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Best of Gannett 2013: Phoenix, Detroit, Reno, Palm Springs and Staunton Lead USCP Honorees

McLEAN, Va., March 27, 2014 — U.S. Community Publishing today announced winners of its annual Best of Gannett contest, which recognize the group’s best journalism in 2013.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, Reno Gazette-Journal and The News-Star at Monroe took top prizes for public service journalism. In the watchdog category, The Des Moines Register, The Post-Crescent at Appleton and the Oshkosh Northwestern set the standard.

The highest-performing news organizations, as measured by award citations, were:

Division I
Phoenix (11) and Detroit (eight) had the most over all citations; Detroit had the most first-place winners with four.

Division II
Reno and Palm Springs, with four citations each, led the way. No site won more than one first-place award.

Division III
Staunton earned six total citations; Monroe earned four. Three of Staunton’s prizes were for first place — more than any other Division III site.

Design studios
The Asbury Park design studio won three citations; Nashville, Des Moines and Phoenix won two each.

Judges for this year’s contest were:

– Katrina Barlow, lead producer at the Seattle Times for home page/projects
– Julie Elman, associate professor at Ohio University
– Jeremy Gilbert, director of digital operations at National Geographic
– Delphine Halgand, U.S. director for Reporters Without Borders
– Miranda Mulligan, executive director of the Knight Lab at Northwestern University
– Dan Pacheco, chair of journalism innovation at Syracuse University
– Mark Seibel, chief of correspondents for McClatchy
– Robyn Tomlin, editor of Digital First Media’s Thunderdome
– Matt Wynn, reporter and developer at the Omaha World-Herald

Prize money
The public service category carries the highest prize money payout. These awards are always given to the news organizations, not to individuals.The award for first place in public service is $5,000, second place, $2,500 and third place, $1,000.

For the other categories, the payouts of award money are: $1,000, $800 and $600 for first, second and third place, respectively.

Individuals cited as winners will share the prize money, up to four individuals per organization.

Public Service Journalism
This category recognizes work that contributes to the community’s greater good and that is done by an individual, news staff or by the news organization as an institution.

The work could consist of journalism that address a community concern and prompts the community to address that concern. The effort could begin with journalism and then be furthered by a community leadership project in which your news organization champions a campaign or leads a conversation that identifies and weighs possible community action. Investigative and explanatory reporting may be elements of an entry, as may editorials or other opinion pieces. Print, digital and social media will often be used to help move the community forward. Efforts might include a public forum or an event, or a continuing campaign organized by or conducted under the auspices of the news organization that is based on the newsroom’s journalism. Entries should make clear the impact or results of the work.


The Cincinnati Enquirer (First Place)

For a series of stories that revealed the astounding growth in the prescribing of pain medication, despite a lack of evidence that those medications help the recipients, and the role those prescriptions play in a surge in heroin addicition when the legal medications run out.

Judges said: This package was submitted as two separate entries, one on the efficacy of prescription pain medication and the other on the ties between the surge in heroin addiction and the use of prescription of pills. Each was strong on its own. But taken together, they become an ambitious reporting effort that told people about a problem that could easily have gone unseen and unreported. It’s one thing to delve into a very public disaster, but these stories revealed a catastrophe unfolding in the privacy of people’s homes – something that most people would want to keep hidden. The December stories brought an admission from medical professionals that they have played a role in surging addiction. The March package offered an accessible explanation of how over-prescribing results in greater social ill. Though this award goes to the staff, the judges wish to especially acknowledge the work of Lisa Bernard-Kuhn, health care reporter; Mark Curnutte, social and urban issues reporter; Glenn Hartong, video producer; Carrie Cochran, photojournalist; and Randy Essex, senior editor/news.

To see the work:

Joint Commission response:

Experts who shared it:

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)

For The Arizona Republic’s efforts to explain why 19 trained firefighters died during the Yarnell Hill Fire, and how those deaths were linked to years of questionable public policy that allowed construction in areas prone to such fires. “Alone on a Hill” was a gripping narrative of the events of that day and “In Harm’s Way” was an exhaustive, data-driven examination of how construction in the fire zones have made forest fires more dangerous and more difficult to fight.

Judges said: The Republic had a clear mission — explain how and why the tragic Yarnell Hill fire happened and how might a future fire be prevented. With data, interactives, video and photos all masterfully woven into the storytelling, The Republic educated readers on the key issues and worked to set the agenda for government officials heading into the legislative session.

To see the work:

Digital links for Building in Harm’s Way: shows Arizona building in the wildland-urban interface Animation shows growing number of Arizona wildfires Videos from the series

Alone on the Hill: Arizonans of the year:

Detroit Free Press (Third Place)

For a deep explanatory dive into 50 years of Detroit municipal financial management and the many points at which different decisions might have avoided the city’s bankruptcy filing.

Judges said: Knowing the history, and assigning credit and blame to Detroit’s political leadership over a half century, is an important step in beginning to confront the financial challenges the city faces. The city owes a debt to the Free Press for revealing that. The next step would have been to offer some view of how that history applies to the critical decisions Detroit must make now. One paragraph in this lengthy piece deserves special recognition: the acknowledgement that the Free Press itself pushed for city council passage of the disastrous Kilpatrick refinancing scheme. In examining who played what role in Detroit’s self-destruction, the role of so influential an institution probably could bear even more scrutiny.

