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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Aggressive Reporting, Varied Storytelling Highlight First-Quarter Awards of Excellence Results

Journalists across Gannett produced aggressive watchdog reporting and public service work during the first quarter.

At the same time, increasingly sophisticated video and digital storytelling enhanced enterprise efforts, enriched breaking news coverage and provided emotional connections with audience members.

A total of 43 Information Centers, three design studios and one central production center were recognized for their outstanding work. Detroit, Louisville and Phoenix led Division I with four awards each. Burlington topped Division II with five awards. Monroe led Division III with five awards.

The judges were: Dave Fritz, executive editor, Staunton; Jenny Green, director/news, Indianapolis; Maricarrol Kueter, executive editor, Sioux Falls; Michelle Maxwell, senior editor/content, Salem; Bob Stover, executive editor, Brevard; Jeff Taylor, senior managing editor, Detroit.

Broad approaches to storytelling hit home

In Louisville, a long-form video told the story of the aftermath of deadly tornadoes with power, grace and detailed reporting.

In Fort Myers, both print (with words, photos and graphics) and digital (with short videos, slideshows and interactives) were used to herald the opening of a baseball park in ways that championed a community achievement and provided easy-to-use consumer information.

And in Burlington, a collection of gracefully told print narratives captured the texture of small-town life on issues ranging from residents rebuilding following a flood to a standoff over a proposed waste clean-up.

In each case, the Information Centers chose the best storytelling approach for each story. “And that’s the key,” said one judge. “Don’t set out to do a video about X or a long-form writing job about Y. Understand the story first and then figure out the best way to tell it for specific audiences. Often, you’ll want to use more than one approach.”

Social media, web fuel breaking news coverage
Newark used Twitter to break news when floods swamped the area. Not only did the staff tweet news as it developed, it also offered advice on staying safe through social media.

When Kodak filed for bankruptcy at midnight, Rochester staffers – many of them working from home — used social media, breaking news alerts and news videos to tell a developing story and to build a complete account well before dawn.

“We’ve become much more adept at getting news out first by whatever means we have,” one the judges said. “The challenge will be to make all of our social media entries worthwhile – each time we post something we need to advance the story rather than repeat information. The best efforts advanced the story with each tweet or post.”

Design Studio collaboration
The “Visual Journalism: Design” category reflected a number of collaborative efforts in which studio designers and Information Center editors, reporters and photographers planned coverage via telephone, Skype or email, brainstormed approaches and used each other to polish ideas.

In fact, there was one example of three-way collaboration. To create a keepsake edition advancing LSU’s appearance in the college football national championship game, the Monroe Information Center worked with the Louisiana Production Center and consulted with the Des Moines Design Studio. The result: a striking section that captured the excitement of the game.

These are the winning entries:

Watchdog Journalism

Division I

First Place

Detroit Free Press
M.L. Elrick, John Wisely and Jennifer Dixon, staff writers

For stories that uncovered potentially illegal practices by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and other county officials, including improper political activities and a sweetheart pension deal that would have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Judges said: “Based on FOIA requests and records searches, stories by Elrick, Wisely and Dixon outlined the activities of a political machine controlled by Ficano. County employees were forced to buy tickets or donate their time to Ficano campaign events. Subsequent digging turned up a staggering pension deal that Ficano had offered to some of his employees as well as a $400,000, no-bid contract the county health department made with a company owned by a long-time friend of the department head.”

Finalists

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs
Marcel Honore, staff reporter

For an eight-page special section that followed a seven-month investigation into a stench that permeated a remote desert community, forcing school dismissals and causing illnesses.

Judges said: “A waste recycler had been identified as the likely culprit but since the landfill was located on tribal land, federal and state environmental investigators were stymied. Honore’s painstaking investigation exposed the contaminants in the soil. Honore interviewed former workers and pored through documents to prepare an extensive report. The report included the impact on residents and drew a blueprint for action.”

The Des Moines Register
Jason Clayworth and Jeffrey C. Kummer, staff reporters

For an investigation into more than $1 million spent by lobbyists over three years to entertain and feed Iowa lawmakers. The revelations spurred calls to tighten lobbying regulations.

Judges said: “Clayworth and Kummer helped readers understand the magnitude and potential pitfalls of unlimited spending on food, drinks and event tickets for state legislators. The reporters compiled a searchable database that provided information on organizations and companies hosting the events. They used data dives, records searches and strong interviewing skills to compile their report.”

The Courier-Journal at Louisville
Joe Gerth, political writer, and Tom Loftus, Frankfort bureau chief

For revealing controversies surrounding the state’s former agriculture commissioner, a beloved former University of Kentucky basketball star.

Judges said: “Gerth and Loftus catalogued and detailed a range of apparent misdeeds, including lavish and improper equipment purchases, the use of state property for his own purposes, hiring his girlfriend as a $60,000-a-year assistant, and for having the state pay for trips and other benefits.”

Division II

First Place

The Jackson Sun
Tracie Simer and Lauren Foreman, staff reporters

For an examination of how an inmate who was on suicide watch was able to kill himself. The Jackson Sun obtained jail logs through a public-records request and discovered multiple violations of jail policy.

Judges said: “The Sun’s well-documented look at the Madison County Jail’s problems got action. The sheriff, who first declared that no policy changes or further disciplinary actions were needed, did an about-face following the scrutiny of Simer and Foreman. He suspended employees and put into place new policies to protect inmates. The Sun also revealed another problem: Tennessee has no statewide system for reporting suicides in custody.”

Finalists

Poughkeepsie Journal
Mary Beth Pfeiffer, projects writer

For a detailed examination of the use of Tasers by 19 local police departments. Pfeiffer built a database that let her report the soaring use of Tasers, showed that one officer’s use was disproportionately high and revealed that African-Americans are Tased at a much higher rate.

