2008 Contest Results


First place: “Getting behind the surface of growth,” by Mary Lynne Vellinga, Sacramento Bee

This reporter’s work seems driven by strong sense of looking out for the public’s interest: Just who is this big shot proposing to double the size of downtown Sacramento? Why did the school district cough up far more than market value for land? How did a dreamy “planned community” become just another congested suburb? But the capper was her investigation of Michelle Ollar-Burris, the planning commissioner who used an alter ego to develop subdivisions in apparent violation of California planning law. The reporting was airtight, and the writing was direct, lucid and balanced. And devastating for Ollar-Burris, who was ousted as a result. Overall, this reporter’s work must be admired for the way it strives to go beyond surface appearance to shed light on actual motivation. Nice job.

Second place: “What’s smart about smart growth?” by David Zahniser, LA Weekly

A super exploration of the ideas behind a gimmicky slogan – who could ever oppose growth that’s “smart?” – and the shaky set of assumptions that are fueling near-town gentrification all over America. Loved the sidebar noting that many of the local officials touting “smart growth” continue to live, so unsmartly, in tightly zoned suburban communities. The reporter picked a nice narrative device by putting himself on a smelly, slow-moving bus and did a good job showing how some developers are subverting smart growth at the public’s expense. Good job of connecting the dots for the reader.

Third place (tie): “Desert Dealer” by Mark Flatten, East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

Readers had to be shocked to find out that the man who had quietly become the most influential developer in the East Valley of the greater Phoenix area had long been accused of fraud and corruption in Las Vegas. The story showed a gaping hole in the process for auctioning public lands in Arizona: There’s no provision for screening the fitness of prospective bidders. Admitted one state official: “It was a surprise.” Oops. My favorite installment was part 3, which showed the “cozy” relationship the developer already was enjoying with officials in another Arizona county, behavior that mirrored the alleged activity in Nevada.

Third place (tie): “Did development, logging set the stage for disaster?” by Lynda V. Mapes and Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times

Mapes and Bernton did an expert job of showing how critical decisions – to allow loggers to clearcut hillsides and developers to build in floodplains – conspired to doom the residents of Lewis County when the skies opened up. The story, apparently put together in only a few days after devastating floods, does a good job of showing how finance often trumps common sense.

Judged by Mike Drago, AME/News for The Dallas Morning News. 27 entries.

First place: “Death in the Desert: Jesus’ Long Journey Home,” by Mariana Alvarado Avalos, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Mariana’s compelling narrative focuses on the efforts to identify the remains of a “John Doe” found in the deadliest corridor for illegal border crossers, and a Mexican family’s anguish after the disappearance of a loved one. Her approach made the story stand out. She could have focused solely on the family, or the efforts to identify the remains. But intertwining the two story lines into one narrative resulted in a remarkable work of journalism. Her approach was empathetic but even-handed; and that should have appealed to readers regardless of their views on illegal immigration.

Second place: “What Really Happened at Fire Station 5?” by Christine Pelisek, LA Weekly

The allegations of racism made by a black Los Angeles firefighter made national news. Christine’s coverage got beyond the superficial. She delved deeply into the events and personalities. The result was a remarkable reconstruction of the racial and cultural dynamics at Fire Station 57 that was much more nuanced, and murky, than the cookie-cutter approach to reporting on race that is all too common. The picture that emerges from her reporting is that of a firehouse where there was a strong bond among the firefighters, where pranks were common, and racial comments were nonchalantly tossed back and forth. She was unafraid to take on issues of race that are seldom discussed openly, especially between racial and ethnic groups. Her writing style helped make this entry even stronger.

Third place: “Watani’s Legacy,” by Matthew Fleischer, LA Weekly

Another outstanding example of digging into a story and getting past the superficial. Matthew’s reporting was exhaustive, but that didn’t weigh down his story-telling. His approach made the story. Race and ethnicity often are defined in monolithic terms, but Matthew didn’t fall into that trap. He navigates the reader through the turmoil of a civil rights movement that suffered much more internal division than history often suggests. And the dilemma facing Watani Stiner, whose violent past caught up with him when he wanted to give his children an opportunity to grow up in the United States, is masterfully told. The result is a very strong story that provides a unique view of a turbulent time and a family’s struggle.

Judged by Ed Timms, assistant projects editor at The Dallas Morning News and Macarena Hernández, a writer for The Dallas Morning News. 38 entries.


First place: “A River Lost?” by Robert McClure and Colin McDonald, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

I’ve been judging journalism contests for more than 20 years, and must say that this one has been the most difficult in all those years. For those concerned that the revolution – or devolution – occurring today among newspapers is causing an abandonment of environmental or natural resource reporting, the entries in this year’s contest prove just the opposite.

McClure and McDonald’s concise and personal exposure of problems faced in restoring the Duwamish River to health is a textbook example of how to drag readers to the abyss containing their own history of pollution.

Second place: “Fighting for Air” by the Fresno Bee

A comprehensive explanation of the cost of air pollution to a community that provides the paper’s readers with detailed, readable explanations of medical, chemical and technical facets of the problems.

Third place (tie): “Invasive Species of Oregon,” by Beth Casper, Henry Miller, and Michelle Maxwell, Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore.

A fascinating handbook of the wide variety of invasive species introduced into the state and their economic and environmental costs.

Third place (tie): “Beyond the Boom,” by Todd Hartman, Burt Hubbard, Laura Frank, Gargi Chakrabarty and Matt McClain, Rocky Mountain News

Encyclopedic in depth and breadth, this series is a truly impressive effort to explain the impacts of this latest energy boom to the state’s economy and environment.

