2024 contest results

Just one category remains to be announced. We are waiting for that judge to finish. Thanks to our volunteer judges for their hard work.

NEWS WRITING

First Place: Guillermo Contreras, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Mike Reicher, Paige Cornwell and Lulu Ramadan, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Marina Starleaf Riker, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Guillermo Contreras wins first place with “‘Please help us’ — the Border Patrol in Uvalde.

“This piece was an impressive and thorough dismantling of the official narrative around this tragic event,” the judge wrote.

“There has been a lot of coverage of police inaction that day, but the work that went into finding yet another shortcoming shines through.”

Second place goes to Mike Reicher, Paige Cornwell and Lulu Ramadan for “The mystery behind a private fireworks show that shook Seattle.

“This story is an impressive display of textbook investigative reporting techniques deployed on a quick timeline to cover an event that may otherwise have received little scrutiny,” the judge wrote.

“The reporters clearly did a lot of work to dig into the surprisingly shadowy private fireworks industry.”

Marina Starleaf Riker takes third place with “As flames rushed toward Lahaina, these friends tried to help 2 seniors escape.”

“A heartbreaking account that lays bare the terrible position Maui’s senior citizens were put in during last year’s fires,” the judge wrote.

“Throughout the piece, you find yourself asking, ‘How did this happen?’ and ‘Why were these people left to fend for themselves with little warning or support?'”

Judged by Agnel Philip, data reporter, ProPublica. 72 entries.

GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Staff, Public Health Watch.
Third Place: Arielle Plachta and Joe Rubin, Sacramento Bee.

The Los Angeles Times staff takes first place with “Colorado River in crisis.”

“The Colorado River and the water it supplies to so much of the West is central to environmental reporting in the region, and with these stories, the Los Angeles Times illuminated the stakes and the challenges it faces,” the judge wrote.

“This was essential reporting at a moment when the future of the river is in perhaps more jeopardy than ever, and when huge decisions are being made about how to change that. Not only did the team show all of this to readers in words, but in such revelatory video and audio, as well, all in exemplary fashion.”

Second place goes to the Public Health Watch staff for “Toxic Texas air.”

“This investigation is persistent as it is thorough, coming up with damning revelations months apart,” the judge wrote.

“The writing is vivid and accessible, and the sourcing shows a deep connection to the community as well as a dogged pursuit of what is hidden from it. The many explainers, features and sidebars are remarkably thorough. Meaningfully, the reporting is also clearly helping to inform actions to better protect the community from pollution’s harms.”

Arielle Plachta and Joe Rubin grab third place with “Woks vs. clean energy? SoCalGas wanted you to think electrification would crush California restaurants.”

“These stories exemplify accountability reporting, unearthing a secret that has real costs for the public,” the judge wrote.

“It is so thorough in its efforts to find the truth and spell it out for the reader, going into impressive levels of detail in calculating the financial toll. And, like all good accountability reporting, it captured the attention of those in power.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Among the Best of the West’s Growth and Environmental Reporting in 2023 were stories that dove thoroughly into emerging and pressing issues: The environmental impacts of homelessness. The impact of wildfires on native communities. The prospects and for potential consequences of new and alternative forms of energy.

“This year’s winners brought focus, understanding and accountability to issues including water scarcity, air quality and clean energy. And they stood up for residents who are suffering. Congratulations to the winners, and all of the entrants.”

Judged by Scott Dance, global weather writer, Washington Post. 52 entries.

IMMIGRATION AND BORDER REPORTING

First Place: Staff, El Paso Times.
Second Place: Hamed Aleaziz, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Zaidee Stavely, Jennifer Molina and Coby McDonald, EdSource.

The El Paso Times staff earns first place with “‘La pérdida – The loss’: Deadly disaster at El Paso, Juárez border.

“The reporting team did what U.S. Customs and Border Patrol couldn’t – put a number on the number of people who have died in the El Paso sector even if the rest of the border doesn’t have the data,” the judge wrote.

“They told a longstanding story about deaths along the border from the viewpoints of families, forensic investigators/medical examiners, law enforcement and the local community. With immense clarity they showed how much state policy impacts how those who die in the desert are counted.”

Second place goes to Hamed Aleaziz for “Muslim disparity in prosecutions at the border.”

Zaidee Stavely, Jennifer Molina and Coby McDonald grab third place with “Family reunited after four years’ separation forced by immigration policy.

Judged by Ren Larson, data journalist, ProPublica. 15 entries.

SOCIAL JUSTICE REPORTING

First Place: Aimee Green, The Oregonian.
Second Place (tie): Courtney Tanner, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place (tie): Joshua Bowling and Vanessa Sanchez, Searchlight New Mexico.
Third Place (tie): Carolina Cuellar, Arizona Luminaria, Tucson.
Third Place (tie): Kelsey Turner and Wilson Criscione, InvestigateWest.

Aimee Green earns first place with “Bias Crimes.”

“In this extraordinary series, the Oregonian staff undertook the overwhelming task of executing data on interactive visualizations, videos of incidents and an array of heartfelt accounts to examine hate crimes committed in the state and how the police and prosecutors have failed to investigate and prosecute cases leaving victims disappointed and traumatized,” the judge wrote.

“At a time when hate crimes have been surging across the nation, ‘Bias Crimes’ offers a deep explanatory body of work at the system and the state’s loose laws. The series had an impact with a reversal in one case. Hate crimes’ presence in our society causes grave harm and traumatizes communities for generations and for that ‘Bias Crimes’ deserves first place in the Best of the West contest.”