Judges said: “Pfeiffer’s reporting covered many issues from health-related concerns (deaths and the dangers of chest shots) to the fact that there is no consistent standard for Tasers’ use from department to department. Digital users could view a video of a Tasing, read police reports and browse through graphics depicting the demographics of those stunned.”

Press & Sun-Bulletin at Binghamton
Steve Reilly, staff reporter

For uncovering the beating of a cuffed jail inmate by a sheriff’s lieutenant. Reilly obtained documents about the beating and a video that showed it. The beating and the subsequent resignation of the officer had never been reported to the public.

Judges said: “Without Reilly’s reporting, Tioga County taxpayers may well have paid out a settlement to the former inmate without ever having heard of the incident. Reilly exposed a lack of accountability in the corrections system. And by speaking with justice experts, he was able to raise a valid question: ‘Why wasn’t the beating a crime?’ ”

Journal and Courier at Lafayette, Ind.
David Smith, watchdog reporter

For uncovering substandard care at Indiana Veterans Home, the largest such residential center in the state.

Judges said: “Smith found real victims in his investigation, including a veteran who had to undergo an amputation after a wound became infected. From public records, he documented deficiencies in care. He also did a sophisticated job of balancing the quality-of-care issue with the fact that the home has many amenities veterans enjoy and can get nowhere else in the state.”

Division III

First Place

The News-Star at Monroe
Amritha Alladi, senior writer

For a report into the ways inadequate planning cost taxpayers $2 million more than expected to construct a new terminal at Monroe Regional Airport.

Judges said: “This was a good job of documenting how even seemingly minor changes add up in a public construction project. Stories demonstrated how incomplete early information or late decisions by others raised the price tag for a local government that has little control over those changes.”

Finalists

Lancaster Eagle-Gazette
Carl Burnett Jr., staff reporter

For an investigation into the Lancaster Fire Department’s performance following a money-saving station closing. The report prompted officials to reopen the station.

Judges said: “This was a fine job of digging into the impact of a government decision, showing that budget cutting has consequences. While the department’s response times didn’t suffer, documents showed the city was relying increasingly on small neighboring departments for mutual aid, stressing those departments and their small staffs.”

The Ithaca Journal
Raymond Drumsta and Liz Lawyer, staff reporters

For stories that revealed long-held but inadequately investigated suspicions that a local police officer had been protecting drug dealers.

Judges said: “By airing concerns, the newspaper prompted a new investigation of the allegations against the officer. Online source materials demonstrated the reasons why some people within the department didn’t think the issue had been adequately addressed.”

The Advocate at Newark
Jessie Balmert, reporter

For a deeply-researched, multi-story Sunday package about two Kirkersville police officers who had been fired from their previous posts in Ohio yet were hired into the small Licking County village’s force without sufficient screening to detect their prior problems.

Judges said: “This showed solid reliance on documents and a good job of tracking down the troubled histories of these officers. A sidebar about the systemic inability to track and background check officers helped readers understand the broader problem.”

Public Service Journalism
Division I

First Place

Detroit Free Press
Stephen Henderson, columnist and staff

For covering, explaining and providing community leadership as the city of Detroit struggled with running out of money and the possibility of a state takeover of the city government. The Free Press’s coverage rose above inflammatory arguments and refocused conversation on what Henderson called “the basic human rights” of Detroiters.

Judges said: “Henderson’s blunt and passionate opinion pieces complemented news coverage and focused on what residents needed from their city leaders. Coverage included an impactful presentation in print and online that explained facts, traced problems and illustrated the impact on residents. The newspaper conducted a survey that showed what was most important to Detroiters and then pushed community leaders to react to the readers’ hopes and fears.”

Finalists

The Des Moines Register
Lee Rood, investigative reporter

For “Reader Watchdog,” Rood’s column that helps get Iowans answers from public officials, businesses and the justice system.

Judges said: “Rood’s column tackles readers’ concerns and frustrations — from workers’ comp issues to people seeking justice for relatives — and she finds answers, often initiating change. She provides the readers with public service, one column at a time.”

FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard
Adam Lowenstein, Wayne Price and Tim Walters, staff reporters

For a “Community in Motion” series installment that showed how Brevard County can succeed following the loss of technology jobs tied to NASA’s space shuttle program.

Judges said: “The series gathered together leaders from colleges, businesses and community groups to examine the Space Coast’s history and future in aviation. The newspaper drew on its partners’ knowledge to examine challenges and potential in the economic transition through effective storytelling in print, online and through a 30-minute TV special.”

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix
Mary K. Reinhart and Sean Holstege, staff reporters; Linda Valdez, editorial writer and Nick Oza, photographer/videographer

For a “Saving Arizona’s Children” series installment on the state child-protection system.

Judges said: “The series effectively used many tools to bring an issue to the community’s attention — in-depth reporting, community partnerships and a strong editorial voice calling for change and offering ways to help. Reinhart’s and Holstege’s reporting showed there’s no easy solution to reducing child abuse and the deaths from that abuse. Valdez’s editorials called the community to action, and, notably, shared the voices of children and offered examples of ways people can step up and help children.”

Division II

First Place

Springfield News-Leader
Dave Iseman, assistant managing editor; Kathryn Wall, staff reporter; Sarah Okeson, staff reporter; Claudette Riley, staff reporter and David Stoeffler, executive editor

For the in-your-face “Every Child” project that exposed child abuse and neglect. The staff’s efforts helped increase volunteerism and donations and made the issue a topic of public discussion.

Judges said: ” ‘Secrecy enables abusers,’ a Springfield child-welfare advocate said. The News-Leader blew away that secrecy. After giving readers a heads-up that shocking content was coming — details from court files in abuse cases — staffers then delivered it in short bursts on the front page every day for a month. They followed up with stories about the people on the front lines of the battle against abuse and neglect. And they successfully pressed their readers to take action.”

Finalists

The Burlington Free Press
Staff

For a sustained effort to make sure voters were fully informed before a landmark mayoral election.

