2009 Contest Results


First place: “Taking Root,” by Tom Mast and Christine Robinson, Casper Star-Tribune.

This engaging series follows a job-seeking Michigan family as it uproots and moves to a Wyoming boomtown. But, as the series unflinchingly portrays, such a move comes at a personal cost and may prompt a clash of Western and Midwestern cultures. Told in part narrative and part straight-news reporting, the story weaves emotional details and demographic statistics in a uniquely memorable and enjoyable read.

Second place: “Las Vegas Construction Deaths,” by Alexandra Barzon, Las Vegas Sun.

Alexandra Berzon’s relentless reporting raised alarms about the deadly consequences of Las Vegas’ overheated building boom. While many of her stories were rooted in OSHA documents and records requests, she did not bury the reader in bureaucracy. Instead, over and over, she demonstrates her core focus is on the safety of a little-heard-from but essential character in the growth machine — the construction worker. She brings them — and their dangerous occupation — to light, and in the process affects great change. Well done.

Third place: “The Rise and Fall of Scott Coles; The Tangled Legacy of Scott Coles,” by John Dickerson, Phoenix New Times.

Reporter John Dickerson accomplishes two feats in this series — he paints a vivid portrait of high-living millionaire Scott Coles while also deftly explaining the rise and implosion of his Phoenix mortgage business. It’s a well-told morality tale of wealth and excess, documenting a scandal that has echoes of Arizona’s S&L crisis of a decade past. It’s a worthy historical record of the post-millennium boom, fit for a time capsule to be opened during the next cycle of bust.

Judged by Carole Tarrant, editor, The Roanoke (Va.) Times, 26 entries.


First Place: “Never Wanted to Come Back Here to Live,” by Lorent Turnbull, The Seattle Times.

This series on deportation demonstrated very thorough reporting and excellent writing as well as good photographs.

Deportation is an important and timely topic of high interest to readers. The story showed the other side of deportation. It showed what happens to someone who is deported, and the challenges of living in a society after being away for many years.

The stories included good human detail, including the effect on U.S. citizen children. The stories were balanced, making sure to include different viewpoints on a controversial topic.

Second Place: “Clashing Cultures, Fractured Families: Helping Youths Find the Right Track,” by Gosia Wozniacka, The Oregonian.

Thorough, original, reporting on an emerging and timely problem in the Slavic immigrant community.

All parents can relate to challenges with teenagers. In this case, those challenges are magnified by a cultural, religious divide.

Third Place: “Reservations Shootouts,” by Staff, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Good job following a breaking news story and not letting go. Good old-fashioned daily journalism, teamwork and photos on a topic that is interesting, timely and important to the community. Good balance on a controversial story.

Judged by Mary Lou Pickel, immigration and census reporter and David Simpson, crime reporter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 34 entries.


First Place: “Quenching Las Vegas’ Thirst,” by Emily Green, Las Vegas Sun.

Emily Green’s series on water was smartly conceived, deeply reported and compellingly written.

Water itself isn’t a new subject; the fact of water scarcity and the political battles it causes have been reported extensively elsewhere. But Green’s series brought the issue home. Her series’ structure — profiling five figures — reinforced a key collective insight of the stories: that the state of water in and around Las Vegas is largely a function of the personalities who, over decades, made water-policy decisions.

Green avoided easy preaching, instead telling the tale of a desert metropolis’ water fight in all its moral complexity, which made for much more interesting reading. And yet she uncovered plenty of disturbing facts — particularly, in the series’ final installment, how the shifting allegiances of scientists played to the advantage of local political figures.

Through it all, Green wove in rich observations, from the physical lay of the land to the politics of the Mormon church, that made the series all the more evocative. She wrote an epic narrative for an epic tale.

Second Place: “Green Fatigue,” by Staff, Phoenix New Times.

Green Fatigue is a no-holds-barred, in-your-face examination of the fallacy of eco-consumption. Starting with the big green middle finger on the cover, this special section of the Phoenix New Times disses all the good that people think they are doing for the planet and serves it up in an Earth Day edition.

This is a refreshing, snarky and brilliant take on the growing environmental trend – and outright obsession – of being green, right down to the vegan bondage sidebar.

When journalism on environmental issues so often highlights the problems, this special edition shows that the solutions themselves can be problems. While this topic has been tackled before, the judges haven’t seen anyone that has approached it quite like this.

Third Place: “Logging and Landslides: What Went Wrong,” by Hal Bernton and Justin Mayo, Seattle Times.

When a December storm unleashed a devastating landslide on the slopes over the Chehalis River basin, the Seattle Times didn’t stop with spot news of the event. As the headline for their two-day series portends, they asked “What Went Wrong?”

Employing all the tools of the trade – from cutting edge computer-assisted-reporting techniques to startling photography – the Seattle Times revealed the story behind the story: how the practices and oversight of clearcutting was leading to landslides.

This was a perfect marriage between local reporting and modern journalistic techniques. While this trend was probably whispered about in the valleys of Washington state for years, their readers had probably never seen it quite like this.

Judged by Jeffry Ball, environment editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal; and Dina Cappiello, environment and energy reporter for The Associated Press. 29 entries.


First Place: “The Summit Wildfire,” by Staff, San Jose Mercury News.

This was a very readable, dramatic report, told through the stories of people who were there. The anchor of the package, the story that makes the whole thing feel real, is the tragedy of Hugo Zazzara, who could not save his dream house.

