2019 contest results

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First Place: Robrt L. Pela, Phoenix New Times.
Second Place: Eric Walden, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: Michael Rietmulder, Seattle Times.

Robrt L. Pela wins first place with “Battle of the Ladmo Bag Boys.”

“The fact that a beloved local children’s show that ran for 35 years could be the catalyst for a years-long feud between two adults is a story that cries out to be told,” the judge wrote. “In less capable hands this could have turned out to be little more than a soon-forgotten daily newspaper story. But here, the author invested the time into learning the history of the show and the clearly insane people on both sides of this fight.

“This is a thoughtful, extremely well-structured story that informs and entertains. The writer allows the story to unfold over time by using a deft hand and a superior writing skill. It stands as Exhibit A as the reason we still need alt-weeklies and long-form journalism. The author is a true storyteller and that’s something we should all strive to be.”

Second place goes to Eric Walden for “The life and death of Utah’s ‘otherworldly’ Cinamon Hadley – ballerina, goth queen and comic book character.”

“Cinamon Hadley was obviously a one-of-a-kind person, and the author’s prose and depth of reporting conveyed that loud and clear to the reader,” the judge wrote.

“This was a warts-and-all tribute, not a quick-hit obituary with the obligatory condolences. The writer let us know who this person was, the good and the bad, and that’s the sign of a great profile.”

Michael Rietmulder takes third place with “Remembering Chris Cornell: The quiet cook at Ray’s Boathouse who became a rock god.”

“While not one I would have thought of, this was the perfect premise for a memorial piece to a rock star – remembering him at a time when he was just Chris,” the judge wrote.

“Strong writing and interview skills are evident.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was a category jammed with great entries. While I felt there was a clear winner, things were really murky from there because picking one story over another is like trying to choose between your kids or a favorite IPA. It’s nearly impossible.”

Judged by Charlie Deitch, editor, Pittsburgh Current. 28 entries.

GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENT REPORTING

First Place: Steve Ringman and Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Erica Evans, Deseret News.
Third Place: Jennifer Brown, Tamara Chuang and Kevin Simpson, Colorado Sun.

Steve Ringman and Lynda Mapes win first place with “Hostile Waters: Orcas in Peril.”

“Hostile Waters is the heart-wrenching and vividly-told story of Washington State’s orcas — a tour de force of reporting and storytelling that represents the very best and personal of environmental journalism in the West,” the judge wrote.

“This package is impressive in its visual storytelling and strong narrative as it connects the dots between the orcas’ plight and human pollution and disregard for the environment.”

Second place goes to Erica Evans for a series that includes “Winter is coming and so is bad air: What psychology can teach us about fixing Utah’s air quality problem,” “Find out what happened when a Deseret News reporter went a week without a car,” and “What’s stopping Utah’s Legislature from solving the air pollution problem? Inside the politics of clean air.”

“This series brilliantly highlights solutions to one of the most pressing problems in a highly-polluted state,” the judge wrote. “The reporting takes a creative approach to shining light on the causes and challenges facing Utahns seeking to quell the state’s air quality problem.

“The visual storytelling is engaging and informative, and the series’ consideration of Oslo as a model for an approach Salt Lake may take to solve its air pollution problem is an example of environmental journalism at its best.”

Jennifer Brown, Tamara Chuang and Kevin Simpson grab third place with a series that includes “Recycling in Colorado is tedious, cost-prohibitive, voluntary — and evolving,” “Coloradans generate 9.6 pounds of trash per person, per day. Where does it all go?” and “Where does our poop end up? Probably spread on farmland in eastern Colorado.”

“This brilliant series creatively highlights one of the most fundamental environmental challenges of all—waste,” the judge wrote.

“This series probes and shines much-needed light on the challenges Colorado faces with the cost and complications associated with recycling, an issue that is often opaque to the public. The human feces story, opening with a visual of New York’s poo train, is brilliant reporting, engagingly illuminating the lifecycle of human poo.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “The top three entries vividly contextualize the most important and fundamental environmental issues facing the West — the connection between human pollution and the plight of marine life; urban air quality and recycling of household waste. These stories take a brilliant, engaging and creative approach to deeply probing critical environmental challenges.”

Judged by Bobby Magill, environment and climate reporter, Bloomberg. 37 entries.

IMMIGRATION AND BORDER REPORTING

First Place: Chris Walker, Denver Westword.
Second Place: Gillian Friedman and Laura Seitz, Deseret News.
Third Place: Perla Trevizo, Arizona Daily Star.

Chris Walker earns first place with a profile of a Pakistani “who desperately wants to be deported during the most deportation-loving U.S. administration in recent memory can’t seem to get himself booted across the border.”

