2003 Contest Results

Growth and Development Reporting

First Place: Jerry Bunin and Silas Lyons, The Tribune, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Second Place: Dorothy Korber, The Sacramento Bee.

Third Place: Lori Weisberg and Emmet Pierce, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Bunin and Lyons won first place with “The American Myth,” an eight-day series on affordable housing.

“In a field of entries marked by California’s high-housing prices, San Luis Obispo’s project quickly rose to the top of the stack as the most thorough analysis of why the majority of residents are trapped in rental housing,” the judges wrote. “Using a very clear thread that wove throughout the series, the paper directly confronted the fact that remedies are limited, if not nonexistent.

“On the surface, San Luis Obispo has the kind of housing boom and economic growth that many communities would envy. But the paper discovered a dark side to all that goes beyond the usual growth-management issues of too little water or snarled roads. Tribune staffers found that their community has outgrown much of the citizenry’s financial resources. What’s more, the very economic growth that once brought new employers there is now driving them away.

“Documenting this tale of ‘Be careful what you wish for’ has produced an object lesson for government leaders and public activists across the nation. The cost of high-powered growth is usually depicted by the news media in terms of lost environmental riches and quality-of-life. But The Tribune showed there’s another expense: Some communities may simply be unable to more literally afford the price – in dollars.”

Second place went to Korber for “Building Influence,” a three-part series that tracked campaign contributions made by developers to local politicians.

“Dorothy Korber is to be commended for drawing attention to the river of money that has increasingly driven her community’s elections as the development pressures continue to mount,” the judges wrote. “By painstakingly following the money, Korber showed a pattern of an alarming attempt at influence-buying by developers that often went beyond other institutional contributors. The solid explanatory writing about the disturbing apparent relationship between some government decisions on development and the builders who lined candidates’ pockets should underscore and illustrate for readers how important it is for them to hold accountable those they elect.

“The reporting used vivid examples to flesh out the decade-long analysis of contributions, thus taking the series far beyond the database journalism that could well have lost readers in the numbers. Instead, the series achieved a high degree of approachability.”

Weisberg and Pierce grabbed third place with a five-part series on affordable housing.

“The San Diego Union-Tribune’s entry painted an eloquent picture of how local residents have had to suffer, move and even sacrifice their children’s education in order to pay for a roof over their heads,” the judges wrote. “The articles were substantiated by detailed statistics drawn from the latest Census releases, showing only small pockets of homeowners in a sea of renters. Features focusing on trends such as granny flats rounded out the way the explanation of the way the housing market has affected residents.”

Judged by Tim Barker, general assignment reporter in business; Robert Johnson, tourism industry reporter; and Mary Shanklin, education reporter, all of The Orlando Sentinel. 34 entries.

Immigration and Minority Affairs Reporting

First Place: Staff, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

Second Place: Ann Dudley Ellis, The Fresno Bee.

Third Place: Jack Chang, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

The Tribune staff won first place with “Worlds Apart – Coming Together,” a yearlong series on Latino community and its evolution.

“The Tribune staff clearly understood how to avoid making its report a series of stories on cliched subjects when it came to profiling the change in Greeley’s Latino communities,” the judge wrote. “The newspaper looked beyond the migrant workers; beyond the crime-ridden neighborhoods; and beyond the lifeline to Latin America. Stories in the series dealt with how youth dealt with the electronic communications of the 21st century; profiles looked at professionals and not just those in the labor pool; controversies like racial profiling by police and home ownership problems were dealt with fairly and comprehensively. The entire community must surely have a much better understanding of this population, and that is at the heart of public service.”

Second place went to Ellis for “Lost in America,” a comprehensive special report on the suicides of eight Hmong students over four years.

“In its special report, The Fresno Bee delivered a powerful look at a very human problem – a long series of suicides by Hmong youths,” the judge wrote. “The reports by Anne Dudley Ellis, accompanied by Diana Baldrica’s poignant photography, allowed readers to understand how deep-seated were the forces that led to the deaths of these youths, and which threaten the futures of others. The reporting was sensitive, and allowed readers to know these young men and women who had died.

Chang grabbed third place with an examination of immigration reforms since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The Contra Costa Sunday Times rightly chose to look at the recent changes and trends in immigration policy, including the major shifts that have occurred since the Sept. 11 attacks,” the judge wrote. “The report was solidly based on a wide set of data and intensive profiles of people and reporting at the community level, which took the series beyond being just a bureaucratic rehash. The stories of the people made it come alive, and the many charts, how-to packages and guides were valuable.”

Judged by Ernest R. Sotomayor, Long Island editor, Newsday.com, and president, UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. 65 entries.

Environment and Natural Resources Reporting

First Place: Karl Schoenberger, San Jose Mercury News.

Second Place: Robert McClure, Lisa Stiffler and Lise Olsen, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Third Place (tie): Mitch Tobin, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson.

Third Place (tie): Lynda Mapes and Eric Sorensen, The Seattle Times.

Schoenberger earned first place with a series on where computers go to die.

“There was a clear winner in this category: the San Jose Mercury News for its fine report on the dirty little secrets behind the births and deaths of so many of the computers that sit on our desks,” the judge wrote. “It was a novel approach to a common problem that few of us ever think about. And it was told with deep human dimension, looking at the lives affected by the cheap labor and environmental consequences surrounding the beginning and final stage of a computer’s life.

“Karl Schoenberger’s three part series, “Silicon Valley’s Dark Side,” was deeply reported and richly well told – but in a way that was extraordinarily readable. It was the kind of cutting-edge journalism, exposing a problem and all the threads behind it, that makes newspapers indispensable.”

Second place went to McClure, Stiffler and Olsen for a package on the environmental problems in Seattle’s Puget Sound.