What sets this package above others is the sense of being there, the feeling that the newspaper actually had feet on the ground. It is surprising how often newspaper disaster stories lose that eyewitness feeling. Not here.

Second Place: “Sudden Departure: Final Flight,” by Staff, The Honolulu Advertiser.

What impressed the judge was how people jumped to action on a Sunday, when most of the news staff is off, and put together a well-rounded package that touched on all the major issues involved with the sudden shutdown of Aloha Airlines.

This package included a solid analysis of the bankruptcy, a Q&A aimed at nervous travelers, and stories exploring the effects of the shutdown on employees and tourism industry.

Comments from lawmakers and a profile/timeline of the airline added to the package’s impact. Some of this could have been in the works ahead of time but the whole package reads as “right now.”

Third Place: “Monte Carlo Fire,” by Staff, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

This was an interesting package on a spectacular fire that people around the country saw on TV. There were solid stories on the fire and the effect on local tourism, but the judge liked that they didn’t wait a day to explain the foam material that might be a contributing factor.

The anecdotes with people on the Strip added another good dimension to the package. The same paper had a solid package on the O.J. Simpson sentencing, but I thought this package better showed the newspaper’s ability to hop when there is unexpected breaking news.

Judged by Greg Miller, breaking news editor, Orlando Sentinel. 36 entries.


First place: “Nail Gun Safety Under Fire,” by Andrew McIntosh, The Sacramento Bee.

This package on nail guns took on a little-known problem and provided a convincing body of reporting to document the problem and ample anecdotes to put a human face on the casualties among workers and even passersby. We admired the clarity of the presentation and the ability to weave anecdote with exposition, so that reader interest was held throughout a long article and its sidebars.

Second Place: “Second Chane to Make the Grade,” by Phillip Reese and Laurel Rosenhall, The Sacramento Bee.

The reporting and initiative used to show the unintended and unhappy consequences of the No Child Left Behind law were impressive. Sources were on the record, talking about decisions largely hidden from view. It showed how those decisions undermine hopes that the accountability system can improve the quality of education.

Third Place: “How Clinton Hit Pay Dirt,” by J. Patrick Coolican and Michael Mishak, Las Vegas Sun.

The Clinton report opened a window on a campaign that was notably difficult to cover, laying out how Clinton operatives had elicited a victory in Nevada against most expectations. While much work must have been done in advance, the article was impressive in its immediacy, a fine example of enterprise on deadline.

Judged by Jim Franklin, assistant night editor and metro slot editor at The Boston Globe, who led a team of seven reporters and editors. 70 entries.


First Place: “Outbreak,” by Annette Wells, Paul Harasim, Jennifer Robison, Brian Haynes and John Przybys, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal performed a significant public service with its exhaustive probe of a local endoscopy clinic linked to an outbreak of hepatitis C that resulted in the largest patient notification of its kind in history.

The Review-Journal explained with great detail and depth how thousands of patients were put at risk by penny-pinching at the clinic, which reused syringes and vials that were easily contaminated by backflow from infected patients. With insider sourcing from patients and staffers, the R-J discovered that the practice was ordered by a doctor described in his native India as “Dr. Greed” who used political connections to quickly rise from an office in a rundown motel to grab the largest share of the endoscopy/colonoscopy business in Las Vegas.

How the assembly line screenings worked was vividly described by a former assistant, who said the doctor bragged about his two-minute colonoscopies, including the bizarre habit of yanking the wand ‘like a bull-whip” out of a patient, as if he were a swashbuckling Indiana Jones.

The R-J empowered readers with a virtual how-to guide to proper procedures to protect themselves from similar abuses. Its investigation provided abundant proof for the state medical board to revoke the doctor’s license. Alas, the doctor’s friends on the board let him keep his license to move his practice elsewhere.

Second Place: “Social Promotion,” by Jack Gillum, Andrea Rivera, George Sanchez, Jamar Younger and Rhonda Bodfield, Arizona Daily Star.

The reasons behind declining achievement in American schools are as varied as the multitude of studies on education failures — low standards, unequal funding, parental apathy. Add the Arizona Daily Star’s clever investigation of social promotion to the mix.

Going where few others have dared, the Daily Star analyzed millions of grades in Pima County and compared the number of students who failed one or more core classes to average promotion rates. Nine out of 10 students passed over a five-year span, even though one-third of them failed a class.

The consequences: An explosion in remedial college classes and an increasingly unprepared work force.The trend has been a dirty secret for years, and even the Department of Education has bemoaned the lack of uniform criteria to measure the problem. But educators said the Daily Star’s methods were solid, providing credible evidence for school districts to rein in the practice.

Third Place: “Native Stories, Our Stories,” by Rob Chaney, The Missoulian, Missoula, Mont.

Acting as narrator and guide, Rob Chaney uncorks the vast history of Montana’s tribes, rich in stories, metaphors and names like River of Eyes Wide Open Wood. At the same time, he describes the tribes’ challenge of capturing history (often oral) and retelling it to schoolchildren, as mandated by the Montana Constitution.

When he writes: “The goal of Indian Education for All is to make Indian poetry as familiar as Walt Whitman, to put bull trout and bitterroot flowers in biology class, and make the Fort Laramie treaties as much a part of social studies as the Treaty of Paris,” Chaney understands the gravity of the task and its importance.
He lets the storytellers of the tribes do most of the heavy lifting, but he, too, uses narrative techniques to good effect.