Judged by Mark Schleifstein, New Orleans Times-Picayune and Pulitzer Prize winner. 34 entries.


First place: “Night of Terror at Trolley Square” by staff, The Salt Lake Tribune.

The coverage of the shooting at downtown Salt Lake’s Trolley Square mall is impressive, delivered within a short time frame and including real voices. The newspaper talked with many people. Great all-around effort under intense deadline pressure. The shooting occurred just between 6:42 and 6:50 p.m. The newspaper had its first story online at 7:12 p.m. and a comprehensive package in the next day’s paper. Great effort, great hustle.

Second place: “Church shooting” by staff, The Denver Post

Nice, clear work on a complex story. The paper pieced together the connection between two shootings that occurred in two separate places. Very well executed. Strong reporting. Crisp, clear writing. A very sophisticated effort.

Third place: “Copters Crash, City Gasps” by staff, The Arizona Republic

The judges appreciated the strength of the writing on this account of the mid-air crash of two news helicopters over a central Phoenix park. The narrative lead works well. The writers benefited from having a little more time (than other contestants) to pull this off, as the crash happened at mid-day.

Judged by Cleveland Plain Dealer Managing Editor Debra Simmons, editors Dave Campbell and Jim Sweeney and reporters Bob Smith and Rachel Dissell. 50 entries.


First place, “Sketchy Evidence,” by Miles Moffeit, The Denver Post

When I finished reading Mr. Moffeit’s piece, I was exhilarated. The depth of his reporting, the control over his writing and relentlessness with which he and his newspaper pursued this story is a reminder of everything that is good in journalism. This by no means is the first time a newspaper has helped free a wrongfully convicted man – and it will not be the last. And it’s not why I think it deserving of first prize in this contest. This story should be Exhibit A in the case for long-form narrative writing. Moffeit relied on no tricks to get this story. There were no anonymous sources quoted. He did what we would all like to do: He found a good story and he told it exceptionally well. By my estimation, he did it better than anyone else in this contest.

Second place: “Living With Shards of a Shattered Life,” by Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian

Bernstein took a familiar tale – lives changed in an instant by a motor vehicle accident – and did what all great reporters and writers should try to do: stay with the story. What she came up with was a highly readable and sad story of a family dealing with loss. It revealed very real emotions of that loss that often are not conveyed in newspaper stories: resentment, anger, no closure, nothing close to an apology from the person who caused the accident. A reader can feel the pain of Elizabeth Kenny’s mother when she says of her daughter: “I don’t know if she’ll ever have a life.” (Although it’s not specifically a part of this contest, whoever made the decision to run that photo of Elizabeth on 1A made an inspired choice.)

Third place: “A Tale of Abuse and Murder,” by Wendy Thomas Russell, Press-Telegram of Long Beach

Thomas Russell took a familiar tale of a woman who cannot escape the cycle of domestic abuse and told it through the life of the son she left behind. Her choice to begin the story as the child took his suspicions to police was inspired, as was the decision to tell the reader up front where her information came from so as not to interrupt the flow of the story with attribution. She is also a writer in command of the story, as seen in lines such as this one: “As Lynn worked to build a new life, Fred worked to take it away.”

Judged by Bruce Andriatch, suburban editor, The Buffalo News. 91 entries


First place: “Confronting Malaria,” by Sandi Doughton and Kristi Heim, The Seattle Times

It’s often said that journalism is history’s first draft. Here, we saw history being made as the writers took us behind the scenes as one of the world’s wealthiest men – Bill Gates – launches a massive public health effort to rid the world of one of its deadliest diseases: malaria. The story took us to Africa, Europe and covered its impact on the Seattle area, which is rapidly becoming a global epicenter for public health. The story helped readers truly appreciate how Gates’ dollars and commitment have the potential to alter the lives of millions around the planet in so many different ways. This story epitomizes why explanatory journalism is one of the foundations of our profession. It was also a great read. Nicely, nicely done.

Second place: “Lawless Land,” by Michael Riley, The Denver Post

As a journalist who spent weeks on Minnesota’s Red Lake reservation after a school shooting there several years ago, I have a real appreciation of how difficult an environment reservations are to report in. The Post’s reporters did amazing work not only flushing out the facts, but also telling the stories of those whose lives are affected by a bureaucracy that essentially has decided these crimes – and these people – don’t matter. Again, amazing reporting that was as much investigative as it was explanatory. Nicely written, too.

Third place (tie): “Building the Dreamliner,” by Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times

Dreamliner mixed good science journalism – Boeing is building a plastic plane?!? – with economic reporting that explained to the region the changes the new plane represents to aerospace manufacturing, an economic backbone not only of the Northwest, but the nation. It’s an aerospace example of Thomas Friedman’s theory that “The World is Flat.”

Third place (tie): “Leaving to Learn,” by Nancy Mitchell, Burt Hubbard and Judy DeHaas, Rocky Mountain News

Great example that you don’t need to travel to exotic locations to find great explanatory journalism opportunities. The News staff took a story happening in their backyard – kids leaving public schools – and gave it substance and context that not only caught the attention of Denver public schools and the public, but could lead to real improvements. ‘

Judged by Jill Barcum, assistant managing editor for enterprise, Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 52 entries.


First place: “Dying to Testify” by David Olinger, The Denver Post

When witnesses fear for their lives, justice is impossible. Reporter David Olinger revealed how witnesses died when state authorities failed to provide the money and information necessary to help those willing to risk everything to bring defendants to trial. Using a database analysis, Olinger and other reporters painted a chilling picture of how often witnesses are threatened and authorities dropped the ball in protecting them. This is a project which potentially affects every citizen who has the misfortune of witnessing a crime.

