afterward.

“I was particularly impressed by the reporting on the ‘disaster capitalism’ during the aftermath. It stood out against similar entries for its beautiful writing and photographs.”

Second place goes to Christopher Osher and Julia Cardi for “Colorado’s parenting evaluation industry profits as bitter child custody cases thrown into chaos.”

“While many of the other entries tackled systemic, intractable problems such as homelessness and addiction, this piece used similar narrative tools to take on a more local issue with equally devastating consequences,” the judge wrote.

“The story made the process of parenting evaluations transcend just being another lack of regulation and showed the effect it had on families — often with truly shocking consequences. It felt to me like focusing on a smaller issue which people might be less familiar with than, say, opioids could open the door for real change. Apart from that, it was simply excellently written and reported.”

James Brooks takes third place with “An Oath Keeper faces a 1950s disloyalty clause.”

“This series was not as flashy as some of the others; it didn’t have original photography or special packaging. But I was really impressed with how clearly and fairly it explained a topic that was both exceptionally legalistic and very politically contentious,” the judge wrote.

“The history, too, of Alaska’s constitution added a layer of fascination for me. As I was continuing to judge this contest, I kept describing this entry to my friends and colleagues — the ultimate evidence of a great story.”

Judged by Nausicaa Renner, deputy editor, The Intercept. 69 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First Place: Noelle Crombie, Beth Nakamura and Samantha Swindler, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Joaquin Palomino and Trisha Thadani, San Francisco Chronicle.
Third Place: Staff, Cronkite News.

Noelle Crombie, Beth Nakamura and Samantha Swindler win first place with “The Safest Place: Sometimes it’s Not Enough,” which examined how young people at an alternative high school dealt with loss and forged bonds with teachers and staff in a year that began with the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old student.

“Lovely mix of moving photography and storytelling,” the judges wrote.

Second place goes to Joaquin Palomino and Trisha Thadani for “Broken Homes,” which examined how San Francisco spends millions of dollars to shelter its most vulnerable residents in dilapidated hotels with disastrous results.

“Powerful reporting and eye-popping images,” the judges wrote.

The staff of Cronkite News at Arizona State University takes third place with “Gaslit,” which explored how U.S. oil and gas companies ahve burned off at least 3.5 trilling cubic feet of natural gas over the past decade.

“Innovative reporting and vivid writing,” the judges wrote.

Overall, the judges added, “Very tough to pick winners in this category. Entries were excellent and competitive. Congrats to the winners.”

Judged by Keith Herbert, investigations editor; David Schwartz, deputy Long Island editor; Heather Doyle, real estate editor; and Anastasia Valeeva, data reporter; all from Newsday. 55 entries.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place: Matt Hamilton and Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Mike Reicher, Lulu Ramadan and Taylor Blatchford, Seattle Times and ProPublica.
Third Place: Joseph Jaafari, Jimmy Jenkins and Justin Price, Arizona Republic.

Matt Hamilton and Harriet Ryan earn first place with “Golden State Injustice.”

“So much good, revelatory, jaw-dropping reporting here about corrupt lawyers and failures by the people expected to either keep them honest or punish them,” the judge wrote.

“About how one powerful attorney (and judges he hired to carve up court awards) siphoned money from people they were paid to represent. About how some vulnerable people never got the payout they were promised in court. And about racial / wealth disparities re: which lawyers get sanctioned. It’s a blueprint for needed reforms.”

Second place goes to Mike Reicher, Lulu Ramadan and Taylor Blatchford for “Invisible Schools.”

“A shocking look at failures by a private company paid with taxpayer dollars to teach challenging special needs students,” the judge wrote.

“And an astounding failures by government to see it and do something about it, despite so much evidence. No books, no curriculum, no personalized plans despite Northwest SOIL collecting about $68,000 in annual tuition per student, more than triple the average per-student cost in Washington.

“The evidence of misuse of restraints, physical force and isolation rooms is heartbreaking and infuriating. The voices of so many insiders, including those on video, bring real authority to the stories. Bravo on the impact: an investigation into the network of these privately run schools.”

Joseph Jaafari, Jimmy Jenkins and Justin Price take third place with
“The Prison Sell: Arizona changed how it sells prisoners to companies. The state raked in millions, but workers were neglected.”

“Superb work uncovering how for-profit prison managers uses incarcerated people as profit centers — laborers to rent out — with no consideration for their rehabilitation, skill building, humane treatment or fair compensation,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Cathy Clabby, investigations editor, Charlotte News and Observer. 48 entries.