Judged by David Sheppard, project editor; Audrey Lee, Sunday editor; and project reporters John MacCormack, Karisa King and John Tedesco, all of the San Antonio Express-News. 42 entries.


First Place: “Victory and Ruins,” by Ken Armstrong and Nick Perry, The Seattle Times.

Many colleges and communities are unabashed boosters of their football teams, and this series depicts what happens behind the scenes when a win-at-all-costs mentality prevails over integrity.

Bolstering court and police documents with so many interviews and detailed investigative work, the series reveals not only the revolting secrets, but tells the story of extensive wrongdoing in compelling narratives, quotes that move the story forward and solid photos.

The reporters showed a football team with players implicated in violent crimes and authorities who covered up those crimes in pursuit of a winning team at the University of Washington. But they also depict a player determined to change and learn, as well as a college working to change the athletic culture.

This series should be read by college administrators as a cautionary tale of lives harmed and the destruction left behind by overlooking athletes’ misdeeds.

Second Place: “Social Security Disability,” by Brent Walth and Bryan Denson, The Oregonian.

Social Security is a vital part of the government safety net intended to rescue those in society least able to care for themselves when personal and financial disaster strikes. But this series explains in compelling detail the system’s breakdown, in Portland and across the nation.

From long delays in assessment of claims to unproductive administrative law judges, from failure to monitor the condition of people already drawing benefits to underfunding, the stories bring the SSA’s troubles into clear focus without getting bogged down in the bureaucracy.

The public response shows that the series, alive with stories of the suffering of ordinary people, touched a raw nerve.

Third Place: “Gray Area: Utah as it Ages,” by Lois Collins and Elaine Jarvik, Deseret News.

Told with compelling anecdotes that managed to be heart-warming and sad all at once, this series puts real faces and stories on the future
of the Baby Boom Generation.

So often, the media tells the story of the 40-something daughter juggling work, college bills and her elderly parents — while ignoring the struggles of the parents, who worry about the burden they’re creating. And so often, the media tells the story of nursing home neglect and abuse, while ignoring the fact that a patient’s relatives never visited or asked questions — and generally avoided the place because it was depressing.

In sum, the series takes readers behind “the closed doors” of aging with a level of dignity and compassion so rarely exhibited in the industry. What is taking place in Utah is a microcosm of what is taking place around the nation.

Judged by Andrea F. Siegel, Phill McGowan, Melissa Harris, Julie Scharper and Larry E. Williams, reporters and editors at The Baltimore Sun. 29 entries.


First Place: “Reasonable Doubt,” by Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin, East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.

The judges lauded this as a brave and hard-hitting series and saluted the courage of The Tribune to go after this story with such clear-eyed determination. The impact of these stories and the changes they inspired were very impressive.

Said one judge: “At a time when our resources are shrinking, it is wonderful to see newspapers go after stories like these.” Said another: “This is exactly the kind of reporting you want your local newspaper to be doing.”

Second Place: “Culture of Resistance,” by Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong, The Seattle Times.

The judges were blown away by the clear and compelling writing and the sophisticated computer analysis in this investigation into a MRSA epidemic at hospitals in Washington. The originality of the subject and the thoroughness of the investigation was impressive.

Judges noted the strong response from lawmakers and hospitals administrators to try and clean up this deadly problem, which exacts a higher death toll than AIDS. The Times’ series uncovered 672 MRSA deaths that previously had not been publicly disclosed.

Third Place (tie): “Deadly Denial” by Laura Frank, Rocky Mountain News.

This probe into a federal program to compensate ailing nuclear-weapons workers from the Cold War era was full of riveting writing and amazing photos. It exposed the flaws and shortcomings of the U.S. Department of Labor in dealing with these sick workers.

The judges give hats off to the reporter for not backing down in the face of challenges from the Department of Labor.

Third Place (tie): “Broken Families, Broken Courts,” by Karen de Sa, San Jose Mercury News.

The judges admired how Karen de Sa pounced on this story about California’s Juvenile Dependency Courts and their massive problems.

The reporter brought a keen sense of urgency to the matter of families being torn apart. Said one judge: “The outrage factor is through the roof.”

Judged by Meg Kissinger, reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who led a team of seven other staff journalists. 32 entries.


First Place: “This Little Town, It’s All for One,” by Tina Griego, Rocky Mountain News.

Tina Griego delves beneath the phenomenon of a girl graduating as the only member of her high school class to explore, in evocative and descriptive prose, the way of life in a small farming town.

Second Place: “5 Feet, Few Clues Make 1 Big B.C. Mystery,” by Nick Perry, The Seattle Times.

In different hands, this article about the mystery surrounding a series of feet washing ashore might read like a police report, but Nick Perry writes with a clarity and a lightness of touch that elevate it beyond the odd or gruesome.

Third Place: “Honored by His Country at Last,” by Casey McNerthney, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

A World War II soldier is cleared of a crime — and just in time, in a story distinguished by well-chosen quotes and a graceful kicker that create emotion and depth.

Judged by Louise Kiernan, senior editor, Chicago Tribune. 65 entries.


First Place: “Capsized, A Story of Survival,” by Richard Hanner, Lodi (Calif.) News-Sentinel.

“Capsized” is a compelling story of two fishing buddies overpowered by the sea. Its strong action and characters take readers on a life-or-death ride.

The writer used strong interviewing techniques to get great details for the scenes in the story. He did a good job in researching and including the history of boat accidents in the area.

