2014 contest results


First Place: Mary Jo Pitzl, Brandon Loomis and Matthew Dempsey, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Mark Grossi, Fresno Bee.
Third Place: Jim Steinberg, Rachel Luna and Paul Penzella, Los Angeles News Group.

Mary Jo Pitzl, Brandon Loomis and Matthew Dempsey win first place with “In Harm’s Way: Development and the danger of wildland fires,” an examination of the dangers of wildfires in Arizona and what led up to the Yarnell, Ariz., wildfire that killed 19 firefighters.

“‘In Harm’s Way’ exposes the flawed and short-sighted government policies that allow Arizonans to build deep into overgrown forests, and that contributed to the wildfire tragedy in Yarnell Hill,” the judge wrote. “From the first sentence, Mary Jo Pitzl, Brandon Loomis and Matthew Dempsey reveal how the 19 firefighters who lost their lives had no chance of defending the ‘indefensible’ community of Yarnell from the flames. With authority, clarity and a consistent use of data, Pitzl, Loomis and Dempsey answer the questions of what exactly went wrong leading up to that fateful day and how to fix it.

“More than just a series about one fire-prone Arizona town, however, the stories teach a lesson about what happens when scientific warnings about climate and environmental dangers are ignored. This body of work is a wake-up call to governments across the country facing wildfire threats and other climate impacts to think differently about where and how to develop vulnerable lands before it’s too late.”

Mark Grossi grabs second place with “Living in a Toxic Land.”

“The ‘Living in a Toxic Land’ series identifies an issue Americans may not want to look at: Hazardous waste and human sewage are being discarded in poor communities of color where people are often voiceless and powerless,” the judge wrote. “The result is a deadly ‘dumping ground culture’ that is largely unknown.

“Eye-opening from the start, the series connects the dots among poverty, race, dirty air, chemical exposure and ill health in California’s San Joaquin Valley in a way that cannot be forgotten or forgiven. Employing sympathetic reporting and alarming statistics, the stories go inside the lives of mainly Latino residents who are dying too early from the toxic landscape. They make us feel the people’s desolation, hear their wheezing and coughing, smell the rotting waste and industrial pollution around them. … This is highly meaningful public service journalism.”

Third place goes to Jim Steinberg, Rachel Luna and Paul Penzella, who wrote “Hinkley: A ghost town in the making.”

“This series tells the story of what happened to Hinkley, Calif., ‘a ghost town in the making’ that was made famous by the 2000 movie about Erin Brokovich,” the judge wrote. “A $333 million settlement against PG&E and years of cleanup haven’t fully stopped a toxic plume of cancer-causing chromium-6 from migrating further in groundwater and into residents’ wells.”

The winning project “struck a good balance with clear writing, videos, interactive graphics and photos. The deeply personal stories of the residents who chose to stay in the decaying town will have an effect on anyone who reads them,” the judge wrote.

Overall, the judge wrote, “the category was filled with impressive submissions, several with significant impact.”

Judged by Stacy Feldman, managing editor, InsideClimate News. 36 entries.


First Place: Bob Ortega and Rob O’Dell, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Mark Collette, Corpus Christi Caller-Times.
Third Place: Matt O’Brien and Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News

Bob Ortega and Rob O’Dell win first place with their coverage of federal Border Patrol and Customs agents’ deadly use of force since 2005.

“Each piece raised and answered a relevant question,” the judge wrote. “The data and examples together made for a thorough work of national impact.”

Second place goes to Mark Collette for his work on migrant deaths in Brooks County, Texas, 70 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

As part of the project, Collette compiled and will continue to compile data on the factors surrounding each death, including gender of the deceased, location of the fatal event and even the temperature when the body was found.

Matt O’Brien and Dai Sugano take third with a look at the scorecard proposed by an immigration bill passed in the U.S. Senate in June 2013.

If passed, the bill would create a merit-based point scale for ranking prospective immigrants and granting green cards. O’Brien and Sugano tested the point scale on various Bay Area residents and shared the results.

Judged by Howard Goller, Washington editor, Reuters. 18 entries.


First Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Staff, Denver Post.
Third Place: Staff, Los Angeles News Group.

First place goes to the staff at the Seattle Times for coverage of the collapse of a bridge that carries Interstate 5 over Skagit River.

“The Seattle Times team’s response to the bridge collapse was immediate and comprehensive,” the judge wrote. “Their reporting, social media, visual and graphics teams provided not only immediate updates, video and a strong graphics report but comprehensive analysis and detailed information on traffic detours and the survivors.”