This story took me by surprise at every turn and is such a compelling piece of reporting and writing,” the judge wrote.

“The tension, the drama, the story I’ve never heard told in any form is a breathtaking journey for any reader and illuminates some troubling parts of our immigration system. Congratulations.”

Second place goes to Gillian Friedman and Laura Seitz for “A family divided: After nearly 14 years in Utah, a mother of four is deported to Guatemala.”

“This powerful story brought me to tears,” the judge wrote.

“The reporter and photographer take you inside the heart of a family dealing with the most painful thing. The choices the family makes before and during the story are something to behold and these journalists put you on the front line with the family. Exceptional.”

Perla Trevizo garners third place with “30 days to be a family: Newly widowed mom exits U.S. with a hole in her heart.”

“Incredible premise to begin with,” the judge wrote. “The reporter trades good access for magnetic storytelling. Feel like I’m in the room as this mom is awkwardly finding her way back into the family and at the doorstep as they are saying goodbye all over again. Strong. Nice job.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “A terrific category that I’m honored to judge. So much strong reporting to choose from.”

Judged by Amy Hollyfield, senior deputy editor/news, Tampa Bay Times/tampabay.com. 25 entries.

BREAKING NEWS REPORTING

First Place: Staff, Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Second Place: Peggy Fletcher Stack, David Noyce and Bob Mims, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: Pat Reavy and Lois M. Collins, Deseret News.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser staff wins first place with “False Missile Alert,” about the mistaken alarm that terrified Hawaii for 38 minutes as residents and tourists feared that a nuclear missile attack was on the way.

“No stone was left unturned in the telling of an event that had terrified Hawaiians and captured the nation’s attention,” the judge wrote. “Multiple voices, interesting scenes, sharp analysis and provocative packaging on deadline make this effort stand out.

Second place goes to Peggy Fletcher Stack, David Noyce and Bob Mims for their coverage of new leader Russell Nelson’s appointment and reshuffling of the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Very well-told and edited with depth and context throughout,” the judge wrote. “Not your typical finalist for a breaking news category, but the subject matter is so vital to their readers that the staff rose to the occasion with an exemplary effort that went deep.

“The writing, the context, the sidebars and the packaging were excellent. A fascinating look at the men leading this church and the competing forces – all on deadline.”

Pat Reavy and Lois M. Collins snag third place with their coverage of a University of Utah student being shot and killed on campus by an ex-boyfriend while she was on the phone with her mother.

“Impressive first-day coverage of such a sad story,” the judge wrote. “The details about the victims life and her efforts to get help from safety officials helped elevate the coverage. And the sidebar on campus safety was treated with all the seriousness and context it deserved. Well done.”

Judged by Cliff Schechtman, executive editor, Portland Press Herald. 16 entries.

EXPLANATORY REPORTING

First Place: Bethany Barnes, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Emily Bregel, Arizona Daily Star.
Third Place: Staff, The Oregonian.

Bethany Barnes earned first place for “Targeted: A Family and the Quest to Stop the Next School Shooter.”

“First of all, an idea that is not at all obvious. Second, the story of this kid is heart-rending, the access the reporter got incredible, the storytelling terrific,” the judge wrote.

“And all the important facts are there to explain the law, how it’s implemented, and how it falls short – but they don’t hit you over the head with ‘here are facts! facts coming now!’ Instead, they’re sprinkled through so that you absorb them as you’re reading about the wringer this poor kid has been put through. Just a tour de force.”

Second place goes to Emily Bregel for “Evictions: Low-income housing crisis takes toll on Tucson renters.”

“Really strong – thoroughly reported from the sides of tenants, landlords and judges, with anecdotes and data, good photos and multimedia, and one story just about the search for solutions,” the judge wrote.

The Oregonian staff grabs third place with a series of stories that began with a crash that killed a family of five and led to the discovery that the family had left behind a string of unresolved allegations of child abuse and neglect.

“More than just an infamous story about horrific child abuse that made national headlines, this series underlines how child abuse cases fall through the cracks,” the judge wrote. “A lot of digging and persistence went into these pieces, which have national implications.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was a very strong category, and many of these pieces could have been the winner in a different year. Yet ‘Targeted’ stood head and shoulders above the rest in its powerful storytelling, mixed with the facts that explain the issues at hand in a way that makes you want to keep learning more. And kudos to The Oregonian / OregonLive.com, which took two of the top three spots against fierce competition.”

Judged by Alan Rosenberg, executive editor, Providence Journal. 57 entries.

PROJECT REPORTING

First Place: Silvia Foster-Frau, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Noelle Crombie, Dave Killen and Beth Nakamura, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Jackie Valley, Nevada Independent.