“‘Our Troubled Sound’ explored the myriad reasons why Puget Sound has become a threatened waterway; how polluters were scattered along its banks; the consequences when the ecosystem goes out of balance; and the potential for turning the problem around before it becomes a calamity,” the judges wrote. “It was important reporting on a natural resource on the health of which the Seattle area depends. Robert McClure, Lisa Stiffler and Lise Olsen delivered a well reported and clearly told project.”

Tobin grabbed one third-place prize with what the judge praised as “strong and enterprising coverage of the Arizona wildfires.”

“Covering a breaking news event is hard work; but what makes such stories special is when a reporter breaks beyond the news and digs into enterprising angles,” the judge wrote.

Mapes and Sorensen took the other third place prize with their look at the Pacific Northwest’s environmental grandeur.

“The series ‘Natural Wonders’ was an interesting explanatory project on those things in the Northwest that people so often take for granted,” the judge wrote. “People often wonder, “how did frogs do that” or “how did that sand get that way,” and the reporters involved in this series set out to tell in a most interesting way. And the photography and graphics were stunning.”

Judged by Chuck Clark, national/foreign editor, Orlando Sentinel. 63 entries.

Spot News Reporting

First Place: Staff, The Seattle Times.

Second Place: Staff, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson.

Third Place: Staff, The Oregonian.

The Times staff earned first place with a package about the arrest of two Washington residents as the suspects in the Washington, D.C., sniper case.

“The Seattle Times excelled in both spot news and enterprise reporting on the two men who were arrested in the Beltway sniper case,” the judge wrote. “In its Oct. 24 morning edition, the Times outpaced many news organizations in reporting that the suspects had been arrested while others reported only that the suspects were being sought. The package included their backgrounds and an interview with the first wife of suspect John Muhammad. As an example of the paper’s enterprising work, other media cited the Times in reporting that Muhammad and his stepson, Lee Malvo, may have been motivated by anti-American sentiments after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Times, in its comprehensive gathering of news and use of informed sources, was a key player in reporting this disturbing story.”

Second place went to the Daily Star staff for coverage of the suicide note mailed to the newspaper by a gunman who killed three University of Arizona professors.

“Facing a breaking story and an ethical question as well, the Arizona Daily Star responded professionally and responsibly in publishing a letter and supporting documents mailed to the paper by a failing student before he killed three teachers and himself. With a little over three hours before deadline, the staff sensitively delivered the material to families of the victims before they would read about it in the paper, gave a copy to police and delivered a comprehensive accounting of events,” the judge wrote. “The paper, in its Oct. 30 editions, published the material knowing it would be a target of heavy criticism in the community.”

The Oregonian staff took third place with its coverage of a chain-reaction accident on Mount Hood that killed three climbers and hurt six more and the crash of a military helicopter, captured live on television, during a rescue attempt.

“The Oregonian, in its May 31 editions, provided comprehensive coverage of two calamities on Mount Hood: the death of three climbers and the rescue of six others, and later, the crash of a military rescue helicopter into the side of the mountain,” the judge wrote. “The Oregonian showed quickness and intelligence in overcoming a stiff bureaucracy and the rigid conditions of the mountain to provide dramatic coverage of the tragedies, with personal stories, context and perspective.”

Judged by Pete McConnell, suburban editor, Houston Chronicle. 69 entries.

General Reporting

First Place: Alex Fryer, The Seattle Times.

Second Place: Chris Lydgate and Nick Budnick, Willamette Week.

Third Place: Staff, The Oregonian.

Fryer took first place with “The Trouble With Eli,” a profile of a “high roller,” a 15-year-old state ward with an explosive rage that is difficult to treat and makes him almost impossible to place in a foster home or for adoption.

“Stories about children who languish in foster care are nothing new,” the judge wrote. “But rarely does such a story portray the truly bedeviling complexities of their subjects. I felt for Eli, his parents and the state workers who seem to have tried their best for this child but failed him nonetheless. Alex Fryer did a wonderful job explaining a story that had no true villains or heroes.”

Second place went to Lydgate and Budnick for “Rubbish,” a report on what they found in the trash from the homes of the district attorney, police chief and mayor, along with the outraged responses from the three public officials.

“I liked the pluck behind the reporting,” the judge wrote. “Lydgate and Budnick tracked their story – literally – from the bottom of the trash can to the top of the political heap. They had plenty of comment from all affected parties. Very nice. Outside of that, a thoroughly enjoyable read with a lot of oomph and ‘Take that!'”

The Oregonian staff grabbed third with “Is It Possible They Are Both?”

“(The reporters) provided solid understanding of how six ordinary people drifted into the netherworld of would-be terrorists. They really showed there was more to these folks than the police files reveal.”

Judged by Sonya Ross, world services supervisor, The Associated Press. 119 entries.

Explanatory Reporting

First Place (tie): Staff, The Fresno Bee.

First Place (tie): Staff, The Seattle Times.

Second Place (tie): Kris Hudson and Miles Moffeit, The Denver Post.

Second Place (tie): Judy Nichols, The Arizona Republic.

Third Place: Gary Gerhardt, Todd Hartman and Lou Kilzer, Rocky Mountain News.

The Bee staff took one of the first place awards with “Last Gasp.”

“This extraordinary project shows how the San Joaquin Valley, known mostly for its agriculture, became one of the most dangerous places in America to breathe,” the judges wrote. “The reporting detailed where the pollution comes from, including some surprising sources, and how the air got progressively dirtier as public officials, businesses and residents themselves avoided confronting the problem. The result for the people of the San Joaquin Valley is dire, including premature death and crippling disease. More than a dozen Bee staffers collaborated to create a powerful portrait of this serious health threat through well-written articles, compelling photos and beautiful graphics. This is great journalism!”

The Times staff grabbed the other first place award with “The Terrorist Within.”