Second place goes to Courtney Tanner for “Failing the Utes.”

“The Salt Lake Tribune (wins) for producing an outstanding project that revealed how systemic racism in the public school system has failed the children of the Ute Indian Tribe for more than a century and how these injustices persist today affecting the community at large,” the judge wrote.

“I commend the Salt Lake Tribune for undertaking the huge task and providing historical context, personal accounts but more importantly, analyzing school data to show how Indigenous communities have been impacted by systemic racism for too long. I appreciated the story on how the Utes’ own high school is outperforming other schools to show that including curriculum with cultural history and language is important for children’s developmental education.”

Second place also goes to Joshua Bowling and Vanessa Sanchez for “Calling in Crisis.”

“The scenarios are too common across the country: 911 calls for mental health crises lead to the tragic death of people at the hands of police. Albuquerque is not a stranger to this and a new program launched a year after the death of a 75-year old grandmother with dementia by police — designed to prevent this scenario by sending social workers and paramedics instead of armed officers — have had varying success in this community,” the judge wrote.

“I commend Searchlight New Mexico for their commitment to cover untreated mental health issues, a complex and devastating issue that affects all our communities.”

Carolina Cuellar takes third place with “Ocotillo evictions.”

“Arizona Luminaria (wins) for its relentless coverage of a fraudulent sober-living program where hundreds of patients were kicked out of the program-funded residency after the state’s Medicaid agency suspended their payments,” the judge wrote.

“These victims had been lured to join the program with promises of treatment, housing and resources, but encountered deplorable conditions and abuse at the hands of their caretakers.”

Kelsey Turner and Wilson Criscione also win third place with “Orders of protection.”

InvestigateWest (wins) for its coverage on how a court decision is affecting victims of domestic violence and spawned uncertainty over a law meant to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence in Washington, which has some of the strongest firearm regulations in the country,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Mc Nelly Torres, investigative journalist and editor, Center for Public Integrity. 47 entries.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Orange County Register.
Second Place: Staff, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Staff, Dallas Morning News.

The Orange County Register staff takes first place with coverage of a mass shooting at a biker bar on spaghetti night.

“This is a good, thorough package pulled together within a 24-hour timeframe, covering all relevant information about a tragedy,” the judge wrote. “The main story includes a wide swath of information, including the background of the restaurant/bar. The sidebar listing all the mass shootings in the region was a sad but necessary component.

“One of the writers ‘scored’ by thinking ahead and getting to a hospital where the victims would be treated, and managed to speak to a man closely connected to the targeted victim. The inclusion of a column that gives a good feel for the well-loved biker hangout that now is a statistic is a thoughtful touch in the package. I have to say, though, that when I first started reading, and then described the package to somebody, the detail that stuck with me was the $8 spaghetti night. ‘A mass shooting at a biker bar where families gathered for spaghetti night.’ Who WOULDN’T want to read this?”

Second place goes to the Los Angeles Times staff for coverage of a Lunar New Year mass shooting at a Monterey Park dance studio.

“What can I say? The LA Times staff knows how to ‘do’ breaking news. The resources put against the events, the detail that is gathered, the presentation (photos, text, graphic) and the editing are all top-notch,” the judge wrote.

“One quibble: The reader doesn’t find out until the 6th or 7th graph that 10 died and another 10 were injured; sure, it was in the headline, but … those details matter. I appreciated the sidebar that takes a look at what could have been perceived as anti-Asian sentiment, even though on the surface it wasn’t. Nicely done.

The Dallas Morning News staff takes third place with coverage of a mass shooting at an outlet mall.

“Overall, this was a comprehensive series of stories written in a chaotic situation, made problematic by the fact it happened late on election day when the all-hands-on-deck staff was already all-hands-on-deck,” the judge wrote.

“Very well-organized and detailed, with good narrative including a lot of comment from people in and around the shooting scene. The package was well-supplemented by photos. The fact that multiple sidebars existed seemed good, and yet a little overdone, because there was some repetition. I also appreciated the story included for the Spanish-language audience, because this showed a sensitivity to serve the entre community. Well done.”

Overall, the judge added, “When one person reads the ‘breaking news’ category in any major contest, it’s always sobering to realize that disaster and catastrophe makes up the greater part of ‘breaking news’ nowadays. A ‘winner’ of such a category confronts the nature of journalism at its very core: We frequently tell horrible stories, stories that need to be told, but devastating nevertheless. (The bulk of the entries were mass shootings or murders, with a couple of natural disasters thrown in.)

“As a judge, I’d like to give a shoutout to those publications and journalists who submitted stories that broke in their communities that did not involve a catastrophic loss, and especially to a weekly which – despite the lack of resources of major metropolitan media organizations – kept its audience apprised of the developments in a murder in their rural region. Good for them for judging their coverage worthy of this competition.

“All of the entries in this category exhibited solid journalism fundamentals: detailed, comprehensive reporting; writing that capitalized on the many fast-paced hours of research; and photo and graphic presentations that added depth to each and every article. We all do hard work every day, and these packages emphasize to me – as a judge and as a journalist – that we don’t get enough credit for confronting bleak realities for our audiences. I salute you all.”

Judged by Kathy Laskowski, director of content/breaking news and print production, South Florida Sun Sentinel. 19 entries.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

First Place: Robert Anglen and Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Jessica Garrison, Ian James and Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times.

Robert Anglen and Ryan Randazzo win first place with “Public records fight finally reveals truth about Arizona election ‘audit.'”