To see the work:


Reno Gazette-Journal (First Place)

For a special report and online presentation examining the 13 lowest-performing schools in the community. The three-part series highlighted the key challenges faced by these poorly performing schools and compared them to high-performing schools in areas with similar socioeconomic challenges. The series paired stories with editorials and community voices that advocated for the government and reforms and greater community involvement.

Judges said: This package was focused, well-organized and thoughtfully constructed. Each part highlighted a key issue and paired the reporting and editorials with opportunities to engage the community in solving the key problems. Since 24 percent of the schools’ students are native Spanish speakers, Reno produced the project in both English and Spanish. The reporting and editorial writing was paired with an online tool that allowed readers to get directly involved in helping to solve the challenges identified. The effort resulted in donations, volunteers and other levels of involvement.

To see the work:
Online project:

Reno Gazette-Journal (Second Place)

For the RGJ’s look at the lives of women who’ve been trafficked into prostitution, and for its editorial decision to name men ticketed or arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

Judges said: There will no doubt be much debate about whether the naming and shaming of the “john” is commensurate with the crime alleged, but at the very least the Gazette-Journal deserves recognition for acknowledging that it, too, has a place in solving a problem highlighted by its news team. As its editorial notes, at the time of solicitation, a prostitute’s customer cannot know if the woman he’s solicited has been forced into working the streets. The story and particularly the video were especially evocative of the problem, telling the stories of women forced into prostitution as teenagers. The video’s use of scenes from Reno’s main street provided a compelling image of how the problem cannot be divorced from the city where it takes place.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Third Place)

For a deep dive into the sapping of California’s acquifer and the potential impact sinking underground water levels can have on life in the region.

Judges said: This package was accomplished in cooperation with the Visalia Times-Delta and the Salinas Californian and was thoroughly researched and comprehensive. One learns in some detail the parameters of the problem and its impact. What readers of the package should do or can do to improve the situation was less clear in a region where well-manicured golf courses and brimming swimming pools are major reasons for people to live there, so there is a clear opportunity to build on this already excellent work.

To see the work:


The News-Star at Monroe (First Place)

For The News-Star at Monroe’s six-part statewide series on implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Louisiana. The series details the key information readers need to know, dispels common misconceptions and focuses on how Louisiana’s situation was unique.

Judges said: A well-planned series that helps readers understand the complexities of the Affordable Care Act legislation and how it affects Louisianans. The thoughtful package used design and breakouts effectively. The online chat gave readers a way to get their specific questions answered. Nice work.

To see the work:

Chillicothe Gazette (Second Place)

For coverage of the Chillicothe municipal pool this summer and for the Gazette’s role in campaign to get it reopened.

Judges said: “As a Gazette editorial made clear, for more than 10 years the city has engaged in a nearly-annual debate over whether it can afford to open its pool. So, this year, when the mayor announced the pool wouldn’t open, the Gazette dove in with Matthew Kent’s coverage of the debate. A local man then donated his time repairing the pool’s pump. And, the editorial board kept the pressure on pushing for a stable private-public partnership to keep the pool funded into the future. As a result, the pool is scheduled to be re-open — and Gazette general manager/managing editor Mike Throne has agreed to chair a committee to develop a long term solution to the funding problem.

The Leaf-Chronicle at Clarksville (Third Place)
Philip Grey and Tavia D. Green, multimedia journalists; Chris Smith, senior editor

For a series of stories and videos that explore the reasons behind 17 reports of suicide at a nearby Army base. It finds that there are no easy answers to explain the suicides and that writing them all off as PTSD isn’t based in reality.

Judges said: The multi-day report, done in conjunction with a TV news partner, takes a layered look at a very complex and emotional issue. Reporter Philip Grey, along with multimedia journalist Tavia D. Green and senior editor Chris Smith, does a nice job of detailing the various issues at play in the various suicides. It disproves the assumption that all were the result of PTSD. These journalists tell the emotional stories of family members left to pick up the pieces as they search for answers that may never come. Readers are left with a much better understanding of the pressures, stresses and complexities of military life.

To see the work:

Mother of victim in murder/suicide:

Reporter gives presentation on suicide:

Watchdog Journalism
This category recognizes investigative journalism that uncovers wrongdoing or malfeasance by individuals, businesses, charities, public officials, public agencies, institutions that serve the public,
or by those who do business with the government or public. The work holds individuals, businesses, agencies and institutions accountable for their action or inaction. The work may protect the safety and welfare of individuals. Entries should make clear the impact or the results of the journalism.

A broad range of reporting techniques and resources are used to produce watchdog journalism, including database and records analysis in addition to comprehensive reporting and interviewing. Watchdog work uses both print and digital storytelling approaches and engages audience members.


The Des Moines Register (First Place-Tie)
Clark Kauffman, investigative writer

For aggressive and comprehensive coverage of abuse in the Iowa Juvenile Home, where girls were kept in solitary confinement for months, education services were denied, necessary medical and psychological care was unavailable, and where officials showed a startling level of cynicism and ignorance.

