2013 Contest Results


First Place: Brandon Loomis, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee.
Third Place: Michael Mishak, Los Angeles Times.

Brandon Loomis takes first place with his reporting in the project “Our Dying Forests.”

“This was an exceptionally ambitious project that covered thousands of miles across Canada and the United States,” the judge wrote. “Featuring extensive reporting and strong supporting graphics and photography, ‘Our Dying Forests’ documents the stunning infestation of bark beetles on pine forests and ecosystems across North America and serves as a stark warning for communities in Midwest and Northeast who have not been impacted yet.”

Second place goes to Tom Knudson for a series on the US Wildlife Services and its lethal practices.

“Tom Knudson’s series exposed Wildlife Services, a little-known federal agency charged with managing wildlife that has killed millions of birds and mammals in secret and violent ways,” the judge wrote. “Knudson’s detailed reporting revealed how agency employees trapped, poisoned, and shot their intended targets – and accidentally killed tens of thousands of other ‘non-offending’ animals, including family pets and federally protected species like bald and golden eagles.”

“Shocking and disturbing, this is the kind of series that creates awareness, inspires deeper investigation, and ultimately leads to change.”

Michael Mishak takes third with a collection of articles on subjects including California Gov. Jerry Brown’s firing of two environmental regulators, the death of an oil worker in Kern County and farmers’ legal battles with the oil industry.

“(Mishak’s) stories helped prompt the administration to write California’s first-ever rules for fracking and led to regulators pledging to update rules for another form of oil extraction that led to a worker’s death,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge added, “This was a very challenging category to judge. More than 40 entries covered a wide range of topics – from the promises and challenges of renewable energy to efforts to save endangered species to urban development issues and a personal account of surviving a wildfire. The three winners were selected for their depth of reporting, impact, and community importance.”

Judged by Emily Murphy, vice president and managing editor, Mother Nature Network, and Dee Hall, statehouse reporter, Wisconsin State Journal. 44 entries.


First Place: Elizabeth Aguilera, U-T San Diego.
Second Place: Monica Alonzo, Phoenix New Times.
Third Place: Hannah Dreier, Bay Area News Group.

Elizabeth Aguilera takes first place with “An Inhumane Trade”, a package covering cross-border sex trafficking, particularly the pipeline from Mexico to San Diego.

“Jasmin’s story – as told by writer/reporter Elizabeth Aguilera – was a compelling read. Her zeroing (in) on this young woman’s tale speaks volumes of the sex trafficking trade in the U.S. and Mexico,” the judge wrote.

“Getting Jasmin to talk about the trauma she went through is a testament to Ms. Aguilera’s skills as a reporter. I can’t recall reading such detail on how exactly a young woman gets tricked into prostitution. Excellent reporting and writing.”

Monica Alonzo earns second with two articles on how undocumented immigrants are affecting elections in Arizona. One is focused on getting Latino families politically active, and the other is on how the controversial SB 1070 sparked interest among Latinos.

“Credit to Monica Alonzo for putting a human face on a political movement in Arizona. Fascinating to read about how undocumented immigrants – who cannot vote or run for office – were so politically active in Arizona. Strong enterprise in explaining the political evolution going on in Arizona,” the judge wrote.

Hannah Dreier, who also won a prize in the General Reporting category, takes third with a series on a Bay Area man denied a kidney transplant because of his immigration status, and the wave of support that followed.

“Clearly, Hannah Dreier made a difference and brought to light a moral and ethical dilemma for hospitals,” the judge wrote.

“Her account of Jesus Navarro and his quest for a (kidney) transplant illustrates the power of journalism. The story clearly touched many people not only in her community but across the country. And in writing this story she saved a man’s life.”

On the three winners, the judge added: “Some strong entries on a subject area that is as contentious and controversial as any other in America. To me, the common thread in these winning entries was the ability of these journalists to put a human face on immigration.”

Judged by Sergio Bustos, state/politics editor, Miami Herald. 16 entries.


First Place: Staff, Denver Post.
Second Place: Staff, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Staff, Seattle Times.

The Denver Post staff takes first place with its coverage of the shooting at a theater in suburban Aurora that left 12 people dead and 58 wounded on July 20, 2012.

The Post’s reporting “reflected excellence in everything journalism can provide today: accuracy, speed, updates on platforms from social to mobile to Web to print. From the first report to the next day’s newspaper, The Post owned this story, and the nation relied on the staff to reveal the tragedy at the theater,” the judge wrote.

The judge added that the 12 pages of print coverage the next day “was a marvelous capstone.”

Second place goes to the Oregonian staff for its coverage of a shooting at Clackamas Town Center at the heart of the mall during the Christmas shopping season. Two people were killed, and one was wounded.

