2019 contest results


First Place: Staff, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Mark Nowlin, Jennifer Luxton and Thomas Wilburn, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Noelle Crombie, Dave Killen and Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian.

The Dallas Morning News staff took first place with “Standoff: How the Dallas SWAT team cornered and killed the July 7 police shooter.”

“I was glued. This is a stellar example of complete online presentation; the design elements become part of the storytelling rather than decoration,” the judge wrote.

“Standout elements are the video with illustrations evoking a first-person shooter game, the moody portraits and bios of the cops, the end credits showing how much work this is and the way the timeline graphic changes from horizontal scroller on desktop to a vertical presentation on mobile. Well done.”

Second place goes to Mark Nowlin, Jennifer Luxton and Thomas Wilburn for “If you think Seattle traffic is bad now, just wait until these projects start.”

“This is exactly the right way to explain the traffic problem by block in downtown Seattle,” the judge wrote. “Traditional story form would not have been nearly as concise nor as informative. Animated illustration on top sets the tone for this beautiful interactive piece. Everything is just right.”

Noelle Crombie, Dave Killen and Beth Nakamura take third place with “Ghosts of Highway 20: Along a stretch of Oregon highway, women vanished, some were assaulted, others murdered, some are still missing, one man might be responsible for it all.”

“Stunning, moody multimedia presentation inspires empathy in a way that static images or type alone could not,” the judge wrote. “You feel for the women trapped on lonely roads and in the woods with a rapist and killer.”

Judged by Anjanette Delgado, senior news director for digital, Detroit Free Press. 31 entries.


First Place: Rick Lund, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Henry Brean, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Debra J. Saunders, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Rick Lund wins first place with “Tales from the Road: How I survived decades of Skagit-to-Seattle commuting.”

“This piece … takes a mundane topic (commuting) but one that affects everybody’s life, and makes it fun and interesting – even though I don’t live anywhere near Seattle and haven’t heard of the places Lund writes about,” the judge wrote.

“It is a creative endeavor and a great example of a story that works well in print and online.”

Second place goes to Henry Brean for “Obscure federal rule erased apostrophes from place names.”

“Brean’s article about the lack of apostrophes on federal signage is quite a scoop and appeals to my editor’s heart,” the judge wrote.

“I’ve always wondered why there was no apostrophe in such place names, and now I know. It’s the kind of story that you tell other people about (I’ve lost count how many folks I’ve told), and it’s a well-written and a fun read.”

Debra J. Saunders grabs third place with “The ‘Trump bump’: Why so many White House reporters are pregnant.”

“I’ve read a lot of Trump coverage over the past couple of years, but I must say Saunders has found a completely new angle,” the judge wrote.

“Who knew political reporters planned pregnancies according to election cycles? Fascinating. I also like that it’s so female in its point of view. The quotes she managed to get are especially funny and clever but not too precious.”

Judged by Maren Longbella, digital features editor, St. Paul Pioneer Press. 58 entries.


First Place: Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register.
Second Place: Randy Vazquez, San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times.
Third Place: Ben Dorger, Ogden Standard Examiner.

Mark Rightmire earns first place with his photo of a plane dropping fire retardant to protect homes in Lake Elsinore, California, from the Holy Fire.

“This photo immediately caught my attention for its eye-popping colors and the drama of the moment,” the judge wrote.

“The motion of the airplane, the symmetry of the red fire retardant and red fire truck, the glowing orange of the sky, and the body language of the fireman work seamlessly together to tell the story of one active moment in the Holy Fire. For me, this photo rises to the top for its painterly quality and striking sense of action.”

Second place goes to Randy Vazquez for his shot of Daniel Woida holding a dog he rescued from the deadly Camp Fire as the two sought refuge at the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley, Calif., in November.

“This photo captures the essence of portrait photography by having the viewer look right into the eyes of the subject to empathize with the suffering that he has endured,” the judge wrote.

“His smoke-covered face tells the story of the fire, and the tiny black dog enveloped in his jacket adds a powerful emotional pull to the image. As a viewer, I find myself wanting to know more about this man, the dog, and the story that brought them together.”

Ben Dorger grabs third place with a photo of Major Brent R. Taylor’s family watching his casket being returned to Ogden, Utah, after Taylor was killed in Afghanistan.

“This solemn moment is a complete storytelling image that shows the grief of a family that has just lost their husband and father,” the judge wrote.