Silvia Foster-Frau earns first place for her yearlong coverage of the aftermath of the 2017 killing of 26 worshipers at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, an isolated community that is deeply distrustful of outsiders.

“It was apparent from the first story that the reporter had become deeply sourced in this community. The access that she got, the sharing of such intimate details was amazing,” the judge wrote.

“This series of stories powerfully illustrated the after-effects of a gun massacre. The interview with the shooter’s wife was particularly strong.”

Second place goes to Noelle Crombie, Dave Killen and Beth Nakamura for “Ghosts of Highway 20,” a look at how four women disappeared and one was raped on the same stretch of road in rural Oregon, with one man linked to all five crimes.

“It was impossible to quit reading this series. The storytelling was first-rate. The videos were powerful. And the look of the package was stunning,” the judge wrote.

Jackie Valley grabs third place with her reporting from a year spent embedded at an at-risk elementary school serving a neighborhood east of downtown Las Vegas.

“This series took readers into the halls of a school trying to get better while facing multiple challenges. It was a reminder of the powerful impact individuals can have on their communities and the challenges that educators face everyday,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, “Deciding which entries to honor in this category was difficult. The subjects were important to their communities. The top three entries were notable for the writing and pacing. They kept their hooks in the judge, making it impossible to put them down. So much good work being produced in the West.”

Judged by Jean Buchanan, projects editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 47 entries.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

First Place: J. David McSwane and Andrew Chavez, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Fedor Zarkhin and Lynne Terry, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Thomas Peele and Harriet Blair Rowan, San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times.

J. David McSwane and Andrew Chavez earn first place with “Pain & Profit.”

“This stunning investigation stood out in a category packed with amazing journalism,” the judge wrote.

“The Dallas Morning News team meticulously chronicled failures by the state and Superior HealthPlan that led to the death of D’ashon Morris and to the harm of other vulnerable Texans. This is exceptional journalism.”

Second place goes to Fedor Zarkhin and Lynne Terry for “False Comfort,” which found that Oregon’s booming memory care industry charges desperate families premium prices while too often failing to keep people with dementia safe.

“This investigation into failures of memory care centers throughout the Oregon was impressive in its scope and detail,” the judge wrote.

Thomas Peele and Harriet Blair Rowan grab third place with “Burned Out,” which revealed how fire inspectors across the Bay Area routinely failed to perform state-required safety inspections at schools and apartment buildings – and with no consequences.

“This investigation makes it clear why the public should be concerned about overwhelmed fire inspectors failing to complete mandated safety inspections,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Marisa Kwiatkowski, investigative reporter, Indianapolis Star. 52 entries.

NEWS WRITING

First Place: Bethany Barnes, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Jennifer Brown, Colorado Sun.
Third Place: Todd J. Gillman and Robert T. Garrett, Dallas Morning News.

Bethany Barnes takes first place with “Targeted: A Family and the Quest to Stop the Next School Shooter.”

“A gripping inside look at a question on every parent’s mind — will my child be safe at school and what is being done to protect him?” the judge wrote. “In this case, the article raises questions whether schools overreach, showing the painful effect on one family in excellent detail.”

Second place goes to Jennifer Brown for “He seemed to have it all: Arapahoe High School senior’s suicide rattles emotionally fatigued, frightened community.”

“A narrow and deep exploration of teen suicide that features great insights and wonderful writing,” the judge wrote. “It is an issue many media outlets have tackled, but few as well as this piece.”

Todd J. Gillman and Robert T. Garrett grab third place with “Cruz and O’Rourke slug it out in first debate.”

“Extraordinary effort that sets a template for how to cover a political event in real time and provide the information and context that readers need,” the judge wrote. “Wonderful online presentation that translated well to print.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Judging journalism contests become a process of elimination, made hard this year by a set of top-notch pieces. It is a great reminder that journalism matters.”

FEATURE WRITING, SHORT FORM

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.

FEATURE WRITING, LONG FORM

First Place: Tom Hallman Jr., The Oregonian.
Second Place: Anita Hassan, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Jamie Thompson, Dallas Morning News.

Tom Hallman Jr. wins first place with “Della’s lost letter and what it means.”

“A beautifully executed story about the future, the past, and the journeys on which life takes us – from that of the story’s unlikely subject to that of its skilled author,” the judge wrote.

“The simple yet powerful writing and excellent use of quotes evokes great emotion, and the epilogue is a charming and poignant end to the piece.”

Second place goes to Anita Hassan for “The Things They Lost,” a look at a mother’s quest for the return of a favorite sweater used to staunch the bleeding of a woman severely wounded at the 2017 mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip.