Judges said: From beginning to end, this series was written with compelling detail and urgency, propelling the reader into a world few would have imagined in this modern age, a world where teenage girls who probably should have been receiving psychiatric care were being confined to bare concrete rooms for months at a time. The sidebars were masterful: the Q & A presentation of the interview with the state’s director of human services allowed his own words to reveal the depth of the problem, while the photos from a Christmas slideshow spoke volumes about the cynicism of the facility’s staff. The interviews with former residents of the facility showed that even after the abuse, some still tried to give credit to the facility’s staff for working with them. The story was unfolding as it was being written, and the Register responded quickly to new revelations. The discovery that the state had heavily redacted the details of instances of mistreatment in documents it released only reluctantly provided final evidence, if any more were needed, that the conditions at the facility were a systemic problem and not just the result of a lone incompetent leader. Excellent work.

To see the work:”

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (First Place-Tie)
Bob Ortega, Rob O’Dell, Daniel Gonzalez, reporters; Nick Oza, photographer

For its exposure of the Border Patrol’s use of deadly force along the Southwest border and its challenge to the agency’s secrecy in confronting the issue.

Judges said: First, Republic Media deserves praise for tackling a controversial issue in-depth in a local political climate where securing the border has become a rallying cry of a large and vocal faction of the public. Filing 120 Freedom of Information Act requests, reviewing police reports and talking to witnesses, the Republic’s reporting team uncovered questionable use of force in which Border Patrol agents killed 41 people, including a 16-year-old who was shot 10 times in the back and a 42-year-old migrant whose beating was filmed by bystanders. The series documented the Border Patrol’s refusal to make public its use-of-force rules, whether any of the agents had been disciplined for the shootings or even the names of the involved agents. It also compared the training given Border Patrol agents to that received by other police agencies, noting that the Border Patrol had lowered its recruiting standards as it worked to respond to growing demand for more agents on the border. A ground-breaking report on a story that deserves national attention, compellingly presented.

To see the work:

The Des Moines Register (Third Place)
Clark Kauffman, investigative writer

For The Des Moines Register’s investigative report on Iowa’s EMTs and emergency medical services. This project by Clark Kauffman revealed a flawed system that relies heavily on volunteer first-responders with little accountability. Massive budget cuts have left EMTs who have inadequate training, and even some with significant criminal histories in the postion to care for patients at their moments of greatest need.

Judges said: When an EMT arrives at your home to handle an emergency situation, one never imagines that he or she might have a criminal record or have been disciplined multiple times. Kauffman’s thoughtful reporting highlights serious issues that Iowa’s public policy makers need to address. The report, video and interactive database raise questions about the state’s standards and about the agency that regulates emergency service workers. A real public service.

To see the work:


Gannett Wisconsin Media (First Place)
Eric Litke, reporter; John Ferak, team editor

For its massive exploration of government employee salaries that provided hard information, with non-judgmental context and explanation, to help Wisconsin residents sort fact from fiction in the discussion of how tax money is spent.

Judges said: Wow. This was an incredible, perhaps unprecedented, database created from scratch, involving 180 public records requests and $12,000 in legal expenses and other fees. The result was a searchable database of thousands of public employees’ salaries at 600 federal, state and local agencies that allowed comparisons between people, government divisions and regions. More important, the news staff highlighted seemingly anomalous figures and explained what contract provisions had led to large payouts. Not only was the public better informed, but public officials could see how their own agencies’ policies and practices affect the way money is spent. The series did not uncover any scandal, but it left everyone with an objective baseline for the continuing discussion of public salaries.

To see the work:
Databases, videos and stories:

Argus Leader at Sioux Falls (Second Place)
Jonathan Ellis, reporter

For its comprehensive look at how an insurance company, abetted by state inaction, was refusing to pay valid claims in an effort to boost its bottom line by bilking elderly clients who could well die before their claims are settled.

Judges said: This series of stories accomplished its watchdog responsibilities on two levels: looking out for the interests of those who can’t look out for themselves and checking up on the government agency that should have been protecting them. Relying on court documents and interviews, reporter Jonathan Ellis explained in detail the evidence that existed against the company and provided the explanation for how the problem had developed. Then he looked at the secrecy and lack of action at the state level that basically protected the company. The results were astoundingly quick. The governor immediately took an interest, ordered a report that found that the state’s Division of Insurance lacked needed authority, and moved for change in the legislature. Mere weeks after the first Argus Leader report, the state issued its largest fine ever against the company and the company made good on claims it had denied.

To see the work:
Documents attached in the following stories June 30 – June 28 – June 5 – June 2 –

Pensacola News Journal (Third Place)
Erin Kourkounis, reporter; Shannon Nickinson, columnist; Mike Suchcicki, community conversations editor

For the Pensacola News Journal’s exploration of Florida’s voluntary pre-kindergarten school program that challenged the common wisdom that expanding public education to four-year-olds will be the silver bullet that will solve the nation’s school ills.

Judges said: This was not the most extensive or most expensive watchdog project among the entries, but it asked and answered a key question about public policy that also affects average readers: Do voluntary pre-kindergarten programs accomplish what they were designed to accomplish, better prepare children for kindergarten? The answer turned out to be mixed – just like the results of schooling in later years. The reasons sounded familiar: too little funding to some schools, too little attention to training, wide variation in facilities. The fixes: more resources, not a prospect likely in Florida’s current political scene. The series also provided an online database that would allow a parent to check out the location, readiness rate and funding for each of the 108 pre-K programs in the areas, important information for parents of young children.