“The anguish of the mother is shown with clarity for the viewer and is compounded by the looks on the children’s faces as they hold their hands over their hearts. The photographer gracefully captured this moment of private pain with dignity and decency.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “There was a lot of outstanding work in this competition which made the judging enjoyable, and difficult! Many images from the wildfires rose to the top, showing the heartbreak, loss and devastation that communities suffered. I was impressed with many of the photographer’s ability to get close to people who were suffering, yet capture honest emotion with poise and respect.

“Ultimately, the winning images showed advanced technical quality, as well as the ability of the photographer to connect with and respect their subjects.”

Judged by Coburn Dukehart, digital and multimedia director, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. 34 entries.


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

Keith Birmingham earns first place with a photo of third baseman Manny Machado sliding into home plate to score the winning run for the Dodgers in the 13th inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

“‘Safe at home’ was selected because of its intense energy and perfect composition,” the judge wrote. “Each character plays an important role in defining this moment. They also are perfectly placed; they are separated enough to let your eye savor each smaller moment in the frame and they are close enough to fill the frame. The only way this photo would have been 100 percent perfect is if the blue banner ad didn’t exist, which is out of the photographer’s control. Congratulations to the photographer!”

Second place goes to Kelly Presnell for a shot of Quarterback Marquise Cooper loosening up as clouds build in the skies over Pima Community College in Tucson.

“‘Sundown football’ was selected because of the beautiful light, action, and framing of the players,” the judge wrote. “This photo would have suffered without one of these three elements. It shows the photographer was thinking while framing this image up. Congratulations to the photographer!”

Steve Marcus takes third place with a photo of Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrating a goal during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

“‘Vegas Golden Knights’ was selected because of the moment and composition,” the judge wrote. “It was similar to the first place winner, but the celebration didn’t have the same intensity. The fans in the background filled the dead space behind the net. Congratulations to the photographer!”

The judge added, “Many of the entries would have benefitted from tighter crops. The winners were selected because each element adds to the whole frame’s story and composition. Think about how each piece in the photo adds or distracts from the story and the viewers’ eyes.”

Judged by Steph Chambers, photographer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 33 entries.


First Place: Tom Fox, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Erik Castro, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.
Third Place (tie): Dougal Brownlie, Colorado Springs Gazette.
Third Place (tie): Tyler Tjomsland, Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Tom Fox wins first place with a slideshow from “Pain & Profit,” an investigation that found companies that Texas pays to care for millions of sick, disabled and poor people were skimping on treatment to boost profits.

“Beautiful images showing an issue that is really hard to cover,” the judge wrote. “Each photo makes you want to learn more about that person and the healthcare issues they are faced with.”

Second place goes to Erik Castro for a profile of a homeless couple and the challenges they face.

“Wonderful. A touching story, beautifully shot and edited,” the judge wrote. “Great job earning their trust and devoting time to telling their story with respect.”

Dougal Brownlie grabs third place with “Joshua’s Journey,” which chronicles a year in a young boy’s battle with cancer.

“The opening and closing images set the bar for this story,” the judge wrote. “Great job being there for some tough moments. The story overall could have benefited from a tighter edit.”

Tyler Tjomsland takes third place with a profile of a Spokane fire captain who is transgender.

“The photos were great and showed what her life is like,” the judge wrote. “I was left curious about the rest of her family life and the struggles she faces there.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “First and second stood out right away for their depth of storytelling and photographs that helped viewers connect with the subjects. The two in third both did a really nice job of bringing the viewer into these people’s lives in a respectful way.”

Judged by Brian Powers, visual journalist, Des Moines Register. 23 entries.


First Place: Michael Ramirez, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Steve Greenberg, Ventura County Reporter.
Third Place: Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun.

Michael Ramirez wins first place with a portfolio of editorial cartoons on Las Vegas’ obsolete fire code, Nevada’s blue wave in the 2018 election, President Trump’s self-destructive tweets, California’s forest management failures, and America’s need for immigration reform.

“Superior artistry, clear and provocative points of view. Powerful satire,” the judge wrote.

“Although I disagree with many of Ramirez’s viewpoints, I find him not only one of the Best of the West but one of the best of the country as well.”

Second place goes to Steve Greenberg for cartoons on President Trump’s heartlessness, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ opposition to legalized marijuana, the NRA’s domination of Congress, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s polluted legacy, and Trump’s denial of climate change.

Mike Smith takes third place with cartoons on the clergy sex abuse scandal, Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, President Trump’s control of the media, deaths of immigrant children in federal custody, and Trump’s whitewashing of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Judged by Kevin Siers, editorial cartoonist, Charlotte Observer. 6 entries.