“A riveting read from beginning to end about a little-known aspect of mass shootings today,” the judge wrote. “The writing is captivating and moves quickly with vivid details and nice context. Great lede.”

Jamie Thompson grabs third place with “Standoff: How the Dallas SWAT team cornered and killed the July 7 police shooter.”

“An expertly crafted, behind-the-scenes story,” the judge wrote. “Very good writing, intimate reporting, great details, and beautiful presentation.”

Judged by Stephanie Farr, feature writer, Philadelphia Inquirer. 116 entries.

ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT WRITING

First Place: Robrt L. Pela, Phoenix New Times.
Second Place: Eric Walden, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: Michael Rietmulder, Seattle Times.

Robrt L. Pela wins first place with “Battle of the Ladmo Bag Boys.”

“The fact that a beloved local children’s show that ran for 35 years could be the catalyst for a years-long feud between two adults is a story that cries out to be told,” the judge wrote. “In less capable hands this could have turned out to be little more than a soon-forgotten daily newspaper story. But here, the author invested the time into learning the history of the show and the clearly insane people on both sides of this fight.

“This is a thoughtful, extremely well-structured story that informs and entertains. The writer allows the story to unfold over time by using a deft hand and a superior writing skill. It stands as Exhibit A as the reason we still need alt-weeklies and long-form journalism. The author is a true storyteller and that’s something we should all strive to be.”

Second place goes to Eric Walden for “The life and death of Utah’s ‘otherworldly’ Cinamon Hadley – ballerina, goth queen and comic book character.”

“Cinamon Hadley was obviously a one-of-a-kind person, and the author’s prose and depth of reporting conveyed that loud and clear to the reader,” the judge wrote.

“This was a warts-and-all tribute, not a quick-hit obituary with the obligatory condolences. The writer let us know who this person was, the good and the bad, and that’s the sign of a great profile.”

Michael Rietmulder takes third place with “Remembering Chris Cornell: The quiet cook at Ray’s Boathouse who became a rock god.”

“While not one I would have thought of, this was the perfect premise for a memorial piece to a rock star – remembering him at a time when he was just Chris,” the judge wrote.

“Strong writing and interview skills are evident.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “This was a category jammed with great entries. While I felt there was a clear winner, things were really murky from there because picking one story over another is like trying to choose between your kids or a favorite IPA. It’s nearly impossible.”

Judged by Charlie Deitch, editor, Pittsburgh Current. 28 entries.

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL REPORTING

First Place: Brian Joseph, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Rebekah L. Sanders, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Derek Hall, Seattle Times.

Brian Joseph takes first place with “Weak safeguards make Nevada companies easy targets for fraud.”

“This is incredibly well done. How we protect our identity in the digital age is such fertile ground and this story shines a bright light on the need for better safeguards,” the judge wrote.

“The anecdotal lede hooks you immediately into this frightening tale. The stakes are set early in the story and he does a masterful job of weaving in all the context of how the Nevada Secretary of State’s policies compares with those around the country without weighing down the story.”

Second place goes to Rebekah L. Sanders for “Nearly 80 percent of credit card skimmers were found at this 1 gas station chain.”

“What a story! By now, we’ve all read about credit card skimmers, but this story really raises the bar by raising the issue of one retailer’s problem with protecting its customers,” the judge wrote.

“The reporting is top notch, and it is presented in a way that is approachable and inviting, even if the subject is unnerving. The story hit so many notes — good context, great explanation and resources for consumers to protect themselves.”

Derek Hall garners third place with “For crew of 2,100 passenger cruise ship, frenetic ‘turnaround day’ in Seattle starts and ends the journey.”

“Fly on the wall stories are hard to tell, but this seems to be a model of the form,” the judge wrote. “The story just sang and was brimming with great details. I really enjoyed joining Derek Hall as he trailed Herman Hermawan around the Eurodam. Sounds like a hectic day, but it was a pleasure to read.”

Judged by Robert Barba, deputy spot news editor, Wall Street Journal. 37 entries.

SPORTS REPORTING

First Place: Ryan Kartje, Orange County Register.
Second Place: Corbett Smith, Dallas Morning News.
Third Place: Kyle Hopkins and Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News.

Ryan Kartje earns first place with “NBA All-Star weekend: L.A. is already the center of the hoop world.”

“Everything you always wanted to know about the incredible LA basketball culture,” the judge wrote. “This story is informative, entertaining and well-reported.”

Second place goes to Corbett Smith for “Mega-campus, mega-success.”

“This is a well-researched story that explains both the pluses and minuses of having a mega-sized school when it comes to high school football in football-crazy Texas,” the judge wrote.