NEWS WRITING

First Place: Noelle Crombie, The Oregonian.
Second Place (tie): Guillermo Contreras, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place (tie): Tony Plohetski and Manny Garcia, Austin American-Statesman.
Third Place: Gabriel Thompson, Capital & Main.

Noelle Crombie wins first place with “The Safest Place: Sometimes It’s Not Enough.”

“In this piece, the author stands aside and allows the strength of her immersive reporting do the work, laying out in devastating detail how Dante McFallo’s short life and violent death impacted those around him,” the judge wrote.

“Noelle Crombie’s writing is spare and powerful, evoking the confusion and pain of the classmates this teenager left behind and the despair of the adults who tried to save him. It is a textbook example of how to distill a huge ongoing news story — in this case, the startling rise in gun violence in and around Portland — into a very human narrative that makes it impossible for readers to look away.”

Second place goes to Guillermo Contreras for “‘It’s time to die. You guys are mine,’ gunman said during 75 years of terror in Uvalde.”

“It’s difficult to imagine a story that could deepen the horror of the Uvalde shooting, but Guillermo Contreras’ account, told partially through the eyes of students trapped in those classrooms that day, is searing,” the judge wrote.

“The story not only sheds new light on what happened inside that Texas school but also forces the reader to reckon with the idea that children were forced to bear witness to unimaginable chaos and carnage.”

Second place also goes to Tony Plohetski and Manny Garcia for “Exclusive: Watch Uvalde school shooting video obtained by Statesman showing police response.”

“The most notable aspect of the Austin American-Statesman’s entry is the reporter and news organization’s brave and commendable decision to release the video that indelibly laid bare the the inaction and seeming nonchalance of the police officers inside the Uvalde school, as students and teachers lay dying, and the gunman remained at large,” the judge wrote.

“But Tony Plohetski’s piece also used the details gleaned from the video — the fist bump, the flip of the hair — to tell a story as maddening as it is heartbreaking.”

Gabriel Thompson takes third place with “Scamsters posing as ICE officials are defrauding U.S. families of asylum seekers.”

Judged by Jennifer Peter, managing editor, Boston Globe. 72 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, SHORT FORM

First Place: David Gutman, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle.
Third Place: Meg Walter, Deseret News.

David Gutman earns first place with “‘Hey, boys, you’ve got to keep it down’/ In Ballard, noisy sea lions are a real scene.”

“I love that it was such an ordinary idea — noisy seals taking up space,” the judge wrote. “Executed well, with humor and science to boot.”

Second place goes to Andrew Dansby for “Saying goodbye to Steve, the reader who commented on everything I wrote for 17 years.”

“Very touching story written with such a deft enough touch that it wasn’t maudlin,” the judge wrote.

Meg Walter takes third place with “Utah’s ‘dirty soda’ war may start a revolution.

“I just loved the ‘cheek’ in the writing,” the judge wrote. “Very entertaining piece.”

Overall, the judge added, “Several stories were second-day news stories, so I disregarded those. I gave more points to the stories that used elements of storytelling and narrative, that showed action instead of told. Thank you for the opportunity.”

Judged by Denise Watson, features editor, Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press. 44 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, LONG FORM

First Place: Julie Cart, CalMatters.
Second Place: Anne Ryman and Cheryl Evans, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Jason Fagone, San Francisco Chronicle.

Julie Cart wins first place for her writing in the package “Trial by fire: The trauma of fighting California’s wildfires.”

“A knockout series on a subject on which more people need to be informed,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Anne Ryman and Cheryl Evans for “DeKooning’s Missing Woman Ochre,” about

“Complex and detailed account of an odyssey in art with, for a change, a happy ending,” the judge wrote.

Jason Fagone takes third place with The man who paid for America’s fear, about a Pakistani immigrant who was wrongfully convicted of terrorism after 9/11, lost everything, and now is trying to find himself.

“Moving and impressive piece on a tragic abuse of the American justice system, again, one of a few pieces in this competition with a happy ending (sort of),” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, “An absolute wealth of top-notch stories. Laughed, cried, learned a lot on subjects with which I would not have ordinarily come in contact. An object lesson on why we need newspapers and what we’re losing as we lose more and more outlets.”