The judge praised the constant updates and use of multiple platforms, noting the staff’s inclusion of “text, tweets, smartphone photos and videos, finally with narrative witness accounts and deeper reporting,” adding that the paper produced “a textbook presentation on handling breaking news.”

The staff at The Seattle Times comes in third with its coverage of a shooting at a Seattle cafe that left four dead and one injured.

The judge called the reporting on the shooting at Cafe Racer “first-rate work from the first tweet to the last story. Constant updates that built to a complete report.”

The judge was impressed by entries in this category.

“Inspiring work across the West in this breaking news competition,” he wrote. “The cream of the crop showed the evolution of breaking news journalism in the digital age – urgent, immediate, and yet measured and accurate.”

Judged by Rick Hirsch, managing editor, Miami Herald. 37 entries.


First Place: Mary Vorsino, Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Second Place: Hannah Dreier, Associated Press.
Third Place: Will Evans, California Watch.

Mary Vorsino wins first place with an article uncovering the missteps of Hawaii’s only suicide and mental health hotline. Vorsino focuses particularly on how many calls are dropped – more than 1,000 in just one month – and how many rings it takes to reach a counselor – 16, on average.

“Would you read a story about a suicide hotline that never answered or hung up on more than 1,000 callers in a month? Yeah, me, too,” the judge wrote. “Great watchdog work exposes profound bureaucratic bungling.”

Hannah Dreier takes second with her reporting on the effects of a 2004 California proposition. Proposition 63, which set aside funds for programs targeting people who have never been diagnosed with or shown symptoms of mental illness, now seems to receive a disproportionate amount of money compared to programs for the diagnosed.

“A reporter’s dogged determination shows government spending gone wild,” the judge wrote.

Will Evans scores third with a piece on an Oakland private school that, in addition to having a teacher accused of physical abuse, has been overclaiming enrollment in order to receive more funds from the school district.

“Remember that afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted stuff? I think this is what they meant,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “Anyone who thinks classic, hardcore investigative journalism is on the wane needs to spend a few hours (OK, more than a few) reading the entries in this category. Any one of a dozen or more other stories could easily have been in this top three.”

Judged by Thomas J. Fladung, managing editor, Cleveland Plain Dealer. 79 entries.


First Place: Staff, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Carol Smith and Stephanie Schendel, InvestigateWest, and Ethan Morris, KCTS.
Third Place: Gendy Alimurung, LA Weekly.

The staff at The Oregonian wins first place for its examination of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System, which revealed just how much and how leniently the pension plan pays out in pension benefits.

“The Oregonian has performed an important public service with its meticulous investigation of the state’s Public Employees Retirement System,” the judge wrote. “The paper undertook the herculean effort of forcing the records to be opened, then painstakingly analyzed the material and presented, in crisp, easy-to-understand prose, example after example showing how the pension system went haywire and how communities were affected.”

“A dazzling achievement,” the judge added.

InvestigateWest’s Carol Smith and Stephanie Schendel and KCTS’ Ethan Morris take second for their collaboration in print and video of the prescription-drug epidemic in Washington. The investigation comes after the state’s enactment of a law that limits the doses doctors and others prescribers can give out. It is considered one of the strongest prescription drug laws in the United States.

“InvestigateWest’s report on the prescription drug epidemic in Washington tackles a controversial topic – the unintended consequences of making pain medication available to those in need. Carol Smith and her colleagues revealed not just the personal cost of overdoses but also the hidden influence of drug companies on the guidelines for the use of painkillers. The research, the writing and the multimedia presentation offer readers creative, compelling and unforgettable work,” the judge wrote.

Gendy Alimurung captures third with a piece on the fate of 35mm film in Hollywood – what is involved in the debate between traditional film format and digital format.

“L.A. Weekly’s exploration of digital film is deceptive,” the judge wrote. “What at first looks like a Luddite opposition to change expands to reveal some surprising costs ahead for movies. As studios convert to the new technology, access to certain films will be restricted, and art house theaters around the country may be imperiled.”

“As Gendy Alimurung explains so well, an unforeseen culling of our artistic heritage may already have begun.”

Judged by Avery Rome, former deputy managing editor for projects and writing, Philadelphia Inquirer. 54 entries.


First Place: Aaron Glantz and Shane Shifflett, Bay Citizen.
Second Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Third Place: No award.

Aaron Glantz and Shane Shifflett win first place with “Returning Home To Battle” on Bay Area veterans’ fight to receive their disability claims from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Seattle Times staff takes second for a hard-hitting project on the online retailer Amazon.com.

The four-part series covers the total lack of local civic engagement on the part of the Seattle-based company, its efforts to avoid collecting sales taxes, its bullying tactics with publishers, and the poor working conditions of its warehouses.

No award was given for third place.

Judged by Rene Sanchez, deputy managing editor for investigative and project reporting, Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 35 entries.