Kyle Hopkins and Tegan Hanlon snag third place with “How to save the Iditarod.”

“The famed Iditarod has been on the verge of self-destruction with mismanagement, drug scandals and dog deaths,” the judge wrote. “This package of stories may just help save this important event. It puts forward several recommendations that fans, racers and animal rights activists can embrace.”

Judged by Bill Hill, former assistant managing editor, MLB.com. 42 entries.

GENERAL INTEREST COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Charles Wohlforth, Anchorage Daily News.
Second Place: Tyrone Beason, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Denby Fawcett, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Charles Wohlforth takes first place with columns that include “How an old boat is teaching me to put down the burden of the past,” “An addict’s life on Anchorage’s streets – and a mother’s unwavering love,” and “A tree from Alaska’s warm prehistoric past is growing in our warming present.”

“Charles has written columns that are well-reported, personal and fascinating,” the judge wrote. “He has captured specifically local issues and people and presented these stories in a way that is universal. Exemplary writing.”

Second place goes to Tyrone Beason for columns that include “A grandmother’s love, stories of hardship shaped my vision of justice,” “Total Experience Gospel Choir’s last days: Pat Wright built legacy with gusto of a freedom fighter,” and “It’s not ‘identity politics,’ it’s just who we are. Let’s vote that way.”

“Tyrone’s columns are an ideal combination of deeply personal stories and insights into other lives both internationally famous and locally prominent,” the judge wrote. “Writing around a single theme could be repetitive or dull, but these columns are emphatically anything but.”

Denby Fawcett grabs third place with columns that include “Pity Hawaii’s False Alarm ‘Button Pusher,'” “When Does Hawaii’s Famous ‘Aloha Kiss’ Become Sexual Harassment?” and “Men Can Swear Out Loud, Why Can’t Mazie Hirono?”

“Denby finds the people and politics that are both quintessentially Hawaiian and also relatable to the rest of us,” the judge wrote. “I’ve never been there, but each column was like exploring a new place in person. Interesting topics, good reporting and great writing.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “Whether in huge cities or tiny towns, the columnists who submitted their work for this contest have an obvious passion for their communities, a commitment to high quality local journalism and a drive to tell stories that might not otherwise be told. What else can be asked of good journalists? Each of the newspapers in this contest are fortunate to have such distinctive and insightful voices on staff.

Judged by Ed Buckley, columnist, Charleston Post and Courier. 34 entries.

SPECIAL TOPIC COLUMN WRITING

First Place: Ed Graney, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Laurel Rosenhall, CalMatters.
Third Place: John Katsilometes, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Ed Graney wins first place with columns that include “Golden Knights, Las Vegas will forever share an impenetrable bond,” “Ex-drug addict completes journey, makes NFR for 1st time,” and
“Bryson’s Law: Physics lead PGA star DeChambeau to Shriners win.”

“When I read these columns, this was the first time I was tempted to copy a sentence, say, ‘that is really NICE writing.’ This was the second time that I shared the topic of a column with others who asked me what I was reading.

“Golf. Hockey. Two of my least-favorite sports, and yet, these columns? I cared. Because they were about people. They were about Everyman, about struggles and victories and losses. These columns read like winners.

“The category was to be judged on descriptive power, originality, reader impact and expertise in the subject; I found these columns to hit on all those marks. They reflected the human interest, the reader impact, that I was looking for as a judge.

“I know people will say ‘sports columns as the winner? Too easy.’ But I read many sports columns as I judged, as well as in my day-to-day reading, and other genres among the contest entries. These stood out because they were people stories that carried impact.”

Second place goes to Laurel Rosenhall for “Inside the Capitol with Laurel Rosenhall,” with columns that include “As the revolving door turns, a Capitol fixer is poised to ascend with Gavin Newsom — and legal weed,” “Progressive Democrats run California—yet it does more than many states to shield police from scrutiny,” and “California just forced equal pay for female surfers. Could that change other games?”

“Very readable, accessible columns. Even if you don’t know the issues or the people, you do by the end of the columns,” the judge wrote.

“I enjoyed the variety of topics, from issues to people, and they seemed always timely and on target. They contained good graphics and images to supplement the written information.

“The columns read like fully reported stories, not just politics commentary. As I read, I made notes on how my own staff could handle a story, or jotted down story ideas. I always think that that is the sign of universal impact.”

John Katsilometes takes third place with columns that include “Clint Holmes, Earl Turner scramble to fill in for Barry Manilow,” “Paul Shaffer, David Letterman celebrate reunion on Las Vegas Strip,” and “15 years later, Siegfried & Roy star says, ‘the show never ends.'”