Judged by Eric Harrison, feature writer and columnist, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. 117 entries.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First Place (tie): Stacy Perman, Los Angeles Times.
First Place (tie): Amy Kaufman and Meg James, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Jason Bracelin, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Stacy Perman earns first place with “A child star at 7, in prison at 22. Then she vanished. What happened to Lora Lee Michel?”

“They say reporters often make great investigators, and the story of Lora Lee Michel reveals the accuracy of that belief,” the judge wrote.

“Stacy Perman offers a rich example of the craft of journalism, which at its core is about asking the right questions of the right people and getting the right answers, or at least as complete and accurate an answer that can be found. Sometimes, as in Lora Lee’s case, the revelation is one that is difficult to bear.”

Amy Kaufman and Meg James also won first place for “The man who played Hollywood: Inside Randall Emmett’s crumbling empire.”

“Meg James and Amy Kaufman offer a deeply sourced, exhaustively reported and utterly masterful peek behind the film credits of a Hollywood producer,” the judge wrote. “The story unfolds in such punishing detail that the ending is both unbelievable and totally predictable.

Jason Bracelin grabs third place with “Hanging with Steve Aoki.”

“Jason Bracelin invites readers to join him in the “wonderland” of a profile that delves into the life of a Vegas DJ,” the judge wrote. “The writing is so incredibly descriptive and detailed that I feel like I’ve always known Steve Aoki.”

The judge added: “Overall, there were many artful and entertaining entries with strong storytelling and lovely images, but in the end it was the riveting (and revolting, in one case) drama of life off-stage that captivated the most.”

Judged by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, senior content editor for features and opinion, Baltimore Sun. 41 entries.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING

First Place: Eli Segall, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Lori Weisberg, Greg Moran and Adriana Heldiz, San Diego Union Tribune.
Third Place: Jessica Roy, Los Angeles Times.

Eli Segall wins first place for “How Las Vegas’ biggest real estate deals result in no transfer taxes.”

“This investigation into the loophole on real estate transfer taxes could mean millions in revenue for Las Vegas if planned legislation goes through,” the judge wrote. “This is an story important story with impact. It is well researched and well told.”

Second place goes to Lori Weisberg, Greg Moran and Adriana Heldiz for “‘She was on top of the world’: The rise and fall of San Diego’s largest Ponzi schemer.”

“A captivating look into a San Diego woman who ripped off investors for millions,” the judge wrote. “This story starts at the very beginning — how a woman who was once hoodwinked herself became a criminal.”

Jessica Roy grabs third place with “My wallet was stolen at a bar. Then my identity theft nightmare began.”

“A gripping tale of how one woman fought back against identity theft,” the judge wrote. “It brings chills to understand the extent of the damage caused by a stolen wallet. This is a story that will make every reader take precautions to safeguard their credit.”

Judged by Marty Steffens, SABEW chair in business and financial journalism, University of Missouri. 40 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING

First Place: Scott M. Reid, Orange County Register.
Second Place: Jason Bracelin, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: David Wharton, Los Angeles Times.

Scott M. Reid earns first place with “UC Berkeley swimmers allege coach bullied and verbally abused them for years.”

“There were a lot of worthy stories in this vein, exposing abuse and toxic environments in various sports settings, but Scott Reid’s accounting of the abusive culture around the Cal women’s swimming program particularly stands out,” the judge wrote.

“Reid’s reporting is impressive, both in terms of the number of sources with whom he spoke but also the details he was able to collect from them. Reading the story’s many revealing anecdotes, I felt like I knew exactly what kind of abusive bully Teri McKeever was. Reid’s piece offers a very complete picture of the issue, including the dynamics between teammates and the athletic department’s shameful inaction. As for its impact, McKeever’s subsequent firing after a school investigation speaks to that as strongly as anything could.

Second place goes to Jason Bracelin for “Night of the ‘bite.'”

“I am a sucker for retrospectives, but only ones that justify the trip down memory lane,” the judge wrote. “Jason Bracelin’s look back at the infamous Tyson-Holyfield bout – surely one of the most famous sporting events of the last quarter century – was engrossing from the first paragraph.

“Bracelin spoke to an impressive number of the event’s principals, even if Tyson and Holyfield declined to be among them, but most impressive was the quality of his writing. It was the most artfully-written piece in the category.”

David Wharton takes third place with “Meet the Savannah Bananas.”

“When I tackle a story, I tell myself I want to write the definitive version of it, a story so complete that no one dares follow me on it. That can be especially difficult when the story’s subject has been written about often, but David Wharton pulls it off with this piece on the Savannah Bananas,” the judge wrote.