First Place: Staff, Denver Post.
Second Place: Michael J. Berens, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Brad Schmidt, The Oregonian.

First place for Investigative Reporting goes to the staff at the Denver Post for “Failed To Death,” a series on fatal child abuse and neglect that found a pattern of disturbing failures in which warnings to child-welfare officials were ignored, cases closed without even a visit and children given to foster parents who killed them.

“This is a heartrending, scathing, utterly necessary and completely persuasive series that should, if there is justice, result in a massive overhaul of Colorado’s child protection system. One case as horrifying as the one the series leads with would have proved the point, but the Post team unearthed scores of grotesquely mishandled cases and itemizes the disastrous consequences,” the judge wrote.

“The writing is marked by clarity and verve, the unfolding day by day is logical and inexorable and the multimedia accompaniments are plentiful and highly professional.”

Michael Berens earns second place with the series “Glamour Beasts: The dark side of elephant captivity.”

“This is brilliant work in an uncommon cause – the welfare of elephants in captivity,” the judge wrote. “The fate of these dignified and fascinating animals is often tragic, the behavior of humans involved almost invariably puts the spectator draw of these beasts over their welfare. Not to content with one horrifying account, the author meticulously tracks the whole captive population and also takes the reader to the sanctuaries that provide an alternative to the cruelty of zoo confinement.”

“Beautifully written and edited, and the presentation is smashing. A very near miss for first place,” the judge added.

Brad Schmidt takes third with the investigative series “Locked Out” about the failures of the Fair Housing Act in Portland.

“This isn’t a glamorous topic, or exactly a new one, but this is essential reporting on an enduring theme,” the judge wrote. “I emerged with great admiration for the meticulousness of the reporting which led to the overwhelming force of complete report.”

Overall, the judge added, “this was a difficult category to judge as the reporters and reporting teams from the region took on so much essential work and pursued it with such professionalism and force. The top winners were pursued very closely by a cluster of contenders …”

Judged by Mark S. Morrow, deputy managing editor for the Sunday newspaper and news projects, Boston Globe. 46 entries.


First Place: Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Richard Lake, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Lois M. Collins, Deseret News.

Katy Muldoon scores first place with her feature on a couple who married in the hospital shortly before one partner’s brain surgery.

“From start to finish, this piece hit every note, pitch perfect,” the judge wrote. “Attention to craft could be seen in every sentence, paragraph, scene. Muldoon’s opening scene efficiently grabbed the reader, and her ending made the journey worthwhile.”

“Where many features tracking tragic or difficult personal ordeals can drift or indulge in mawkishness, the writer instead connected us with concrete, compassionate details that allowed us to feel the couple’s determined love. Muldoon demonstrates well the importance of getting out of the way and letting a gripping narrative speak directly to readers, avoiding overwriting and showy flourishes that can sabotage potentially powerful pieces.”

Richard Lake snags second with “Valley librarians dumbfounded by popularity of ‘Fifty Shades.'”

“The experience of floating through an article written with the confidence and authority Richard Lake displays here is both reassuring and delightful,” the judge wrote. “Those fortunate to come across Lake’s imaginative approach to explaining the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon received both insight and unique information.”

“Lake takes chances with intriguing assertions, then backs them up with hard facts and fresh perspective. And as a writer, Lake clearly revels in exploring the boundaries of his craft without ever distracting the reader from the central subject.”

Third goes to Lois M. Collins, for “Reclaiming joy” on one mother’s grief over losing her toddler and the way writing a blog about it helped her.

“Lois Collins tackled a potentially overwhelming subject … and delivered a deeply compelling and honest feature,” the judge wrote. “She deftly guides readers through a mother’s horror and grief, allowing the reader to relate without resorting to melodrama or overwrought descriptions. It all builds toward an ending that gives readers something valuable, showing them through one mother’s journey [that] friends and loved ones can help those who [are] dealing with personal tragedy.”

Overall, the judge added, “There were dozens of worthy entries, with 2012 bringing forth a bounty of deeply felt and deeply told news features. The effort, care and passion shown in the entries should inspire anyone who cares about telling worthwhile true stories to folks in their communities.”

“The winners, ultimately, rose to the top based on consistent focus, authoritative writing and an ability to transform great reporting into unforgettable – and very relevant – stories about the communities they serve.”

Judged by Zack McMillin, reporter and assistant metro editor, Memphis Commercial-Appeal. 53 entries.


First Place: Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times.
Second Place: Gendy Alimurung, LA Weekly.
Third Place: Alan Prendergast, Westword, Denver.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske takes first place for a pair of articles on Davien Graham, a young man shot in his neighborhood outside of Los Angeles and a victim of the area’s long-lasting gang violence and retaliation.

“‘Standing Up’ is elegantly written, spare, evocative,” the judge wrote. “The story it tells is important, with repercussions far beyond the person and place so gracefully depicted.”