“These entertainment columns were, in a word, entertaining. The columns were full of lively images, people, Instagram posts, tweets. Interesting interviews and subjects,” the judge wrote.

“I felt the writer tugging at my heart as I read. The writing style was lively, and the images and supplemental material helped the reader absorb the entire story as a whole. John made celebrities reachable.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “To the writers and columnists: Thank you for opening the door to the West for me. I learned about a lot of issues, and people, that I otherwise would not have seen in my world of the sub-tropics. I want to compliment every one of you in this category; you made it very difficult to judge this entry. Some people edged out others by a mere turn of phrase. Kudos to all.

Judged by Kathy Laskowski, content director/Florida news, South Florida Sun Sentinel. 39 entries.

HEADLINE WRITING

First Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: George Riggle, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Paul Pearson, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

George Riggle earns first place with a portfolio of headlines that includes “Ulterior automotive: From rhinos to swans to aliens, Art Car Festival draws distinctive rides,” “Bland bombshell: ‘Marilyn!’ musical unmemorable,” “Hallowed ha’s of comedy: New York stand-up institution finding a home in Las Vegas,” “Lightning in a beetle: On the trail of synchronous fireflies” and “Om on the range: Yoga treat on Montana ranch instills Big Sky bliss.”

“Bravo! A wonderful collection of eye-grabbing, compelling, catchy headlines,” the judge wrote. “Some it a very tough headline count as well.”

Second place goes to George Riggle for a portfolio of headlines that includes “Give ’em a Grinch, they’ll take a mile: Tacked-on material fails to resonate like original tale,” “All jam, no bread: Sweet lineup on tap as free jazz series returns,” “The old college … sigh: McCarthy’s ‘Life of the Party’ more bewildering than funny,” “Swag the dog: SuperZoo highlights newest accessories for four-legged friends” and “Caught in a trope: For Groundhog Day, here are some movie scenes you see over and over.”

“This entry hits all the characteristics of cleverly-written headlines: sophistication, uniqueness, appropriateness,” the judge wrote.

Paul Pearson garners third place with a portfolio of headlines that includes “First-minute rush: Many voting early,” “Shot took 16 years to kill,” “Oh, big silver cup, who’ll lift you up?” and “And they wonder, still they wonder, who’ll track the rain?”

“Solid entry with engaging, entertaining and well-crafted headlines,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Joyce Bassett, executive news editor, Albany Times-Union. 21 entries.

EDITORIAL WRITING

First Place: Josh Brodesky, San Antonio Express-News.
Second Place: Melissa Santos, Kate Riley and Donna Gordon Blankinship, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Jeffery Gerritt, Palestine Herald-Press.

Josh Brodesky earns first place with an editorial about a
deeply flawed court-appointed attorney system that produces
unequal justice for indigents.

“This was a standout entry — a compelling, impactful editorial that combined original reporting and a strong call to action,” the judge wrote.

“It was well-written and well-argued, methodically making the case that the county’s indigent defense system is woefully inadequate and grossly unfair. This editorial gave voice to a voiceless population, and it was a catalyst for change.”

Second place goes to Melissa Santos, Kate Riley and Donna Gordon Blankinship for a front-page editorial urging Gov. Jay Inslee to stand up for the people and veto a legislative-secrecy bill.

“This is an ambitious and well-executed editorial project and an excellent example of accountability journalism,” the judge wrote.

“The Seattle Times editorial board went to bat for the public’s right to access what should be public information. It named and shamed lawmakers who had supported secrecy, and the board applied pressure on the governor to stand on the side of transparency. This editorial belonged on the front page.”

Jeffery Gerritt grabs third place with his editorial “What are they hiding?”

“This is exactly what a local editorial page should do: Hold leaders to account and fight for the public’s right to know,” the judge wrote.

“‘What are they hiding?’ pulled no punches, effectively arguing for the release of surveillance video and calling into question officials’ actions and motivations. This was impactful local journalism — tough but fair commentary that readers couldn’t find anywhere else.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “With numerous strong entries focused on accountability journalism that makes a difference in the community, the competition was tough in the editorial category. Several editorials were an inspiring reminder of the power of local opinion journalism done right.”

Judged by Colleen McCain Nelson, editorial director, McClatchy Newspapers, and editorial editor, Kansas City Star. 23 entries.

NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY

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.

FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

First Place (tie): Rose Baca, Dallas Morning News.
First Place (tie): Leah Hogsten, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place (tie): Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.
Second Place (tie): John Burgess, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.
Third Place: Benjamin Hager, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Rose Baca earns first-place prize with an aerial photo of snow blanketing a field of cotton ready to be harvested near Spearman, Texas north of Amarillo.