“With its ambitious series, the Times provided crucial insight into the roots of one of the most terrifying challenges the country faces today,” the judges wrote. “Thoroughly researched and compellingly written, the series vividly describes Ahmed Ressam’s unlikely trajectory from disaffected youth to international terrorist, as well as the astounding lapses in Canadian intelligence and immigration law that nearly allowed Ressam to carry out his plan. Reporters Hal Bernton, Mike Carter, David Heath, and editors James Neff and David Boardman also exercised extraordinary restraint in telling the story, distilling a massive amount of reporting into a series of short daily capsules. The result was a gripping and authoritative read.”

One second place award went to Hudson and Moffeit for “Unmasking Qwest.”

“Moffeit and Hudson’s tale of the collapse of telecom giant Qwest was explanatory journalism at its very best,” the judges wrote. “Through extensive reporting, they got their arms around an enormous story and told it from the inside. Well organized and sharply written, this engaging series was impossible to put down.”

The other second place award went to Nichols for “Indian health care: Separate, unequal.”

“Nichols’ evocative series on the state of Indian health revealed a shameful legacy of neglect at the national level, painfully illustrated with moving portraits of human suffering. Information packed, the stories were balanced by a judicious use of graphics and disturbingly intimate images by Nichols and photographer Mark Henle.”

Gerhardt, Hartman and Kilzer won third place with “Killer in the Herds.”

“This special section explored the spread of chronic wasting disease and the chaos it has caused in the wild animal population,” the judges wrote. “The reporting comes at a time when many questions remain about the cause and consequences of CWD among animals and its effect on human health. Nonetheless, as the newspaper makes clear, delaying action or ignoring CWD would be the worst possible course – for humans and animals.”

Judged by reporters Dee J. Hall and Phil Brinkman, Wisconsin State Journal, Madison. 85 entries.

Project Reporting

First Place: Carol Smith, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Second Place: Jonathan Martin, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane.

Third Place: David Stabler of The Oregonian.

Smith earned first place with a series on a woman who was nearly crushed to death and lost her husband when a freak windstorm sent a tree plunging into their SUV as they drove up Mount Rainier on their first anniversary.

“Smith vividly detailed the remarkable journey of a woman’s physical and emotional recovery from the kind of split-second tragedy that newspapers too often document with a routine brief,” the judges wrote. “Her gripping writing gave the three-part series the feel of a riveting novel – you had to keep reading; you had to know what happened. It was a story of life and death and rebirth  something with which all readers could relate. The series also deftly layered in exhaustive reporting on the complicated medical decisions that doctors confronted and served as a good explainer of the rehabilitative process.”

Second place went to Martin for “Lost Children.”

“While the abysmal state of mental health care for children is not a new subject, we were struck by Martin’s incredible access to some of these children and their families, which allowed him to bring these children, and their profound struggles, to life,” the judges wrote. “There was a good balance between story-telling and detailing the public policy problems and the limitations of bureaucracy in dealing with a human service issue with broad implications.”

Stabler grabbed third place with “Lost in the Music.”

“An incredible and poignant tale of a biracial teen whose career as a young cello prodigy takes a surprising turn,” the judges wrote. “Stabler details the youth’s amazing gift, but also lets the reader see how this teen, in many ways, is not so different than others his age who are trying to come to grips with themselves.”

Judged by Hanke Gratteau, associate managing editor/metropolitan news; Peter Kendall, deputy metropolitan editor; Mary Dedinsky, associate metropolitan editor; and David Nichols, assistant metropolitan editor, all of the Chicago Tribune. 91 entries.

Investigative Reporting

First Place: Jaxon Van Derbeken and David Parrish, San Francisco Chronicle.

Second Place: Brent Walth and Kim Christensen, The Oregonian.

Third Place: Joe Burchell and Rhonda Bodfield, Arizona Daily Star.

Van Derbeken and Parrish won first place with a three-part series that found the San Francisco Police Department ranked last in the nation in solving violent crimes.

“A thoroughly reported and clearly written series on a subject of broad interest and impact,” the judge wrote. “As reporters revealed the systemic failures behind the San Francisco Police Department’s dismal rate of ‘clearing’ violent crimes, the department first attempted to spin the findings, then ultimately scrambled to respond. This is an excellent example of effective integration of computer-assisted and traditional ‘shoe-leather’ reporting techniques.”

Second place went to Walth and Christensen for a series that reported problems at the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System that resulted in a shortfall of billions of dollars.

“A public employee pension plan in trouble because of a series of bad decisions and faulty economic assumptions,” the judge wrote. “Sounds like the formula for an ‘important,’ but sleep-inducing, story that only the most affected readers would finish. Not in the hands of The Oregonian. In clearly written, straightforward stories, these reporters documented what was really going on in the state’s pension system and – most importantly – told readers how the pension board’s actions were beginning to be felt by all taxpayers.”

Burchell and Bodfield grabbed third place with a report found uncontrolled spending on millions of dollars in contracts in Tucson’s Pima County.

“It is the oldest story in the book – campaign contributions and cozy relationships between public officials and contractors – but it still happens,” the judge wrote. “When reporters dig in and document the pattern, as in this instance, their stories often prompt change. The Daily Star reporters accomplished a massive reporting task, but did a good job of synthesizing their findings into a focused package for readers.”

Judged by Pam Maples, projects editor, The Dallas Morning News. 50 entries.

Feature Writing, Short Form

First Place: Sean Robinson, The News Tribune, Tacoma.

Second Place: John Moore, The Denver Post.

Third Place: Diana Marcum, The Fresno Bee.

Robinson earned first place with a piece on a Columbus Day storm in 1962.