“The Arizona Republic fought for two years for public records that could explain why and how state officials attempted to recount 2.1 million 2020 election ballots and then spent months figuring out how to make these records legible and searchable. That herculean effort resulted in a series that meticulously unpacked a dishonest and anti-democratic effort to undermine the 2020 election,” the judge wrote.

“Just as importantly, the reporters showed their work, offering readers access to the previously hidden records complete with instructions on how to use the database, allowing the public another avenue of exploration and explanation.

“Revelatory and compelling in its ambition and telling, the series offers a valuable window into the vulnerabilities of the American electoral system that must not be ignored as we move toward the 2024 election. This work exemplifies the role journalists play in safeguarding democracy and giving the American people the information they need to engage as voters and taxpayers.”

Second place goes to the Seattle Times staff for “How insurers stymie mental health care.”

“With creativity, empathy and an investigative reporter’s attention to data, Seattle Times mental health reporters Michelle Baruchman and Hannah Furfaro methodically broke open the black box of insurance policy to expose shortcomings in the industry’s treatment of mental healthcare including deadly eating disorders,” the judge wrote.

“This series offers multiple entry points into a complex topic, using narrative storytelling, animated video and explanatory formats to educate consumers about how the industry operates and their rights within it. Their reporting offers a public service but unlike much service journalism, the journalism was produced with audience in mind for a result that is engaging, accessible and suited to contemporary digital audiences.”

Jessica Garrison, Ian James and Susanne Rust grab third place with “How powerful land barons shaped where water flowed in California’s historic floods.”

“In the aftermath of flooding that destabilized a region and the vulnerable communities who live and work there, Los Angeles Times reporters Jessica Garrison, Ian James, Susanne Rust began investigating the hidden political and economic forces that shaped the climate-fueled disaster,” the judge wrote. “Their efforts to meet a diverse swath of sources on the ground at homes, businesses and community meetings and to examine court records, environmental documents and historic records resulted in a fascinating series that unpacked how the unnatural forces of money and unchecked privilege exacerbated an environmental crisis.

“This series exposed a ‘secretive fiefdom ruled by a handful of legacy farming clans’ and explained its harmful impacts in stories that could not be ignored. These sharply told stories demonstrate the power of explanatory journalism to hold government accountable and lift up marginalized voices.”

Judged by Ariella Cohen, deputy managing editor for news, Philadelphia Inquirer. 75 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Wilson Criscione, Investigate West.

The Dallas Morning News staff wins first place with “Deadly Fake: 30 days inside fentanyl’s grip on North Texas.”

“This is one of the most ambitious and well-executed series I’ve ever seen,” the judge wrote.

“It’s expansive, intentionally understandable and transformative. Multiple language execution is both necessary and impressive.”

Second place goes to “The lost patients of Washington’s abandoned psychiatric hospital.”

“Among the best-written pieces, equally matched with beautiful digital storytelling,” the judge wrote. “This coverage is dynamic and unforgettable.”

Wilson Criscione takes third place with “Rape, beatings and racial slurs: None of it was enough to shut down this Idaho youth facility.”

“A well-written series, including rigorous records research to back up harrowing anecdotal evidence, making a significant impact in terms of effecting change,” the judge wrote. “This is why journalism matters.”

Overall, the judge added, “This was a battle of heavyweight journalism. The collection of entries was inspiring and worthy of consideration. Innovation, impact and tireless effort were all on display.”

Judged by Kevin J. Hardy, managing editor, Detroit News. 56 entries.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place: Lauren Caruba, Ari Sen and Smiley Pool, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Staff, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Hannah Dreyfus, Andrea Wise and Nadia Sussman, Southwest Bureau, ProPublica.

Lauren Caruba, Ari Sen and Smiley Pool earn first place with “Bleeding out: Why so many Americans bleed to death after a traumatic injury.

“In detailed reporting, vivid photographs and compelling writing, this story brings a shockingly little known but common cause of death to light exposing a national problem with emergency response that causes so many people to bleed out in otherwise preventable deaths,” the judge wrote. “It’s a stunning package.”

Second place goes to the Honolulu Civil Beat staff for “Maui wildfires.”

“It can be extremely challenging to report on disasters in one’s own back yard, but the team at the Honolulu Civil Beat met the moment with a strong series of stories that managed to both keep the focus on holding accountable the local officials in charge of protecting the public while giving voice to those who lost the most in the devastating wildfire,” the judge wrote. “Incredible work.”

Hannah Dreyfus, Andrea Wise and Nadia Sussman grab third place with “In the child’s best interest.”

“This series by Pro Publica’s Hannah Dreyfus peels back the veil on family court’s treatment of abuse allegations and its reliance on so-called hired experts, child welfare officials and “reunification” camp operators with devastating effect,” the judge wrote.

“The story about the Colorado child whose alleged abuse was reported by multiple people will stay with me for a long time, in particular how — as the reporter noted — the more abuse reports poured in about the boy’s father, the more suspicions seemed to (inexplicably) shift towards his mother. It was extraordinary and heartbreaking to read.”

Judged by Anita Wadhwani, senior reporter, Tennessee Lookout. 57 entries.

NEWS WRITING

First Place: Guillermo Contreras, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Mike Reicher, Paige Cornwell and Lulu Ramadan, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Marina Starleaf Riker, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Guillermo Contreras wins first place with “‘Please help us’ — the Border Patrol in Uvalde.

“This piece was an impressive and thorough dismantling of the official narrative around this tragic event,” the judge wrote.