Judges said: “The Free Press took advantage of numerous platforms to involve and inform readers, including a Twitter debate in which candidates responded to live Tweets from readers; an eight-part Opinion page feature that gave candidates room to address questions unfiltered; and a Traction section that gauged candidates’ environmental knowledge and positions. The coverage was extensive, focused and engagingly written.”

Poughkeepsie Journal
Larry Hertz, staff reporter, and John Penney, community conversations editor

For reporting and commentary that exposed widespread failures by the state judiciary in the handling of domestic violence cases.

Judges said: “Following up on reporting last year, the newspaper broke new ground in January with fresh coverage that exposed abuses within the judiciary, including no-show judges and a lack of serious attention paid to domestic violence victims. The newspaper successfully fought the initial rejection of an FOI request and its work triggered follow-up inquires by a state commission.”

Argus Leader at Sioux Falls
Staff

For three battles to improve the openness of government in South Dakota. While the agencies involved each refused to provide the requested information, the staff’s persistence with stories and editorials led to Legislative action that benefitted the public.

Judges said: “The Argus Leader is a strong proponent of the state’s relatively new commitment to open records and vigorously embraces the fights necessary to achieve or maintain that openness. Following the coverage, the Sioux Falls City Council was reprimanded by South Dakota’s Open Meetings Commission for action taken in executive session.”

Division III

First Place

The Marion Star
John Jarvis, reporter and Tom Graser, managing editor

For a series of stories and editorials on the lack of plans for bike lanes, sidewalks and other improvements in a planned redesign of a major highway that runs through the area.

Judges said: “Through editorials and columns, the Star urged residents to speak up and push for improvements in the transportation project. They also pushed the state to work on a redesign, citing the area’s poor showing in state health rankings as well as safety concerns for city travelers. In the end, the state agreed to add bike lanes and sidewalks along the route.”

Finalists

The News Leader at Staunton
Maria Longley, staff writer

For extensive coverage of the decision to close four state institutions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The closures mean that nearly 1,000 people will move from the institutions into communities.

Judges said: “Maria Longley’s reporting gave readers a well-rounded view of this historic agreement. She examined the federal investigation that had led to the agreement and measured the arrangement’s potential effects on community providers, on state funding and on the residents and their families. The range of reporting provided details that helped residents better understand and respond to the upcoming changes.”

Times Herald at Port Huron
Staff

For an effort to raise awareness of community nonprofit organizations by partnering with the Community Foundation of St. Clair County.

Judges said: “This unique partnership helped a nonprofit foundation award grants to worthy organizations in the community. After the newspaper wrote about the awards program and helped encourage nominations, the number of agencies hoping to receive the money topped 300. Through its Web site, the newspaper boosted participation in voting and its coverage of the grant program increased overall awareness of nonprofit efforts in the community.”

In-Depth Journalism
Division I

First Place

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Matt Daneman, staff reporter

For expert and impact-rich coverage following Kodak’s bankruptcy filing in January.

Judges said: “Daneman used his expertise and contacts to follow up on the breaking news and to make clear the ramifications of the bankruptcy filing during the following days. His work helped people come to grips with the community icon’s status and to look ahead to what is next for the long-ailing photo giant and for the rest of Rochester. This was both sophisticated business coverage and sophisticated coverage of the community’s economy and pride.”

Finalists

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix
Shaun McKinnon, reporter

For a thorough look at air pollution in Phoenix. McKinnon analyzed data, interviewed nearly 100 sources and found, after decades of poor test readings and government orders to improve, that air in the region still sickened residents.

Judges said: “Comprehensive coverage addressed long-standing government pollution-law enforcement, health effects and scientific debate about how much the desert environment itself contributes to the area’s problems.”

Reno Gazette-Journal
Brian Duggan, staff reporter

For an easy-to-understand examination of a risky form of revenue bonds used to lure destination-shopping outlets to a Reno site. The stories showed that the bonds’ benefits were oversold and their risks downplayed, both to the detriment of taxpayers.

Judges said: “The problems and pitfalls of this financing method are made understandable through focused reporting, clear writing and some good expenditure of shoe leather. Duggan went so far as to count license plates in a parking lot to document how promises of luring out-of-state tourists by using the financing approach were overblown.”

The Indianapolis Star
Staff

For five days of special sections — 128 pages in all — that served as a guide to all things Super Bowl. The sections chronicled the community celebration and captured the tone of every event.

Judges said: “Fun, smart and engaging coverage suitable for every reader, whether they’d partake of the parties and pageantry, or simply watch it from their living rooms. The excitement of a significant community event clearly comes through.”

Division II

First Place

St. Cloud Times
Dave Aeikens and Jason Wachter, staff reporters

For an insightful examination of an elementary school combating high poverty rates, low test scores and what the state had declared to be a racial imbalance that needed to be corrected.

Judges said: “Aeikens and Wachter went behind the scenes to thoughtfully explore the many issues plaguing an underperforming school in St. Cloud. This is the kind of work that gets attention with an audience — a package with strong storytelling, great visuals and a strategic marriage of print and digital. This was a multi-dimensional entry, well done on many levels.”

Finalists

The Post-Crescent at Appleton
Jessie Van Berkel, staff reporter

For an examination of rampant turnover in district attorneys’ offices in Wisconsin. The reporting revealed the cost to taxpayers and the strain on understaffed prosecutors as they juggle large case loads while seeking justice for victims.

Judges said: “Van Berkel’s detailed reporting revealed the consequences of poor pay and poor staffing among prosecutors’ offices, where attorneys strain to cope with constant turnover and mounting caseloads. Van Berkel sought to provide important context while describing the impact on the system and on people looking for justice.”

Argus Leader at Sioux Falls
Josh Verges, staff reporter

For enterprise-driven reporting on Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s expansive proposals to revamp education in South Dakota. Verges delved into the issues, separated fact from fiction and provided a framework for understanding the pros and cons of the governor’s agenda.