Gendy Alimurung, who also won in Explanatory Reporting, snags second with “The Man Who Smelled Too Much,” a look at a homeless person who received a windfall, moved into a loft apartment, and was subsequently convicted of smelling bad.

The piece is “a disturbing portrait, not just of William Newell but of his would-be home and his city,” the judge wrote.

“The author raised challenging issues in an engaging way, which few writers can do,” the judge added.

Alan Prendergast garners third with a feature on the execution of a severely mentally disabled person in the 1930s for crimes he most likely did not commit.

The winning article “is a chillingly detailed portrait of a man wrongly accused and a justice system too easily abused. The writer masterfully used historical research to create a compelling tale,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Susan Berfield, feature writer, Bloomberg Businessweek. 84 entries.


First Place: Ben Fulton, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: Karina Longworth, LA Weekly.
Third Place: Kathleen Vanesian, Phoenix New Times.

Ben Fulton earns first place for his article “The Business of ‘Les Miz’: Why are Utahns so in love with the epic musical?”

“The question Fulton addresses — why do people in Utah love “Les Miz” so much? — is one nobody outside the state might have ever considered,” the judge wrote. “But Fulton turns what could have been a standard promo feature into a peculiar and even arresting story that weaves together business reporting, criticism, and cultural history.”

Second place goes to Karina Longworth for her review of the film “Argo,” which the judge noted “stands out for its critical acumen and subtlety.”

“She takes into account the historical context of the story, the film’s commentary about movie-making, and its entertainment value without resorting to standard thumbs-up or -down grading.”

Kathleen Vanesian takes third with her review of an exhibit on drawings by architect Frank Lloyd Wright at the Phoenix Art Museum.

“Kind of cranky but informed and convincingly argued,” the judge wrote. “Vanesian takes on the cozy legacy of an American icon and the institutions that protect his reputation. Classic cultural criticism.”

Judged by Matthew Everett, arts and entertainment editor, Metro Pulse in Knoxville, Tenn. 45 entries.


First Place: Robert Anglen, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Anne Ryman, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Molly Young, The Oregonian.

First place goes to Robert Anglen for his articles on businessman John Common’s questionable dealings, lawsuits, and personal life.

“Exceptional watchdog reporting led to a story that is as stunning as John Common is brazen,” the judges wrote. “Most astounding is the size of the holes in the system that should protect Americans from such people. This is exemplary business reporting and a tremendous public service.”

Anne Ryman snags second place with her article “Insiders benefiting in charter deals” on Arizona charter school board members and administrators profiting from the schools they oversee.

“This story blows the lid off of business owners who apparently set up charter schools to provide new revenue streams for their businesses,” the judges wrote. “The reporter dug deep, wrote with authority and provided a top-notch watchdog report to hold businesses and public officials accountable.”

Molly Young takes third with her coverage of the German solar power company SolarWorld and the financial troubles that threaten to shut down its Hillsboro, Ore., factory.

“This story does a great job of shedding light on what now appears to have been a questionable investment of taxpayer money in private enterprise,” the judges wrote. “This is the kind of solid reporting readers depend on newspapers to do.”

Overall, the judges wrote, “This was an extremely competitive category, and we found it difficult to pick a winner. While it was a pain for us judges, it speaks well of the talent within newsrooms in the West and of the quality of journalism being provided to your readers. The entries were strong in both the depth of reporting and in the writing. It reinforces our confidence in the industry to carry on our core mission of holding corporate and government leaders accountable.”

Judged by Alan Miller, managing editor/news, and Benjamin Marrison, editor, both of the Columbus Dispatch. 54 entries.


First Place: Joe Eskenazi, SF Weekly.
Second Place: Danny O’Neil, Seattle Times.
Third Place: Lisa Schencker, Kyle Goon and Melinda Rogers, Salt Lake Tribune.

Joe Eskenazi takes first place with his feature on San Francisco’s new minor league hockey team.

“This one grabbed me in the first paragraph and never let go,” the judge wrote.

“Good detail. Made smart choices on the quotes it used. Captured this fledgling franchise and its changing cast of characters very, very well.”

Second place goes to Danny O’Neil’s article about former football player Ryan Leaf, who is now caught in a string of criminal charges.

“Really liked the directions this writer took with the piece,” the judge wrote.
“Strong beginning and an even better ending.”

Lisa Schencker, Kyle Goon and Melinda Rogers capture third place with their reporting on a Utah high school football program’s wealthy benefactor, as well as the school district’s response.

“Thorough. Excellent package,” the judge wrote, adding, “I thought it was solid reporting complemented by some very fine writing.”

Judged by Paul Vigna, sports editor, Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. 62 entries.