“There has been a lot of coverage of police inaction that day, but the work that went into finding yet another shortcoming shines through.”

Second place goes to Mike Reicher, Paige Cornwell and Lulu Ramadan for “The mystery behind a private fireworks show that shook Seattle.

“This story is an impressive display of textbook investigative reporting techniques deployed on a quick timeline to cover an event that may otherwise have received little scrutiny,” the judge wrote.

“The reporters clearly did a lot of work to dig into the surprisingly shadowy private fireworks industry.”

Marina Starleaf Riker takes third place with “As flames rushed toward Lahaina, these friends tried to help 2 seniors escape.”

“A heartbreaking account that lays bare the terrible position Maui’s senior citizens were put in during last year’s fires,” the judge wrote.

“Throughout the piece, you find yourself asking, ‘How did this happen?’ and ‘Why were these people left to fend for themselves with little warning or support?'”

Judged by Agnel Philip, data reporter, ProPublica. 72 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, SHORT FORM

First Place: Sarah Smith and Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle.
Second Place: Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle.
Third Place: Paige Cornwell, Seattle Times.

Sarah Smith and Elizabeth Conley win first place with “24 hours in the Champagne Room.”

“Brilliantly written story that demonstrates the frustration, and hopelessness faced by people with long Covid,” the judge wrote.

“Writing from the point of view of the patient is both raw and very effective; it helps the reader understand what it’s like to struggle with this little-understood illness.”

Second place goes to Julia Shumway for “54 years after officer’s death, Oregon Senate standoff leaves family waiting longer for state honor.”

“Excellent and well-written story using a seemingly minor piece of legislation to illustrate government dysfunction,” the judge wrote.

“The writer used small but effective details to demonstrate the hardship this family faces after the father was killed.”

Paige Cornwell takes third place with “I reported on ‘wind phones’ as a tool for grief. Then I needed one.”

“Moving writing about something very personal,” the judge wrote. “This is the type of story that lingers in your memory.”

Judged by Alison Gerber, editor, Chattanooga Times Free Press. 48 entries.

FEATURE WRITING, LONG FORM

First Place: Jaclyn Moyer, High Country News.
Second Place: Lois M. Collins, Deseret News.
Third Place: Laura Pappano, Hechinger Report.

Jaclyn Moyer wins first place with “The many legacies of Letitia Carson.

“Letitia Carson was a Black pioneer woman who flouted the laws of Oregon in the 1800s that authorized law enforcement to whip any Black people who dared to settle there,” the judge wrote.

“She was allotted land, but the government stole it back. Through sheer grit, Carson eventually established her own ranch. But Carson’s legacy is multi-faceted. The land she fought so hard to own had been stolen from Native Americans. The story deftly weaves the history of the state and its racist past with the ongoing debate over how to honor Carson’s achievement — and the losses that made it possible.”

Second place goes to Lois M. Collins for “The place where no one dies alone.”

“This story is a deeply reported and sensitively told portrait of a hospice where the homeless are surrounded by companionship, care and dignity in their final weeks and moments of life,” the judge wrote.

“The reporter and photographer spent months documenting life and death at this unique facility and the dedicated people who work there.”

Laura Pappano garners third place with “The (mostly) Republican moms fighting to reclaim their Idaho school district from conservatives.”

“This well-told story is deeply reported and filled with rich characters,” the judge wrote.

“It is an exploration of what happened in one Idaho school district and community riven by partisan ideological battles — and the mostly Republican, mostly conservative women who fought to bring back normalcy.”

Overall, the judge added, “This was an excruciatingly difficult category to judge. Among the 100 entries were gripping tales of tragic deaths and heinous crimes, of long-forgotten mental institution patients, a fascinating tale about the evils of Christmas holly and a laugh-out-loud takeout on armadillos. If I could have awarded 10 honorable mentions, I would have! This category shows there are still many fine writers in journalism telling stories that we all need to read.”

Judged by Dee Hall, editor in chief, Floodlight, Madison, Wisconsin. 103 entries.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First Place: Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle.
Second Place: Corinne Purtill, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times.

Andrew Dansby wins first place with “‘Rushmore’ at 25: Wes Anderson’s most Houston film was not actually set in Houston.”

“This package is very well-produced without losing heart of the story, which is the Houston-ness of ‘Rushmore,'” the judge wrote.

“The writer makes a case for this being the most Houston film, sticks with it and presents an excellent well-written and well-thought out case. Excellent job finding a regional peg. Delightful!”

Second place goes to Corinne Purtill for “This space artist changed the way we see the universe.”

“This piece intrigued me from the get go,” the judge wrote.

“The masterful writing and editing keep the cadence going beautifully as the persona of the subject grows bigger. The piece just kept getting better and better.”

Erik Lacitis grabs third place with “40 years on, The Heats, a blazing Seattle band, play 1 show. I went.”

“This piece was a perfect mix of reporting, opinion writing, and a feature writing on a music band that is coming back from retirement,” the judge wrote.

“The writer’s voice shines through and keeps people hooked till the end, even the ones who have never heard of this band before.”

Judged by Bedatri D. Choudhury, arts and entertainment editor, Philadelphia Inquirer. 34 entries.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING

First Place: Alexei Koseff, Cal Matters.
Second Place: Laura J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Robin Urevich and Gabriel Sandoval, Capital & Main.

Alexei Koseff wins first place with “Emerald Triangle communities were built on cannabis. Legalization has pushed them to the brink.”