” This beautifully written piece on the 40th anniversary of two events – a catastrophic storm and a freakish lion attack on a young boy – has superb pacing,” the judge wrote. “Robinson grabs the reader with the first line and doesn’t let go. His clean, original language never falls into cliché. Muscular verbs create drama without hype, and rich details signal strong reporting. Beginning to end it’s a great read.”

Second place went to Moore for a profile of an actress in a disabled troupe.

“Stricken with Parkinson’s disease in early adulthood, actress Lucy Roucis ‘will share no stage with fear,'” the judge wrote. “Moore pays off on this memorable phrase by fleshing out a portrait of Roucis that’s painfully and respectfully honest. Readers will squirm when they learn what this woman faces. They’ll admire, but not pity, her. They’ll learn a lot about a disease. And they’ll count their blessings.”

Marcum garnered third place with a profile of a traveling sheep shearer.

“Who knew there were five million sheep in the United States and an itinerant fraternity of people who earn a living barbering them?” the judge wrote. “Now I know. I know because Marcum brings this world vividly to life by telling the tale of Nati Cornejo, fastest shearer in the West. Marcum puts the reader right into the action with her descriptive language, and she wields similes as deftly as Cornejo wields shears.”

Judged by Lisa Moore LaRoe, senior editor, staff writers, National Geographic Magazine. 140 entries.

Feature Writing, Long Form

First Place: Tom Hallman Jr., The Oregonian.

Second Place: James B. Meadow, Rocky Mountain News.

Third Place: Paula Bock, The Seattle Times.

Hallman earned first place with “The patience of Job.”

“Our top pick was the best narrative of many in this style,” the judges wrote. “This beautifully written story captured the life and ultimate triumph of Annette Steele, a cleaning lady still scrubbing floors on her knees at age 70, who has been sustained throughout her hard life by her Bible and a quote from the chapter of Job. This story had it all: literary quality, originality, creativity and flair.”

“A lot of people probably passed her standing at the bus stop and never wondered about her or noticed her. The writer gave her a voice, in a story that must have moved many readers, as it did the judges.”

Second place went to Meadows for “The cat’s meow,” a profile of 82-year-old jazz bassist Charlie Burrell.

“The writing was itself almost like jazz, creative and playful,” the judges wrote. “The writer had great quotes from the subject but didn’t rely on them exclusively to make the story come alive. The writer says this is ‘most likely the coolest man in town,’ and then tells you why, sustaining the cool metaphor throughout.”

Bock won third place with “In her mother’s shoes,” a narrative that continued across a 24-page special section and explored the AIDS crisis in Africa and its impact on women and children.

“This amazing project will win other journalism awards,” the judges wrote. “The judges agreed that the excellence sustained throughout the writing deserved special recognition, too.”

Judged by Judy Walker, homes and gardens writer; Siona LaFrance, a general assignment features reporter; and Keith O’Brien, a feature writer, all of The Times-Picayune, New Orleans. 173 entries.

Business and Financial Reporting

First Place: Jan Falstad, Billings Gazette.

Second Place: Lisa Rapaport, The Sacramento Bee.

Third Place: Wesley Loy, Anchorage Daily News.

Falstad earned first place with “Powering up.”

“This story takes an in-depth look at the arcane world of utility accounting and does it in a fair, balanced way that average readers can readily understand,” the judge wrote. “Pegged to the acquisition of Montana Power by South Dakota-based NorthWestern Corp., the story brings up worries about the financial reporting by the new parent of the local Montana utility, its debt level, its relatively high dividend payout, as well as questions about hefty bonuses paid to top executives for private equity investments in non-utility subsidiaries and big fees paid to Arthur Andersen. The story was very well written, required substantial initiative and handled all side fairly. It was a very well-done local business story, telling its readers that the new power company had deep problems.”

Second place went to Rapaport for a package on high hospital bills.

“This story hits home at an issue that is crucial for most readers – the cost of health care,” the judge wrote. “The writer uses her newspaper’s own in-depth research to show that Sacramento area residents are paying much more than those in other California cities for the same hospital procedures and clearly explains why. The story is nicely written and handles a variety of complex subjects smoothly. It brings in the whole spectrum of sources from officials to real patients and ties it all together well. Her sidebar on how those without health insurance are getting charged the highest rates was very well done.”

Loy garnered third place with a look at Alaska’s salmon industry.

“This was a very well done story on how the crucial Alaska salmon fishing industry is being hurt by competition from farmed salmon and too many local boats,” the judge wrote. “It brings global issues home to the small fishing towns of Alaska in a very human way. The story is well written and ties a number of separate issues together clearly in way that the average reader can understand. It brings home the whole industry and lifestyle of individual fisherman from the debt to the danger.”

Judged by Michael Fitzpatrick, a freelance writer and former technology editor and western U.S. financial editor for Reuters. 83 entries.

Sports Reporting

First Place: Bud Withers, The Seattle Times.

Second Place: Norm Frauenheim, The Arizona Republic.

Third Place: Jim Armstrong, The Denver Post.

Withers earned first place with “Cougars Confidential,” a behind-the-scenes look at a day with football coach Mike Price and the Washington State Cougars.

“A stylish, informative and mostly refreshingly interpretive treatment of an otherwise tired genre,” the judge wrote. “The writer adds meaning to every step of the narrative, providing a rich texture that goes well beyond the usual thumb-sucker, information-only approach to this kind of story.”

Second place went to Frauenheim for “Lewis leaves no doubts,” a spot news story about Mike Tyson’s defeat by Lennox Lewis in an eighth round knockout.

“Excellent descriptive deadline writing about boxing, one of the most challenging deadline sports event to cover,” the judge wrote. “Clever phrasing (without overdoing it) made for good storytelling, with smooth transitions and a clear morality tale throughout.”

Armstrong took third place with “Olympic speed-skating scandal,” which reported, based on sworn statements, that U.S. speed skater Apolo Ono allegedly conspired to fix a qualifying race so that a friend could make the U.S. Olympic team.