Second place: “Terrorism Tradeoff,” by Paul Shukovsky, Tracy Johnson and Daniel Lathrop, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

An innovative and monumental undertaking proving the high cost of the war on terrorism. The reporters’ database analysis showed that the Justice Department’s failure to add more agents after shifting priorities to fighting terrorism allowed identity thieves and other white-collar scammers to run amok in America, costing victims billions of dollars. Beyond financial fraud, hate crime and civil rights prosecutions also plunged. Computer-assisted reporting at its best.

Third place (tie): “A Prayer for Gloria” by Jerry Brewer, The Seattle Times

Stories about dying children, unfortunately, are not uncommon. But what sets this one apart, besides the time spent with 11-year-old Gloria Strauss, is the writerâ⒬┢s courage in examining a family which has finally abandoned traditional medicine and is relying on faith, an uncomfortable subject for many mainstream journalists. Brewer sensitively takes readers on this painful journey but avoids cheap emotionalism when a miracle fails to materialize. In the end, Gloria’s story teaches everyone, including non-believers, an important lesson about strength and hope.

Third place (tie): “High Ambition,” by Thomas Cole and Leslie Linthicum, The Albuquerque Journal

The reporters gave New Mexico readers a sweeping and fascinating profile of favorite son, Gov. Bill Richardson, warts and all. Their five-part series is the kind of comprehensive examination and vetting that all potential presidential candidates should undergo before they get too far down the campaign trail.

Judged by Bill Dalton, projects and enterprise editor, Kansas City Star. 53 entries.


First place: “American Imports, Chinese Deaths” by Loretta Tofani, The Salt Lake Tribune

Thoroughly researched with documents and intrepid on-site reporting, Tofani exposed the dangerous, toxic and sometimes fatal conditions in Chinese factories where products for America are made. With its riveting human stories, this is a classic investigative series that should serve as a standard for reporting in the 21st Century. And kudos to the organizations that helped fund this project.

Second place: “Miracle Machines – The 21st Century Snake Oil” by Michael J. Berens and Christine Willmsen, The Seattle Times

This series of investigative stories revealed the widespread use of “energy machines” – medical devices that allegedly could cure cancer and other illnesses although there was no scientific proof. That was shocking enough, but the reporters went further, showing the loopholes in a federal regulatory system that did not stop use of the machines that diverted patients from sound treatment.

Third place: “Indentured Doctors” by Marshall Allen, Las Vegas Sun

With extensive interviews and reviews of court documents and other records, Allen uncovered the systematic exploitation of foreign doctors by their sponsoring American physicians. Under a U.S. program the doctors are allowed into the U.S. so they can work with patients in rural or impoverished areas. Allen found that, instead, the doctors’ sponsors assigned them to hospitals where they could make money for the sponsors and thus neglected the poor. Furthermore, Allen revealed that there is almost no oversight of the program by federal or state authorities.

Judged by Brant Houston, Knight chair in investigative and enterprise reporting, University of Illinois. 43 entries.


First place: “Google Twins,” by Marc Ramirez, The Seattle Times

Marc took us on a lively trip, introducing us to all his “twins” as found on the search engine Google as we moved along. His first-person tale is engaging, funny and informative – without being self-absorbed. We were sorry when it ended. We enjoyed every Marc Ramirez we met – especially Marc Ramirez, the reporter.

Second place: “Pie in the Sky,” by Jessica Bruder, The Oregonian

Please, not another holiday story about a Thanksgiving pie, we thought. Except – what a story. This entertaining saga of how to get a pie through airport security managed to do it all. Kept us reading to the end (Would the pie make it?) and informed anyone brave (or crazy) enough to travel with food what’s in store for them. A very useful story presented in a fun way.

Third place: “Thin Brows Bow Out,” by Xazmin Garza, Las Vegas Review-Journal

We loved the creative approach the reporter used in this story about the end of the thin-eyebrows trend. Talk about a writing challenge! Xazmin carved something clever out of a ho-hum happening. We were hooked.

Judged by John Tanasychuk and Liz Doup, lifestyle reporters, South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 91 entries.


First place: “The Almond and the Bee,” by Singeli Agnew, San Francisco Chronicle
The ease with which the story presents itself does not reveal the doggedness of the writer to get farmers to talk and actually say something substantial, the thoroughness of the research and the implication of its findings. This was a masterful piece.

Second place: “Doctor, Climber, Patriot, Spy,” by Carol Smith, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A portrait of a man’s past deeds (thereby an echo of a portrait of the man), buried in bureaucracy all these many years, is unearthed and written with a freshness and an almost-wistful quality that would have the reader believe it all had taken place just a few days earlier. A quick read at more than 75 inches, it is, nevertheless, 75-plus inches.

Third place (tie): “Time, lost and found,” by Inara Verzemnieks, The Oregonian

Third place (tie): “Miles From Nowhere,” by Andrew Wineke and Dave Philipps, The Gazette, Colorado Springs
A lyrical, elegiac “story about nothing” (that can be proved, anyway) and a story about nowhere … two extraordinarily good and very different examples about taking “little” stories, thinking them through and showing (rather than telling) the reader why they are fascinating.

Judged by Joel Welin, arts and features editor of The Louisville Courier Journal, 101 entries.


First place: “The Sorrow and the Sparrow,” by Inara Verzemnieks, The Oregonian

The writer dares greatly in this affecting look at the life of Chris Chester, an Oregon author who was crippled by depression, self-consciousness, and a chronic case of writer’s block.