Judges said: “Verges’ reporting challenged some of the assumptions put forth by the governor and held the governor’s critics accountable as well. The governor had proposed singling out science and math teachers for yearly bonuses as a retention tool, but Verges’ analysis of district hiring records revealed that schools had a harder time filling other teaching disciplines. This was just one example of how Verges and the Argus Leader pushed to get facts and not just report hype.”

Springfield News-Leader
Amos Bridges, Jess Rollins and Wes Johnson, staff reporters

For investigating a proposed ordinance that would target the hiring of undocumented workers in Springfield.

Judges said: “Controversy was to be expected when a law was proposed to require Springfield businesses to use a federal screening program to ensure that all new hires were U.S. citizens. Bridges, Rollins and Johnson faced a challenge: trying to explain the facts behind the complex proposal, dealing with a flashpoint topic for many readers and trying to strip away the mystery surrounding a group of residents who were pushing the proposal and who refused to identify themselves. ”

Division III

First Place

Times Herald at Port Huron
Liz Shepard and Michael Eckert, staff reporters

For a comprehensive look at Port Huron’s rental housing market, coverage that revealed nearly half of the homes in the city are rentals with almost two-thirds of the landlords non-residents.

Judges said: “This reporting busted a number of local myths and brought context to the local housing issue. A neighborhood-level graphic in print revealed the details of rentals throughout the city, and an online graphic let readers delve into the rentals in their neighborhoods.”

Finalists

Stevens Point Journal
B.C. Kowalski, staff reporter

For dogged reporting about the leaking McDill Pond Dam, including the revelation of a letter that showed some officials knew the dam was constructed improperly.

Judges said: “Kowalski’s investigation into the documents surrounding the dam revealed the ‘smoking gun’ — proving who owned the dam (village of Whiting) and that the village president knew of improper construction and didn’t share that information with other officials. It was old-school reporting that brought to light important information as the community tries to figure out who should pay for repairs.”

The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La.
Claire Taylor and Nicholas Persac, staff reporters

For the multi-layered follow-up to an investigation about traffic citation cameras.

Judges said: “The follow-up to the newspaper’s earlier investigation focused on new facets of the issue — while violations were down, the city’s finances could be hurt by the many people who avoid paying fines. A profile of a serial offender showcased citizens’ resistance to the cameras.”

Media Network of Central Ohio
Jessica Alaimo, enterprise reporter

For an explanatory look at Ohio’s new teaching curriculum standards, the Common Core State Standards. Coverage showed the impact on how teachers teach.

Judges said: “The report gave parents and readers insight into the real-world changes that may be coming to the classroom in an easy-to-digest list of 10 changes that would affect kids and teachers.”

Breaking News
Division I

First Place

The Courier-Journal at Louisville
Staff

For multi-platform coverage of a series of tornadoes that killed 34 people in Kentucky and nearby states. The Courier-Journal’s reporting began with weather warnings, then rapidly transitioned to real-time storm coverage via live blog, Twitter and other social media and news updates throughout the night. Comprehensive print coverage and full-out third-cycle digital reporting brought readers unique local content in photos, videos and recovery stories.

Judges said: “The Courier-Journal staff demonstrated a will to be where the storm was hitting and to provide fresh, multi-faceted coverage for readers. The challenges to immediacy and accuracy in reporting presented by this massive storm, rampaging over a 200-mile area, were pronounced. But from active use of social media, online updates and photo and video images, readers could track the storm’s deadly route. A smart multi-media package offered a digital scrapbook of the tornado outbreaks, providing everything from radar maps of the storm’s routes to short glimpses of each victim.”

Finalists

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Staff

For coverage of the midnight bankruptcy filing by Eastman Kodak. When staffers learned of the filing, they launched an energetic digital reporting effort. Text alerts, updates and photographs were buttressed by quickly arranged background stories and Q&As.

Judges said: “Democrat and Chronicle reporters had known for months that bankruptcy was likely for Eastman Kodak and their efforts to prepare historical and meaningful content in advance helped elevate their coverage of the midnight announcement. Quick reporting and editing got the bankruptcy filing into the morning newspaper and readers immediately found news, analysis, history and reaction online. A reporter hosted a live blog and answered reader questions, while a series of updates and reactions kept readers informed on the historic news throughout the day.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer
Staff

For thorough, innovative coverage of a series of deadly tornadoes in parts of Kentucky and Ohio. The Enquirer staff used iPhones and hiking boots to get the story from the worst hit areas this stormy night. They produced timely reports, photographs and videos from the scenes.

Judges said: “Cincinnati reporters and photographers chronicled this deadly event effectively using social media channels and real-time reporting tools. But it was the innovative special touches that set this work apart — the personal recollections of Enquirer staffers that accompanied photographs online and short videos of tornado victims from the past offering advice to those dealing with the disaster.”

FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard
Staff

For coverage of a fast-breaking series of events that began with a burglary report at a motel and ended with the fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy. Reporters used social media, video and photographs to help tell the story of the police chase and eventual arrest of two people.

Judges said: “The rapid response of the FLORIDA TODAY staff provided readers up-to-the-minute reports of this shooting and resulting police chase. Readers got breaking news text alerts, saw photographs from the various crime scenes and watched the sheriff’s press conference live on floridatoday.com. Staffers added an interactive timeline detailing the events and key individuals in the case and visuals captured the emotions of the tragedy. A multimedia package presenting photos and video images against an audio background of 911 calls on the case was particularly effective.”

Division II

First Place

Springfield News-Leader
Staff

For exemplary coverage across platforms after deadly tornados roared through the Ozarks, leaving a wide path of devastation.