“Strong, solid, straightforward news reporting on a serious matter often missing from sports sections,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Rick Kenney, communications department chair, Florida Southern College, and a former staffer for the St. Petersburg Times and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 92 entries.

General Interest Column Writing

First Place: Richard Ruelas, The Arizona Republic.

Second Place: Marjie Lundstrom, The Sacramento Bee.

Third Place: Mike Littwin, Rocky Mountain News.

Ruelas earned first place with a series of columns on two Arizonans accused of starting wildfires, high schools hoping for a financial jackpot from soft drink machines and a shooting that left an 11-year-old dead and his 14-year-old sister paralyzed from the waist down.

“The total package: a clear message, solid reporting and sharp writing, with no wasted words,” the judges wrote. “And if there had been a separate contest for the best single column in the contest, ‘Teaching students the joy of gambling’ would have won, hands down.”

Second place went to Lundstrom for columns about the 15-year-old victim of a gang rape at a high school, a highway worker killed on the job by a suspected drunken driver and women who help other women who are suffering in poverty or illness.

“Strong opinions backed up by smart, detailed reporting,” the judges wrote.

Littwin snagged third place with columns on the coroner who became an advocate for the passengers who died in a Sept. 11 terrorist attack, on the controversy over Sen. Trent Lott’s praise for a “segregation-forever” presidential campaign and on a fellow columnist who wrote about his terminal illness until he died.

“The best entry if judged solely on writing,” the judges wrote. “A great column voice, and a wonderful comfort with the language.”

Judged by Thomas Koetting, assistant managing editor/projects and enterprise, and Becky Lang, assistant metro editor, with assistance from columnists Jim Stingl and Crocker Stephenson and David Haynes, senior editor/local enterprise, all of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 85 entries.

Special Topic Column Writing

First Place: David Sarasohn, The Oregonian.

Second Place: Jim Sheeler, Denver Post.

Third Place: Bill Virgin, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Sarasohn won first place with a series of Sunday commentaries exploring why Oregon ranked No.1 in hunger, which then became an issue in the governor’s race.

“He put the spotlight on a problem, and offered solutions,” the judge wrote.

Second place went to Sheeler for obituaries of a brilliant eccentric, a printer who loved letterpress and the owner of a deli that became a landmark.

“He brings life to the dead,” the judge wrote.

Virgin grabbed third place with columns on Boeing’s departure from Seattle, Sears’ purchase of Land’s End and Kroger’s struggles since acquiring a local grocer.

“Well researched, well written, and well worth reading,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Margie Frazer, recruitment and development editor, assisted by Elizabeth McIntyre, features editor; Chris Jindra, Sunday editor; Chris Sheridan, editorial writer; John Kroll, deputy business editor; Martin Stolz, metro reporter; and Fran Henry, features reporter; all of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 106 entries.

Headline Writing

First Place: Ron Solomon, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson.

Second Place: Steve Adamek, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Third Place: Charles Lee, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Solomon won first place with a portfolio of headlines on news stories on subjects ranging from a new lie detector to a penthouse jail cell for celebrities.

“Three brilliant headlines (“Sensor makes it hard / to hide your lyin’ eyes,” “As centerfolds flatten, is Playboy / ahead of the curve or behind it?” and “Jailer, you / may run my / bubble bath”), a very good one (“Custody battle swirls / about talking parrot, / who has no comment”) and a good if obvious one (“Housecleaners fill / a vacuum in Japan”),” the judge wrote.

“As a group, these headlines pack originality and zest into counts of various difficulty. The writer approaches each piece as an opportunity for a smashing headline, showing that a story need not be the Arts/Living centerpiece to reward such effort.”

Second place went to Adamek for a portfolio of headlines on stories about such topics as a dog-friendly bar and counterfeit purse parties.

“That the three best of these are Arts/Living centerpieces does not detract from their appeal,” the judge wrote. “‘Licker License,’ ‘The / Nod / Squad’ and, especially, ‘An Accessory To / Crime’ make the most of juicy material.

Lee grabbed third place with a portfolio of headlines on stories on subjects ranging from a medication being developed from vampire bat saliva to Afghanistan’s only female general.

“Like the first-place winner, the headline writer brings imagination and originality to stories of widely varying prominence,” the judge wrote. “The judge’s favorite of the five, ‘Potential lifesaver lingers in vampire’s kiss,’ finds elegance in an odd science story. That’s as good as it gets in this line of work.”

Judged by John Oudens, copy desk team leader, Charlotte Observer. 83 entries.

Editorial Writing

First Place: Lawrence Spohn, Albuquerque Tribune.

Second Place: Gale Hammons, The Modesto Bee.

Third Place (tie): Susan Nielsen, The Oregonian.

Third Place (tie): Russ Minick, The Fresno Bee.

Spohn won first place with an editorial that chastised Albuquerque’s mayor and New Mexico’s senior U.S. senator for putting “the selfish political and economic interests of this city and state” above “the fundamental right to life” of the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow.

“A long editorial whose forceful, heartfelt argument and clear writing overcame a most uninviting display,” the judge wrote. “This piece does a lot of things good editorials do: It gets to its point at the top, buttresses it throughout and recapitulates vigorously at the end. It names names of those in power whose behavior has to change. It leavens the facts and argument with nice turns of phrase. It acknowledges the viewpoints of those who disagree, but explains why those views must not carry the day. Most of all, it cares, a lot, about what it has to say.”

Second place went to Hammons for an editorial attacking “lying, lawbreaking and money laundering” by the city government.