The judges also liked how the reporter compiled a box on background sources.

Second Place: “The Healing,” by Marc Ramirez, The Seattle Times.

“The Healing” finds its power in it clear, precise language and simple story line. It’s an intersection of two lives, with a mystery revealed in the course of the storytelling.

The judges liked how the story unfolds. The writer takes time to let the reader know how these two people had an impact on each other.

The judges also admired the origins of the story: The newspaper asked readers to send in letters thanking people from their past.

Third Place (tie): “The Boulanger Curse,” by Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian.

At first, “The Boulanger Curse” appears to be a health trend story — or even a “disease story” — but it becomes a remarkable tale about a family, and, specifically, a group of loving sisters.

The judges felt we got to know the family, and the hard decisions they had to make, by the end of the story. They applauded how the writer gave each sister a distinct personality, and shows how the sisters tease one another while caring for another.

Third Place (tie): “What Would You Take?” by Julia Prodis Sulek, San Jose Mercury News.

“What Would You Take?” is a great example of using narrative techniques for short stories — in this case, five vignettes on the objects that people took with them as they escaped the wildfires.

The story got beyond the news of the fire and drilled into the lives of ordinary people, revealing what they value and what they most treasure.

Judged by Lisa Kresl, managing editor/lifestyles; Tom Huang, assistant managing editor/Sunday; Michael Merschel, assistant features editor; and David Tarrant, enterprise reporter, Dallas Morning News. 89 entries


First Place: “Curtain Call,” by Adam Cayton-Holland, Westword, Denver.

Cayton-Holland presents a fascinating, well-rounded picture of an artistic genius, addressing the subject’s illness without pity or judgment. He maintains focus on the comedian/playwright/poet’s creativity rather than sensationalizing his trials.

The blend of personal anecdotes from friends, excerpts from Becker’s own writings, and the author’s solid reporting hook the reader immediately.

Second Place: “Wonder Boy,” by Donald Munro, The Fresno Bee.

Munro conveys the important literary heritage of William Saroyan but also manages to deftly add modern relevance to the story by presenting his subject as a pop-culture icon of his time. This combination is enlightening and engaging.

Third Place: “Magnetic Attraction,” by Jared Jacang Maher, Westword, Denver.

Maher humanizes an international movement, examines the intersection of public art and the law, gets into the minds of those involved, and globalizes a story with a great local angle. It is, quite simply, mesmerizing.

Judged by Kimberly Turner, Senior Editor, Atlanta Magazine. 59 entries.


First Place: “Gates’ Big-Picture Memos Shaped Microsoft, Changed Tech World,” by Benjamin J. Romano, The Seattle Times.

A lot of publications wrote the story of the retirement of Bill Gates — most of them in the same way.

But Romano found an angle that makes his front-pager read like an instant economic history of Microsoft, the Internet and the PC revolution just as one of its seminal figures is stepping aside. Ironically, for someone who helped usher in the era of electronic communication and the near death of letter writing, Gates has been a devoted memo writer through his storied career.

Romano focuses on some of his key mission statements and missives as a window into the man and the company he founded.

This story was well-conceived, well-written and deserves to be reprinted for business students. It’s a measure of how good the story is that a sidebar interview with the world’s richest man reads like an afterthought.

Second Place: “How Vegas Could Weather a Recession,” by Liz Benston and Alexandra Berzon, Las Vegas Sun.

The judge liked this story for its forward-leaning approach and for the flair of the writing. Here’s the lead:

“There may be no place more calculating, more confident and with more swagger than Las Vegas, a seemingly invincible boomtown built on the finely honed skill of talking people out of their money and offering them nothing tangible to take home.” (I think I just wanted to type that out for myself.)

It’s a credit to the reporters and editors that this critical examination of the industry’s game-plan for hard times in Vegas ran almost a full year before academic economists concluded that we were in fact slogging through a recession.

This was one of several strong entries from the Sun and from Benston, who shows throughout a mastery of her beat and a knack for finding great quotes and interesting characters.

Third Place: “Miners Warned Bosses,” by Mike Gorrell, The Salt Lake Tribune.

This is the kind of work that inspired most people I know to enter journalism in the first place, the judge wrote.

There is a lot to admire here, but the judge was drawn above all to the sense of mission that informs this thorough-going account of the fatal mistakes in planning and engineering that sent miners into “a mine destined to fail.”

That’s the conscience at heart of the story: The message that we need to remember how and why these nine men died.

Gorrell reviews the findings of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, work records, maps and interviews families of the victims in pulling his story together. He explains complicated questions of mine geology. And he writes a story that is tragic in the original sense of the word — even as it begins, the awful ending is already in sight.

Judged by Kevin Krolicki, Detroit bureau chief, Reuters. 77 entries.


First Place: “The Biggest Man on Campus,” by Rachel Bachman and Brent Hunsberger, The Oregonian.

This article on Nike co-founder Phil Knight was incredibly well written and thorough – and it was not easy information to gather or procure from sources. It provided loads of insight into an extremely private man who pretty much controls the university’s athletic department and his wide impact. The reporters were able to get lots of detail about his relationships, good and bad, gifts, donations he has withheld and the various powers he wields over high-ranking officials throughout the university.

Second Place: “Wulff Completes a Long Road Home,” by Bud Withers, The Seattle Times.

This profile went far beyond a typical takeout as a new coach approaches his or her first season. The opening was brilliant and drew an instant connection to the subject.