“In addition, their immediate analysis of the bridge’s age and structure helped set the standard for more reporting on bridge safety across the country. An incredible effort on a breaking story that continues to resonant,” the judge continued.

The staff at the Denver Post wins second place for coverage of historic and deadly flooding in Boulder County, Colo.

“The Post staff employed every tool in their impressive reporting toolbox from the first minutes this story developed,” the judge wrote. “A stunning visual report, combined with non-stop social media kept their communities informed of all developments.”

The staff of the Los Angeles News Group takes third place for coverage of a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport in November that left one TSA officer dead.

“Impressive print and online coverage of a local story that had national and international implications,” the judge wrote. “Strong social media reporting, combined with excellent use of sourcing helped the community and readers understand this wasn’t a ‘terrorist act.'”

Judged by Teri Hayt, executive editor, Canton (Ohio) Repository. 25 entries.


First Place: Sean Robinson, Tacoma News Tribune.
Second Place: Anna Griffin and Brad Schmidt, The Oregonian.
Third Place: Dave Philipps, Barb Cotter and Ned Hunter, Colorado Springs Gazette.

Sean Robinson wins first with a series of articles on mental health, starting with “No vacancy, no excuse for Western State to deny care.”

“This meticulously reported series of stories offered a jolting look at a mental-health system in crisis that exposed gaping holes in the way those with mental illness access treatment, and what the repercussions of those failures are. The stories tackled an extremely complex subject and were executed in the face of myriad reporting challenges, including over access,” the judge wrote.

“The stories, told in stark, spare language, were at once painful and poignant, hard-hitting and compassionate, and they made impressive and sometimes creative use of public records.”

Anna Griffin and Brad Schmidt take second with a project that looks at urban development in Portland, Ore., starting with the failed development of the Gateway neighborhood.

“This package presented a sophisticated and far-reaching examination of how Portland – a city known for its smart urban planning – has broken promises or left many of them unfulfilled in its vision for the east side,” the judge wrote. “It was both well-conceived and extremely well-executed with a laser focus on the gap that often exists between officials’ plans and what later becomes reality.

“The reporters took what is hardly a glamorous subject – urban planning and renewal – and told highly accessible stories about the things that matter to people, from green spaces to groceries to dense housing without sufficient public improvements.”

Third place goes to Dave Philipps, Barb Cotter and Ned Hunter for their reporting on medical marijuana treatment for epilepsy, focusing on 6-year-old Charlotte Figi.

“A well-reported, tightly written examination of the use of medical marijuana in children with epilepsy and other medical conditions, including a burgeoning group of ‘marijuana refugees’ whose families are moving to Colorado to test its benefits,” the judge wrote.

“The pieces seamlessly blended narrative and explanation and were clearly out front on an issue that will only become more prominent as an increasing number of states legalize medical marijuana – and science reveals more about its use in children.”

Judged by Erika Niedowski, reporter, Associated Press. 50 entries.


First Place: Craig Welch and Steve Ringman, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Rob O’Dell and Craig Harris, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Jason Alcorn, InvestigateWest; Daniel Kopec, KCTS9; and Ruby de Luna, KUOW.

Craig Welch and Steve Ringman take first place with their project “Sea Change” on ocean acidification.

The winning project “is a big story, perhaps the biggest. But too big to handle? Reporter Craig Welch and photographer Steve Ringman embarked on an extraordinarily ambitious project with the world’s greatest ocean as their beat. Their five-part series combined chemistry, compelling writing and arresting images to bring the global story home for readers,” the judge wrote.

“‘Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn’ captured and explained – with compelling storytelling, appealing formats and on terms readers could grasp – one of the planet’s greatest environmental threats.”

Second place goes to Rob O’Dell and Craig Harris for the project “Troubled Teens: At risk and overlooked.”

“Reporters Craig Harris and Rob O’Dell fought for the release of documents that revealed 2,000 incidents in which teens at residential treatment centers were physically and sexually abused – sometimes by the adult staff who were supposed to be helping and healing them,” the judge wrote.

“The six-month investigation included extensive reporting of a system that received $25 million a year in public money but was left unaccountable for results.”

Jason Alcorn, Daniel Kopec and Ruby de Luna earn third place with their collaborative work on the multimedia series “Wandering,” about rescuing wandering dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers.