The piece could have been bleak or maudlin – Chester wrote a single acclaimed book, then ultimately succumbed to the oppressive darkness of his personality – but Verzemnieks’ poetic approach finds innocence and hope in his struggle, rendering his failure all the more poignant.

From the moment she opens with the image of a baby bird falling from a roof into Chester’s life, it’s clear Verzemnieks is evoking not just one eccentric individual but also the fragility of life and of the dreams most of us hold dear. Her dreamlike tone and oblique angle might have cloyed or fallen flat, but her voice is strong, her reporting and organization effective. The piece is just long enough. A memorable story.

Second place: “Killer sheep sound like fun (they’re not),” by Bruce Newman, The San Jose Mercury News

A funny, cleverly illuminating review of a perfectly awful film from New Zealand, “Black Sheep.” Tongue planted firmly in cheek, Newman explicates beautifully the film’s staggeringly inane plot even as he probes with insight how it might have been better, had only the filmmakers aspired to anything more than gore and shock effects.

Newman goes out on a limb with his arch tone, bold use of repetition and unfettered willingness to explore the comic possibilities in the word “sheep.” He retains command from beginning to end, conveying both his utter inability to take the film seriously and the joy of dissecting what makes a bad movie as bad as it is.

Indirectly, the piece is a rumination on what makes a good film, and it’s a model of what a good writer can do when he’s having fun. An excellent marriage of content and style.

Third place (tie): “Is Gary Fisketjon the Best Editor in America?” by Jeff Baker, The Oregonian

A colorful, thought-provoking look at a native Oregonian who has quietly helped craft the work of some of America’s foremost literary voices. Baker creates scenes that evoke Fisketjon’s eccentric personality, his hard-won views on literature and the respect he garners among authors, in the process exploring the human dynamics that drive the world of letters.

In exploring a worthy and underdiscussed subject – the largely unknown role editors play in giving birth to good novels – Baker offers a glimpse behind a usually closed curtain, making strong use of his access to analysts who are exceptionally eloquent on the subject. Effective organization, too.

Third place (tie): “Wonderful World: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow,” by Mike Gordon, Beverly Creamer and Wayne Harada, The Honolulu Advertiser

This lengthy look back at the life of a great ukelele artist is more than a profile of a physically gargantuan musician who was inseparable from his tiny instrument. It also explores for readers, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian alike, the complex artistic and cultural notion of what it means to be “Hawaiian.”

Scenes from the life of Israel Kamakawwiwo’ole, a.k.a. “Bruddah Iz,” touch on the artist’s physical and psychological struggles as he created the sweet music that sounded like Hawaii. Extensive reporting lends authority to the authors’ quest to define Iz’s place in contemporary music.

An interesting, memorable story on a worthy subject.

Judged by Jonathan Pitts, features reporter, The Baltimore Sun. 64 entries.


First place: “Port Gobbles Up Tideflats With Land-Buying Binge,” by Kelly Kearsley, The News Tribune, Tacoma

A very informative and balanced package, including excellent use of photos, graphics and breakouts. Kearsley had a topic that on the surface – a port buying land – may not sound too sexy, but the writer quickly and effectively told readers why the trend was so important. The writing was clear and lively, and the organization – sometimes the hardest task after the news gathering – was superb. A standout report that deserved its good play on the front page.

Second place (tie): “Credit-Score Pitfalls Tricky to Get Around,” by Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic

A comprehensive, easy-to-digest feature on a consumer financial topic that usually does not get much attention. Good use of sidebars, breakout boxes and personal examples. A great service for Arizona readers.

Second place (tie): “Hershey Closing,” by Christina Salerno and staff, The Modesto Bee

It was obvious the Bee staff had an idea this shutdown was coming and had done its advance work. The sidebars and graphics helped explain the “why” of the closure, as well as the impact. This is the way major breaking news should be handled.

Third place: “Top Execs Rake in the Perks,” by Craig Harris and Andrea James, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A good job of taking a story with a lot of numbers and making it digestible for the reader. The graphics were as an important part of the success of this story as the writing, which also was excellent.

Judged by John Stancavage, Business Editor, Tulsa World. 63 entries.


First place: “Dangerous Waters,” by Lee Davidson, Deseret Morning News

This account revealed the hidden dangers that boaters face on U.S. waterways. Thoroughly researched and compelling. Good use of charts with plenty of useful data and dramatic photos. The carbon-monoxide poisoning sidebar revealed a danger that few boaters are aware of.

Second place: “Cloud Over Taekwondo,” by Brian Gomez, The Gazette, Colorado Springs

Acting on a tip about a problem with the U.S. National Taekwondo team, Gomez interviewed people in Florida and Texas to uncover complaints about underage drinking and sexual harassment on the team. A thoroughly reported story with many voices; it made for a compelling narrative.

Third place: “Soccer players pull SAT switch,” by Andy Boogaard, The Fresno Bee

This piece told the story of an Ivy League hopeful who took the SAT test for his soccer teammate. Boogaard, who had heard rumors of SAT fraudulent activity, learned through his diligent reporting that a private investigator was going to follow students to the testing site. Through interviews with a parent and the investigator, he was able to pin down the irregularities and, days later, learned the identity of the students. He confronted their parents who agreed to speak about the scheme. Good work!

Judged by Celeste Williams, assistant managing editor/sports, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 54 entries.


First place: Kate Riley, The Seattle Times

Riley’s columns combine eloquence, sensitivity and tough-mindedness on a range of local and national issues.

Second place: Andy Parker, The Oregonian.