To see the work:


Oshkosh Northwestern (First Place)
Adam Rodewald, senior reporter

For developing objective information showing grade inflation at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, sparking discussion of the value and purpose of grades at the university level.

Judges said: Whether grades are inflated is a debate largely based on subjective opinion, but Adam Rodewald created a baseline standard of As and Bs issued by the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The debate then could be joined about whether it matters – allowing discussion from a baseline set of established facts. That, too, is a role watchdog reporting can play, giving people actual information on which to form opinions and contest philosophies.

To see the work: Database look-up of grades by professor: Video: Feb. 26 story: Guest columns:

The Jackson Sun (Second Place)
Jordan Buie, reporter

For a detailed exploration of the business deals that led to the fall of a prominent Jackson citizen.

Judges said: This is the kind of story that often in a small town is either hushed up or left to gossip to repeat and distort the record. In this instance, reporter Jordan Buie has done the community a service by using court records and interviews to explain how a partner in a prominent law firm became the subject of a federal prosecution and how his problems touched the lives of 67 other prominent residents. The resulting story shed light on a complicated situation. Its value to the community is shown in the large number of people who came to read it.

To see the work:
Scribd documents:

Prezi presentation:

As we serve increasingly sophisticated audiences in an increasingly competitive media environment, innovation is part of everyone’s job. The point of this category is to reward journalists whose ingenuity led to better coverage and better outcomes for readers. Examples of appropriate nominations might be: clever uses of new storytelling tools, creative ways to engage audiences and other advances that create new value, particularly for subscribers; or an improvement in a process or structure that created greater capacity for doing good journalism despite constrained resources. The award can go to one or more journalists, or to an entire staff.


The Cincinnati Enquirer (First Place)

For a dedicated Cincinnati Reds iPad app, which collects The Cincinnati Enquirer’s stories, videos and podcasts, along with live game tweets and player and team stats.

Judges said: The iPad app is a slick, easy to use and inclusive of all the stats and tweets a baseball fan would want. It’s not surprising that the Reds app has proved incredibly popular with readers. Neither play-by-play coverage nor photos were available during the judges’ viewing; we hope The Cincinnati Enquirer continues to develop and iterate on this handy app.

To see the work:

The Tennessean at Nashville (Second Place)

For a video-game simulation that let readers see for themselves how distracting and dangerous it is to text while driving.

Judges said:Part of a broader package on driving while texting, the simulator is an excellent show-don’t-tell addition, which the judges hope will engage audiences far beyond Tennessee. The video game addresses a very serious topic – the increase in texting-while-driving accidents and fatalities – and makes a retro-themed video game that teenagers would want to play. The judges were impressed by the creativity and approach of the simulator, which complemented the fuller package on cell phone laws, student-driver training and the elevated risks of drivers who text.

To see the work:

The Cincinnati Enquirer (Third Place)
C. Trent Rosecrans, Reds beat writer; Angel Rodriguez, sports editor; Nick Hurm, assistant sports editor, Kate McGinty, director/news content marketing

For the innovative use of public events and podcasts to engage and inform a sports community in an entertaining way.

Judges said: The Cincinnati Enquirer’s sports editors sought a new way to engage Reds fans in the off-season, and in the process developed innovative model for serving sports audiences. Rather than starting from content production, they turned things around and created their own monthly event with a well-known comedian, which in turn developed its own content for a podcast. The podcast allowed the Enquirer to build a young, mobile audience of thousands that created new revenue streams for the Enquirer, while also giving them a platform to promote future events. This cycle of live event and podcast is very innovative and holds promise for other news organizations looking for ways to engage niche audiences.

To see the work:
Here is a link to a blog post from, a local blog made up of young Reds fans. Podcasts on iTunes: C Dot Show on Podomatic: Story promoting C Dot Show, with video and podcast links: Video of the RedsFest show:


The Greenville News (First Place)
Bill Fox, editor; Lyn Riddle, writer and Mykal McEldowney, photographers

For an immersive multimedia story about homelessness, centering on people living in a tent city under a bridge.

Judges said: This stirring series about the homeless got so many things right that it’s difficult to call out just one aspect. Powerful reporting, video and narrative storytelling combine with a responsively designed Web interface that pulls you in and helps you empathize with the homeless of Greenville. The story is peppered with video, audio and maps that put the reader in the shoes of Americans who struggle every day just to eat, bathe and find help. The extensive amount of time and attention that went into the reporting and videography is clear from the moment the first interview of tent-city residents begins to play. All of this combined makes it no surprise that thousands shared it on Facebook, creating new readers and fans of the Greenville News.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Second Place)

For an online music contest that garnered 80 submissions by regional bands, which were narrowed down to three bands after readers cast 100,000 votes. The chosen local bands performed at a live block party in downtown Palm Springs, attended by nearly 7,000 concertgoers.