First Place: John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Second Place: Bill Vogrin, Colorado Springs Gazette.
Third Place: Julia O’Malley, Anchorage Daily News.

John L. Smith wins first place with a portfolio of five columns that “shows off impressive range,” the judge wrote.

The columns covered such topics as the plight of the jobless, a judge who quoted the Bible and Shakespeare in sentencing an embezzling priest and the lack of disciplinary action for a bumbling detective in a drug-bust debacle.

“And, most importantly, all are built around good old-fashioned reporting. A news columnist in the classic sense.”

Second place goes to Bill Vogrin for columns on how he fled the Waldo Canyon wildfire and was lucky to find his home spared and how a developer built outsized townhomes “by mistake.”

“A columnist with a keen sense for ‘talkers,'” the judge wrote. “My bet is that more than a few readers share these via email and ask friends if they’ve seen Vogrin’s column today.”

Julia O’Malley takes third with columns that demonstrate “a fine combination of reporting and writing,” the judge wrote.

“The column on Bill ‘Guillermo’ Martinez was the single best piece of writing I saw in the competition.”

The portfolio also included columns on a proposal to arm female baristas and on a police officer convicted of a string of sexual assaults.

Judged by Thomas J. Fladung, managing editor, Cleveland Plain Dealer. 35 entries.


First Place: John Canzano, The Oregonian.
Second Place: John Katsilometes, Las Vegas Sun.
Third Place: William McKenzie, Dallas Morning News.

John Canzano takes first place with his portfolio of sports columns that include remembering a baseball player and soldier killed in Afghanistan, his personal chronicle of coaching an 8-year old volleyball player with Down syndrome, and asking whether Paul Allen should sell the Portland Trail Blazers.

“Mr. Canzano rose to the top of a strong field in the Special Topic Column Writing category,” the judge wrote. “His columns, focusing on the humanity to be found on – and off – the playing field, were compelling and beautifully written. He found remarkable people and recounted their powerful tales with sensitivity and vivid detail. This guy can tell a story.

“Even his column about a football game had an unexpected twist – a kicker’s redemption. Mr. Canzano’s originality in covering the well-traveled area of sports sets a high bar.”

John Katsilometes earns second place with his columns on Elvis, Liberace, and even fitting in Barbara Streisand and Guns N’ Roses in one night.

“Mr. Katsilometes wins second place for his original and humorous columns on Las Vegas’ famous nightlife, and the divas that populate it,” the judge wrote. “He’s an energetic writer, and this reader could sense the passion he has for his beat.

“His column on a Barbra Streisand/Guns N’ Roses double-header was funny and powerfully descriptive; it perfectly celebrated the juxtaposition of talent and spectacle that is Las Vegas. I get the feeling that these bigger-than-life acts in bigger-than-life Las Vegas have met their match in this columnist.”

Third place goes to William McKenzie’s portfolio of columns on education, covering the unwritten compact between Texas business leaders and education professionals, the importance of good principals, and Texas’ crisis in providing Latinos quality education.

“Mr. McKenzie takes third place for his columns on one of the most highly relevant topics around: education,” the judge wrote. “His writing is polished and concise; his powerfully made points backed up by experience. His suggestions, aimed at Dallas’ new school officials, set a clear roadmap for improving the city’s schools.

“His column about Jannet Barrera was a standout. It balanced inspiration with realism: describing the many hurdles faced by students like Jannet, but also pointing out clear solutions that can be replicated.”

The judge added that the category “featured strong contenders across the board. On the whole, the writing was skillful and the emotional engagement was high. Reading all of these columns, I experienced the full range of emotions: I laughed out loud, I choked back tears, I was outraged, I was entertained.”

Judged by Jane Hirt, managing editor, Chicago Tribune. 32 entries.


First Place: Colin Powers, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Matthew Crowley, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Third Place: Dale Ulland, Denver Post.

Colin Powers wins first place with his portfolio of headlines, including “The oyster is their world” on a feature on oyster harvesting in Willapa Bay, Wash., “Key electoral factor: How the Midwest is won” on former Gov. Mitt Romney’s strategy in the region during the 2012 election, and “Love to hit snooze? New clock is waking nightmare” on a new alarm clock that requires users to get up and punch in the day’s date.

The judge called Powers’ headlines “lively with elegant turns of phrasing.”

“‘The oyster is their world,’ ‘How the Midwest is won’ and ‘Shown the door, Santorum sees a window’ are winners, luring in the reader for more,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Matthew Crowley for a portfolio that includes “Sacre brew! Beer tax has French seething,” “Racket man, blowing out his fuse out there alone” for a column on John McEnroe’s bad behavior, and “Who moved my cheesecake?” for a story about the Adult Entertainment Expo moving dates and venues, much to the dismay of the International Consumer Electronics Show.