“Alexei Kosoff takes readers on a compelling journey through communities that got caught up in the “green rush” of legalized pot, only to see their hopes dashed by harsh realities,” the judge wrote.

“He explains what went wrong with the economics of the industry while weaving in heart-rending tales of numerous people who are losing their livelihoods.”

Second place goes to Laura J. Nelson for “The Californians whose scam PACs tricked Trump and Clinton supporters out of millions.

“Laura J. Nelson provides an eye-opening look inside a scam that took advantage of America’s lax political fund-raising laws,” the judge wrote.

“She does an excellent job of profiling a pair of con artists and explaining the system that made their con possible.”

Robin Urevich and Gabriel Sandoval take third place with “Checked Out: How L.A. Failed to Stop Landlords From Turning Low-Cost Housing Into Tourist Hotels.”

“Robin Urevich and Gabriel Sandoval take a thoroughly researched look at one aspect of LA’s housing crisis: inexpensive residential hotels being converted into tourist rentals,” the judge wrote.

“They match up city records with online ads to discover the scope of the problem, which seems to come as a surprise to city officials.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Reading these entries was both an education and a pleasure. My congratulations to all the entrants. Choosing the top 3 was difficult; I considered at least eight entries that were good enough to vie for top honors. It’s great to see so much solid, high-impact business reporting being done across the West.

Judged by David Nicklaus, retired business columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 35 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING

First Place: Jason Wolf, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Nathan Fenno, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: James Crepea, The Oregonian.

Jason Wolf earns first place with “Mismangement of the year,” which revealed that some NFL players’ nonprofits spend less than 50 cents of every dollar on charity and more on salaries and a cottage industry of sports charity management companies is often geared toward profit and optics over impact.

“A tremendous and thorough investigation,” the judge wrote. “A great follow-the-money story that brings readers behind the scenes of an award the NFL trumpets but, clearly, has issues. Great sourcing with reaction from the award winners themselves.”

Second place goes to Nathan Fenno for “How an FBI agent’s wild Vegas weekend stained an investigation into NCAA basketball corruption.”

“A thorough investigation into the Ballerz case with look at the bizarre behavior of the lead FBI agent,” the judge wrote. “Great accompanying video with the reporter.”

James Crepea snags third place with “Oregon Ducks beach volleyball players detail disparate treatment that experts say could violate Title IX.”

“An excellent investigation and story of holding officials accountable,” the judge wrote. “Great detail in the disparity of money allocated to beach volleyball at Oregon and the Title IX violations.”

Judged by Chris Vivlamore, sports editor, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 40 entries.

GENERAL INTEREST COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Ron Judd, Cascadia Daily News.
Third Place: Emily Hoeven, San Francisco Chronicle.

Anita Chabria wins first place with a portfolio of her columns.

“Anita Chabria combines empathetic storytelling with aggressive reporting to reveal the complexities of dealing with crime, poverty and mental illness in these politically divisive times,” the judges wrote.

“Her winning entries include the story of a Black security guard who shot and killed a Black man who stole $14 worth of snacks and a Sprite from a downtown Walgreens; what she learned on a trip to Norway with California prison guards who wanted to see how correctional officers focused on rehabilitation instead of punishment; and a vividly detailed portrait of the despair and squalor in the mushroom farm communities of Half Moon Bay that lead to a murderous rampage.

Second place goes to Ron Judd for his portfolio of columns.

“A touching ode to final Boeing 747 coming off the production line, a musing on the life cycle of the Chinook salmon and a devastating autopsy of whether a police pursuit need to end in the driver’s death are among the topics Ron Judd addresses with a cool passion for his readers,” the judges wrote.

Emily Hoeven takes third place with a portfolio of columns.

“Emily Hoeven uses damning facts to indict California’s system of treating the violent mentally ill with criminal records, the judges wrote.

“In two lengthy case studies, she shows how the state’s behavioral health and legal systems often return these offenders to the streets with no access to treatment, only to harm again.”

Overall, the judges added, “It was striking how many entries, from myriad angles and perspectives tried to illustrate the mental health problems in their communities. The common conclusion was that the existing systems and institutions created to deal with these concerns have failed.”

Judged by Rita Ciolli, editorial page editor, and Michael Dobie, deputy editorial page editor and columnist, both of Newsday. 26 entries.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Chris Tomlinson, Houston Chronicle.
Second Place: Mark Kreidler, Capital & Main.
Third Place: Doug Robinson, Deseret News.

Chris Tomlinson takes first place with a four-part series of columns that examined allegations that Texas blackouts were caused by greed and pipeline operators triggered backouts while chasing profits and took a look at how Texas regulators refused to investigate.

“A story of outrageous profiteering and the political and regulatory systems that not only enabled but defended it,” the judge wrote. “Complicated material is not only accessible, it’s a gripping read. Great job.”

Second place goes to Mark Kreidler for a portfolio of columns on business, including how a pandemic relief program left California renters struggling how striking Hollywood creators and hotel housekeeper face the same obstacles and how small stores working to end “food apartheid.”

“Intelligent analysis of issues that create an unlevel playing field — housing, labor, food deserts – with storytelling that centers the human costs of bureaucracy,” the judge wrote.

Doug Robinson grabs third place with a portfolio of columns on sports that included the business of college football the NFL and gambling and a year-end wrapup.

“Dynamic writing on the business of sports and sports’ role in culture,” the judge wrote. “Knowledgeable but accessible to non-sports readers.”

Judged by Akum Norder, senior editor for opinion, Albany Times Union. 38 entries.