Judges said: A highly successful effort to crowdsource the best local bands and put on a free music event, in partnership with concert promoter Goldenvoice, that drew thousands in its first year. The concert was an innovative way to attract and develop new audiences. The judges look forward to seeing how this now-annual concert will boost The Desert Sun’s music and arts coverage as the they unearth new bands and tap into a new market of music enthusiasts.

To see the work:
To watch video reports on Tachevah, go here: and here:

The ongoing coverage of this year’s Tachevah concert series is at

No Third Place was cited.


The News-Star at Monroe (First Place)
Kathy Spurlock, editor; Greg Hilburn, business editor and Margaret Croft, photographer

For an eBook that collected more than a decade of newspaper stories and photographs of local hunter Phil Robertson, who would become the patriarch of “Duck Dynasty.”

Judges said: The eBook is a prime example of how newspapers can repurpose their rich archive of stories and photos. While the national media is now diligently covering the “Duck Dynasty” family, The News-Star of Monroe, La., has covered the Robertson family well before their meteoric rise to fame. The newspaper’s lasting relationship with the Robertsons family gives reporters and photographers access to the town’s celebrity family – along with the insights and familiarity collected over a dozen years of coverage.

The Advocate at Newark (Second Place)
Michael Lehmkuhle, multimedia editor

For using social media to crowdsource the captioning and credits of archive photos.

Judges said: Every newspaper has old photos, sitting in a file, whose subjects and stories are lost to time. The Advocate provided a valuable service to its community by scanning and posting them on Facebook so that citizens could help identify the people in the pictures. This innovative use of crowdsourcing not only resulted in new stories, but it strengthened the relationship between the newspaper brand and the community. This was an excellent reminder of the value newspapers have to local history.

To see the work:
Index page with all content: March Facebook posts

No Third Place was cited.

Beat Coverage
This award is designed to highlight the local expertise relentless journalism for which we are known. Judges will look for mastery of a coverage area that has been determined to be essential to one or more of your news organization’s target audiences. Judges will give extra weight to examples where ongoing beat coverage led the journalist to break news and beat your competitors.


Detriot Free Press (First Place)
Matt Helms and Joe Guillen, writers

For the Detroit Free Press’ reliable, revelatory reporting on city hall.

Judges said: Matt Helms and Joe Guillen break stories on malfeasance at city hall — and get results. A piece looking at pension board members’ Hawaii trip resulted in the firing of the pension chief. Adroit use of public records led to scoops on the total cost of bankruptcy-related expenses and contracts the emergency manager had failed to report to the city council. City officials may continue to get one over on taxpayers. There’s little chance they’ll succeed so long as Helms and Guillen hold down this beat. Judges also admired the Free Press’ work on the DIA, but recognized it in the Public Service category instead.

FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard (Second Place)
Jim Waymer, reporter

For Jim Waymer’s expert, accessible coverage of environmental and water issues in Brevard.

Judges said: in Brevard.
Jim Waymer has a mastery of his beat few can match. His entry demonstrated a deep understanding of environmental issues, with a special emphasis on problems at the Indian River Lagoon. His writing made intricate explanations simple, years of history relevant. His commitment to educating the reader was clear in the variety of platforms he employed. Far from relying on story alone, Waymer crafted video and graphics and led live chats, all in the interest of moving conversation forward. His byline is undoubtedly one readers seek.

To see the work:
for manicured ponds:

for Pelicans, manatees dying mysteriously

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Third Place)
Ryan Randazzo, reporter

For the Arizona Republic’s coverage of the solar industry.

Judges said: It can be easy for beat reporters to fall into a routine. Ryan Randazzo doesn’t fall into that trap. His pieces range from Q&As walking readers through obtuse industry terms to investigations (with assistance from Robert Anglen) into a utility’s shady dealings with nonprofits. He highlighted systemic inequities, such as a fee charged to every customer to offset the cost of solar that largely benefits the wealthy. When called for, coverage was thoughtfully cast as part of the national conversation about the future of solar, further cementing the writer’s clear command of the topic.

To see the work:
Chalk Talk video 8/15/13:


Poughkeepsie Journal (First Place)
Sarah Bradshaw, reporter

For Sarah Bradshaw’s breadth of government accountability work.

Judges said: In the words of one judge: “She makes me want to move to Poughkeepsie, just so I can get this paper.” Bradshaw’s impressive entry was even more remarkable when considering that all her stories came from a single quarter. Her stories found malfeasance in a variety of different locales, from school cafeterias to jail cells, from luxury condos to the Board of Elections. Her rigorous reporting showcased a command of public records, databases, shoe-leather reporting and classic source-building. Her writing was straightforward, clear and a pleasure to read

To see the work:

Argus Leader at Sioux Falls (Second Place)
John Hult, reporter

For John Hult’s series “Policing the Prairie,” exploring issues facing rural public safety officers.

Judges said: Hult has mastered so much on his beat that he’s been able to make behind-the-scenes topics worthy of the front page. His series displayed a mastery of his coverage area, contrasting state training assumptions with practical realities, and crafting little-known public records into enthralling narratives. The series even delved into racial tensions between rural officers and the communities they protect. Throughout, Hult’s clear writing and careful sense of rhythm kept readers engaged.

To see the work:

The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss. (Third Place)
Brian Eason, City Hall reporter

For reporter Brian Eason’s dogged reporting on Jackson city hall.