Third place: Danny Westneat, The Seattle Times

The selection reflected a ton of fine work, and the selections were not easy, but it was an honor to serve as a judge.

Judged by Adrian Walker, metro columnist, The Boston Globe.


First place: “Deadline Hollywood,” by Nikki Finke, LA Weekly

Nikki Finke is a badass. Period. She covers Hollywood with a terminally jaundiced eye for the kind of ridiculousness that people in that world take with the utmost seriousness. Her line about Clint Eastwood, that “the geriatrics who still make up the majority of Oscar balloters love the guy cuz he’s still got a prostate and balls,” is classic. I can even forgive the use of the “cuz.” On “The Sopranos” cut-to-black-ending, she wrote, “Maybe we should all register with the Writers Guild for our residuals, since we had to fill in the blank.” Good stuff, written with passion and an utter disregard whether any of the studio heads, or anyone in “the industry,” will ever buy her lunch.

Second place: “Male Call,” by Jeff Thomas, The San Jose Mercury News

Perhaps I’m allowing a personal ambition cloud my judgment in this case. It has been my dream, for years, to write an advice column where I dispense only bad advice. That aside, Thomas may not dispense bad advice – who am I to judge? – but he does handle his column with humor and some clever writing. It was a close call, but I kept coming back to Thomas’ stuff because it was funny. Funny, sometimes, is enough.

Third place (tie): Columns by Art Thiel, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Excellent storytelling. His piece about Tim Meamber packs its emotional punch because of Thiel’s deft touch. The tone, the rhythm, the pacing, everything, contributes to the telling of the story. A masterful job. He also has a nice touch with satire, as demonstrated by his column about the 2032 Apple Cup. (Who would have guessed Drew Bledsoe’s grandson would be named Bobo? Sounds about right.)

Third place (tie): Columns by Peter Ames Carlin, The Oregonian

Well-written stuff, displaying a strong voice and point of view. Loved his column about the passing of Dick Wilson, who was best known as Mr. Whipple, the Charmin-squeezing pervert from the TV ads. “He was weird at heart, just like Bob Dole.” Nice.

Third place (tie): Columns by Gwen Knapp, San Francisco Chronicle

Strong voice and strong opinions are what column-writing is all about, as far as I’m concerned. (Again, what do I know? I’ve been at this 19 years and I’m still trying to figure it out.) Knapp has both. The ending of her column about Barry Bonds was perfect: “What does it all mean? In the words of the new home-run king: Call God. Ask him.”

Judged by Mike Argento, columnist for the Daily Record in York, Pa., and president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. 63 entries.


First place: Jim McNett, The Oregonian

Taking the risk of playing off Scripture, Jim McNett produced:
“Where two or more students are gathered in God’s name . . . there is controversy”
for an article on a group of students who insisted on praying at school. The headline is apt in substance – the words students and controversy signaling that schools are to be involved – and in tone – the biblical reference establishing a religious context without being irreverent.

Other entries showed a welcome playfulness and use of an apt metaphor that was not obvious in referring to a book on Mother Teresa’s doubt of her faith (Beacon of / faith felt / dimmed / by doubt).

Second place: Steve Adamek, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Adamek came up with a perfect one-word play on words for a fashion story: Duds MEN’S HIGH / FASHIONS / MISS THE / MARK FOR / MOST GUYS
The allusion to a Bob Dylan song combined with wordplay made a particularly effective headline for a column on the newspaper industry’s troubles:
Tribunes, Posts and the Times: They are a changin’
Plays on words that aren’t the first idea that occurs to the writer and allusions that match the subject instead of intruding gratuitously merit praise.

Third place: Sherry Rainey, The Oregonian

Sherry Rainey cleverly mimicked real-estate ads for a headline on an article about a fly-in community: 4 bd, 2 bath, 1 hangar
For an earthquake story: Maupin-area residents / shaken, but not stirred. Trending a little toward the obvious, but still amusing

Judged by John McIntyre, assistant managing editor for the copy desk, The Baltimore Sun. 40 entries.

First place: “The Shame of Idaho,” by Marty Trillhaase, Idaho Post-Register

The Post-Register writes a forceful, indignant editorial strongly condemning Sen. Larry Craig for his failure and his public waffling in his refusal to accept responsibility for actions, or resign. The editorial embraces the tenet of public accountability for public officials and criticizes his elected peers who failed to condemn Craig’s behavior and inaction.

Second place: “Jobs in Jeopardy,” by Linda Valdez, The Arizona Republic

Valdez brings home the public policy of employer sanctions for hiring undocumented workers in a tangible and understandable context for people to grasp. The writing is clear and crisp. The case is fortified with real-life examples that demonstrate the complexities of a hot-button law that incites emotions across the spectrum.

Third place: “Home for Christmas,” by John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle

Diaz deftly weaves the human emotion of a woman denied parole multiple times after she was convicted of killing an abusive boyfriend in 1986. The editorial also captures the inpact of a governor whose law-and-order stance kept her behind bars despite evidence of her rehabilitation. The mood is captured with the now-freed prisoner’s first Christmas at home in many years.

Judged by Gilbert Bailon, editor of the editorial page, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 31 entries.

First place: “Reporter’s Journal,” by Jerry Brewer, The Seattle Times

“Reporter’s Journal” illustrates the power of strong storytelling to engage a community. I read this blog from beginning to end – four months of entries – because from the opening line, this reporter grabbed my interest and never let go.