The life story of the high-profile coach couldn’t have been easy to report, and it detailed many of his private experiences and uncomfortable moments.

It was well reported, and the writing was engaging. Attention to detail put readers at the many scenes, including the coach, his sick wife and their reverend lying in a queen-sized bed one night “trying to become one with Psalm 23.”

Third Place: “A Losing Game,” by Ross Siler, Tony Semerad and Michael C. Lewis, The Salt Lake Tribune.

The analysis revealing poor management and bogus spending within NBA players’ charitable foundations might not have been surprising, but the investigation told an important story that is likely to force change across the league. Solid research throughout. The information was to the point and presented clearly.

The judges said it was a good idea to compare NBA player spending to what philanthropic watchdog organizations recommend. Smart packaging among components

Judged by Kristen Davis, The Plain Dealer, Metropolitan Sports Editor, and Roy Hewitt, The Plain Dealer, Sports Editor. 41 entries.


First Place: Tim Grobaty, Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Laugh-out-loud columns full of telling observations and wonderfully expressive language.

Grobaty displays a sure hand that invites the reader to follow along with his fevered train of thought and he possesses a commendable commitment to sacrificing shoe leather in the service of a good yarn. He had me at “Don’t go where the hookers go.”

Second Place (tie): Laurie Roberts, The Arizona Republic.

Roberts’ columns on vulnerable children and a cast-aside police officer brim with reportorial detail and bristle with well-founded indignation that’s as focused as a laser beam.

Second Place: Gregg Patton, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Patton’s collection of various sports columns displays a fan’s love of the game combined with a curmudgeon’s sense of outrage at the game played poorly, venally or stupidly.

Third Place: Leslie Linthicum, Albuquerque Journal.

A diverse assortment of columns on a range of issues, written with a refreshing clarity that never devolves into simplicity.

Judged by John Kelly, columnist, Washington Post. 37 entries.


First Place: David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Although better known for his editorial cartoons, these columns by Horsey from the 2008 campaign trail demonstrate that the author has as much a knack for words as for images.

He brought real people and their issues to life in smart, descriptive prose. The columns all drip with palpable sense of place and a keen sense of the characters who inhabit those places.

Second Place: Lynne K. Varner, The Seattle Times.

In Varner’s columns, readers can find the passionate suburban voice, and if stereotypes prompt a reader to say that this is an oxymoron, I suspect Varner would disabuse them of the notion.

The topics ranged from the Washington state governor’s race with a helping of chilio to suburbanites as the new welfare queens in the public imagination. She wields her opinions with rapier wit and sound reasoning.

Third Place: Dan Bickley, The Arizona Republic.

Bickley’s sports columns stand out because the opinion is unabashed the humor is laugh-out-loud funny and he takes readers to where he is writing from and acquaints them with whomever he is writing about.

“His baseball camp column had be aching along with him,” the judge wrote. “His column on being out HORSEd by a roundball phenom had me feeling sheepish — against reason — for the experience. And his critique of Matt “frat boy” Leinart had me nodding in agreement.”

The columns are clever, well-written and evocative.

Judged by: O. Ricardo Pimentel, editorial page editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 50 entries.


First Place: Jim McNett, The Oregonian.

These attention-grabbing headlines drew the judge to the stories even if the subject matter wasn’t very enticing. An example comes from a story about emotions and text-messaging style creeping into student writing:
Btw u failed
ur writing

At first, the reaction is “huh?” the judge wrote, but then it becomes clear what the point is.
McNett also shows he doesn’t always have to be clever, with the classy, respectful example over a story about a WWII sailor finally buried in Portland:
A lost sailor returns
here, to eternity

Second Place: James Laurin, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The most-skilled editors make their talents apparent when they have the “short count” headline, as this editor did on the front page in one column. The results told the story well:
Foreign oil
have U.S.
over barrel

Third Place: Jim Braly, The Oregonian.

This writer crafted headlines that didn’t overreach, such as this offering on a story about a rise in prostitution:
Sirens vs. sirens
The battle for 82nd

With the exclusion zone gone, leer is king,
and prostitutes are back, challenging police

Judged by Neill Borowski, managing editor, and Dick Moss, local content editor/night, both of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle. 29 entries.


First Place: “Who Was Thomas Egan?” by Jackman Wilson, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.

The editorial used strong imagery to describe a familiar subject. The writer brought the challenge of homelessness to life by putting a name on the problem. And, without being preachy, the writer explained how the death of Thomas Egan ” and the loss of the potential of his life” involves an entire community. Good editorial writing connects people with problems and this piece did that.

Second Place: “A Tragic Safety Record,” by Matt Hufman, Las Vegas Sun.

The editorial took a local accident, described it vividly and connected it to the national problem of workplace safety. The writer also did this in a readable, not wonky, way. And, by offering specific remedies, the piece showed Washington how to correct a problem that afflicts many communities. Good work.

Third Place: “Racing the Devil,” by Casey Jones, The Salt Lake Tribune.

The informative editorial included strong reporting, descriptive writing and clear opinion. A reader could clearly glean from this piece the problems posed by dangerous dams and what the state must do to correct them.

Judged by William McKenzie, editorial columnist, and Tod Robberson, editorial writer, The Dallas Morning News, 33 entries.


First Place: “Culture Vulture Blog,” by Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune.