HEADLINE WRITING

First Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Gerard Lim, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Doug Norwood, Los Angeles Times.

George Riggle takes first place with “Paint the town Wed” for a story about Las Vegas celebrating 70 years as a top spot for weddings.

“The pun on “Paint the town red” evokes the excitement of a last-minute decision to get married and the party atmosphere Vegas has also become famous for,” the judge wrote. “The page designer also gets credit for using a red font on some of the text.”

Second place goes to Gerard Lim for “When it Ryan, it pours” on a first-person story about meetups for people named Ryan.

“I gave this high points for 2 reasons — it’s a fun play on words, and the headline writer made excellent use of a tight jump space,” the judge wrote. “I wouldn’t have considered a jump head as a contest winner, but this one stands out. Doesn’t hurt that being a Ryan is very popular right now!”

Doug Norwood grabs third place with “And the Rez is history” for a piece by TV critics looking back on the FX series “Reservation Dogs.”

“A good and relevant pun about the ending of a popular Hulu show, ‘Reservation Dogs,'” the judge wrote. “Appreciated how the headline was tight while conveying the meaning.”

Overall, the judge added, “All of these top headlines showed good use of the allotted space, the use of decks to fill in the rest of the story, and smart phrasing that works to catch the attention of the reader. My top choice also worked with the page designers to create a compelling combination of words and color.”

Judged by Jan Arzoorman, freelance copy editor. 15 entries.

EDITORIAL WRITING

First Place: Helen Jung, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Editorial Board, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Nancy Martinez Preyor-Johnson, San Antonio Express-News.

Helen Jung earned first place for the editorial “Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan must resign,” over her work as a consultant for cannibis entrepreneurs while her office audited regulation of the pot industry. Fagan subsequently resigned.

“This is exactly what editorials should do. This piece calls for the immediate resignation of the Oregon secretary of state based on ethical failures that are detailed and powerful,” the judge wrote.

“A sense of righteous anger on behalf of citizens pervades each line. But the writing isn’t over the top; it’s controlled and precise. The editorial calls out a public official for putting self-interest above her work for the public. The call for a restoration of public trust is one that will no doubt echo in many communities.”

Second place goes to the Honolulu Civil Beat’s Editorial Board for “Now We Know: The Need For Legislative Reform Can Be A Matter Of Life And Death,” about state leaders consistently neglecting wildfire prevention.

“This editorial captures the deep frustration of seeing the Hawaii Legislature attempt to cling to the status quo even after the horrors of the Lahaina fires,” the judge wrote.

“As the editorial points out effectively, that would be dishonoring the dead and those who lost everything to the conflagration. Hawaii has long underfunded its fire-fighting programs, the editorial says, and it calls for the move to a year-round legislature to help address the required policy changes in a deliberate way.”

Nancy Martinez Preyor-Johnson grabs third place with the editorial “How Greg Abbott divided Democrats and redefined immigration in 2023.”

“An ambitious and nuanced look at how the Texas governor has used busloads of immigrants that he sends to New York as a political weapon, overlooking the human beings involved,” the judge wrote.

“The editorial uses as an example a 10-year-old from Ecuador sitting alone in 36-degree weather outside a New York hotel that has become an immigrant intake center. It concludes that Americans have become less welcoming, thanks to the efforts of politicians.”

Judged by Amy Driscoll, editorial page editor, Miami Herald. 22 entries.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Zoë Meyers, inewsource, San Diego.
Second Place: L.E. Baskow, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Mark Graves, The Oregonian.

Zoë Meyers takes first place with a photo of a migrant mother and daughter embracing after reaching U.S. soil in the Jacumba wilderness east of San Diego.

“This moment of joy and love between a mother and child puts a human face on the numbers that we see daily as our nation struggles to find solutions on immigration,” the judge wrote.

“This image captures the humanity that is missing from so many conversations about the boarder.”

Second place goes to L.E. Baskow for “Goodbye Tabatha.”

“You don’t often see images from a funeral made up close with a wide angle lens. This photographer was willing to put themself into an uncomfortable position and compose a frame with a lot going on during an emotional service,” the judge wrote.

“As the eye moves around the frame, we see several individual moments of grief unfold in this expertly composed and powerful image.”

Mark Graves takes third place with a shot of mourners at the funeral of a 17-year-old girl killed in a triple homicide.

“Pain. Loss. Sorrow. This image captures a moment of grief during a funeral for a high school student,” the judge wrote.

“Its simplicity does not take away from its impact.”

Overall, the judge added, “I was able to narrow the entries down to 5 pretty easily, but picking the top 3 was a challenge. Congratulations to the winners!”

Judged by Zach Boyden-Holmes, photo editor, Des Moines Register. 49 entries.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Rob Schumacher, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Shafkat Anowar, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: Leah Hogsten, Salt Lake Tribune.

Rob Schumacher wins first place with a photo of hikers on a Phoenix peak sillhouetted against a Super Blue Moon.

“Great composition in this image!” the judge wrote. “Kudos to the photographer for finding this moment and sticking with it to capture separation between all of the people captured.

“The way the mountain curves in a similar way to the moon adds more depth to the image.”

Second place goes to Shafkat Anowar for a shot of Texas Rangers fans celebrating the team’s World Series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“Another greatly composed image!” the judge wrote. “I am intrigued by the layering in this image and I appreciate seeing each person’s reaction.

“Of course, the reaction in the middle, by both the suit wearer and the giant baseball head, truly make this image captivating. Kudos to the photographer for finding this moment.”