“I cover baseball for a living, and the Bananas have been written about a lot. It would take eons to read every story about them, but I doubt any of those other pieces could hold a candle to Wharton’s. He takes the reader on an enjoyable ride into bizarro baseball, ostensibly centered around one trip to see one series in Kansas City, but artfully constructed to balance on-the-ground action with compelling backstory. It’s a story almost as fun as the Bananas themselves.”

Judged by Zach Buchanan, baseball writer, The Athletic. 49 entries.

GENERAL INTEREST COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Melinda Henneberger, Sacramento Bee.
Second Place: Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Sharon Grigsby, Dallas Morning News.

Melinda Henneberger wins first place with a portfolio of local columns.

“I was really struck by Henneberger’s use of Mark Rippee’s story to put a real face and human story to the homelessness experience due to legislative gaps for the mentally ill,” the judge wrote.

“She shows clearly why change is needed. Not with finger-wagging contemptuous name-calling that we too often get from commentators but with a compelling narrative that paints an undeniable picture the reader can get behind and truly understand.”

Second place goes to Anita Chabria for columns on such topics as drug use, farmworker rights and mental illness.

“Anita Chabria appreciates the complexity of her topic and approaches the information with nuance that doesn’t undermine the reader’s mixed feelings about drug use,” the judge wrote.

“Shining a light on how complicated the subject is for every community, she writes with compassion, which really helps the reader remain open to the information and follow her lead in offering compassion as well as solutions.”

Sharon Grigsby takes third place for her portfolio of columns.

“Sharon Grigsby shines a light on some of our society’s darkest places, overwhelmed hospitals, transgender people, elderly shut-ins,” the judges wrote.

“All stories are told in a way that lifts the human experience without a hint of pity, while urging our communities to do better by each and every vulnerable individual.”

Judged by Bonnie Jean Feldkamp, opinion editor, Louisville Courier-Journal. 30 entries.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Kevin Sherrington, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle.
Third Place: Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle.

Kevin Sherrington earned first place with a portfolio of sports columns.

“Clearly, these columns are the work of a master storyteller with an eye not to so much for triumphalist sports celebrities but for the hearts of ordinary people,” the judges wrote.
“In the columns we read, we felt that Sherrington took on monumental subjects (such as loss and grief) and yet found a way to approach them through quotidian lives.

“In all these pieces, you sense Americans, mostly Texans, doing their best through life’s ups and downs. Sherrington is especially well tuned to the bigger issues lurking in the background of ordinary Texan life. We found ourselves pulled through these columns and unable to stop reading once we had begun. They are textbook examples of how to emotionally engage a reader.”

Second place goes to Soleil Ho for restaurant criticism on subjects that include an Indian food icon and the French Laundry.

“This is American food writing and restaurant criticism at its very finest,” the judges wrote. “It is opinionated, gorgeously written, aware of systemic biases, open to surprises, fair and always richly reported. The writer’s expertise is evident, of course, but the connection with readers is palpable.

“We especially loved the piece about ghost celebrity kitchens, a column that was in tune with the hilarious paradox inherent in the subject and determined to let the reader in on the joke, and point out how the people who get the most attention on her beat rarely are the artisans. But in the other pieces, most of which are vessels for a critic’s enthusiasm, we see Soleil Ho’s love for the true excellence to be found on her beat, one at the heartbeat of American life.

Heather Knight takes third place with columns on everything from fentanyl addition to politics.

“These columns are extraordinarily powerful and empathetic,” the judges wrote.

“Pieces that rely on a writer’s relationship with a subject to some degree are hard to craft, and we were greatly impressed with the nuanced tone of the narrative: the artful blend of compassion and truth-telling, the writer’s ability to explore how an individual’s experience can be emblematic of a broad American crisis and her innate understanding on how addicts are so rarely reliable narrators of their own experiences. The work is honest, kind, unstinting and frequently beautiful.”

Overall, the judges wrote, “We were hugely impressed with the entries to say the least and found this task near impossible. Congratulations to all the entrants.”

Judged by Chris Jones, editorial page editor and critic, and Colleen Kujawa, content editor for the opinion section, both of the Chicago Tribune.

HEADLINE WRITING

First Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Lindsey Treffry, Spokane Spokesman Review.
Third Place: Linda Houser, San Francisco Chronicle.