“This was one of several fine entries in the same vein by the same writer,” the judge wrote. “I admired this one most because it had the most work to do to get me to read it to the end: explain the tangled background of an old, botched development; identify who was at fault and set this old story in the context of urgent issues facing Modesto. In a lot of ways, it’s a very traditional editorial, chastising elected officials for omissions and malfeasance, but it does so in a sprightly way, with good phrases, such as ‘Council stayed tomb-quiet about the failed plan’ and the fine kicker: ‘The scandal is building, one beam and one window at a time.’ Running the photographs of the officials was a good touch.”

Nielsen grabbed one third-place prize with an editorial lamenting plans to cut 15 days off the Portland schools’ schedule as a budget-cutting move.

“This solid editorial shows how much work a well-chosen metaphor can do to carry an argument,” the judge wrote. “The tornado-steady rain image is evocative, apt and picked up nicely in the kicker. The exposition of the problem is crisp and clear. That’s why the solutions piece of the editorial struck me as little pallid. If the solutions advocated had been stronger, if they seemed more commensurate to the urgency of the school woes depicted, this well-written editorial would have ranked higher.”

Minnick took the other third-place award with an editorial demanding an end to the air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley.

“If the author of this editorial had lived in Puritan Massachusetts, he could have given Cotton Mather a run as a doomsday-hellfire-and-damnation preacher,” the judge wrote. “In fact, I found the moralism of this piece a bit over the top – and thus likely unpersuasive to Valley residents who, in a post 9/11 world, won’t find air pollution quite so apocalyptic a problem as the editorial claims. But there’s no denying the incantatory power of the prose, the skill with which the piece uses repetitive syntax and marshals its facts to build momentum.”

Judged by Chris Satullo, editorial page editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer. 47 entries.

News photography

First Place: Matt Inden, Rocky Mountain News.

Second Place: Maria Avila, Rocky Mountain News.

Third Place (tie): Kent Porter, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Third Place (tie): Rafael Maldonado, Santa Barbara News-Press.

Inden, a photography student, was hoping to get some photos of a wildfire in the mountains northwest of Denver but found himself witnessing, and photographing, an air tanker carrying two pilots and a load of slurry as it disintegrated in the sky.

“This shot was too dramatic to pass up,” the judges wrote. “Being there as a plane crashes is 75 percent of the shot. Skill is the other 25 percent. The photographer captured the tragic moment. It’s a once in a lifetime photo. The reward is first place.”

Second place went to Avila for a photo of a grief-stricken man resting his head on a casket with a pink carnation in one hand.

“This is a very different photo from the winner,” the judges wrote. “It’s quiet with perfect composition and color. We suspect the photographer had to stay late at the scene for this one. The touch of color of the flower in the man’s hand stood out because of the matching monotones from the rest of the photograph.”

Porter grabbed one third place prize with a shot of a man jumping from his car, which is stalled in a stream, onto the back of a rescuer’s horse.

“We loved both of these rescue shots for different reasons,” the judges wrote. “Getting rescued from a flood by a horse is not common around these parts, and I’ll bet it’s not captured often out West. The photo was well composed, shot with the right lens and got the moment.”

Maldonado took the other third place prize with a shot of a surfer being pulled to safety by firefighters.

“The surfer rescue made us gasp because of the implied danger,” the judges wrote. “The photographer was there at the right time and preformed well.”

Judged by Alex Burrows, director of photography, and Bill Tiernan, photographer, both of The Pilot, Norfolk, Va. 111 entries.

Feature Photography

First Place: Gina Gayle, San Francisco Chronicle.

Second Place: Patrick Tehan, San Jose Mercury News.

Third Place (tie): Lui Kit Wong, The News-Tribune, Tacoma.

Third Place (tie): Ross Hamilton, The Oregonian.

Gayle earned first place with a photo showing three men drinking shots of liquor while a young boy looks up at them.

“I give this photographer a lot of credit for seeing something in this scene that could have been overlooked,” the judge wrote. “The photo makes a strong comment about drinking in front of impressionable minors. But it’s also a creative and powerful composition. The photographer used motion, light and color to focus our eyes on the child in this busy bar scene. The photographer went beyond what was there and managed to capture the child’s perspective of this otherwise adult event. A tighter crop on the left would have improved the image, but the loose crop didn’t get in the way.”

Second place went to Tehan for a black-and-white photo of a woman, her head in her hands, sitting on the edge of the bed while her husband, an Alzheimer’s patient, sleeps.

“This is a quiet, powerful image,” the judge wrote. “Part of me felt I had seen this scene before – another agonizing spouse sitting at the bedside of her ill husband. But I think the body language, the composition and the cleanness of this picture made it stand out. It is documentary, emotional and storytelling. The pictures and plaques on the wall harken to another, normal time but seem so far away. There isn’t anything I could think of to crop out or add in. Simplicity is a powerful thing and it works here. A lot of photographers could learn something from this image.”

Wong took one third-place award with a shot of a male principal dressed in a tutu prancing in front of a group of schoolchildren.

“This is really a fun moment,” the judge wrote. “It made me smile. The photographer took a good position and managed to get a strong composition and a lot of content in a tight and cluttered situation. It’s a storytelling photo, and I liked all the faces and expressions. It was human, personal, fun.”

Hamilton took the other third-place prize with a shot of the governor on a video screen addressing the Legislature.

“This photographer saw a strong and different photo at a legislative session that also did a good job telling the story,” the judge wrote. “More photographers have to learn to get away from the other photographers and take some risks. That’s where great work happens!”

Overall, “there are a lot of good pictures here,” the judge wrote. “I’ve judged a lot of contests, and I’m very picky, but this was a very, very strong category. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much trouble getting a contest down to a handful of clear finalists.”

Judged by Bill Ostendorf, president, Creative Circle Media Consulting, and former director of photography and managing editor/visuals, The Providence Journal. 126 entries.

Sports Photography

First Place: Mike Urban, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Second Place: James Merithew, San Francisco Chronicle.