I could have skipped to the end to find out the resolution, but each entry revealed more of both the reporter’s and a family’s struggle as 11-year-old Gloria Strauss fought for her life. It made me want to take the journey with them. I felt completely immersed in this story. I didn’t read the full-length articles or look at any of the multimedia that accompanied those articles before reading this journal, but Jerry made me know these characters; he helped me visualize each scene and feel the emotion of each dilemma he and the family faced.

This journal stands as a testament to the fact that it is the strength of the journalism first and foremost that makes news organizations great. Yes, you can have all the bells and whistles that new media allows, but without the foundational reporting and storytelling, it’s all style and no substance. The community poured out its collective heart to the writer, and he did a nice job of making the journal as much theirs as it was his.

Second place: “Ed’s Diner,” by Ed Murrieta, The News Tribune, Tacoma

Ed’s Diner is a refreshing twist on food writing and restaurant reviews. I love how he defines his food universe: from the dead pig to the memorial beer to being so “un-American.”

The writer has fun with this blog, making it both engaging and addictive. The blog has a vocal audience, and the writer mixes it up with them by routinely going into the comments to respond to questions and comments. I particularly enjoyed the blogâ⒬┢s “theme song” – my interpretation, not his – penned by the writer himself.

The “You Plate Special” is a nice touch. This writer is confident – and community-minded – enough to turn over the reins of the blog to his users.

Third place (tie): “Mariners’ Blog,” by Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times

“Mariners’ Blog” is a comprehensive look at the Seattle Mariners team. This writer does a wonderful job of multitasking in this blog, using it for breaking news, doing running game commentary – whipping readers into a commenting frenzy in the process – and polishing off posts with multimedia offerings.

Third place (tie): “Fly on the Wall,” by Trent Nelson, The Salt Lake Tribune

“Fly on the Wall” offers insight into the work of one photojournalist. The images are amazing, but the stories behind each assignment are even more compelling. The photojournalist gives us a glimpse at his internal struggle to capture the right images while being respectful of his subjects and sensitive to the emotional volatility of some situations. This blog creates greater transparency into a news organization’s visual reporting process while at the same time humanizing the photographer behind the lens. In the blog, he explores how and why photojournalistsâ⒬┢ intentions are misconstrued.

Judged by Ju-Don Marshall Roberts, managing editor, Washingtonpost.com. 26 entries.

First place: “Flames,” by Wally Skalis, Los Angeles Times

This photo of a firefighter and fire truck working to combat a wall of orange flame has it all. The photographer, although in an obviously precarious situation, had the presence of mind to stop and capture the scale of man (and truck) versus a raging wildfire. The viewer gets of sense of enormity of the fire, its power, and the danger to the firefighters battling it through all the elements in the frame. An excellent example of breaking news photography!

Second place: “Trolley Square Shooting,” by Mike Terry, Desert Morning News

The photo of a police officer aiming his gun in a mall as the body of a victim lies besides him is truly heart-stopping. It is not very often that a photographer manages to get this close to a mass shooting, where the gunman is still ostensibly on the premises and the site of the shooting is normally in lockdown. Like the first place winner, we were very impressed by the courage and enterprise of this photographer.

Third place (tie): “Virginia,” by Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

The image of the candlelight vigil after the shootings at Virginia Tech was one of the strongest images entered. The two planes of mourners in the frame create a layered image which allow the viewer to witness both the enormous turnout and the individual faces of grief. The picture is artful in its composition and sensitive to the scale of the tragedy.

Third place (tie): “Hose,” by Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times

This was well-composed and infused with an other-worldly light. In this case, the photographer, in the chaos of the raging fire, found a small moment of a firefighter at work, his body hunched over his hose, as the flames devour trees behind him. The reflections of light against the wet pavement add to the eerie feel of the image.

Judged by Sandy Ciric, senior news editor; Pierce Wright, senior news editor; Pancho Bernasconi, director of photography; and Mario Tama, staff photographer, all of the Getty Images news staff. 79 entries.

First place: “Lightning,” by R.J. Sangosti, The Denver Post

A very nice picture of an oncoming storm that really worked well in black-and-white, especially with the old white church. The lightning struck in the perfect place. It looks like a picture the photographer had been waiting for over a period of time and the moment finally happened.

Second place: “Shave,” by Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post

A great feature moment from an otherwise predictable assignment of a woman getting her head shaved to show support for breast-cancer awareness.

Third place (tie): “Campaign,” by Tiffany Brown, Las Vegas Sun

A nice feature picture from a political event that doesn’t have to show the candidate. This shot shows the reflection of the U.S. flag in the glasses of a man attending the event.

Third place (tie): “Homecoming,” by Jennifer Ackerman, Desert Morning News

A picture that doesn’t have a lot of information but doesn’t need a lot of explanation. By showing the combat-booted feet of a returning serviceman and the dangling, manicured feet of his welcoming wife who has been scooped up in a hug, the picture give us a very different way of looking at a military homecoming.

Judged by Jay Laprete contract photographer for the Associated Press; Jamie Sabau, contract photographer for Getty Images, NHL, ESPN magazine and Ohio State University; and Matt Sullivan, contract photographer for Reuters. 101 entries.

First place: “Rose Bowl,” by Wally Skalij, Los Angeles Times

This shot of an upended USC receiver during the Rose Bowl captures nice peak action with good composition. After narrowing down the final 10 pictures, it stood out from the rest.

Second place: “Soccer Action,” by Steve Nehl, The Oregonian

A moody image with action and nice framing. Though the goal was not allowed according to the caption, the pure feel of the moment says it all.

Third place: “Soccer Action,” by Paul Ruhter, Billings Gazette

It’s good to know that the player with the foot in his face is OK. If the backround was cleaner, it may have moved up a notch or so in placement. However, it’s a solid action moment.