George Riggle earns first place with “App and at ’em / First step to exploring trails at Wetlands Park: Download.”

“Out of all the entries this year, this piece best performs the headline hat-trick: 1. Accurate and Concise. 2. Clever or Artful. 3. Digital or Search-engine friendly,” the judge wrote.

“Writing a single headline that can work across multiple touchpoints or platforms is difficult. This head manages to perfectly balance the needs of print, digital and social media. Nicely done!”

Second place goes to Lindsey Treffry for “A Sign of the Times.”

“Reading ‘A Sign of the Times’ in isolation doesn’t stoke much inspiration,” the judge wrote. “However, in context, ‘A Sign of the Times’ reads deeply complex. I can’t think of a more appropriate pairing of headline and photo.”

Linda Houser takes third place with “Robot tractors may have easier row to hoe / Manufacturer, winemakers await OK for use of vehicles.”

“Clever!” the judge wrote. “‘Robot tractors may have easier row to hoe’ leans into the seemingly tailor-made idiom ‘hard row to hoe’ to great effect. It’s clear this headline writer is experienced and has a keen eye for language.”

Overall, the judge added, “What a strong collection of entries! Each of the submitted headlines sings in its own way. In a world where one headline could appear on multiple platforms, such as in print, on a website or across social media, it can be difficult to write a head that can perform across all touch points. This year’s entries show how headline writing is evolving while staying true to the fundamentals: accurate, concise and eye-catching.”

Judged by Will Fannigan, SEO editor, Wall Street Journal. 10 entries.

EDITORIAL WRITING

First Place: Nancy Preyor-Johnson, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Cary Clack, San Antonio Express-News.
Third Place: John Kerr, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Nancy Preyor-Johnson wins first place with “Leaders’ plans to fortify schools say, ‘Yes, we’ll accept more carnage.'”

“Faced with an extraordinary and heartbreaking tragedy, the writer did well to channel that anger and indignation while staying measured and focused,” the judge wrote.

“In a very deep category, this piece stood out.”

Second place goes to Cary Clack for “Now is the time to fight leading cause of death for youth.”

“Another editorial that successfully cuts through the heartbreak and emotion of the moment to propose workable policy solutions with urgency, using detailed reporting to make the case,” the judge wrote. “Really great work.”

John Kerr takes third place with “Court mustn’t let state use reporter’s murder to erode press freedoms.”

“I imagine this was a difficult piece to write, knowing that standing up for press freedom might complicate a criminal case involving a colleague’s death, but this was clear, strong and honored the memory of a lost friend and coworker,” the judge wrote. “Very well done.”

Overall, the judge added, “This was a very difficult competition to judge given the exceptional quality of many of the entries. I really struggled to select the top three and wish I could select more honorees because there were a handful that stood out but will not receive rewards. What’s abundantly clear is that the entrants care deeply about improving their communities, shining light in the dark places and fighting for truth. You’re a credit to your organizations.”

Judged by Brian Colligan, opinion editor, Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press. 21 entries.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Jerry Lara, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Laura Seitz, Deseret News.
Third Place: Eli Hartman, Texas Tribune.

Jerry Lara earns first place with a photo of a Border Patrol agent helping an unaccompanied 11-year-old Central American migrant boy.

“A simple but powerful composition that connects viewers to the people in the photograph,” the judge wrote. “I’m left wondering ‘what happened to the child?'”

Second place goes to Laura Seitz for a photo of a Provo woman celebrating after finding her luggage at a Southwest Airlines carousel.

“A fun moment, well-captured and a slice of life we can all relate to,” the judge wrote. “Kudos to the photographer for finding a lighter spot news photo.”

Eli Hartman snags third place with a photo of lightning striking as city workers repaired a massive water line break.

“This is a lovely pictorial news image,” the judge wrote. “Love the way the workers are framed under the backhoe and of course, the lightning flashing in the background.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Seeing so many powerful pictures documenting hometown issues like gun violence, climate change and immigration is a reminder of the power and importance of local journalism and news photography. Kudos to all entrants for creating great images in some difficult situations.”

Judged by Aaron Lavinsky, photographer, Minneapolis Star Tribune. 41 entries.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Tom Fox, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place (tie): Trent Nelson, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place (tie): Pierre G. Carricaburu, Range Magazine.

Beth Nakamura earns first place with “Memento mori,” a photo of the items that belonged to a man who was killed at 18.