Judges said: Eason covers his beat with the mix of watchdogging, readability and sense of history that reporters strive to achieve. His work highlighted questionable disciplinary practices. It contextualized balky rate proposals and problems caused by a segregated city. His writing made complicated issues accessible. He broke news, changed public policy, and enterprise coverage out of predictable news events.


The News Leader at Staunton (First Place)
Calvin Trice, government reporter

For the News Leader at Staunton’s coverage of a wide variety of government entities.

Judges said: Calvin Trice has a classic nose for news. With a wide-ranging beat covering two cities, a county and even a state, Trice has shown an ability to pull threads into cohesive narratives and give dry processes a human face. Be it breaking news or enterprise, his stories hit exactly the right tone. He uncovered problems with the state’s daycare reimbursement system, then showed the wherewithal to circle back for a Sunday enterpriser on the topic. Judges were impressed with his ability to carry his coverage to social media, as well.

To see the work:

The Jackson Sun (Second Place)
Brandon Shields, sports editor

For the Jackson Sun’s stellar high school football coverage.

Judges said: If you want to be in-the-know on high school football in Jackson, Brandon Shields is your guy. On a competitive beat, he regularly broke stories both online and on social media. He showed a knack for relating to the community he covers, with a regular series on the unsung heroes of football squads and features that flesh out coaches beyond the playing field. Small details show that he’s tailored his work to his readers, like a comparison between a local player’s fracture and a high-profile college player’s injury. Shields is the prototypical, multi-platform, branded beat reporter.

To see the work:
Chalk Talk video 8/15/13:

No Third Place was cited.

Content Programming: Breaking News
This category is designed to reward smart, deliberate packaging and delivery of breaking news content. It’s important to note that “breaking news” can be spot events or big natural disasters, but it can also be news you break exclusively based on ongoing reporting. Judges will weigh three factors: 1) How the content was tailored for audiences on various platforms, as appropriate; 2) how the time of day and week influenced the editing choices and 3) how your team shaped the breaking news coverage to the specific concerns of each of your target audiences.


The Arizona Republic (First Place)

For the first 30 hours of breaking-news coverage of the Yarnell fire, which claimed the lives of 19 wildland firefighters.

Judges said: The Arizona Republic’s minute-by-minute updates kept the entire nation updated on the wind-fueled fire and the final hours of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the 19 men who deployed their emergency shelters but still perished in the wildfire’s heat. The reporting was thorough, rigorous and careful with unconfirmed information about the missing firefighters. The photography, video and social-media streams captured the fire’s destructive path over several days. A stunning panoramic photo shows the site where the firefighters died; a video timelapse showed the rapid advance of the fire; and livestreams documented a local memorial for the fallen firefighters. The judges commend the fearless dedication to report this important story.

To see the work:
Yarnell fire page:

Day 1 highlights:
19 firefighters dead in Yarnell Hill Fire:
Families watch as homes burn:
Funds for the fallen: How you can help:
Videos from the fire:
Columnist: 19 good men gone:
Columnist: It can’t be so:

Day 2 highlights:
Stories of the 19 fallen firefighters (progressive with photos, condolence pages, profiles)
As community grieves, fire continues to burn:

The Arizona Republic (Second Place)

For excellent use of cross-platform tools and social media aggregation to cover an office shooting.

Judges said: Social media is now where many go first to get details about tragic events. The Republic fully embraced this by posting content from it videographers, television reporters and print reporters in social media streams while also aggregating social media in a live blog that included additional updates. Rather than assume that people would come to their site to get the latest information, they went out to the places where they knew their audience would go first and added value there, thus strengthening their connection with the audience. This integrated approach stands out as a good example for others to follow for breaking stories.

To see the work:

No Third Place was cited.


Fort Collins Coloradoan (First Place)

For continuous flood coverage in Northern Colorado. Coverage included road closures, emergency evacuation shelters and the latest updates on expected rainfall and flooding.

Judges said: The judges were very impressed by the accessibility and usefulness of The Coloradoan’s flood coverage for surrounding communities. Online coverage included an interactive map of road closures and washout areas, daily photos and videos, which included live radar imagery and flyovers to show road and bridge closures. An aerial video showed damage across the region. The reporting was comprehensive, helpful and personal – all in all, laudable public-service-driven news coverage worthy of a regional news organization.

To see the work:
Primary link to coverage section:

Sample of road closure map (note: we kept this up 24/7 as roads were washed out. This is a snapshot of one of the versions):

Note: This is a sampling of the video we produced. The staff generated several daily videos that were a mixture of field footage and voiceover work. What follows is a representative sample.

VIDEO: Assessing damage in Drake:

VIDEO: Live flooding update, Sept. 13 (this is one sample; we produced these compilation videos daily from digital flyovers and field clips sent to a central repository):

VIDEO: Aerial tour of the damage:

SUBMITTED VIDEO: First person account of flooding in Estes Park (we didn’t shoot this, but it gives you a good account of what it was like in those communities that were completely cut off from rescue by air or land):

Reno Gazette-Journal (Second Place)

For comprehensive yet sensitive coverage of a tragic school shooting that took the life of a teacher.