Judges said: “After tornados struck the Ozarks on Feb. 29, the News-Leader staff delivered digital updates that were frequent, substantive and punctuated by gripping accounts of survivors (some from hospital beds). Home page presentation evolved quickly with multiple links and deep galleries as the scale of the disaster became increasingly evident. Print coverage the next day moved the story forward with strong writing and dramatic presentation of powerful photos.”

Finalists

The Jackson Sun
Staff

For coverage of a fire that destroyed a century-old church. The coverage was quick initially and thorough in the end, capturing the loss felt by the community and the good fortune that lives were spared and damage was not worse.

Judges said: “The Sun broke news of the fire at a historic church just eight minutes after learning about the blaze. And that was just the beginning of an impressive effort. Digital updates were frequent and extensive, and the next day’s print approach captured the drama and impact in words, photos and headlines that drove the story forward.”

The Burlington Free Press
Staff

For coverage of a historic election in which a Democrat won the mayor’s seat for the first time since the 1970s. An aggressive social media strategy allowed the Free Press to be first with results, precinct by precinct, and first with the loser’s concession.

Judges said: “The Free Press owned coverage of this historic mayoral election. Reporters tweeted final results instantly from precincts and broke news through Twitter that the losing candidate had conceded – directly to the Free Press. The next day’s print coverage benefitted from strong writing, fresh insights and details not explored the night before.”

Poughkeepsie Journal
Staff

For coverage of the death of three college students when fire swept through their off-campus house.

Judges said: “This was a classic example of breaking a story through social media (Twitter) and building it digitally with news updates, videos and fresh stories that told the news and captured the emotions of friends. Next-day print delved into the stories of people and rescue attempts.”

Division III

First Place

The Advocate at Newark
Staff

For coverage of a flood that swamped Licking County in mid-March.

Judges said: “The staff made an impressive response to a quickly moving story, with emphasis on frequent, informational Twitter feeds that then were translated to the Web. They provided news as it was happening. There was strong use of photos online and in print.”

Finalists

The Marion Star
Tabitha Clark, reporter and James Miller, photographer

For coverage of the arrest of an ex-boyfriend in the shooting death of a woman who had come to claim her child support.

Judges said: “There was quick reaction to a story that had enough early misinformation that it could have caused reporter Tabitha Clark to lose the trail. But persistence led not only to an intriguing story — well told by Clark – but also to compelling, emotional photographs by James Miller.”

Stevens Point Journal
Staff

For staff coverage of the search for a missing college student who eventually was found dead.

Judges said: “This was a progressive story that showed how an event grows, from a man’s disappearance to the discovery of his body. There was good art from the search online and in print and supportive videos once the search concluded. Information about the deceased and residents’ feelings for him added good personal touches.”

Outstanding Writing
Division I

First Place

The Des Moines Register
Mike Kilen, staff reporter

For a compelling trio of stories: Two wrestlers survive the pressure of perfection; immigrants are welcomed to America; a dance club harkens to another time.

Judges said: “This category was extremely competitive with at least eight contenders for the top four spots. But Mike Kilen’s three compelling stories simply shined brightest. Not only can he write with precision, description and purpose, he showed he can do it on a range of topics. Any individual story in this group would have been a contender for a finalist position. Combined they reflect a rare range of ability. Kilen immerses himself in the story’s subjects and he has the talent to immerse you in his telling. The standout here was his tale of two high school wrestlers and their battle with the pressure of perfection. Reading, you could see the tension in the muscles, the mind and the emotions.”

Finalists

The Indianapolis Star
Robert King, staff reporter

For an examination of how a 12-year-old ended up in prison and how he’s handling it.

Judges said: “This could be a novel or a movie, but it works great as a newspaper story in the hands of Robert King. He sets the tone of a kid growing up in prison and intertwines it with the irrational circumstances that put him there, all in the context of the law that allows it. King wisely lets the law frame the story but doesn’t let legal details weight it down. Instead, he goes straight to the heart of what happened in a finely structured tale.”

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix
Karina Bland, staff reporter

For the story of a 50-year-old Alzheimer’s patient and how she and her husband are struggling with her inevitable loss of memory.

Judges said: “This is a story that makes you laugh and cry, partly because the principals do a little of both, but mainly because Karina Bland is able to capture up and down emotions in a sympathetic but realistic way. The personalization and pinpoint description of events and how they play into the overall life of a relationship makes it easy to identify with the subjects. Details about the disease itself are carefully woven in so that the story never becomes clinical.”

The News-Press at Fort Myers
Janine Zeitlin, staff reporter

For the moving story of Isabel Tomas, a wife and the mother of four young American citizens, who is in the country illegally and is trapped in immigration limbo.

Judges said: “Zeitlin told a heart-wrenching story with great human depth. Her unvarnished tale made clear the subject’s ignoring of a deportation order years ago and of an arrest in 2010. But she set those instances against the plight of a family caught in a legal and policy mess and wrote about human emotions with context and richness.”

Division II

First Place

Argus Leader at Sioux Falls
Steve Young, staff reporter

For Steve Young’s informative and inspiring story about one of the Lost Boys of Sudan who found security and success in Sioux Falls, then returned to his homeland to help those still suffering.

Judges said: “With evocative scene-setting, Young documented the transformation of a former child soldier into a leader in South Dakota and Sudan. He prepared readers to join his subject’s ‘journey of hope’ with colorful description and stark contrasts between the man’s life in the U.S. with life in Sudan. Moving dispatches from Young’s trip to Sudan, filed on his blog, brought to life the contrast between life in Sioux Falls and South Sudan.”

Finalists

The Jackson Sun at Jackson, Tenn.
Ned B. Hunter, staff reporter

For a profile of the life of a bull rider. Readers learned what it’s like to ride a bull, wake up unable to speak, deal with a resigned mom and a fearful girlfriend — and keep coming back for more.

Judges said: “Hunter delved into what makes this bull rider tick, even though he’s been getting thrown for two years and has yet to stick to a bull long enough to earn a paycheck. While it probably won’t prompt many to take up bull riding, this was an informative and inspiring story about persistence and victory over fear.”