“It’s a tender display of the things he held dear, a deeply respectful and thoughtful way of portraying loss that strives to achieve a fuller picture of who he was,” the judge wrote.

“The pair of sneakers, the books, figurines, and his favorite drink punctuated by an extinguished candle provide us with intimate details of a life cut short.”

Second place goes to Tom Fox for a photo of Nahndy Malbrough kissing April Turner after they were married on 2/22/2022.

“Tom Fox captures a joyous moment of a family’s wedding celebration inside a courtroom,” the judge wrote. “What could have been a sterile scene is elevated by a purposeful composition with layers of information in the frame that guide you through a trio of applause. A beautiful moment, beautifully told.”

Trent Nelson grabs a third place prize with “Ken’s new spot.”

Trent Nelson’s image of a man checking out a new space to showcase his rare books is “a lighthearted and playful scene that made me smile,” the judge wrote.

“Photojournalists are often tasked with making something out of nothing, and that is precisely what Nelson has done here.”

Pierre G. Carricaburu takes third place with “Kinship.”

“There’s something so delightful about this found moment,” the judge wrote. “The posture of the raccoon frozen in fear, the guard dog doing its job — it’s a classic image, striking in its simplicity, that tells the whole story in one frame.”

Overall, the judge added, “This was a tremendously hard category to judge because there was so much strong work. It’s wonderful to see the strength of photojournalism in the region and the level of care and consideration that has gone into crafting all of the images that were entered. Photojournalists are tackling incredibly difficult subject matter with thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion. Thank you for doing the work that you do.”

Judged by Jessica Rinaldi, photographer, Boston Globe. 56 entries.

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Keith Birmingham, Los Angeles Daily News.
Second Place: Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun.
Third Place: Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun.

Keith Birmingham wins first place with his photo of a broken bat hitting umpire Nate Tomlinson in the face. Tomlinson was treated for a cut above his eye and nose from the spinning bat.

“Peak moment,” the judge wrote. “Well composed and framed. Really interesting moment.”

Second place goes to Steve Marcus for his photo of the Las Vegas Aces celebrating their WNBA championship.

“Tells the story quickly,” the judge wrote. “Unique angle and nice color.”

Steve Marcus also takes third place with his photo of Vegas Golden Knights center Brett Howden jumping over San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns.

“Unusual moment for hockey,” the judge wrote. “Makes you ask, ‘What if?'”

Overall, the judge added, “Lots of nice sports photos, but many entries could have benefitted from better cropping and intention in the frame.”

Judged by Todd Spencer, photo editor, Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press. 36 entries.

NEWS SLIDESHOW

First Place: Staff, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.
Third Place: Smiley Pool and Lola Gomez, Dallas Morning News.

The Express-News staff earns first place with a Uvalde 21 slideshow.

“There are so many powerful and important photos in this edit,” the judge wrote. “I applaud the photographers for their dedication and poise in documenting such a horribly tragic story.”

Second place goes to Spenser Heaps for “Colorado River in Crisis.”

“Gorgeous selection of images,” the judge wrote. “The photographer’s passion for the subject matter shines through in his work.”

Smiley Pool and Lola Gomez take third place with “Operation Lone Star.”

“A powerful body of work covering immigration and offering different perspectives,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was a difficult category to judge. There were so many impressive entries on an array of topics, many of which showed impressive dedication to long-form visual storytelling.”

Judged by Aaron Lavinsky, photographer, Minneapolis Star Tribune. 20 entries.

FEATURE SLIDESHOW

First Place: Christina House, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Francine Orr, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Christina House wins first place with “Pregnant, homeless and living in a tent: Meet McKenzie.”

“Christina House’s deeply intimate look at one woman’s life on the street as she navigates pregnancy, birth, motherhood and the loss of her child to the foster care system is a raw, powerful, and deeply human story that explores generational trauma with empathy, dignity, and clarity,” the judge wrote.

“It is evident from the photos that House was deeply committed to telling the story, embedding for years to get as complete a depiction of her life as possible. She is there for seemingly every important moment that took place in her subject’s life which speaks to both the trust she earned and the dedication she gave to this project. Incredible and necessary work.”

Second place goes to Francine Orr for “The fight against COVID, a chaplain says, unfolded on ‘sacred ground.'”

“Francine Orr harkens back to the height of the pandemic with gripping images from 2020 juxtaposed with more normal hospital scenes from 2022,” the judge wrote.