Judges said: The judges appreciated the balance the team took on reporting a tragedy involving children — which is never easy — while also providing real-time updates and mobile alerts for families to learn the latest updates right away. The newsroom’s strategy of using the desktop, mobile and tablet platforms for what they each do best was noteworthy, and something other news organizations should emulate.

To see the work:

The Post-Crescent at Appleton (Third Place)

For the multi-day news coverage of a tornado’s aftermath and how Fox Valley residents dealt with the resulting power outages and road closures.

Judges said: Despite a power outage at the newspaper’s production facility, The Post-Crescent at Appleton figured out how to print its newspaper elsewhere to document the 100-mph winds that ripped through Fox Valley and destroyed buildings, cut power and blocked roads with fallen trees. The Post-Crescent was transparent about its own operational difficulties, and lifted its paywall so all readers could access information on cleanup efforts and other resources. The judges were a little overwhelmed by the quantity of the videos – a hierarchy was missing to identify the videos with the best footage.

To see the work:
Video page:
Staff photo gallery:
Reader-submitted photo gallery:


The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La. (First Place)

For comprehensive, ongoing coverage of a kidnapping and rescue in Duson, La.

Judges said: The reporting, multimedia coverage and packaging of this kidnapping and rescue story showed how a local news organization can out-perform the national media for stories that affect a local audience. This piece had it all — a photographer who captured video of the stakeout and rescue, an emotionally charged photo of the battered victim being carried out by rescuers and mobile alerts and tweets of breaking news. The judges were impressed with how quickly this story spread through digital channels and was picked up by much larger news organizations.

To see the work:
Twitter Permalinks: Videos:

The News-Star at Monroe (Second Place)
Zack Southwell and Cole Avery, reporters

For a gripping 12-hour standoff, which ended tragically with the deaths of two hostages and the suspect, in a rural corner of Louisiana.

Judges said: An impressive effort by a small newsroom to cover a violent standoff in a small town of 1,200. News staff, who were first on the scene, live-tweeted, posted Facebook updates and reported for the Web despite limited wireless connectivity. Staff took photographs and captured video of press conferences and reactions from the community. The newsroom went to press with the standoff still under way, but continued to update online, and then followed with a strong second-day report that filled in missing details.

To see the work:
St. Joseph breaking news video and photo galleries:

Iowa City Press-Citizen (Third Place)

For tracking the latest updates of a threatening flood in Iowa City.

Judges said: The staff was smart to use online tools like Google maps, Twitter hashtags and Instagram. Well-done narrative aerial video of the flooding.

To see the work:,-91.539631&spn=0.032707,0.074759)

Content Programming: Planned Content
This category is designed to reward journalists for smart, deliberate packaging and delivery of planned coverage. The work rewarded in this category could range from how you present a recurring section to how, over all, you approach a passion topic or target audience is approached over a longer period. Judges will weigh three factors: 1) How the content was tailored for audiences on various platforms, as appropriate; 2) how the time of day and week influenced the editing choices and 3) how you connected the content to target audiences and passion topics. It’s important to note there will be cases where the smartest packaging and delivery for our readers did NOT have components on every single platform. Judges will look for precise and purposeful choices, which you should explain in the entry.


The Tennessean at Nashville (First Place)

For the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, The Tennessean takes a trip through history to reexamine how Nashville – and its citizens – were at the heart of the civil rights movement.

Judges said: This beautiful, artful series on the 50-year anniversary of the March on Washington blew the judges away. The profiles offered a captivating look at some of the quieter figures in the civil rights movement. The series included The Tennessean’s staff photos from the 1960s, which photographer Scott Stroud re-imagined in a photo essay that layered the historical photos with present-day images. The series kicked off with a live event at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, and closed with a gallery showing at the Nashville Public Library that drew 400 spectators. The Tennessean tapped readers to submit photos, audio and anecdotes from their own experiences. All in all, a stunning work of journalism that reexamined, with a fresh eye, one of the most important events in American history.

To see the work:

Detroit Free Press (Second Place)

For Detroit Free Press’ coverage of the city’s bankruptcy ruling, including news that city pensions could be cut.

Judges said: The Detroit Free Press was ready to post moments after a federal judge ruled that Detroit was eligible to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy – and that pensions wouldn’t be protected in bankruptcy proceedings. A live blog was already running before the ruling was announced, the homepage and mobile presence were prepared and reporters were stationed around the courthouse to tweet latest updates. The planning was so solid that news staff were able to pivot from live coverage to analysis, commentary and community reaction with ease. The Freep showed unparalleled coverage of every angle because of the newsroom’s effective plan and mobilization.

The Arizona Republic (Third Place)

For the trial coverage of Jodi Arias, convicted of first-degree murder to end a four-month-long trial.

Judges said: The Arizona Republic clearly recognized the Jodi Arias trial had snared the nation’s attention. The Republic’s ongoing trial coverage was comprehensive and accessible in many formats: video, livestreams, Twitter, text alerts, a timeline of events. The newsroom kept readers abreast of trial developments with a carefully crafted plan for social media, the Web and print leading up to the verdict, and pounced on latest updates once the verdict was announced.

To see the work:


Journal and Courier at Lafayette, Ind. (First Place)

For a comprehensive look at the drinking culture in West Lafayette around Purdue University’s homecoming weekend in words, pictures and video.