Leah Hogsten takes third place with a shot of a doe recovering from being tranquilized while wildlife officials attached a tracking collar.

“The lighting on this image is captivating,” the judge wrote.

“I appreciate the photographer stepping back and allowing the viewer to absorb the environment, from the sky to the ground. This photo places me in the scene, which is what a great image does!”

Overall, the judge added, “Kudos to everyone that entered the category! There were a lot of great moments captured. The images I selected rose to the top because of composition, lighting and layering.”

Judged by Alyssa Pointer, freelance photographer. 49 entries.

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place: Ellen Schmidt, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Smiley Pool, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register.

Ellen Schmidt earns first place with a photo of Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson celebrating after being fouled in a WNBC playoff game.

“For me, this image rises above the others because of the timing of the photo and the perfect moment of the yell,” the judge wrote. “It’s the strange magic of sports photography.

“There are a lot of images that are good for the day, but this one is a winner because of how difficult it is to grab this kind of image. I’ve never seen anything like it, nor have I ever created anything like this. It’s a ‘once in a career’ type of photo.”

Second place goes to Smiley Pool for a photo of Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeDee Lamb flipping over two New York Jets players after making a catch.

“This is an awesome sports action grab,” the judge wrote. “I really love the moment.

“Photographing the NFL is difficult, but any photographer walking away from a game and having this in their take should be really proud.”

Mark Rightmire grabs third place with a photo of a rider flying through the air while practicing for the Nitro Circus Full Throttle FMX show on opening day of the U.S. Open of Surfing.

“This image rises above the others because of the creative seeing that went into making this frame,” the judge wrote. “I think it’s exposed well for being an image of a bright sky, and I also love the subject of the frame isn’t perfectly centered.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This competition had a lot of great moments and was packed full of storytelling images. This is a great group of sport photographers and each should be proud of the images they create for their communities. They all have great timing, they are present for big moments, and they seek out different positions to help tell a story. They think outside the designated photo holes or positions. I also loved the breath of work that was displayed in this category. From hockey, baseball, cyclocross, and rodeo – this category showed the best of today’s sports. It was an honor to review and judge this category. Best of luck to all the photographers. Your work is appreciated.”

Judged by Grace Hollars, visual journalist, Indianapolis Star. 40 entries.

NEWS SLIDESHOW

First Place: Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News.
Second Place: Tom Fox, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: Kevin Beaty, Denverite.

Sarah Reingewirtz earns first place with “Fentanyl crisis in L.A.’s MacArthur Park.”

“So many great entries in this category, but this one stood out due to the degree of difficulty. A difficult situation for any photographer to penetrate, and stay safe,” the judge wrote.

“These photos put the viewer right into a dark underbelly of our society, and they’re all perfectly made photographs.”

Second place goes to Tom Fox for “Deadly Fake: Inside fentanyl’s grip on North Texas.”

“There are several ways to tell the story of opioid addiction in America, but this piece does a great job of showing how it affects younger people,” the judge wrote.

Kevin Beaty takes third place with “Migrant arrivals push city resources to their limits.”

“This is a topic that dominates much of our political discourse these days, but these photos go past that and give migrants a dignity they’re not often shown,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, it was “hard to pick winners here because there were so many great entries. The winners stood out because of the degree of difficulty the photographers likely had to go through in order to shoot the stories they did. Hats off to every one of these entries though.”

Judged by Travis Heying, photojournalist, Wichita Eagle. 13 entries.

FEATURE SLIDESHOW

First Place: Michael Benanav, Searchlight New Mexico.
Second Place: Kevin Fujii, Honolulu Civil Beat.
Third Place: Karen Ducey, Seattle Times.

Michael Benanav wins first place with “An Apache ceremony for the ages.”

“The clear winner in this category,” the judge wrote. “An astonishing look at a ceremony that few get to experience. The photography itself is superb.

“I went back to view these photos again and again because they were so enchanting.”

Second place goes to Kevin Fujii for “Baby sea turtles caused quite a scene at Sandy Beach.

“An assignment where redundancy could easily happen in trying to make several photographs from a single event didn’t happen here,” the judge wrote. “A nice variety of photographs.”

Karen Ducey grabs third place with “A deep dive into Seattle’s busy, beloved Ballard Locks.

“The only complaint about this entry is I wish I could have seen more,” the judge wrote. “A fascinating look at something that people probably see every day in their community but never notice.”

Judged by Travis Heying, photojournalist, Wichita Eagle. 17 entries.

AUDIO STORYTELLING

First Place: Staff, Imperfect Paradise, LAist Studios.
Second Place: Faith E. Pinho, Asal Ehsanipour and Alex Higgins, Los Angeles Times.
Third Place: Staff, California Love, LAist Studios.

The Imperfect Paradise staff earns first place with “Nury & The Secret Tapes.”

“‘Imperfect Paradise: Nury & The Secret Tapes’ is a powerful example of what audio journalism can illuminate in a way that words on a page cannot,” the judges wrote.

“The judges were familiar with the story of the L.A. City Council tape scandal, but each of them expressed learning something new and being completely compelled by the framing of the story, the raw emotion in the interviews and how this scandal is perhaps more relevant than ever.

“The work of Antonia Cereijido and the rest of the Imperfect Paradise team show how high the stakes are and why this is so much more than a local story. Cereijido is an expert guide in her reflective storytelling, conversational delivery and sharp writing. The reveal of the upcoming exclusive interview with Nury Martinez is effective and the turn to first understanding the scandal is engaging and satisfying. Overall, the production is thoughtful and propulsive.”