“This is an interesting take on a weather/ag feature,” the judge wrote. “I had no idea what I was looking at, but I really wanted to know more. I know with aerials it can be difficult to get an perfectly perpendicular to the ground. This feels perfectly composed.”

Leah Hogsten wins first place with a portrait of Andrea Reynolds, who had a double mastectomy and then had leaves and branches tattooed over her scars.

“This is a wonderful image with beautiful light,” the judge wrote. “The trust earned by the photographer over what can be a sensitive subject also translates well in the connection the viewer feels with the subject.”

Second place goes to Kristin Murphy for a photo of Gloria Bird, 70, and Barbara Sollie, 95, reacting to a virtual reality motion ride at their retirement community in Provo, Utah.

“This was a nice moment from two people probably getting their minds blown,” the judge wrote.

John Burgess takes second place with a photo of friends Amelia Taylor and Aria Lambert, both 6, comparing their Easter baskets in front of a brightly colored mural.

“This felt like a living painting,” the judge wrote. “The photo has a nice moment with the two girls, but the mural brings it all together, blending in a bit of Monet and Van Gogh.”

Benjamin Hager grabs third place with a photo of Alynah Lawton, 6, practicing floating with the help of water safety instructor Lisa Peschi.

“The photo is a nice moment with great light, but the unique angle is what helped it place,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Chris Machian, photo journalist, Omaha World-Herald. 62 entries.

SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

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.

NEWS SLIDESHOW

First Place: Laura Seitz, Deseret News.
Second Place: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Kathy Plonka, Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Laura Seitz earns first place with “A Dream Deferred.”

“This series captures the difficult decisions many migrant families have to make and familiarizes the viewer with a human story that often gets lost when most media outlets train their cameras to the drama along the border with families desperately trying to cross into the United States,” the judge wrote.

“Seitz paints a picture of all of the life decisions that lead up to that moment and follows the anguish and confusion of a family becoming separated in hopes of a better a better life.

“In the case of Maria Santiago, we pick her story up as she is deciding to send her two eldest American born children back to their home in the United States. Santiago made the decision to take her entire family back to Guatemala as she was being deported in 2017. The strength of the presentation is that it captures a range of emotions; the anguish of Maria Santiago losing two of her children, the exhaustion and the confusion of an immigration system that separates U.S. born children from their parents (let alone separates children from their families in general).

“This is a tragic story, but it is a necessary topic to contemplate, as it is informing policy and political rhetoric surrounding the border. The series also offer glimmers of hope at the end, as Santiago’s two eldest children return to Utah and are embraced by their classmates.”

Second place goes to Nick Oza for “Migrant Caravan,” a selection of photos from four slideshows.

“The Arizona Republic’s extensive coverage of the migrant caravan and Nick Oza’s reportage from the Guatemalan border and the United Stated border shows the relentless struggle and punishing conditions migrants face at each step along their journey north,” the judge wrote.

“Much of our media attention is geared towards the United States-Mexico border, but to understand the complexity of this new era of migration, we need to go beyond the wall.

“Oza captured scenes of family and unity, but also revealed moments of isolation and confusion. I’m reminded of the picture of a young man running his hands through his hair surrounded by other migrants, but not engaging with anyone at that moment.

“This series reminds the viewer how complex this issue is and that it will continue to be divisive and seems to present a narrative that is more complex than a national security issue.”

Kathy Plonka snags third place with “Overnight at the Hope House.”

The Spokesman-Review’s Kathy Plonka spent an evening at Spokane’s overnight shelter for women and produced an intimate presentation of the difficulties encountered everynight by the homeless as they try to ensure safe housing,” the judge wrote.

“The series starts where the story starts, in line waiting for the overnbight facility to open. We meet Heather Thomas-Taylor, director of the facility, as a crowd of women begins to congregate in front of the shelter. From this moment, we move throughout the facility as night falls and are introduced to different women, braiding their hair, sharing a laugh and a smoke, or eating leftovers.

“We are reminded that homelessness is a complex issue that is often reduced into a choice, or a bad decision someone made in their life. One of the strength’s of Plonka’s piece is that is shows humanity and personality and reveals each individual’s story, which are elements often overlooked when reporting about homelessness.”

Judged by Erin O’Connor, photographer, Washington Post. 13 entries.

FEATURE SLIDESHOW

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.

AUDIO STORYTELLING

First Place: Emily Schwing, Taki Telonidis and Katharine Mieszkowski, Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX with Northwest News Network.
Second Place: Sam Brasch and Megan Verlee, Colorado Public Radio.
Third Place: Jessica Terrell, Emily Dugdale and April Estrellon, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Emily Schwing, Taki Telonidis and Katharine Mieszkowski earn first place with “Sins of the Fathers,” a look at how the Catholic Church handled cases of Alaska Native children who were sexually abused by Jesuit priests.