Third Place (tie): Rob Schumacher, The Arizona Republic.

Third Place (tie): Michael J. Gallegos, The Albuquerque Tribune.

Urban took first place with a shot of a girls’ basketball player covering her face with her hands in defeat as the other team celebrates the victory in the background.

“Perfectly framed jubilation,” the judges wrote. “Things don’t line up that well very often.”

Second place went to Merithew for a shot of a football coach with his eyes and mouth open wide as he shouts at one of his players.

“Good job of seeing away from the action,” the judges wrote. “Love the intensity of the coach yelling. Another example of perfect framing. You know the coach has it on his wall for kids to see when they walk into his office.”

Schumacher took one third place prize with a shot of a ski jumper at the Winter Olympics frozen against the blurred crowd.

“Great seeing,” the judges wrote. “We¹ve seen a lot of pans on ski jumpers, and this one takes it to another level. Liked the risk taking on a high profile event.”

Gallegos took the other third place prize with a shot of a girl basketball player who has been knocked to the gym floor and has blood covering her forehead and running down her arm and dripping onto the floor. A cheerleader and opposing player look on.

“The bloodied basketball player hit everyone hard,” the judges wrote. “We all agreed that it should have been cropped tighter by losing the cheerleader on the left, unless there had been body language on the cheerleader at left that would have contributed.”

Judged by Glen Stubbe, photo editor; Jeff Wheeler, photographer; Carlos Gonzalez, photographer; and Jerry Holt, photographer, all of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis. 121 entries.

Informational Graphic

First Place: Steve Cowden, The Oregonian.

Second Place: Fred Matamoros, The News Tribune, Tacoma.

Third Place: Derrik Quenzer, The Oregonian.

Cowden earned first place with “The Mysteries of Crater Lake,” a color double truck on the origins, ecology and exploration of the natural wonder.

“First place was a tough decision because the top three entries were all strong

in their own ways,” the judge wrote. “Crater Lake came out on top because of the diversity of interesting information and the quality of the presentation. The use of illustration, photos, and traditional graphic drawings offer a nice visual balance and depth. And I’m very impressed with the overall layout of such a large graphic. The typography is clean and simple, and there is enough spacing between items that it doesn’t make it overwhelming. It is easy to read, and I can say that it easily is National Geographic quality. I imagine that this graphic would be of great interest to readers in the area and would be a nice educational piece used in schools.”

Second place went to Matamoros for “Museum of Glass,” a color double truck on Tacoma’s new contemporary art museum, which features a 90-foot-tall cone covered by stainless steel panels that’s called the hot shop and features glass-blowing demonstrations.

“The image of the hot shop rising up as the dominant imagery is eye-catching and interesting,” the judge wrote. “This gives the graphic a pleasing contrast of size to the other elements on the page. Details about the materials and features of the building are interesting and give the reader a good sense about this beautiful structure. The drawing and coloring gives a nice feel while not being too overpowering. It is just the right amount of information for a graphic of this size.”

Quenzer garnered third place with a color double truck that examined a planned $188 million project to deepen a 106-mile stretch of the Columbia River.

“I chose the Deepening the Columbia River piece because of its investigative strength and its importance in enlightening taxpayers,” the judge wrote. “This is a good illustration of why infographics are so important in storytelling. To be able to visually compare the depth of the channel and the size of the ships gives the text more depth of meaning and strengthens understanding. And the short chunks of information at the top are easy to read and give a complete picture of where the money is going. The quality of the artwork and presentation is subtle and clear, and pleasing to the eye.”

Judged by Anne Conneen, design editor and adjunct faculty, The Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg, Fla. 70 entries.


First Place: David Badders, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Second Place: Doug Griswold, San Jose Mercury News.

Third Place: Charles Waltmire, Sacramento Bee.

Badders took first place with an illustration of a woman wearing U.S. flags as horse-like blinders to accompany a package of commentaries on Americans turning inward after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I chose this for first place because it had emotional impact as well as being a sophisticated piece of illustrative work,” the judge wrote. “The concept was simple and elegant. It really grabbed me and made me stop and think. It was neither a complicated image nor a very complicated concept. That is a virtue in this case. Readers have short attention spans, and artists must learn to edit themselves to reduce their concepts and images down to the bare essence. In this case, the artist did was successful in accomplishing that goal.”

Second place went to Griswold’s illustration of a woman being squeezed by a vise with her desk at work on one side and a crib at home on the other, for a package on infertility woes experienced by some career women who wait to long to start families.

“Doug’s illustration was clever and thoughtful,” the judge wrote. “His simple color palette combined with the clever concept of a woman caught between a rock and a hard place, in this instance, being squeezed between a career and motherhood is an attention grabber.”

Waltmire garnered third place with a smiling woman wearing an “M” shirt standing atop a clock to illustrate a “Menopause is cool” story.

“I was struck by the sophistication of Chuck’s illustration,” the judge wrote. “While the work is basically a stylization utilizing a collage-like construction, it has life-like qualities in certain elements – the face, the clock – which helps create a connection or sense of recognition for the reader.”

Judged by Bob Reynolds, graphics director, USA Today. 85 entries.

Editorial Cartooning

First Place: Mike Ritter, Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

Second Place: Ed Stein, Rocky Mountain News.

Third Place: Mike Keefe, Denver Post.

Ritter snagged first place with a portfolio that included a cartoon using Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” to express the public’s anxiety about terrorist alerts, one showing a cold shower inside a confessional as “The Vatican’s solution” to the priest sex abuse scandal and a cartoon depicting a rat devouring a 401(k) plan to illustrate the corporate accounting lapses.