The winning headlines are “display type that brings a smile to the face and draws in the reader,” the judge wrote.

Dale Ulland garners third place with a portfolio (scroll to see all five headlines) that includes “A tasty freeze-for-all”on a frozen custard shop’s tradition of giving free scoops, “Fizzbook: IPO has little pop,” and “Chicken, and two sides” on Chick-fil-A’s scandal over same-sex marriage.

“Ulland masters the subtle twist with ‘Fizzbook’ and ‘Chicken, with two sides,'” the judge wrote. “Headlines such as these avoid the silly pun and come across as sophisticated and lively.”

Judged by Jeff Kleinman, day editor, Miami Herald. 21 entries.


First Place: Tod Robberson, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Alicia Caldwell, Denver Post.
Third Place: Erik Lukens, The Oregonian.

Tod Robberson earns first for an editorial on blight in a neighborhood in southern Dallas, part of the paper’s “10 Drops in the Bucket” series.

“The vivid writing puts a reader (even from another state) on the scene and makes you see what the people who live in this area have to witness day in and out,” the judge wrote. “The specific – and glaring – examples of what needs addressed must be getting the attention of local officials.”

“Tod Robberson’s innovative approach makes it a clear winner.”

Second place goes to Alicia Caldwell for the editorial “Punitive ban on smoking at DIA,” arguing against the closure of smoking rooms at Denver’s airport.

The judge called the piece “clear, concise and easy to follow.”

“She makes a solid case that while non-smokers probably don’t have any love lost for seeing the lounges close, the ban is more punitive toward smokers than protective of the public. Well done.”

Erik Lukens takes third with his editorial poking fun at Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith’s poor driving record by imagining what his official car should consist of.

“It’s refreshing to read an editorial that makes you smile, while still making a strong point,” the judge wrote. “This piece stood out for its humor and unusual approach.”

Judged by Ingrid Jacques, deputy editorial page editor, The Detroit News. 26 entries.


First Place: Larry Mayer, Billings Gazette.
Second Place: Loren Holmes, Alaska Dispatch.
Third Place: Paul Ruhter, Billings Gazette.

Larry Mayer takes first place for a photo of horse owners grieving at the scene of a horse barn fire in Billings, Mont.

“The layers of emotion made this photo stand out as our top choice,” the judge wrote. “The photo evokes emotion and gives the reader a sense of anguish these people were feeling.”

Loren Holmes wins second place with an image of Anchorage Fire Department rescuers pulling a teenager out of mudflats before the coming tide, the second largest in North America. (See second photo in slideshow).

“The scene-setting, drama and struggle of the rescuers pulled us toward this photo,” the judge wrote.

Paul Ruhter garners third place with his photo of a house fire in Billings and a crowd of onlookers.

“The people hugging, along with the gesture of the man in the middle shows the helplessness of the situation,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Russ Dillingham, chief photographer, Lewiston Sun Journal, assisted by a team of photographers and a reporter. 25 entries.


First Place: RJ Sangosti, Denver Post.
Second Place: RJ Sangosti, Denver Post.
Third Place: AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post.

RJ Sangosti takes first place with a photo of Chantel Blunk waiting for her husband’s body to be loaded at Denver International Airport for a flight to Nevada for burial. Blunk’s husband, Jonathan Blunk, was a U.S. Navy veteran killed in the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

“This image immediately rose to the top,” the judge wrote. “It works on so many different levels: there is an intense (albeit quiet) moment, the light is good, and the composition and layering are perfect.”

Sangosti also snags second for a photo of a tourist enjoying the view at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park during a May snowstorm.

“This picture stood out for the opposite reasons of the first place winner: it is nearly colorless and the composition is sparse, but the lack of elements still add up to a beautiful image. Sometimes less is more,” the judge wrote.

AAron Ontiveroz wins third with his image of an 8-year old throwing a paper airplane as a wildfire burns behind her. The fire, which ran for most of June 2012, destroyed many homes and much landscape in Larimer County, just outside Fort Collins, Colo.

“This photograph works because it combines two seemingly incompatible elements: the timeless act of a child throwing a paper airplane against the backdrop of a spot news situation,” the judge wrote. “If one is removed from the other, either element would have made for a forgettable image; together they are strong.”

Judged by Edmund Fountain, staff photographer, Tampa Bay Times. 58 entries.


First Place: Ray Chavez, Contra Costa Times.
Second Place: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Rob Schumacher, Arizona Republic.

Ray Chavez wins first place for a photo of Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp being covered in whipped cream pie and Gatorade after his walk-off single in the American League Division Series.

The winning photo “captured the emotion of the moment perfectly with great light, composition and moment. The image made me want to take a step back so I wouldn’t get any Gatorade on me,” the judge wrote.

Nick Oza takes second for his image of a luchador reacting to a loss, lying on the ground either screaming in pain or crying in grief.