“Investigate West’s investigation into a behavior known as ‘wandering’ as a cause in the swiftly rising numbers of missing persons was a unique look into an issue not many talk about but many are touched by, or will be in an aging population. Associate Director Jason Alcorn put a name and face on the issue with the story of a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran who disappeared and was found six days later on a forest road 30 miles from home,” the judge wrote.

“The investigation discovered no public records are routinely created when wandering is a contributing factor to death, but the investigation uncovered seven deaths in the previous 16 months that directly resulted from ‘wanderers’ with debilitating cognitive decline.”

Judged by Tom Callinan, former editor, Cincinnati Enquirer. 38 entries.


First Place: Les Zaitz, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese, Sacramento Bee.
Third Place: Rob Perez, Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Les Zaitz takes first place for his investigative series “Drug Cartels in Oregon: Violence in the Northwest.”

“Exquisitely written and deeply reported, with compelling video and lots of photographs that supplement the reporting,” the judge wrote. “This is the whole package.”

Second place goes to Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese for a series on a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital’s policy of “dumping” patients by busing them to faraway cities.

“Good job of peeling away the layers of a story over the course of weeks and months. Impactful journalism,” the judge wrote.

Rob Perez snags third with a project on mismanagement and misconduct at the state’s Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

“Shines a light on the remarkable chutzpah of self-dealing public officials,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Casey Frank, investigations editor, Miami Herald. 38 entries.


First Place: Kirsten Stewart, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee.
Third Place: Dana Bartholomew and Brian Charles, Los Angeles News Group.

Kirsten Stewart earns first place with two articles on medical marijuana, one focusing on the families that use it to treat their children’s seizures and one focusing on the production side of this phenomenon.

“This is an important and timely topic,” the judge wrote. “The story was well-written, understandable and really put a human face on a hot-button issue.”

Tom Knudson takes second place with a story on bears at Lake Tahoe.

“Really nice writing,” the judge wrote. “The story tells all points of view respectfully. It gives a clear explanation of the issues.”

Third place goes to Dana Bartholomew and Brian Charles for “City of Thorns: Despite reforms, Pasadena police still face controversy.”

“Interesting, important and comprehensive,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Mari Schaefer, staff writer, Philadelphia Inquirer. 72 entries.


First Place: Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Erin Alberty, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: Ed Komenda, Las Vegas Sun.

First place goes to Katy Muldoon for a feature on a retired custodian’s in-flight cardiac arrest.

“‘Angels at 29,000 Feet’ is a well-paced account of a small but miraculous moment,” the judge wrote. “It strikes a perfect tone and is neither overwritten or underwritten.

“This story is an excellent example of how powerful a short narrative can be.”

Erin Alberty snags second place with an article on Utah’s first same-sex marriage.

“‘Utah’s First Same-Sex Nuptials’ is the story of a hugely significant political and historical moment with a careful focus,” the judge wrote. “And the narrow lens is the story’s beauty. Readers can feel the intimacy of this moment.

“The end is especially powerful with the added context included before the last lines.”

Ed Komenda takes third place with “Unsolved mystery: Who is sabotaging the Strip’s sheets and towels with dye bombs?”

“‘Unsolved Mystery’ deserved attention because it was told smarty with wonderful flourishes and humor,” the judge wrote. “It made a topic that could put anyone to sleep – the laundry business – come alive with drama. The quotes were expertly selected.”

Judged by Joan McClane, feature writer, Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press. 52 entries.


First Place: Karina Bland, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Marjie Lundstrom, Sacramento Bee.
Third Place: Alan Prendergast, Denver Westword.

Karina Bland wins first place with a feature chronicling the experience of a young widow of one of 19 firefighters who died battling a wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz.

“This story has great detail and emotional heft,” the judges wrote. “Deep reporting with voices from every conceivable player. The writer’s commitment to the story and the storytelling really shows. A wonderful effort.”

Second place goes to Marjie Lundstrom for a package of stories on an experimental brain surgery conducted at the University of California at Davis.

“The story takes on a serious ethical issue and conveys a very human story at the same time. Deep reporting. Seamless writing. Beautifully done,” the judges wrote.

Alan Prendergast snags third place with his piece on Kimmyan Franklin, a late writer and muse in the Denver music scene.

“A terrific narrative about an ordinary life,” the judges wrote.

Judged by Robin Gaby Fisher, features writer, and Mark Di Ionno, general news columnist, both of the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger. 77 entries.


First Place: Gavin Borchert, Seattle Weekly.
Second Place: Andrea Domanick, Las Vegas Weekly.
Third Place: Jeff Baker, The Oregonian.