Judged by Phil Velasquez and and Robin Daughtridge, Chicago Tribune. 50 entries.

First place: “Breakdown: a family’s struggle with mental illness,” by Robert Gauthier, Mary Cooney and Alan Hagman, Los Angeles Times

An excellent portrait of schizophrenia, family dysfunction and the mental health system. We appreciate how the show reinforced the endless cycle of pain within this family, and the audio and images quickly made the viewer relate to all the individuals. Built good tension and storytelling within the piece. However, it felt a bit too long, which also made some images seem redundant.

Second place: “Living to the End: Lovelle Svart’s Final Months,” by Rob Finch, The Oregonian

Classic documentary photojournalism, excellent reportage on one woman’s choice to embrace death with grace and dignity. The photographs clearly and eloquently communicate Lovelle’s final months of life. It could have been improved with a little audio of Lovelle’s voice behind the image gallery, but her personality and commitment to her goal shines through in nearly every image.

Third place (tie): “From Boys to Marines,” by Rick Loomis and Mary Vignoles, Los Angeles Times

Powerful images of boot camp life with excellent narration from both Loomis and the green Marine recruits. Loomis added much needed context and backstory to the images, personalizing the individuals and explaining how they refer to themselves in the third person, i.e. “this recruit feels…” Probably could have been shorter, but holds interest quite well.

Third place (tie): “Burnover,” by Karen Tapia Andersen and Bryan Chan, Los Angeles Times

Exciting, vivid and compelling with voices of firefighters behind the saga of firefighters caught in a wildfire and deploying emergency shelters. But while the dispatchers’ voices work well, the piece has too many photos and the incremental sequences drag a bit.

Judged by Robin Daughtridge, deputy director of photography,and Torry Bruno, associate managing editor of photography, both of the Chicago Tribune. 22 entries.

First place: “Tons of Risk,” by Eric Baker, The Oregonian

The graphic’s clear entry points, easy sequence and logical flow made it easy to understand at a glance the information about removing an elephant’s infected tusk. The simplicity of the organization is the beauty of this page. The graphic is also a good example of thorough reporting. It reveals information that would not be available otherwise.

Second place: “Our 44th president: picking the nominees,” by Amanda Raymond, David Birdwell and Denise Clifton, The Seattle Times

At first glance, this page doesn’t seem like a traditional infographic. But a closer look shows that this is a classic example of utilitarian design, where functionality and simplicity are the main goals. There’s an incredible amount of information but it’s easy to navigate and thoughtfully organized, making this project a great service to readers.

Third place (tie): “Prop. 1: What you pay, what you get,” by Gabi Campanario and Whitney Stensrud, The Seattle Times

This graphic dissecting the elements of a Seattle-area transportation tax contains a large amount of information displayed in a presentation that is unconventional, but easy to follow.

Third place (tie): “Sentinels of the sea,” Eric Baker, The Oregonian

The flow from one headline to another guides the reader easily in this illustration of how data buoys that were adrift in a Pacific Ocean storm gather information on ocean conditions. The page has a perfect balance between illustrations, headlines and text. It’s well organized and easy to understand.

Judged by Sergio Pecanha, graphic director, and Troy Oxford, graphics editor, The Dallas Morning News. 24 entries


First place: “The Case of the Dogged Detective,” by Tim Foley, LA Weekly

The stylistic comic book illustration, creative use of color and the comic book-like typography all worked so perfectly well together in this illustration about determined murder investigators not letting go of a cold case. This style of illustration is hard to pull off so perfectly because usually some part is left to falter (typographic or overall design), but Foley did a fantastic job of bringing it all together. The small illustrations sprinkled throughout the story inside were wonderful as well.

Second place: “Butterfly Wonderland,” by Julie Notarianni and Jeff Paslay, The Seattle Times

This watercolor illustration had incredible color, representative of the butterflies that were the subject of this piece. The technique was very tight, allowing the butterflies in the closely packaged design to stand out apart from each other despite the intensive swath of color. Nice touch on the “digs” nameplate of the garden section redone in water color as well.

Third place: “Bad Dog,” by Laurie McAdam, The Modesto Bee

This illustration of a dog going rampant on newspapers and a shoe had several emotions built into it: funny, cute and intense. Color use was phenomenal and the typography was built in well. This “bad dog” wasn’t bad at all – it was pretty great

Judged by Hiram Henriquez, graphics editor, National Geographic Magazine. 33 entries.


First place: Mike Keefe, The Denver Post

This portfolio was consistently hard-hitting. Keefe has a bold drawing style, and his ideas were clear and concise. The cartoons on the Bush administration and the Iraq War were excellent.

Second place: Jack Ohman, The Oregonian

Ohman’s cartoons were funny and well-executed. Besides the hilarious tone of several of them, all made strong points, from the small stature (both physically and morally) of Alberto Gonzales to the straddling style and messages of disgraced U.S. Sen. Larry Craig. His graphic solution about the onging war – morphing the word “Iraq” into a symbol of infinity – was a standout.

Third place: David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The artist combines a crisp, tight drawing style with strong viewpoints. His Darfur cartoon showing the inaction of the international community was compelling.

Judged by Gary Marksten, editorial cartoonist for Copley News Service and Stuart Carlson, editorial cartoonist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 25 entries.