“The emotion, lighting and composition captured by Oza made a [quiet], but powerful image that stood out to me. The image made me stop and study it,” the judge wrote.

Oza also won in the Multimedia Storytelling category this year.

Rob Schumacher earns third with a photograph of San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver intercepting a pass from the Arizona Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald.

“Schumacher did a fantastic job capturing (peak) action in this image,” the judge wrote. “From the three players in the air with the ball to the eyes of another player peeking looking up at them in the background, the picture transported me to that action-filled moment on the field.”

The judge added, “Overall it was difficult to narrow the selection to just three because of all the great action and feature sports photographed … . Many not only captured sports moments, but incorporated beautiful light and strong composition as well.”

Judged by Taimy Alvarez, director of photography, Sun Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). 52 entries.


First Place: Joe Amon, Denver Post.
Second Place: Staff, Denver Post.
Third Place: Loren Holmes, Alaska Dispatch.

Joe Amon wins first place with his slideshow “Heroin in Denver,” chronicling a handful of homeless addicts who panhandle just to get enough for their next high.

“This stood out as a clear first choice,” the judges wrote. “Surprisingly intimate, carefully composed, story telling and tightly edited – compact and concise. Every single photo works on it’s own and with the others.”

“It is clear the photographer invested so much time and patience gaining the intimacy that was needed. We applaud the time spent on a thoughtful edit. Each photo was a strong moment and the package was complete.”

The Denver Post staff takes second with its slideshow “12 dead, 58 injured in Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting.”

“Very strong, emotional and thorough coverage of course of events in this tragic news story,” the judges wrote.

“If this entry stayed within the 30 photo maximum rule and was a tight edit, it would have been much more powerful. But … (under the contest rules) the judges had to stick to the first 30 images of the 55 images that were entered.”

Loren Holmes takes third place with a package on the small Alaskan village of Kaktovik, which lies on edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge caught amid the debate on off-shore drilling.

“Unique view of village life. Interesting variety and tightly edited. Nice composition, angles and details,” the judges wrote.

Overall, the judges wrote, “entries needed to be a much tighter edit. The entries that rose to the top did so because of the concise storytelling images that let the viewer take in the story without getting overwhelmed in redundancy.”

Judged by Leanne Burden Seidel, picture editor; John Tlumacki staff photographer; and Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer, assistant chief photographer, all of the Boston Globe. 30 entries.


First Place: Severiano Galván, Denver Post.
Second Place: Phillip Reese, Sacramento Bee.
Third Place: Severiano Galván, Denver Post

Severiano Galván earns the top spot with an infographic on the spread of the Lower North Fork fire that killed three pepole, destroyed or damaged 27 homes and burned 1,400 acres in the forest southwest of Denver.

“This is a standout information graphic,” the judge wrote. “It is concise, easy to read and follow, has well-considered layers of information, and isn’t overblown. The execution of this multi-faceted work, a high-quality, breaking news piece of journalism on deadline, is laudable.”

Phillip Reese grabs second place with his entry “How foreclosures gutted the market in three Sacramento communities,” which consists of time-lapse maps of the neighborhoods.

“This graphic combines easy-to-understand content with a powerful, interactive layering approach,” the judge wrote. “Yes, it is dots on a map, but it is also deeply personal and impactful. You cannot help but watch a financial disaster occur in your neighborhood, and wonder who you might know. It is a graphic presentation that makes your heart sink.”

Severiano Galván’s “‘Missile’ Missy ready for launch,” a graphic about Colorado’s Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin and some of the basics of the sport, is awarded third.

“The essence of why information graphics are essential storytelling tools: they can take us places where the camera cannot, explain processes visually in ways words cannot,” said the judge. “Outstanding work.”

Regarding the category on the whole, the judge added, “I was looking for graphics that explained something words could not, captured a process that photographs could not. There were some exciting applications of interactives and GIFs, as well as some overblown efforts that begged for tighter editing and better use of space. … It is exciting to see some strong reporter-submitted works in this category, embracing the tools of visual storytelling.”

Judged by Stephen Komives, executive director, Society for News Design. 22 entries.


First Place: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star.
Third Place: Matt Bors, syndicated.

Pat Bagley wins first place with a portfolio of cartoons on such topics as the NRA’s grip on Congress, the gay-friendly Mormon Church and the bulldozing of public lands.

“Pat Bagley hits the bulls eye with his bold strokes and rollicking sense of humor,” the judge wrote. “He brings clever insight to the pressing issues of the day that he illuminates with brilliant color and true wit.”

David Fitzsimmons takes second with his portfolio, which includes spoofs on global warming deniers, Fox News coverage of President Obama and Sen. Todd Akin’s controversial remarks on abortion.

“Fitzsimmons has a naturally comic voice that comes through with his brash palette and goofy visual style,” the judge wrote.