Gavin Borchert wins first place for “The Wristbandification of Classical Music,” a look at how one event at the Seattle Symphony signaled a change that classical music desperately needs.

“I got a condescending vibe from the headline but was thrilled to find [Borchert’s] analysis to be enormously thoughtful, perceptive, and accessible,” the judge wrote. “It’s more than just a look at how the Seattle Symphony Orchestra is experimenting; it’s a meditation on the state of classical music and its place in the modern world.

“Afterward, I found myself trawling the Internet to see what else he’d written.”

Andrea Domanick takes second place with “Survival Song: How Ministry of Love’s Meg Vitale Battled Cancer to Sing Again.”

“In the hands of a lesser journalist, this could have been a cliche – just another story about another person battling cancer,” the judge wrote. “But (Domanick) found a fascinating subject, teased out evocative quotes, paid painstaking attention to detail in her reporting, then proceeded to choose all the right words in her writing.”

Third place goes to Jeff Baker for his scathing review of Tao Lin’s new novel “Taipei.”

“They say it’s easier to write a negative review than it is to write a positive one, but what makes this pan of Tao Lin’s book so satisfying and effective is that it unfolds like a book itself,” the judge wrote. “The writing is suspenseful, there are a couple of twists, and he pulls back to provide valuable context when appropriate. Frank, fair criticism.”

Judged by Théoden Janes, entertainment editor, Charlotte Observer. 34 entries.


First Place: Rob O’Dell, Arizona Republic.
Second Place: Kathleen Cooper, Tacoma News Tribune.
Third Place: Paul Beebe, Salt Lake Tribune.

First place goes to Rob O’Dell for his articles on Arizona’s failure to distribute TARP money and the federal government’s response.

“This is a strong, comparative examination of how Arizona – one of the states most devastated by the housing meltdown – wasted time and sat on millions of dollars in federal TARP money while thousands of homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure or struggled to keep up with deeply underwater mortgages,” the judges wrote. “As one federal official said, the state spent so much time and money setting up the office to handle its program, it was unable to give the state’s residents the assistance they needed before it was too late.”

Kathleen Cooper snags second for her investigation into giant investment funds buying 1,000 single-family houses in Pierce County, Wash., and the effect that phenomenon was having.

“In an interesting take on the recovery from the housing bust, this report used a combination of data-crunching and old-fashioned knocking on doors to show how a few national investment companies with deep pockets bought up nearly one in 10 homes in Pierce County during the space of a year, with plans to turn all of them into rentals,” the judges wrote.

“By buying up single-family homes at foreclosure auctions, making individual purchases by outbidding first-time homebuyers or flippers, and at least in one case picking up nearly an entire neighborhood of townhomes, the big funds changed the local real estate landscape almost overnight.”

Paul Beebe wins third place with a look at why Salt Lake City’s local news leader KSL-TV has rapidly fallen in the ratings for the past few years.

“A refreshing surprise, well-presented and much deeper than expected at first glance,” the judges wrote. “When local TV news ratings took a sudden and dramatic shift, sending the market’s decades-long leader into second place, the Tribune – conceding that it has a news-sharing relationship with the new leader – took a hard and fair look at the reasons behind the shift.

“Although the topic initially seemed lighter than those tackled by other contest entrants, we found this to be among the most well-done, with the business angles made clear – and we suspect it was among the most well-read in the bunch.”

Overall, the judges added, “we found selecting the top three to be more difficult than in any contest we’ve ever judged. At least a dozen entries were in the running for medals, and even after those were pared to a half dozen, any one of them could have staked a reasonable claim to first place.

“The variety of topics among those not selected in the end was impressive, as was the work: a compelling look at ‘charity’ care at a nonprofit hospital, the drying up of condo construction, a massive stadium project built upon a highly questionable funding plan, millions upon millions spent on planning for a bridge never to be built, profiles of intriguing characters – the list goes on.”

Judged by Chuck Melvin, assistant managing editor for business, and Jim Nelson, deputy business editor, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 59 entries.


First Place: Aaron Falk, Christopher Kamrani and Tony Semerad, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: Paola Boivin, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Adrian Dater and Mike Chambers, Denver Post.

Aaron Falk, Christopher Kamrani and Tony Semerad take first for their features on the place of Polynesian people in Utah football and in Utah generally.

“Thoroughly reported and well-written,” the judge wrote.”Easily could have just glorified the cultural connection of Polynesians with football. This felt like the whole story.”