Second place goes to Faith E. Pinho, Asal Ehsanipour and Alex Higgins for “The G-Word.”

“Foretold” is a fascinating and unexpected journey into not only the Romani American community but also the decisions a journalist makes about who or what to keep reporting on and why,” the judge wrote.

“Faith E. Pinho is a gifted storyteller. Her tracking is polished and naturally delivered, and she draws in the listener immediately. Pinho and the rest of the show’s team have created a well-scripted audio story with a clear narrative structure. The extensive research and thoughtful approach of the team is immediately apparent from the way Romani history is carefully unpacked to the lovely theme music by a Romani musician. The overall scoring and sound design elevates this strong and surprising series.”

The California Love staff grabs third place with “K-Pop Dreaming.”

“‘K-Pop Dreaming’ beautifully weaves together host Vivian Yoon’s personal relationships and story with Korean history and the birth and transformation of its popular music,” the judge wrote.

“The story used the evolution of Trot to punctuate major historical events, which made the history more tangible and clear. Plus, it is a story that had to be told in audio!”

Overall, the judges wrote, “The audio category had an impressive range of work. From carefully reported history to some of the most pressing news and issues of the day, the entries highlighted compelling voices with significance that extends beyond the region.”

Judged by Renita Jablonski, director of audio, Peter Bresnan, senior producer, Ted Muldoon, senior producer, Ariel Plotnick, producer, Cristina Quinn, development producer, Hadley Robinson, opinions producer, and Emma Talkoff, producer, all of the Washington Post. 47 entries.

VIDEO STORYTELLING

Still being judged.

INFORMATIONAL GRAPHIC

First Place: Wes Rand, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Wes Rand and Tony Morales, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Christopher Cherrington, Salt Lake Tribune.

Wes Rand wins first place with a print graphic showing how toilet water is cleansed and turned into drinking water.

“Educational and easy to follow flow chart about flow,” the judge wrote. “Graphics are great for helping people understand something complicated. This fits the bill.”

Second place goes to Wes Rand and Tony Morales for a graphic showing the circuit for the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

“Interactivity on a high level with something for everyone,” the judge wrote.

Christopher Cherrington takes third place with a graphic comparing the record snowfall at Utah ski and snowboard resorts to such things as the combined height of five Toyota Tacomas.

“A fun and different way to do a bar graph,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Melanie Hitchcock, managing editor, New Hampshire Union Leader. 6 entries.

PAGE DESIGN

First Place: Michael Hogue and Jeff Meddaugh, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Corlene Byrd, Las Vegas Weekly.
Third Place: Staff, Las Vegas Weekly.

Michael Hogue and Jeff Meddaugh earn first place with “Willie, 9.0,” a package on Willie Nelson’s iconic moments as he celebrated his 90th birthday.

“An impressive amount of work,” the judge wrote. “Engaging even for someone who isn’t a fan of Willie Nelson. Lots of great stuff to look at.”

Second place goes to Corlene Byrd for a package on the Vegas Golden Nights winning the Stanley Cup championship.

“A must-have for any fan,” the judge wrote.

The Las Vegas Weekly staff grabs third place with a package examining how Las Vegas would fare in a fuure with less water.

“Proof that you don’t need to hit people over the head with color to make an attractive design,” the judge wrote. “Stands out in its subtlety.”

Overall, the judge added, “A lot of strong entries in this category.”

Judged by Melanie Hitchcock, managing editor, New Hampshire Union Leader. 22 entries.

ONLINE PRESENTATION

First Place: Saige Miller, Alixel Cabrera and Katie Watson, Salt Lake Tribune and KUER-FM.
Second Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Wes Rand and Tony Morales, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Saige Miller, Alixel Cabrera and Katie Watson win first place with “Reaching for air,” a multimedia look at how the west side of the Salt Lake Valley bears the brunt of the area’s air pollution.

“I really liked the intro/landing page entry. Lets me decide if I want to jump right to the interactives or the audio vs the stories,” the judge wrote.

“I like the video backdrop and the ‘why this matters’ intro box. Digital packaging is top notch. The audio, the map backgrounds highlighting the areas mentioned, the images and video in the background are excellent. Perfect combination of multiple digital elements for great engagement and online storytelling.”

Second place goes to the Seattle Times staff for “The lost patients of Washington’s abandoned psychiatric hospital.

“Beautiful visuals and great digital design. Really enjoyed the inline embedding of the audio clips (IE where it says Cunk, you can play and hear them doing it),” the judge wrote.

“Love the various entry points, especially the reporter’s notebook. Great package all around, can really see the time and care spent on an overlooked subject.”

Wes Rand and Tony Morales take third place with “Sphere & Now,” a look at the new, cutting-edge entertainment venue on the Las Vegas Strip.

“This is excellent online storytelling. From the beautiful video on the home page to the explainer graphics and draggable photos, this engages and informs the reader in unique ways. Tons of content but laid out very cleanly, easy to navigate and keeps your attention,” the judge wrote.

“Covering such a high-tech venue in a traditional way wouldn’t do it justice, and this team was clearly up to the task.”

Overall, the judge added, “This was an incredibly tough decision as all three finalists (and the rest of the field) were exceptional examples of great digital storytelling. When we say journalism isn’t dead, it’s just changing, this is what we mean in 2024. Amazing work to all of the entrants.”

Judged by Joe Mutascio, digital operations manager, Indianapolis Star. 17 entries.