“It’s a trip back and forth through time that asks us to consider what it means to reach the milestone of one million American deaths to Covid-19, how far we’ve come since the height of the pandemic, and what it meant for those who had to be there to witness it up close. The photography is powerful and emotional, a striking document of history both then and now.”

Spenser Heaps grabs third place with “Apa’s return.”

“Spenser Heaps follows a legend in the mountaineering world back to the school he has founded in his home country of Nepal,” the judge wrote.

“The photography here is beautiful. The story, more photo essay than narrative, is propelled by striking portraits of people, glimpses of Nepalese culture, and landscape all carefully composed and considered.”

Overall, the judge added, “The dedication and work that went into this category was astounding. The care that all of you who entered have given to covering your communities is really inspiring. At a time when less resources are being allocated to photo departments it’s reassuring to see that this type of vital visual storytelling is still being done at a tremendously high level by so many talented photojournalists across the region.”

Judged by Jessica Rinaldi, photographer, Boston Globe. 16 entries.

AUDIO STORYTELLING

First Place: Staff, Crosscut.
Second Place: Adolfo Guzman-Lopez and Natalie Chudnovsky, LAist.
Third Place: May Ortega, Luis Antonio Perez and Erin Jones, Colorado Public Radio.

The Crosscut staff wins first place with “The Kids Are Not All Right,” the second part of the third season of the podcast “This Changes Everything,” which focuses on how the pandemic challenged and changed education.

“An incredibly strong and moving narrative. This is a podcast which will sit with you for a while, an incredibly rare feat in what is already an oversaturated market,” the judge wrote.

“Unbelievably sound rich, with a great soundtrack to guide the listener while not overwhelming them. Incredibly important topic of which we have not even begun to plumb the depths, and I appreciate the meta-narrative concerning the actual coverage of the topic. An important story that was told to the very best of the storyteller’s ability.”

Second place goes to Adolfo Guzman-Lopez and Natalie Chudnovsky for “Imperfect Paradise: The Forgotten Revolutionary,” an investigation into the death of Omar Gomez, a leader of the 1990s Chicano student movement.

“A very personal, well-reported story rich in sound, music and archival recording,” the judge wrote. “This is the best way of including a host in the narrative, which is often tricky to do. A well-told story about a not-so-well-known piece of history.”

May Ortega, Luis Antonio Perez and Erin Jones take third place with installments from the podcast “¿Quién Are We?” that tell about a brewer who connected with his culture through his trade and a new mom who discovered what traditions to bring with her and what to leave behind.

“There is no substitute for the sheer joy and enthusiasm exhibited by this host,” the judge wrote. “Ortega carries the entire show and that attitude is infectious. The listener has no choice but to share in the happiness and for me this represents the best way of making the host part of the story.

“This is a respectful treatment of one person’s life story, and it respects the listener by explaining potentially foreign concepts as if they’re the most familiar thing. The music, voiceover and sound all works in perfect harmony like a well-written symphony. An incredibly strong entry for what would not traditionally be considered a “hard news” story but to move on from that mindset, I think, is key for the survival of the medium.”

Judged by Daniel Breen, Morning Edition host and reporter, Little Rock Public Radio. 38 entries.

VIDEO STORYTELLING

First Place: Rachel Aston, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Mark E. Potts, Erik Himmelsbach-Weinstein and Kent Nishimura, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: RadioWest Films staff, KUER, Salt Lake City.

Rachel Aston wins first place with “An impaired driver, officers who chose not to stop him—and a family forever changed.”

“Visually compelling and emotionally powerful. Great use of family photos, video, body camera footage,” the judge wrote.

“Outstanding work that allows viewers to draw their own conclusions. I was left outraged, shaken and shaking my head at the senselessness of this avoidable tragedy.”

Second place goes to Mark E. Potts, Erik Himmelsbach-Weinstein and Kent Nishimura for “Are the Savannah Bananas the future of baseball?”

“Super fun and entertaining take on a new form of baseball,” the judge wrote. “Extremely well shot, edited and produced. Just an outstanding feature story.”

The RadioWest Films staff takes third place with “Namesake,” a look at how the Great Salt Lake is in crisis, with its ecosystem collapsing.

“Absolutely stunning, breathtaking visuals and incredible drone work and the importance of the subject matter carry this piece,” the judge wrote.

“The one-source nature of reporting is a little thin, and I would have liked to see examples of what the Great Salt Lake looked like 20 or 50 years ago for historical perspective.”