Paola Boivin wins second place with a feature on Bobbi Lancaster – a 62 year-old transgender golfer who is trying to join the LPGA tour, a lifelong dream.

“Great writing, compelling story, (and it) didn’t duck the issue of people who might not be cheering for the subject,” the judge wrote.

Third place goes to Adrian Dater and Mike Chambers, who examined the position of “enforcer” in the NHL, including an analysis of the role, a spotlight on a former Colorado Avalanche enforcer and a sampling of enforcers who have recently died.

“Not the first story of its kind, but package was done so well that it stood out,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Mark Alesia, assistant sports editor, Indianapolis Star. 47 entries.


First Place: Steve Duin, The Oregonian.
Second Place: Dan Morain, Sacramento Bee.
Third Place: Leslie Linthicum, Albuquerque Journal.

First place goes to Steve Duin for a portfolio of columns on foster care in Portland, Ore., overcrowded classrooms, his daughter’s kidney failure, and more.

“Memorable writing and an eye for the unpredictable story – and the story behind it – mark Steve Duin’s columns. A disgraced legislator’s fall, and ‘the way forgiveness liberated him’ was a beautifully written examination of a life lived both badly and well. Transcends the everyday,” the judge wrote.

Dan Morain wins second place for his columns on such topics as a gun roundup in Stockton, Calif., a mother and her mentally ill son, and a local journalist who basically runs his own newspaper.

“Dan Morain’s columns take readers behind issues with often vivid detail and a strong point of view,” the judge wrote. “His piece on the environmental ravages of medical marijuana cleverly calls out environmentalists and brings attention to a new issue.”

Leslie Linthicum garners third place with columns on her personal involvement in a sexual abuse scandal in the Zen Buddhism community, a reconsideration of the gun-control debate in light of a quintuple homicide in Albuquerque, and even the controversy surrounding an equine slaughterhouse.

“Leslie Linthicum’s subjects evoke a sense of place, from the Fig Man’s retirement to the outrage of a speeding stop caught on video. Her wit and candor elevated her entry,” commented the judge.

Judged by Laura Berman, columnist, Detroit News. 34 entries.


First Place: John Canzano, The Oregonian.
Second Place: John Katsilometes, Las Vegas Sun.
Third Place: Ray Mark Rinaldi, Denver Post.

John Canzano earns first place for his collection of sports columns.

“In a strong group of sports columnists in this category, John Canzano’s distinctive voice stood out,” the judge wrote. “His columns are refreshingly original and engaging. He simply finds and tells compelling stories, like the column on a boy with Pierre Robin Syndrome and his father sharing a love for soccer and life.

In another piece, after NBA player Terrance Jones was cited for kicking a sleeping homeless man outside a nightclub, Canzano took to the Portland streets and found James Slaughter sleeping under a bridge. Slaughter’s life story put a human face on homelessness, making Canzano’s repudiation of Jones more powerful.”

The judged added that in Canzano’s five submissions, “solid reporting builds the foundation for the writer’s opinion.”

John Katsilometes takes second place with columns from The Kats Report.

“An outsider can quickly see how readers of the Las Vegas Sun could come to depend on columnist John Katsilometes and his Kats Report to understand the city,” the judge wrote. “It helps that he’s a lot of fun to read, too.

The piece on Jerry Lewis was a treat from start to finish on a big name entertainer who largely stays in the background. His column on the death of a local musician told the story of a little-known figure who had a huge impact on the city’s entertainment scene while remaining a grounded husband and father.”

“Katsilometes is a gifted writer and storyteller with a unique ability to inform and entertain,” the judge added.

Third place goes to Ray Mark Rinaldi.

“Fine arts critic Ray Rinaldi’s columns are thought-provoking and authoritative. He obviously knows his stuff, but his writing is wonderfully accessible,” the judge wrote.

“His ‘Five ways to rethink the American museum’ offers common-sense solutions for some of the key problems facing arts organizations across the country. Relying more on his critic’s eye, his piece on a Denver exhibit featuring the work of a Nazi artist deftly explores the role of art in understanding our darkest chapters.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “There were difficult choices to make in coming up with three winners out of 36 entries. The best entries were based either on terrific reporting or deep knowledge of a beat or subject area. Clearly the column is alive and well in the West.”

Judged by Scott Gillespie, editorial page editor and vice president, Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 36 entries.


First Place: Steve Mohlman, Salt Lake Tribune.
Second Place: Dale Ulland, Denver Post.
Third Place: Dale Ulland, Denver Post.