All five of Means’ entries were top-of-the-line good — funny, informative, well-written, timely and made excellent use of the tools available online. For example, American Idol tryouts come around to a half-dozen or so big cities every year. After a while, how can you write the same story, or cover the same hopefuls? Easy, if you blog at the Culture Vulture. The American Idol entry was a great way to click through quickly, stop on the ones that interested you or skip the ones that didn’t.

The same could be said for his blog entry on the Outdoor Retailers. Capturing “snapshots of the strangeness” was smart — it didn’t make fun of the outdoor lovers but it did point out some of the more offbeat stuff you can find.

The other three entries — the political party involving the McCain drinking game, the sock monkey and Dan Savage stands me up — also were strong. Not a weak link among the five, and I have bookmarked this blog as one I plan to watch.

Second Place: “Navel Gazing,” by Staff, OC Weekly, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Wow, this is very topical, very off the news, but a fun, irreverent yet still honest and sound way to report.

The take on the Rick Warren as inauguration prayer-man controversy was solid reporting presented in a different context.

The entry about the diocese photoshopping out an abusive priest was also strong — of course, having the photos in there MADE the entry — and was a good piece of reporting, too. My only question: Was this a beat by the blog, or was it following something else? Either way, it was a very strong entry.

The segregated Halloween trick-or-treating was a great piece of reporting, although a photo or short video clip would also have been sweet.

Possibly the strongest blog entry was the corrupt sheriff’s trial and his whole courtroom persona. Great scene-setting, great description, great background–and obviously this is stuff that is NOT going to make it in the print edition. This is the best of a blog — cutting edge, timely, topical, and based on good solid reporting.

Third Place: “Crime Blog,” by Larry Altman, The Daily Breeze, Torrance, Calif.

Crime blogs can easily get sucked into being nothing but a cops blotter, but this blog does a little of that and much more.

When the reporter blogs about accidentally helping wrap up a cold case, I’m more riveted than if I’d sat down to watch an hourlong episode on CBS. This had everything –plot, good police work, bad police work, luck — and Altman wrapped it into a nicely told tale of a fatal hit-and-run that gets solved. The blog mentions that his print story ran, all was fine, but it’s the blog that tells the story. Very very well done.

Altman’s farewell to a good cop shop PIO was also a nice touch — personalizing a name/face that readers might not otherwise come to know.

All of Altman’s entries struck that just right tone — they had immediacy, they were newsy and they will strike a chord with readers.

Judged by Amanda St. Amand, continuous news editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 36 entries.


First Place: “Meth Kids,” by William Wilson Lewis III, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Pure, raw emotion, the judge said of this photo of a meth-using mother and her two little daughters reacting to news that the children would be taken away from her home.

The judge found the photo was “totally in the moment” and could only gasp “Wow!” at the image.

Second Place: “Funeral,” by Scott Smeltzer, Long Beach Press Telegram.

The image of a melancholy woman sitting in the grass and leaning against a white, flower-laden coffin at a sunny cemetery captured the moment simply and nicely.

“Clean and simple, with nothing to pull you way form the emotion,” the judges said. “Private, yet dignified.”

Third Place: “Escape,” by William Wilson Lewis III, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

This moody, smoky picture of apartment residents fleeing their home as a wildfire advances conveys the intensity of the moment. And it provoked a question: “Why the pink slippers?” — a reference to the slippers clutched by a woman who was central to the photo.

Judged by Kent Sievers, Omaha World-Herald photographer, along with fellow newsroom photographers. 53 entries.


First Place: “Cops and Girls,” by Karl Gehring, The Denver Post.

With this photo of heavily armed Denver police posing for a fun shot with three teenage girls, Karl Gehring does a wonderful job capturing a light-hearted, fleeting moment while making it visually interesting.

The use of repetition (three girls interspersed among four cops) helps draw the eye to the facial expressions of the girls, which is a key storytelling element. In addition, the juxtaposition of the exaggerated male brute to the female beauty helps make the image even more memorable and successful.

Second Place: “Same Hair,” by Mike Urban, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

This photo of a white-haired woman and an Old English sheepdog with amazingly similar coiffures translates the visual similarities of the woman and dog and uses technical expertise to isolate and compress the subjects to add emphasis. This evokes emotion in most viewers, a hallmark of good photography.

Third Place: “Fireball,” by Mike Urban, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Urban uses a long exposure to make a visually interesting and artistic photograph of a fire-spinner practicing her trade along the shoreline at Richmond Beach. The photographer balances the long exposure with proper timing of day (dusk) and an appealing location to produce an image that looks like a cage-like ball of fire.
make an engaging photograph.

Judged by Samaruddin Stewart, managing photography editor at aol.com. 94 entries.


First Place: “Stirrups,” by Mike Terry, (Salt Lake City) Deseret News.

This shot of a rodeo rider hitting the ground as he is bucked from a horse captures the moment at peak action. The technical quality of the image is superior. The expression on the rider’s face, coupled with the fact that his leg is still inside the stirrup, is what brought the photo home for this judge. People viewing this photo could easily imagine themselves experiencing the pain of being thrown off a horse.

Second Place: “Last Hurdle,” by Helen Richardson, The Denver Post.

The judge found the composition of the photo — a long shot showing the curve of a track with an anguished hurdler crumpled on her knees in the foreground — engaging. The curves of the track gracefully guides the viewer to the subject. Although the runner is relatively small, the image packs an emotional punch because her expression is caught at just the right time. Shot from a distance, the photo captures the moment but doesn’t feel as if the viewer is intruding on a very private moment.