“Better audio production (nat sound, music, voice) than the rest,” the judge wrote. “Interesting story that builds in suspense. Written complement contributes photographs of the key characters and places in the narrative. Well done.”

Second place goes to Sam Brasch and Megan Verlee for two episodes of the series “Purplish” that examine money and politics and neglect as a political force.

“It’s not easy to find and tell such compelling political stories, with real characters and scene-setting,” the judge wrote. “Nice use of nat sound in the later episode, taking listeners on the road with the reporter. Background music adds a layer of depth without being intrusive.”

Jessica Terrell, Emily Dugdale and April Estrellon grab third place with “The Blood Calls,” an investigation of questionable U.S. adoptions of children in the Marshall Islands, an island nation in the far western Pacific.

“Podcast is a strong audio mix of music, archive sounds, nat sound and interviews,” the judge wrote. “But while the script was well written for the ear and the narrator has a good voice for this (voice, tone and pacing), the story would be better with more mystery and suspense.”

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

VIDEO STORYTELLING

First Place: Teresa Mahoney and Ted Sickinger, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Lauren Frohne, Steve Ringman and Ramon Dompor, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Samantha Swindler, The Oregonian.

Teresa Mahoney and Ted Sickinger win first place with “Oregon’s $22 billion pension hole: How did we get here?”

“The technique of showing how the performance of the retirement system affected individuals representative of different generations was particularly effective.”

“This animated explainer took a topic that is probably a soporific for most readers and turned it into something accessible, clear, engaging and necessary,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Lauren Frohne, Steve Ringman and Ramon Dompor for “Hostile Waters: To Catch an Orca.”

“This video deftly integrated intimate, contemporary video with archival material to tell a nuanced story that is informative but truly haunting and tinged with regret,” the judge wrote.

“It showed particular sensitivity to the Lummi Nation’s concerns about the orca Tokitae.”

Samantha Swindler takes third place with “Long-lost siblings.”

“Only a stonehearted viewer would fail to be moved by this tale of siblings separated at very young ages in South Korea and reunited as adults in the U.S.,” the judge wrote.

“The video strikes a perfect balance between relaying their background stories (with accompanying visuals) and capturing the raw, awkward and touching reactions of the siblings’ airport reunion.”

Judged by Anne Tallent, director of content/news, The Baltimore Sun. 29 entries.

INFORMATIONAL GRAPHICS

First Place: Layne Smith, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Mark Antonuccio, Severiano Galvan de Castillo and Wes Rand, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Chris Soprych, Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Layne Smith takes first place with “Shifting tides of Texas politics,” an interactive graphic looking at shifts in voting patterns that made the race between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and challenger Beto O’Rourke the state’s closest in 30 years.

“This interactive graphic does a great job showing the divide in the 2018 election,” the judge wrote. “The graphic is informative and easy to use.”

Second place goes to Mark Antonuccio, Severiano Galvan de Castillo and Wes Rand for “The Deadliest Year,” a front-page graphic about the 264 people killed in Las Vegas in 2017.

“This visualization gives the reader a clear understanding of the year – I particularly found the use of a variety of individuals including children makes it especially heartbreaking,” the judge wrote.

Chris Soprych grabs third place with a full-page word search puzzle for the cover of a special puzzle section.

“This is a really neat way to start off the section,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Emma Patti Harris, assistant managing editor for visuals, Education Week. 27 entries.

EDITORIAL CARTOONING

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.

PAGE DESIGN

First Place: Stephanie Swearngin, Colorado Springs Gazette.
Second Place: Nathan Estep and Benjamin Hager, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Corlene Byrd, Las Vegas Weekly.

Stephanie Swearngin earns first place with a magazine-style, black-and-white design for “Joshua’s Journey,” about a family helping a young son battle cancer.

“This entry is incredibly powerful,” the judge wrote. “The designer really let the photography shine – and that photography is beautiful and touching.”

Second place goes to Nathan Estep and Benjamin Hager for a special section featuring photos and short profiles of survivors of the Las Vegas shooting that left 58 dead and the tattoos they got to remember the 2017 tragedy.

“Really clean presentation that lets the photography stand for itself,” the judge wrote.

Corlene Byrd snags third place with her design for a cover and inside pages marking the first year of legalized recreational marijuana in Nevada.

“Nice mixture of typography and illustration,” the judge wrote. “The whimsical nature is nice for this occasion.”

Judged by Emma Patti Harris, assistant managing editor for visuals, Education Week. 36 entries.

ONLINE PRESENTATION

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 takes 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 win 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.