First place goes to Steve Mohlman for a portfolio that included the headlines “Science in Utah high schools missing more than one link,” “So long, suckers! U. students create a mechanical leech” and “Vanilla extract: Free cones lead to scoops,” the latter for a story on police officers’ intriguing new community outreach program.

“Consistently great use of turns of phrase and word play without overdoing it – creates interest for the stories while holding their tone and not falling into cliche,” the judge wrote.

Second place goes to Dale Ulland for a portfolio that included “A beer can of worms opens at closing time,” “Nazzzdaq” and “Winds blowing in at a hire velocity.”

“Also good use of phrasing, especially for the head specs,” the judge wrote. “Not quite as consistent as first place, but still got the readers where they need to go to get into the story, while still being true to the story.”

Dale Ulland also takes third with a different set of headlines, including “Ticker shock,” for an article on the rising cost of health insurance premiums, “Peach Fuss,” for an article on decreased peach production in Colorado and “The Target of people’s ire.”

“Not quite the complete packages of first and second, but still nice use of phrasing to convey the stories without being overly punny,” the judge wrote.

The judge added, “Top half of entries were tough to sort through – several had some real stand-out headlines but fell short as a whole collection.”

Judged by Brady Jones, copy editor and page designer, Omaha World-Herald. 23 entries.


First Place: Tod Robberson, Dallas Morning News.
Second Place: Jessica Keating, Los Angeles News Group.
Third Place: Jonathan Martin and Bruce Ramsey, Seattle Times.

Tod Robberson earns first with an editorial that focuses on a slumlord in southern Dallas who, according to Robberson, profits off taxpayers and stands in the way of the positive transformation the area needs.

“Strong original reporting is the key, leading to specific solutions to a vexing problem,” the judge wrote. “Giving readers a street-level view makes all the difference in a well-written piece that pushes for fairness and good government.”

Jessica Keating snags second place for her work on an editorial urging the recall of the San Bernadino mayor, city attorney and City Council members after the city went bankrupt.

The judge called Keating’s article “one of the stronger voices of passion in the entries. It makes a compelling case for change in city leadership without pulling any punches.”

Third place goes to Jonathan Martin and Bruce Ramsey for their editorial chastizing Washington’s members of Congress for remaining silent on marijuana legalization even after voters approved the ballot initiative.

“A wonderful example of holding political leadership accountable for their actions on an important and unique issue,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Tony Messenger, editorial page editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 19 entries.


First Place: Colin Mulvany, Spokane Spokesman-Review.
Second Place: Leah Hogsten, Salt Lake Tribune.
Third Place: RJ Sangosti, Denver Post.

Colin Mulvany earns first place for a photo from a Spokane firefighter’s funeral.

“As if a fireman’s funeral wasn’t enough, one of the pallbearers, a fellow firefighter, faints while carrying the casket of his friend. Great positioning and timing capture a truly unique moment,” wrote the judge.

Leah Hogsten snags second with her photograph of a slain police officer’s son attending his father’s funeral.

The judge wrote, “The boy wearing the dad’s badge was the final selling point. Terrific angle and framing capped it all off.”

Third goes to RJ Sangosti for his image depicting a flooded basement in Boulder, Colo. In September, northeastern Colorado was hit by record amounts of rain and torrential flooding, which killed nine people.

“A seldom-seen view that really puts the reader right in the middle of the destruction, with the owner of the house peeking in the window,” the judge wrote. “Great job by the photographer getting into a perfect position.”

The judge added, “The top three entries all had one thing in common, great positioning by the photographer. The first prize winner more than likely would not have worked from any other angle. Second place was a good photo turned great with the framing, a result of the position of the shooter. Finally, third place was made great by bringing the reader into a flooded basement, right in the midst of the destruction.”

Judged by Joe Hermitt, staff photographer, PennLive.com and the Patriot-News of central Pennsylvania. 46 entries.


First Place: AAron Ontiveroz, Denver Post.
Second Place: Craig F. Walker, Denver Post.
Third Place: Mark Reis, Colorado Springs Gazette.

AAron Ontiveroz wins first with a photo of a grieving son watching a thunderstorm move in.

“I’d say it was something out of a science fiction novel – except it’s real,” the judge wrote. “And the back story around the photo puts it over the top.

“A classic ‘wow’ feature photo moment.”

Craig F. Walker takes second place with a touching portrait of an elderly couple’s relationship.