Third Place: “Big Wave,” by Joanne Jo Young Lee, San Jose Mercury News.

In this photo of a massive wave curling forward, it’s easy to miss the lone surfer at the front edge of the wave. It gives the viewer the sense of what it would be like to go up against the natural forces of the ocean. The judge particularly like the way in which the fine surf mist was captured high above the surfer.

Judged by Chris Kozlowski, graphics and multimedia director, the St. Petersburg Times, 55 entries.


First Place:”Going Long,” by Dan Pelle, The Spokesman Review, Spokane, Wash.

“Going Long” was a very nice, complete story told in a short amount of time. It was probably the only entry that told the full tale of a retiring coach in a concise way. From beginning to end, the photos and audio worked in tandem to tell the story.

One judge said, “Very nice audio mix of narrator, subject and natural sound. Nice introduction of the MS surprise that the coach has dealt with for many years.”

Second Place: “Motel Life,” by Meghan Lyden and Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post.

“Motel Life” was basically three stories merged as one. When viewing them without any print context, the images were similar among the three families — so the slideshow itself was a little too long and redundant. Excellent story telling photos allowed the viewer to see just how the families had the same issues. Again the audio was great, and the photographs were probably the best among all of the entries.

Third Place (tie): “Squid Fishing,” by James Gregg, Arizona Daily Star.

“Squid” is the prettiest and most refined of the four. Fantastic images, and the audio is crisp and clear. Nice length for the slideshow, but we found the subject matter not quite as compelling as the other stories we ranked.

Third Place (tie): “Three Days in Iowa,” by Meghan Lyden and RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post.

“Three Days in Iowa” made the judges laugh. It was a very clever idea, but way too long. We found ourselves wanting to edit it further. We understood that each time the photographer was in the bed was the beginning of the next day, but the actual number of images could have been cut down.

Other comments: We found over and over again that from beginning to end, the slideshows often were just too long. The average person viewing the pages just doesn’t have the amount of time to spend watching something longer than 2 to 3 minutes.

Judged by Eileen Ryan, photo editor in the Life department, Jud McCrehin, photo editor in the News department, and Denny Gainer, multimedia editor/producer, all at USA Today. 32 entries.


First Place: “Pace is New Peril,” by Chris Morris, Las Vegas Sun.

The simplicity of the diagrams showing the perils of worker safety on construction projects is effective. The events are described, without being insensitive. Some important details were illustrated, yet decoration was avoided for maximum clarity. Color was used only to provide information. The sprinkling of the diagrams throughout propels storytelling and keeps the reader engaged.

This is not a criticism, but one option would have been to place the dates on a timeline to show clustering. This could have eliminated some of the text with the small diagrams.

Second Place: “Where Inflation Pinches Our Wallets,” by David Ingold and Whitney Stensrud, The Seattle Times.

The sophisticated charting of two variables (the inflation rate and the relative size of a category to the overall economy) works well. The reader sees the importance of absolute values and also change. There is an effective color logic. The approach makes what could have been dry engaging. The headline works well with the visuals.

Potential improvements: A more structured page design and tighter text would have highlighted the charting more. Also, there was no need for the icons. They added to the clutter and didn’t enhance.

Third Place (tie): “T Rex Walks!” by Severiano Galvan, The Denver Post.

There are a lot of great secondary elements in this piece. They are carefully illustrated and elegant. The flow of information is intuitive. The piece has impact.

Potential improvement: The main visual is huge — and thus, could do more work. The cutaways could have been more explanatory. The text could have been tightened more.

Third Place (tie): “Resource at risk,” by Nathaniel Levine, The Sacramento Bee.

There is a lot of good reporting in this piece on California’s water supply and an effective balance of text and visuals. The reader is led through many information sets by the varied visualization techniques.

Potential improvements: Adjusting the flow to accomodate the “big picture” California map on left, would have created a more natural flow into the secondary sidebar information. More subtlety in the color choices and the illustration of terrain would have elevated the presentation.

Judged by Kris Viesselman, managing editor, National Geographic EarthPulse and Director of Digital Product Development, N.G. Maps; Sean McNaughton, senior graphics editor, National Geographic Magazine; and Stefan Caiafa, assistant art director, National Geographic Traveler Magazin. 34 entries.


First Place: “A Team Under Repair,” by Chiara Bautista, Arizona Daily Star.

This depiction of a college basketball team under reconstruction — shown as a giant wildcat being rebuilt — displayed a level of artistry and execution that drew the viewer’s eyes and induced long stares, the judges wrote. It told the story perfectly with just one big and simple icon, which is the cat.

Second Place: “Crossroads,” by Dave Philipps, The Gazette, Colorado Springs.

Artistically speaking, this was very well executed and beautiful. The illustration of a major intersection in Colorado Springs was engaging and told an incredible story about a little corner and its transformation through the decades.

Third Place: “Hate Your Job,” by Wendy Wahman, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

This illustration shows a mastery of a well developed style, one that makes you look at it and gives the viewer a smile, the judges wrote. It is brave and bold. The judges noted that there were many more intricate illustrations contending, but this one stood because it was “executed the way Matisse would have drawn on his canvas, in a very secure way.”

Judged by Guillermo Monro, senior info graphics artist, Gulf News; Miguel Angel Gomez, design director for the Gulf News group; Luis Vazquez, senior illustrator; Dwynn Ronaldo Trazo, senior infographic artist; and Jacob Hernandez. 31 entries.