The Burlington Free Press
Candace Page, staff reporter

For Candace Page’s range in handling three very different stories: a town agreeing to a bail-out for homeowners devastated by flooding; an artist’s project to document every resident of a small town with a handmade mask; and a standoff over proposed waste clean-up at a mountain.

Judges said: “Page captured three defining moments in small Vermont communities and in each used the thread of emotion to weave together history and conflict. She has a keen understanding of local color and motivations and paints a real sense of place for readers.”

Springfield News-Leader
Kathryn Wall, staff reporter

For raw and unflinching stories that revealed the pain and terror of child abuse and neglect.

Judges said: “Hours of conversation with the people on the front lines of protecting children equipped Kathryn Wall to tell these stories of emotional and physical neglect. Wall balanced the important but unsettling details with a look at the healing process as well.”

Division III

First Place

Oshkosh Northwestern
Patricia Wolff, staff reporter

For a story about a family beset by three devastating setbacks in just a matter of weeks — a son lost to a drunken driving accident caused by one of his friends; another child born with a defective heart; and a mother diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Judges said: “This was a detail-rich account of a family facing more burdens than anyone should have to bear over decades, let alone at the same time. Wolff clearly explained the interlocking family tragedies and used quotes and observations to tell the story of a family that has pulled together during their ordeal.”

Finalists

The News Leader at Staunton
Patrick Hite, staff writer

For Sunday sports columns that get people talking, whether about why one man will no longer coach due to overbearing parent, or about a complex plan to realign local high school leagues. The coach column received national attention and sparked debates and the sharing of war stories in forums and on several sport-oriented blogs.

Judges said: “These are the types of topics that resonate with local sports fans and yet they’re rarely written about. Hite brings a no-nonsense approach as he raises the issues other folks are wondering about.”

The News-Star at Monroe
Greg Hilburn, business editor

For the story of the bittersweet final days of The Chateau, a landmark restaurant in Monroe.

Judges said: “Too often these places that define local life or an era fade away quietly, without notice. But Greg Hilburn wrote a fitting obit for The Chateau, accompanied by fine video, with guests still at its tables, enjoying the cuisine and unique ambience one last time.”

News Journal at Mansfield
Jon Spencer, sports reporter

For a post-Iditarod feature on a local musher, his dogs and the people who supported them through the 1,000-mile race across Alaska.

Judges said: “Through his narrative, Spencer brings us as close to the finish line as most folks are likely to get. Through interviews with the musher and his supporters, readers get a sense of the emotion of the grueling race and the lessons learned along the route.”

Multimedia Storytelling
Division I

First Place

Detroit Free Press
Staff

For sophisticated video packages that took viewers inside the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and for making extensive use of social media and online presentations to involve readers each day.

Judges said: “The slick videos with staffers serving as authoritative and engaging on-camera personalities won the day here. The videos were not only well-produced, the subject matter covered a range of issues and were packaged to keep viewers engaged. And the tone, which ranged from intentionally amusing to pointedly informational, provided nice variety. Twitter feeds and slideshows were effective as well. Traditional click-and-see graphics added depth to the experience.”

Finalists

The News-Press at Fort Myers
Staff

For multimedia coverage of the opening of JetBlue Park — Fenway South. The News-Press did the topic justice with a detailed look at the spring training ballpark, which will be a fixture for decades.

Judges said: “This presentation marries graphics, video, interactivity and photos to describe the detail and charm in the new spring training facility for the Boston Red Sox. The varied approach to specific pieces of the story kept it from being repetitive and enabled the producers to take advantage of specific storytelling devices without overdoing them.”

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs
Staff

For blanket coverage of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which brought movie stars and industry titans to the Desert Sun’s door. The staff made the most of it with a range of digital coverage.

Judges said: “Palm Springs targeted a strength of its market — glamour — in this fun, deep coverage of a glitzy event. Once engaged in the interview clips of stars and powerbrokers on the red carpet, you can’t stop watching. Editors made an excellent decision to keep all of the videos short. Twitter and other social media components were great compliments to this work, generating photos and commentary for online and print as the event progressed.”

The Tennessean at Nashville
Anne Paine, environment reporter; Lisa Green, database editor; Shelley Mays, photographer and Steve Harman, videographer

For using a variety of digital techniques in telling the story behind “Saving Radnor Lake” and showing why that effort is important.

Judges said: “This is a very informative and engaging package telling the story behind a quiet oasis that houses wildlife and inspires people. The combination of video, slideshows, audio and click-through graphics was well-paced and structured to tell a complete story. Sometimes using so many entry points and devices can muddle a story, but this was a coherent and well-organized package.”

Division II

First Place

The Burlington Free Press
Staff

For staff-wide video coverage of President Obama’s visit to Vermont.

Judges said: “Using recently arrived iPhones, reporters and editors complemented the work of staff photographers and shot live video of the visit. The video populated a template created by Bob Gates in Louisville that allowed the staff to manage multiple video feeds at once and display them through a main video window with smaller thumbnail displays. The result was a real-time account of the presidential trip from multiple angles.”

Finalists

The Star Press at Muncie
Ashley Conti, Jordan Karthol and Patricia Blake, staff photographers

For a project that allowed lovers to tell their stories on Valentine’s Day for the Star Press cameras.

Judges said: “This was true life romance told by the people who experienced it. The couples shared with the world and we got to click, listen and watch. That was sure to engage readers.”

Statesman Journal at Salem
Staff, with a major nod to K. Williams Brown, columnist

For recruiting people to tell why they love Salem, then letting everyone express that love in a dance video.

Judges said: “This is a charming climax to a worthwhile community project that promotes people feeling good about where they live. The video’s combination of local entertainers and real people dancing in support is a touching and no doubt an engaging vehicle for readers.”