First place: “Wall of Fire,” by Wally Skalis, Kelli Sullivan, Don Bartletti, Spencier Weiner and Michael Whiteley, Los Angeles Times

A powerful photo, presented powerfully creates dramatic impact on this page. The image of a lone firefighter and fire truck fighting a wall of flame that fills the rest frame really gives a sense of scale to the Southern California fires. And it’s a credit to the designers that they were able to clear the decks to run this photo huge. It is complemented by a strong secondary photo, showing the impact of the fires on a more personal level, and a clear, informative graphic.

Second place: “Evacuation,” by Wally Skalis, Kelli Sullivan, Spencer Weiner and Michael Whitley, Los Angeles Times

Another large photo that really earns its size with strong details – the image of a firefighter perched on an otherwise serene pool deck, with flames charging up the hill, looking as though they’re about to devour the house. You can actually feel the heat in the secondary photos: a firefighter shielding his face with a shovel and a teenager running away from the fire.

Third place: “Work in Progress,” by Francine Orr, Mary Cooney and Kelli Sullivan, Los Angeles Times

Each image serves a purpose in this photo page on Barack Obama. There’s Obama delivering a speech, an intimate shot with his daughter, at breakfast with the family of a home health-care worker, pressing the flesh on the campaign and responding to his rivals. Each picture is so strong in its own right, and the page is so tightly edited that it’d be really interesting to see the material that was left on the cutting room floor. Also, the cutlines have great nuggets of information. My favorite: “In order to run for president, he had to agree to let his two children get a dog.”

Judged by Chris Rukan, sports designer, The Washington Post, 85 entries.


First place: “The Burning Man Experience,” by Zach Wise, The Las Vegas Sun

What an incredible way to capture and tell a story! The music combined with great visuals and impressive pacing really took us to the event. While this undoubtedly was a sweet assignment to be on, we know that there were challenges on scene and at the editing station. Kudos all around.

Second place: “Sketchy Evidence: The Tim Masters Story,” by Meghan Lyden, Helen Richardson, Mike McPhee and staff, The Denver Post

We know visuals were a challenge in this comprehensive report, so we especially applaud the editing and innovative ways of illustrating. The narration of this story of a Fort Collins teen accused of murder, and exonerated more than a decade later, was steady but powerful. Eat your heart out TV.

Third place (tie): “A Polar Attraction,” by Myung J. Chun, Los Angeles Times

This was an education to be sure. There were light moments and surprising ones, such as the surfacing of the submarine through the ice. The story was strong with nice visuals. Logistics must have been a nightmare, but the viewer certainly didn’t have to pay for that pain.
Third place (tie): “That Boy,” by Mark Henle, The Arizona Republic

A very good story about an autistic child told in a unique way. We liked the effect of using the sister’s words to tell the story of her brother while not making her the focus of the story. The visuals really gave the viewer a sense of this boy’s life locked inside his autistic mind. Stories like this have been told in newspapers for years, but this one we will remember in a special way.

Judged by Traci Bauer, managing editor/multimedia and innovation; Christina Dicken, photo and video editor; Scott Norris, multimedia editor; and Max Schulte, assistant photo editor, all of The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. 37 entries.


First place: “Trashing the Truth,” the Evidence Project, by staff, The Denver Post

This ambitious project illustrates how to successfully engage readers by marrying long-form explanatory journalism with video profiles, slideshow vignettes and interactive graphics. Focused on mishandling of DNA evidence leading to miscarriages of justice, this series had a long-term impact as well, spawning an overturned murder conviction. The follow-up stories included more multimedia elements, such as a live court blog and video about the man’s release from prison. The Denver Post showed a continued commitment to multimedia storytelling beyond the initial series.

The series itself featured video companion pieces, audio slideshows and aggregation of related content – with links to these embedded within long-form article content. This cross-pollination allows the reader multiple points of entry to different pieces, so they can experience the series in a non-linear fashion. Interactive graphics explained DNA issues, allowing the reader to experience the story in different ways.

The audience’s reaction rounded out the multimedia experience Reader comments were woven throughout all articles, directly on the same page as the newspaper’s reporting. On controversial stories, it was like hearing how these cases played out among locals at the corner coffee shop – truly giving all readers a sense of how these issues (such as the overturned murder conviction) were perceived in the community.

The only problems seemed to be slight design changes, probably because of jumping between a blog platform and regular publishing system, and slowness in video buffering.

Second place: “Living to the End,” Death with Dignity Project, by Don Colburn, Rob Finch and Ed Madrid, The Oregonian

“Living to the End,” the video blog about Lovelle Svart’s choice to exercise her rights under Oregon’s Death with Dignity act, is one of the finest pieces of video narrative journalism on the Web.

It’s not just a video diary chronicling her decline, or a series of articles in the Oregonian – it’s a community commentary on the controversial nature of the Oregon law, and Lovelle’s choice. Lovelle’s video responses to reader commentary were particularly interesting, as was a compilation of all comments made to the site.

The use of the Oregonian’s coverage within the blog seemed a bit un-blog-like, without comments allowed.

Third place: “Fighting for Air,” Smog Project, by staff, The Fresno Bee

The smog project from the Fresno Bee included a plethora of ways to learn about the smog problem through interactive graphics, quizzes and games. Videos and audio slideshows accompanied the stories about dealing with the smog problem – both from lung disease victims and government officials charged with change.

The use of interactive graphics and database information, such as a license plate look-up for smog reporting, was truly inspired, including quizzes about what changes you’d make to save the air, and what the possible outcomes were.

Navigation throughout the project was a bit difficult, with multiple homepages. Also, community feedback seemed limited in that comments were set up as pop-up windows off the stories, and there was no comment count before the pop-up was opened.

Judged by Jennifer Musser-Metz, Philly.com project manager/web developer. 59 entries.