First Place: Steve Breen, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

This portfolio of cartoons ranging from the banking crisis to the Obama White House to Illinois politics showed a range of topics that the judges delighted in. The drawing and presentation were particularly strong, they noted.

Second Place: Steve Benson, The Arizona Republic.

Benson’s winning entries drew almost entirely from the campaign trail — from a prickly embrace by McCain of conservatives, to the “coming together” moment of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama after a protracted and hard-fought primary. The judges said Benson backed up his good ideas with clear drawings that illustrate the point.

Third Place: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star.

Fitzsimmons’ portfolio displayed not just illustrations of events or issues, but ideas. And this pleased the judges, who lauded the ideas — the decline of mainstream media, the fear tactics of the GOP campaign and the rise of border violence — as great depictions of important ideas.

Judged by Jeff Koterba, editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald, with assistance from members of the World-Herald editorial staff. 13 entries.


First Place (tie): “The Power of the Sun,” by Keri Hegre, The Arizona Republic.

This design of a blazing sun hovering over the silhouette of a desert-city skyline is extraordinary, the judge wrote. Every detail seems perfect and clean. The dramatic, elegant and effective use of the typography (in orange) on the main headline rivets attention to the page. The large photo is also a powerful tool that drives attention and helps readers understand the gravity of this story (on solar power).

First Place (tie): “Fiestas de independencia,” by Colin Smith and Laura Vallejo, Ahora Utah.

The judge liked the creative treatment of the this story, which commemorates Mexican independence. The design showed a sophisticated use of color, typography and layout. The judges alos liked the information layers on the page.

Bigger newspapers should take a look at what is going on at smaller papers such as Ahora Utah, the judge wrote — they could learn something. “Excelente diseno!”

Second Place: “Discovering the Soul of a Cuisine,” by Vickie Nesbit, The Oregonian.

This colorful, lip-smacking cover highlighting the vegetables and herbs at the heart of French cuisine are the result of planning and good communication between editor, designer and photographer, the judge said. The result is an excellent page with strong photography and layout. The use of an Eiffel Tower icon on the section header was a very creative detail.

Third Place: “Obama Siezes Historic Win,” by Christopher George, The Arizona Republic.

The judge liked the dramatic presentation of this Election Night victory. The photos — a wide photo of a smiling Obama on top, a smaller photo of McCain giving his concession speech on the bottom — tell the story perfectly. The special treatment on the nameplate (a stylized American flag) was a smart and creative idea. Good use of typography and layout.

Judged by Luis Alvarez, visual editor/news, San Antonio Express-News. 48 entries.


First Place (tie): “The Left Behind,” by Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News.

“Left Behind” is an incredibly powerful 5-minute, 56-second tour de force, told entirely through stunning images, natural sound, a haunting score and occasional text to provide the exposition behind the massive story of Indian poverty. The Oscar-quality cinematography put this in the winner’s circle. A very moving and creative way to tell a video story.

First Place (tie): “Portraits of Olympians,” by Jim Gensheimer and LiPo Ching, San Jose Mercury News.

Any one of the 25 vignettes would have been a contender, but the totality puts this over the top. Each portrait contained the strongest still and video images, creative editing and engaging story telling. And, in addition to everything else, the designers really understand how people use the Web. Having more than two dozen vignettes really increases time on site. For all these reasons, Portraits shares top bill.

Second Place: No award.

Third Place: “A Chance to Break Free,” by Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News.

With feature movie-quality cinematography, evocative music, strong still and video images and very crisp scene-setting, The Merc breaks down the massive problem of Indian poverty and tells it through the eyes of a few individuals lucky enough to break free. Very nice contrast between color and black and white stills and video also helps tell the story. While there is a natural tendency to not reward two stories on the same subject (Indian poverty), “A Chance To Break Free” is powerful video story telling in its own right.

Judged by Howard Altman, day planning editor for continuous news, The Tampa Tribune, TBO.com and WFLA-TV. 37 entries.


First Place: “Getting Ronnie Right,” by Steve Schmidt, Earnie Grafton and Dan Trevan, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The subject of the project, a young career criminal getting out of prison and trying to start a new life as a parolee back home in San Diego, is fascinating, giving readers an insider’s perspective on a world mysterious to most people. The entry page graphic design is attractive and inviting, and the interactive crime map is very interesting.

Second Place: “Davik’s Heart,” by Jeff Gritchen, Long Beach Press-Telegram.

This project offers a compelling portrait of a little girl who is being given a chance at life and her heart-wrenching journey to take it. The video component of this project is particularly gripping.

Third Place (tie): “Crossing the Line: Abuse in Hawaii Homes,” by Online Staff, The Honolulu Advertiser.

The gut-wrenching issue of domestic violence is brought home through personal stories. The navigation bar makes for easy travel through the components, but we wish there were a clearer hierarchy. The same story is displayed several times with different headlines. Nothing beats the journal — but wish it had been more prominently displayed.

Third Place (tie): “Miracle on Main Street: Riverside City Hall Shooting, 10 Years Later,” by Richard Fisher, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

Terrific interviews — plus heart-stopping surveillance video and 911 calls — make this a winning project. The large photo tells you instantly what the report it about, but there is an unfortunate lack of hierarchy to the content.

Judged by Jo Parker and Thom Patterson, producers at CNN.com 32 entries.