St. Cloud Times
Jason Wachter, photographer and Dave Aeikens, reporter

For an audio slide show about a troubled elementary school.

Judges said: “Excellent photographs and a strong audio base tell a clear storyline. The project has energy and a story to tell and engages the viewer from beginning to end. This showcases digital’s advantages over print when it comes to using images to tell a story.”

Division III

First Place

Home News Tribune at East Brunswick
Staff

For blanket coverage of a high school wrestling tournament that capitalized on video and social media.

Judges said: “The highlight of the entry is a deep collection of short videos featuring interviews with wrestlers and live action. The commentary and interviews are well done and the variety and number of videos showed a big commitment to the work. Continuous blogging and live chats supplemented the fine video work.”

Finalists

The News-Star at Monroe
Barbara Leader, senior writer and Margaret Croft, chief photographer

For a story on gardening by and for school children.

Judges said: “Video and photos document the reasons for, and impact of, a garden that involves children in producing vegetables and encourages them to eat what they grow. Good work.”

The Spectrum at St. George
Staff

For video coverage and photos from the Thunder Over Utah air show at St. George.

Judges said: “Everyone likes to watch planes fly and the newspaper provided a lot of good video capturing the variety of aircraft. This was supplemented with deep photo galleries and Twitter activity to promote the online segments and deliver developments during the show.”

Visual Journalism: Design
Division I

First Place

The News-Press at Fort Myers and the Nashville Design Studio
Staff

For design, photography and comprehensive print graphics that expressed the fan excitement for the opening of the new JetBlue Park.

Judges said: “What stood out was the clean, easy-to-navigate design prevalent in every aspect of the project. In print, the special section design made the right things the star of each page — photography on the cover, intricate ballpark graphic on the double-truck, stories explaining how one can replicate a landmark. Online, the design integrated 360-degree interactive graphics of the ballpark, videos, photos, timelines and slideshows into one impressively easy-to-navigate graphic. After delving into that, you can scroll down to read previous JetBlue Park coverage.”

Finalists

FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard and the Nashville Design Studio
Staff

For coverage of the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic first U.S. orbital space flight, with bold, colorful design in print and an online timeline of Glenn’s life integrated with historical video and photos that showed the importance of the man and the event.

Judges said: “Great work on covering a lot of detailed content and photos of the event and Glenn in an innovative, color-coded print timeline that ran over two pages. Online, the interactive timeline was easy to use and kept in mind small navigation details that made the viewing experience a pleasure. The supplemental videos from the Mercury crew shared behind-the-scenes experiences from the men that were there during the historic event.”

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Leah Balconi, magazine designer and Chris Muench, web developer

For producing an iPad app for the Rochester Magazine, a glossy high-end product.

Judges said: “This is impressive work, especially since the staffers had not created an Apple app previously. The app, based on an already well-designed magazine, featured interactive content and easy- to-follow navigation. It was comparable in quality to national magazine apps.”

The Courier-Journal at Louisville and the Louisville Design Studio
Staff

For exhaustive coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament, in which two Kentucky teams met head-to-head in the Final Four, with UK winning the championship. Print design — from front pages to special sections — was unified and expressed fan excitement with consistent elements, bold headlines and great photography.

Judges said: “The overall the design was excellent, but the six (!) special sections stood out. Each had its own look with strong use of photos and illustrations, yet each retained a unified approach with the continuing NCAA coverage in the daily paper.”

Division II

First Place

The Burlington Free Press
John James, page designer

For a collection of bold front-page displays on passion topic-themed sections.

Judges said: “These pages make the most of strong visuals. There’s a smart blend of typography and images that convey information at a glance. Strong headlines and effective read-ins complete pages that use a variety of tools to engage readers.”

Finalists

Journal and Courier at Lafayette, Ind.
Larrisa Turner, copy editor

For a collection of daily and Sunday front pages.

Judges said: “Turner achieves a newsy look in a small-format newspaper, even when the main story takes a magazine approach. On the one day in particular, after a tornado ripped through the area, the integration of headline and art assured a compelling package.”

Wausau Daily Herald
Elissa Holtmeier, presentation editor and Carrie Hutton, project editor

For the kick-off section of a year-long series of monthly pieces aimed at helping the community become more fit.

Judges said: “The debut ’12 for 12′ section was full of local information people could use to begin to take control of their health and weight. With profiles and plentiful tips, the section was an inviting start to a year-long effort toward better health. Information was cleanly displayed and easy to use while at the same time being visually compelling.”

Green Bay Press-Gazette
Joe Heller, cartoonist

For cartoonist Joe Heller’s bold, eye-catching “League of Lambeau” illustrations of Green Bay Packers players published in the days leading up to the team’s first-round playoff game.

Judges said: “Heller’s illustrations of beloved Packers drew fans and created advertising and circulation opportunities as playoff hype was building. A companion video explained to digital viewers the process of creating one of these iconic images.”

Division III

First Place

Star-Gazette at Elmira
John Catlett, graphics editor

For a Page One centerpiece presentation about a man whose abuse of children spanned decades and whose early crimes came before mandatory tracking was the law.

Judges said: “Using a current perp-walk image and date-stamped clips from the archive, John Catlett created a centerpiece image that set the tone considerably better than any image alone could have done. The page display set the tone for the story and drew readers to it.”

Finalists

The News-Star at Monroe, the Louisiana Production Center and the Des Moines Design Studio
Staff

For a keepsake section that advanced LSU’s appearance in the BCS national championship game.

Judges said: “This was packed with the information fans would want before such an epic game. Good organization and a center spread that’s a statistician’s dream were highlights of this collaborative effort between the Monroe Information Center, the Louisiana Production Center, and the Des Moines Design Studio.”

Iowa City Press-Citizen and the Des Moines Design Studio
Erin Baker Crabb, designer and Iowa City staff

For the cover and recurring design elements in the Press Citizen’s “School Pride” progress section.