“Mike Ritter’s cartoons are a joy to behold,” the judge wrote. “Visually, his drawings are both beautifully rendered and expertly composed. Conceptually, his work is insightful, inventive and unambiguous. Ritter’s artistic abilities are formidable, but it’s his communicative skills that are most impressive. His confident lines and dramatic use of darks and lights may give his cartoons graphic impact, but it’s his intellect, and the creativity employed in expressing his views, that give them power and weight. There are two essential elements to all artistic expression- form and content. Mike Ritter is obviously a master of both.”

Second place went to Stein for a portfolio that included cartoons that showed Uncle Sam trying to assemble a “new, improved Dept. of Homeland Security” from thousands of parts without instructions and Democratic leaders leaving a Congress in ruins after losing the mid-term elections because “It wasn’t the economy, stupid.”

“All of this year’s finalists for the Best of the West in editorial cartooning share two important traits: originality and purpose,” the judge wrote. “Ed Stein is a shining example of both. Graphically, his work is distinctive in a profession that’s plagued by stylistic homogeny. Conceptually, his work is also an exception, bucking the industry trend toward the use humor at the expense of substance. A unique draftsman with a strong point of view, Ed Stein stands out in a field that’s inundated with imitators and entertainers.”

Keefe garnered third place with a portfolio that included cartoons showing “Pagsaki” and “Hindushima” as two words to keep in mind during negotiations over Kashmir and an Uncle Sam “I want you” poster for wars on terror, Iraq and North Korea.

“If the Best of the West in editorial cartooning was awarded on uniqueness alone, it would go to Mike Keefe,” the judge wrote. “His graphic style was easily the most original of all the entrants. Keefe’s work can express a sense of outrage that never seems humorless, a sense of humor that never seems frivolous, and do so in a style that never seems derivative. A third place showing by a cartoonist of Mike Keefe’s caliber is a true testament to the strength of this year’s competitors.”

Judged by Clay Bennett, editorial cartoonist, The Christian Science Monitor. 24 entries.

Words, Editing and Design

First Place: Max S. Gerber, LA Weekly.

Second Place: Julie Simon, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Third Place: Ralph Walter, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane.

Gerber grabbed first place with a cover piece profiling Los Angeles-area scientists.

“This was the clear-cut winner from everyone who saw these sections, the judges wrote. “Its clean, stark look complemented the photos, which were especially strong because they were taken in the subjects’ own environments. The breakouts/explainer cutlines gave the package the right tone it needed to present these inventors.”

Second place went to Simon for a features section “Road to the World Series” game complete with rules, game pieces and board.

“Above all, this entry had fun,” the judges wrote. “It was entertaining and engaging. While many papers have produced board games, the Mariners game broke many of the paradigms associated with newspapers. The game was allowed to spread out over a double-truck.. And it knew the subject very, very well.”

Walter took third place with a features section cover story about Cassie Facinelli’s escape from a world of drugs and despair.

“The photos and their play pushed this packaged to the next level,” the judges wrote. “The photos of Cassie and (daughter) Emmi were hard to forget. The display they received and the detail of their insight demanded the reader’s attention. The simple fonts and white space gave the right room to tell this story visually as well. The entire package took the readers someplace many hope never to visit.”

Judged by Bill Bradley, assistant managing editor/sports, and D’Anna Sharon, assistant managing editor/visuals, both of The Tennessean, Nashville. 89 entries.

Online Enterprise Reporting

First Place: Paula Bock, Betty Udesen, Tracy Cutchlow and Carlin Pressnall, seattletimes.com and The Seattle Times.

Second Place: Staff, azcentral.com, The Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV.

Third Place: Jim Mallery, Tracy Cutchlow and Carlin Pressnall, seattletimes.com and The Seattle Times.

Seattletimes.com and The Times earned first place with “In her mother’s shoes,” a look at the battle to save Ruth and other children from sub-Saharan Africa as their parents die of AIDS.

“Like Ruth’s mother, I wept,” the judge wrote. “Excellent writing, outstanding photography and first-rate Web presentation for this story of international significance.

Take a bow all from Seattle Times print and interactive.”

Second place went to azcentral.com, The Republic and KPNX-TV for “Runaway inferno,” coverage of drought- and wind-driven wildfires in northern Arizona that destroyed more than 400 homes and forced 32,000 people to flee for their lives.

“Outstanding enterprise reporting related to this national disaster,” the judge wrote. “Great use of the medium. Very compelling.”

The Times and seattletimes.com grabbed third place with “Two peoples, one land,” an in-depth look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“No place for peace, this land,” the judge wrote. “Exceptional reporting on a complex topic. Accessible and poignant.”

Judged by Chris Kelley, editor of Belo Interactive, whose Texas Web sites include dallasnews.com and wfaa.com. 11 entries.

Online Multimedia Storytelling

First Place: Kris LaFleur, azstarnet.com, Tucson.

Second Place: Nick de la Torre, azcentral.com and The Arizona Republic.

Third Place: Maria Fowler, azcentral.com, Phoenix.

LaFleur won first place with “40-foot saguaro move,” in which a towering 200-year-old cactus is lifted by crane and transplanted to a new home to make way for road construction in Tucson.

“Who knew?” the judge wrote. “Fascinating – spellbinding, really – look at the care and drama of moving one of nature’s icons. First-rate storytelling of a much-told tale – impact of sprawl on our environment.”

Second place went to de la Torre’s profile of a female boxer.

“Tightly-edited story on pre-teen girl who wanted to be a boxer,” the judge wrote. “Strong interviews and natural sound brought me ringside for this very interesting story.”

Fowler snagged third place with “Sounds from the sidelines” at prep football games.

“Made me want to go back to high school,” the judge wrote. “I didn’t care who won the game. Out for a good time. Very good camera work, lots of natural sound.”

Judged by Chris Kelley, editor of Belo Interactive, whose Texas Web sites include dallasnews.com and wfaa.com. 16 entries.