“In the tradition of top-notch feature photography, there are so many layers of emotion here,” the judge wrote. “What a wonderfully human moment.”

Third place goes to Mark Reis for a photo of a 5-year-old looking into a Civil War-era cannon during a Memorial Day celebration.

“Hey, there still has to be a place for pictures that stop you and make you smile, right?” the judge wrote.

Judged by Thomas J. Fladung, managing editor, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. 68 entries.


First Place: Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles News Group.
Second Place: Rob Schumacher, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Nick Oza, Arizona Republic.

Hans Gutknecht wins first place with a photo of fans reacting as the bat of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hanley Ramirez flies into the crowd during a game against the Colorado Rockies.

“The amazing reactions displayed by spectators make this photo special,” the judge wrote. “While the photographer had no control over this bit of serendipity, he obviously has great reaction – and anticipation – skills, something every sports photographer must have.”

Second place goes to Rob Schumacher for his image of Carl Edwards doing a backflip off the roof of his car after winning a Nascar race at Phoenix International Raceway.

“Clean and fun,” the judge wrote. “The photographer was perfectly positioned to capture this unscripted moment in the midst of a highly organized event. … A lucky shot perhaps, but definitely not achieved by chance.”

Nick Oza grabs third with his photograph of a young boxer training at a gym along Phoenix’s Grand Avenue.

The judge said Oza’s photo “deftly captures a sense of place with selective color, light and moment. The photographer is really seeing, not just reacting. I want to see more.”

“Strong competition in this category, with plenty of peak action, conflict and a few quiet moments. The winning images displayed all of these elements, but also a spontaneity that made them truly stand out,” the judge added.

Judged by Brian Fitzgerald, former assistant managing editor/photo, Portland (Maine) Press. 59 entries.


First Place: Staff, Denver Post.
Second Place: Staff, Denver Post.
Third Place: Thomas Boyd, Oregonian.

The photo staff at the Denver Post earns first place for “Cecil and Carl: In Sickness and in Health,” a slideshow depicting an elderly couple’s relationship.

“Wow, just wow,” the judge wrote. “What a nice, timely story that really stood out despite some very strong spot news.”

Second place goes to the Denver Post’s photo staff as well, this time for a slideshow on flooding in northeastern Colorado in September.

The judge called the second place winner “a case study in how to cover spot news. This has it all from aerial coverage to moments to broad views of damage.”

Thomas Boyd grabs third place with “Tribal Fishing: Saving Salmon, Saving Themselves,” a look at the fishing ceremony at the Celilo Indian Village in Oregon.

Judged by Joe Cavaretta, photographer, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. 59 entries.


First Place: Staff, Seattle Times.
Second Place: Michael Chow, Arizona Republic.
Third Place: Andy Cross and Mahala Gaylord, Denver Post.

The Seattle Times staff wins first place with “Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn,” a video examining how ocean acidification caused by auto pollution is threatening long-plentiful oysters along the Washington coast as well as other marine life throughout the Pacific.

“This was a beautifully done piece about an issue that is important to the Seattle community and to the world in general,” the judge wrote.

“The different types of cameras used and the many shooting locations spoke to the time and effort the team put into bring this story to their audience. The editing and sound were seamless, and they created a science story that was compelling and emotional. Great work.”

Michael Chow takes second place with “Butterfly Girl,” a profile of Lizzy Hendrickson, who was born with a rare skin disorder that causes her skin to shear off and blister easily. Young patients with epidermolysis bullosa often are called “butterfly children” because their skin is a as fragile as a butterfly’s wings.

“This story was told very sympathetically through video,” the judge wrote. “I could feel the family’s pain and frustration without the story becoming maudlin or voyeuristic. The editing transitions were creative. I would love to spend more time with this character and enjoyed learning about this family through the story.”

Andy Cross and Mahala Gaylord garner third place with “Griffin’s Gambit,” a profile of 9-year-old Griffin McConnell, who underwent surgery in which half of his brain was disconneced in hopes of halting increasingly frequent and severe epileptic seizures. Griffin has been reborn in part by playing chess competitively.

“The team had great access for this story and told it well,” the judge wrote. “I felt for the family but was also inspired by Griffin. Great editing and use of family photos.”

Overall, the judge wrote, “it was fun to watch so many creative uses of this medium in telling news, especially stories that impact local communities. The stories are beautifully shot, emotional, and informative, and it’s great to see so many teams making the time to produce video of this caliber.”