Matt Bors snags third with his collection of cartoons ranging from Native Americans’ commentary on a certain statistic to the Stand Your Ground law to the proposal to arm school officials.

“Bors has an unmistakable and refined style that’s all his own. He brings a biting point view and acid wit to his visual commentary that makes him a real stand out in the field,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Matt Weurker, editorial cartoonist and illustrator, Politico. 15 entries.


First Place: Liz Brown, Las Vegas Sun.
Second Place: Dave Noyce and Michael Nakoryakov, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: Amy King, Arizona Republic.

Liz Brown wins first place for a split portrait of President Obama and former Gov. Romney with vital statistics on the race in Nevada. It ran on Election Day.

“An informational, interactive approach that perfectly reflects the magnitude of a dead-heat election,” the judge wrote. “Superb illustration coupled with sophisticated typography and purposeful color – layer upon layer of meaning.”

Dave Noyce and Michael Nakoryakov earn second for their design of “Emilie, the way she was,” an article on a six-year old victim of the Newtwon, Conn., massacre who was a Utah native.

“A wonderful marriage of words and images, with a chilling design statement on the jump page that makes you want to both smile and sob uncontrollably,” the judge wrote.

Third place goes to Amy King for her A1 design for The Arizona Republic’s “Special Centennial Edition.” Arizona celebrated its centennial on Feb. 14, 2012.

“A spectacular, timeless image played to full effect,” the judge wrote. “Supporting elements are scaled to just the right proportion to guide readers through the content and set the tone for the journey in the pages to come.”

Overall, “There were several strong entries built around interpretive photography and striking illustration, some of which were compromised with overwrought typography or Photoshop gimmicks,” the judge added.

“The winning entries were those that took a strong stance on how they wanted to emotionally connect with readers. They made courageous editing decisions that resulted in pages that communicate with conviction.”

Judged by Bonita Burton, vice president of editorial operations, Villages Media Management. 44 entries.


First Place: Jane Tyska, Oakland Tribune.
Second Place: Mahala Gaylord, Joe Amon and Meghan Lyden, Denver Post.
Third Place: Michael Quine, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Jane Tyska wins first for a video on a Bay Area 21-month-old who has been waiting for kidney and liver transplants for six months.

“A very moving story. Shot well, edited well. And a very effective narrative,” the judge wrote.

Mahala Gaylord, Joe Amon and Meghan Lyden take second place with the story of Angel Gamboeck, a young heroin addict in Denver.

“Very powerful. The young woman’s story in her own words was matched by the images of her struggle and her day-to-day reality,” the judge wrote.

Amon won first place in the Slideshow category for the same project on heroin abuse in Denver.

Michael Quine wins third for a Valentine’s Day special of nine Las Vegas couples sharing their stories.

“This was perhaps one of the most engaging videos. Lighthearted, emotional, sweet, and downright honest. The personalities of the couples included make this one,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Larz G. Roberts, radio and television professor, Arkansas State University College of Communications. 31 entries.


First Place: Lisa Krieger, Dai Sugano and Susan Steade, San Jose Mercury News.
Second Place: Jamie Francis and Bruce Ely, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.

Lisa Krieger, Dai Sugano and Susan Steade take first place with their multimedia series “Cost of Dying,” which starts with Kreiger’s story on the financial burden of her father’s death. From there, it expands – into videos of others’ stories, Facebook comments, resources for caregivers, an interactive guides, and even a live chat, all contributing to the complex discussion surrounding end-of-life practices.

“Powerful personal stories on a painful subject so many people dread having to deal with – and also very useful advice,” the judge wrote. “The videos are beautiful. ‘Gayla’s Goodbye’ in particular stuck with me long after it ended, with its candid subjects, intimate photography/videography and skillful editing. I also appreciated the useful how-to/step-through of relevant documents, which helps demystify some of the legalese.”

Second place goes to Jamie Francis and Bruce Ely for “Great River of The West,” a time-lapse video of various spots along the Columbia River.

“This is a stunning look at natural beauty, commerce and recreation along the Columbia River, mixing video and stop-motion. I am amazed and inspired,” the judge commented.

Nick Oza grabs third place with a series “Saving Arizona’s Children,” covering the many layers of child abuse in the state.

“This yearlong series is an impressive body of work, covering multiple angles of the Arizona [Child Protective Services] story with compelling reporting, photography and videography,” the judge wrote. “From stories of child abuse to reunited brothers to overtaxed social workers, this is powerful storytelling. And having gone on for so long, it’s wonderful that they’re able to follow up and show how/whether the system has changed.

“Also, the series landing page is cleanly laid out and organized, highlighting key chapters and related material,” the judge added.

Judged by Alyson Hurt, senior interactive designer, NPR. 32 entries.