Judges said: “Drawing on the theme of a schoolhouse doodle, the cover was an offbeat but compelling way of setting a theme and mood for the section. That tone was carried through the rest of the work, in print and digital.”

Times Herald at Port Huron and the Louisville Design Studio
Staff

For a centerpiece graphic presentation for high school basketball playoff seasons.

Judges said: “Using a calendar as a base, The Times Herald gave readers what they needed to know about basketball playoffs — where, when and for what they should watch during the three or so weeks of the tournament. By breaking information into short bits it could be digested by the die-hard fan as well as by someone who only wakes up and pays attention when March rolls around.”

Visual Storytelling: Photo/Video
Division I

First Place

The Courier-Journal at Louisville
Rob Gates, online producer

For an emotionally powerful, long-form video that looked back at killer tornadoes that laid waste to communities in Kentucky and nearby Indiana.

Judges said: “This was a brilliantly crafted piece. It used live video shot during news coverage, fresh footage that told the stories of survivors and victims, on-point narration, and strong interviewing skills to tell a compelling story of terror, grief and hope. From conception and storyboarding to interviewing and reporting, and with smart use of file and new video, this was a world class piece of visual journalism.”

Finalists

Detroit Free Press
Eric Seals, photographer/videographer

For an impressive body of work ranging from compelling still photography to a powerful, long-form documentary video of a high school senior trying to make it to college while raising his younger siblings.

Judges said: “The range of quality work was remarkable. He was a key player for Detroit Voices, a special project that captured the thoughts of ordinary Detroiters as their city teetered on financial collapse. He produced an offbeat, quick-turn video about a turkey that was terrorizing a woman every time she tried to leave home. And he hit a grand slam with his long-form video of Marcus Buggs, a teen trying to make it to college. The work was richly reported and loaded with powerful moments.”

The News Journal at Wilmington
Suchat Pederson, chief photographer

For stellar work on a range of feature topics, capturing the light behind the eyes, the joy in a heart, and the pain in a hurt soul.

Judges said: “Pederson’s talent was on display in photo after photo. The work opens a reader’s eye to the power of a moment that might easily have been missed. You feel the anguish of a man who just learned of his mother’s death. You sense the delight of a young girl who is eating a roasted marshmallow. You grasp the love shared by a basketball star and her severely disabled sister as they embrace. This was an impressive body of work.”

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix
Nick Oza, photographer/videographer

For penetrating documentary work in a special project, Saving Arizona’s Children.

Judges said: “Oza showed impressive range in this investigative project as he gained the trust of sources who allowed him to go behind the scenes of their lives. Oza’s compelling visual storytelling shined light on the issues surrounding a burdened system, from the frustrations of overwhelmed caseworkers to the struggles of parents who lack the means to support their kids to the aftermath of the physical and emotional damage inflicted on kids.”

Division II

First Place

Poughkeepsie Journal
Darryl Bautista, multimedia artist; Karl Rabe, multimedia artist; Spencer Ainsley, director of photography, videography and multimedia

For still and video coverage of a fire that killed three college students, including images of neighbors who tried to save the victims and videos of loved ones reacting.

Judges said: “Powerful and well-displayed print images and emotional videos captured the horror of the news and the deep sorrow that followed. Without being exploitive, this work exposed raw emotions to audiences in a respectful and almost graceful way.”

Finalists

Journal and Courier at Lafayette, Ind.
John Terhune, staff photographer

For photographs and video of the restoration of a 19th century mansion, conveying the elegance of the time period and documenting the property’s neglect.

Judges said: “Photographer John Terhune provides a tour of the Ayers Mansion and his images and video story add a history lesson as well. The photographs of the once grand structure, now in disarray and decay, add authenticity to the narration by Howard Ayers, Jr., the last family owner of the property.”

Green Bay Press-Gazette
Corey Wilson, staff photographer

For detailing the efforts of two men to build and protect wood duck houses.

Judges said: “This photo and video story is instructive and compelling as it details the dedication and hard work of two very different men. They share a love of wildlife and want to help maintain habitat for wood ducks in the area.”

St. Cloud Times
Jason Wachter, photojournalist

For a gallery of photographs of backyard hockey rinks.

Judges said: “These photographs offer viewers a wonderful Minnesota sense of place. They demonstrate winter’s cold and snow giving way to fun and laughter as young people play hockey on makeshift rinks in their backyards.”

Division III

First Place

The Advocate at Newark
Jason Lenhart, photographer

For a portfolio of work spanning spot news, sports and portraiture.

Judges said: “These were consistently solid images that tell their stories quickly and powerfully. Creative framing of the image of a hunter creates a haunting and memorable shot while a perfectly timed photo of a basketball player conveys strong emotion.”

Finalists

Home News Tribune at East Brunswick
Mark Sullivan, photographer

For coverage of the funeral of a firefighter who died while battling a blaze.

Judges said: “Sometimes a single, well-composed image conveys more power and emotion than a series of photos. That was the case with this Page One shot. Faces reflect sadness and loss as well as pride and respect. The detail of a firefighter carrying his fallen comrade’s helmet in front of the casket is especially powerful.”

The News-Star at Monroe
Margaret Croft, photographer

For a creative approach to a video of a Civil War reenactment at a local state park.

Judges said: “Rather than shooting the typical play-by-play video of re-enactors depicting a battle scene, Croft instead focused on the women whose mission was to feed the people staging the reenactment. The result was a piece that focused on the players rather than the play.”

Coshocton Tribune
Trevor Jones, staff photographer

For photos that illustrated a series of stories about everyday life in small villages.

Judges said: “There is a Rockwell feel to this work, and in particular to a shot of a fire chief standing in front of an engine at the West Lafayette Volunteer Fire Department. Well composed and rich with detail and texture, these photos capture the spirit of the people and the communities being profiled.”