Judged by Abbey Adkinson, digital media coordinator and adjunct assistant professor, Columbia University. 36 entries.


First Place: Sharon Okada, Sacramento Bee.
Second Place: Pai, San Jose Mercury News.
Third Place: Severiano Galván, Denver Post.

Sharon Okada earns first place with “Seasons for success: Grow veggies,” a two-page color graphic showing the planting seasons for vegetables in Sacramento.

“Loved this, great concept, lots of useful information and functional,” the judge wrote. “The organization is strong. Use of a strong color palette to differentiate categories works very well.”

Second place goes to Pai for “A Marvel on the Bay,” a full-page color graphic showing the new Bay Bridge in detail as engineers prepared to open it nearly 24 years after a major earthquake in the Bay Area left its predecessor near collapse.

“Flows well and really was a strong graphic story,” the judge wrote. “It tells a lot about the features of this bridge.”

Severiano Galván garners third place with “Understanding soil is the first rule of (green) thumb,” a two-page color graphic examining the science of the soil under our lawns and gardens.

“The flow is not quite as clear, but the illustration was exceptional and the depth of information was good,” the judge wrote.

Judged by Sherman Williams, assistant managing editor for visual journalism, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 17 entries.


First Place: Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee.
Second Place: Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun.
Third Place: John Pritchett, Honolulu Civil Beat.

Jack Ohman wins first place with his portfolio of editorial cartoons, covering topics ranging from the NSA spying controversy to the closing of national parks during the government shutdown in October 2013.

Second place goes to Mike Smith, whose cartoons took on such topics as terrorists as cowards and Congress’ inaction.

John Pritchett snags third place with a collection of cartoons that include the faulty website HealthCare.gov, and the NSA spying controversy.

Judged by Robert Ariail, editorial cartoonist, Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal. 10 entries.


First Place: Stephanie Swearngin, Colorado Springs Gazette.
Second Place: Kelsey Dzintars and Joseph T. O’Connor, Mountain Outlaw.
Third Place: Nichole Montanez, Colorado Springs Gazette.

Stephanie Swearngin wins first place for her design “Other than Honorable,” a package on the lack of government care for wounded veterans who received other-than-honorable discharges.

“Amazing storytelling skills,” the judge wrote. “The photo selection and layout design are just flawless.”

Kelsey Dzintars and Joseph T. O’Connor snag second place with their design of “Finding Room to Breathe in Sayulita,” a profile of a small Mexican fishing and surf town north of Puerto Vallarta.

“I’ve been to Sayulita, and this article captures the essence very well. Its fluid layout, great focal points and overall feel makes this a great piece,” the judge wrote.

Nichole Montanez takes third place with “Split personality,” a how-to piece on converting a snowboard into a splitboard.

“Focused, bright, clear to understand and well-packed,” the judge wrote. “It’s a great piece of information design.”

Judged by Alex Probst, art, design and photography director, Periódico Noroeste in Sinaloa, Mexico. 43 entries.


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

The staff at the Seattle Times takes first place for the presentation of “Sea Change,” a project on ocean acidification.

“While not as technically flashy as some of the other entries, it was concisely edited and presented in a way that the reader could learn something,” the judges wrote.

“This looks like a team that really worked together and trusted each other. The pieces are all cohesive. There are several skill sets coming together on this piece that are very strong.”

The staff at the Denver Post takes second place with “Colorado Variety Performers,” a multimedia feature on circus and festival performers.

“This was a unique approach,” the judges wrote. “They took a risk in their presentation and it worked. It wasn’t just the same old way of presenting that feature, and specifically, the initial slider with the animated people was an excellent way to introduce the reader to the subjects.”

Third place also goes to the Denver Post staff, this time for “Chasing the Beast,” a project charting the fatal activities of three storm-chasers in Oklahoma.

“We loved the maps that told the story of where the storm chasers’ car was in relation to the tornado,” the judges wrote. “This piece has good pacing of text and visuals.

“Third place was tough to award, and some of the other contenders were more emotionally evocative, (but) this one worked better together as a package.”

On the category as a whole, the judges wrote, “The winners really showed that online presentations are still about teamwork and content. … While a lot of times an online package is about showing off what the newspaper can do, it should be about taking the opportunity to tell the story in a stronger manner.”

Judged by Pattie Reaves, user experience and audience manager; William P. Davis, director of innovation; Brian Feulner, visuals editor; Tony Reaves, digital editor; and Natalie Feulner, reporter; all of the Bangor (Maine) Daily News. 26 entries.