Judged by John T. Greilick, director of photo and video, Detroit News. 29 entries.

INFORMATIONAL GRAPHIC

First Place: Jeremia Kimelman, John Osborn D’Agostino and Erica Yee, CalMatters.
Second Place: Staffs, San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle.
Third Place: Tony Morales, Wes Rand and Severiano del Castillo Galvan, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Jeremia Kimelman, John Osborn D’Agostino and Erica Yee earn first place with “Tracking California’s water supplies.”

“The ‘California Drought and Water Tracker’ by CalMatters is a sophisticated presentation of a huge amount of data,” the judge wrote. “The amount of information being conveyed in presentation would be overwhelming if not for the way in which the interface is designed.

“The presentation includes maps, diagrams, charts, graphs, tables, timelines and data visualizations that help readers understand the complexities of the issues impacting water in California. I particularly liked the sophisticated way in which maps came alive with information throughout the presentation. Really great job bringing a huge volume of data to life!”

Second place goes to the staffs of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle for “Morning of Chaos.”

“‘Morning of Chaos’ was also exceptionally presented. Events from the tragic day were recounted in detail with words and visuals that helped put the reader on the grounds of the school as the attack unfolded,” the judge wrote.

“The graphics were very helpful, too. They weren’t as sophisticated in their execution as the graphics in the California Drought presentation. But the overall story being told was very compellingly told.”

Tony Morales, Wes Rand and Severiano del Castillo Galvan take third place with “Raiders monthly report.”

“The ‘Raiders monthly report’ by the Las Vegas Review-Journal is also very well executed,” the judge wrote. “There’s a ton of information being conveyed about the Raiders and their opponents in a fun and engaging presentation.”

Judged by Chris Kozlowski, senior multimedia designer, Poynter Institute. 10 entries.

PAGE DESIGN

First Place: Todd Adams, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: Liz Brown, Las Vegas Weekly.
Third Place: Wesley Gatbonton, Las Vegas Magazine.

Todd Adams earns first place for design of a “Death of Lake Powell?” special report.

“Really dramatic words and photo on the outside compelled me to want to know more about the condition of Lake Powell,” the judge wrote.

“The inside spread was also dramatic in its presentation and conveyed a lot of information in an effective way. The way in which story and visuals are intertwined and become one make story more compelling.”

Second place goes to Liz Brown for “Midterm Election Guide.”

“Both parties effectively represented on the cover,” the judge wrote. “Very bold and stylized presentation of each candidate on the inside, too. I especially liked the elegant and sophisticated use of typography in the cover spread.”

Wesley Gatbonton takes third place with “Jo Koy: Comedy Giant Ready to Deliver Massive Laughs.”

“Exceptionally-executed photo illustrations that perfectly combine with all of the right words,” the judge wrote. “Very well done!”

Judged by Chris Kozlowski, senior multimedia designer, Poynter Institute. 34 entries.

ONLINE PRESENTATION

First Place: Staffs, San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle.
Second Place: Staffs, San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle.
Third Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.

The staffs of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle take first place with “Morning of chaos: A reconstruction of how the Uvalde massacre unfolded.”

“Powerful storytelling made even more so by the choice to approach this as a minute-by-minute chronology,” the judge wrote. “This is a great example of using design and interactivity to tell a story in a way that wouldn’t have been nearly as effective otherwise.”

Second place goes to the staffs of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle for “What Texas officials got wrong about the Robb Elementary School massacre.”

“Fantastic accountability journalism,” the judge wrote. “The design does a great job of highlighting the discrepancies between statements at a glance. Again, this is a great example of presentation being central to the storytelling.”

The Los Angeles Times staff takes third place with “Shape Your L.A.”

“Interactive civic engagement tools like this have been around for a long time, and have taken many forms, but this is the most audience-centric and user-friendly version I’ve seen,” the judge wrote. “In tone, design and execution, this project presents a delightful way to help readers connect with their community.”

Overall, the judge added, “What a strong field! Some really good stuff in here. One logistical thing: I found myself wishing that the Uvalde stories could be joined as part of a single package. They were both very strong on their own, but felt like it gave one organization two bites at the apple. I appreciate the opportunity to serve as a judge this year! It’s always great to take a step back and see what others in our field have been up to. I’m certainly coming away inspired.”

Judged by Chase Davis, deputy managing editor for digital strategy and technology. 21 entries.