Judges said: Every Sunday during football season, thousands of college students at Purdue University dress up and drink heavily in a ritual called “The Breakfast Club,” which many locals just accept. The Journal & Courier deployed its entire newsroom to document what a typical drunken Purdue weekend really looks like and the toll it takes on young lives. The judges were impressed with the quality of video interviews with the town’s students, residents and officials that represent widely differing views on this important issue.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Second Place-Tie)

For The Desert Sun’s coverage of President Obama’s June summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Sunnylands Estate in Rancho Mirage.

Judges said: It can be tough for large metropolitan news organizations to cover presidential visits – much less two presidents – but The Desert Sun of Palm Springs rose to the challenge. TDS published daily lead-up and live coverage from the meeting, which included summit talks, staged protests against the Chinese president and road closures.

To see the work:

Poughkeepsie Journal (Second Place-Tie)
Barbara Gallo Farrell, local editor; Emily Stewart, reporter; Dugan Radwin, content coordinator and John Nelson, editor

For launching a comprehensive food and dining guide based on deep market research and response to audience demand.

Judges said: The Poughkeepsie Journal is taking food coverage to a new level, applying the type of scientific analysis to its coverage and outreach that might earn the admiration of Alton Brown. At the same time, the product is deeply participatory with the community through social media engagement, guest blogs and instructional videos from popular chefs. It makes all of its content available in tablet form and promotes it in print. This is a smart strategy that acknowledges the increasing importance mobile plays in household cooking.

To see the work:
Website: Tweets promoting Great Tastes! Video NewsWrap tout:

No Third Place was cited.

No Division III was cited.

Narrative Writing/Voice
This category recognizes outstanding writing from any coverage area. The category honors powerful and tightly written news and feature stories as well as columns, blogs, profiles, longer narratives and any examples of evocative writing regardless of platform.

The work will exhibit strong subject knowledge and be based upon complete and sometimes analytical reporting. Key components will typically be clarity, a sense of place, context and detail. Where appropriate, characters will be well-developed and pacing will lead readers through longer pieces. The writing may move readers emotionally, prompt them to think or drive them to act.


Detroit Free Press (First Place)
John Carlisle, writer

John Carlisle sets the standard for columnists and city chroniclers in American journalism. His powerful, community-focused, clever columns provide the Detroit Free-Press readers insight to well-developed characters, details of city life and a substantial sense of place.

Judges said: Clearly a native, John Carlisle seems to be *the* Detroit metro expert as he tells the tales of the people and places that make Detroit unique. These four columns are fascinating, enriched with exactly the curiosity and cleverness that you would want from a destination columnist. Do you have a question about Detroit, the region or the people who live here? Then Carlisle is your reporter. He writes with both creativity and clarity, allowing readers to connect with the characters and subjects of his columns. The judges particularly enjoyed the pacing and prose in the repair shop story.

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)
Karina Bland, reporter

For the captivating story of Billy Warneke, a firefighter who lost his life in the Yarnell Hill Fire, and the wife and child he left behind.

Judges said: The Yarnell Hill Fire was a gripping story that needed no additional storylines to grab national attention. But Karina Bland dug deeper, finding a story of young love — and grief — that transcends the tragedy. Her piece hits on all cylinders, mixing well-reported chronologies with expert storytelling and turns-of-phrase. Scene shifts between the couple’s life together and Roxanne’s struggle after Billy’s death kept it from being too morose, without downplaying the story’s weight. Small details, like a soup burn Roxanne suffered as a child, were leveraged for powerful effect.

To see the work:

FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard (Third Place)
Britt Kennerly, reporter

For Britt Kennerly’s comprehensive serial coverage of the lives of seniors who live alone and have little interaction with other people.

Judges said: The FLORIDA TODAY team did everything right here, with coverage that connected readers to the personal stories of six seniors. The stories captivate readers emotionally, paint a vivid picture of a significant community topic and include plenty of statistics and data to support the topic’s newsworthiness. Coverage is informative and utilitarian, while beautifully composed. This issues’ relevance to the Brevard community is apparent to the judges.


Wausau Daily Herald (First Place)
Shereen Siewert, reporter

For Shereen Siewert’s “Tangled Web,” a series that unraveled the convoluted lies of scam artist Tim Swinea.

Judges said: Even in telling of the most complex bits of legalese, “Tangled Web” is a joy to read. Siewert deftly handles what could have been unwieldy, stripping the piece down to its core narrative — the timeline of events as recalled by Penny Schoenke — and letting the facts stand for themselves. It’s hard not to empathize with Schoenke, in spite of the increasing absurdity of Tim Swinea’s claims. Siewert’s reporting shines through in her exploration of evidence, such as the faked phone number service Swinea apparently relied on to “prove” his claims. An excellent story, quality reporting and breezy writing made this a clear front-runner from the start.

To see the work: (archived special report page); PART 1: ; PART 2: ; PART 3:

Journal and Courier at Lafayette, Ind.(Second Place)
MaryJane Slaby, reporter

For clarity, sense of place, context and detail, this story about the tragic death of a 23-year-old Purdue student and his family’s decision to donate his organs is beautifully crafted.

Judges said: This powerfully written, vivid storytelling tells a complex narrative with nuance, and the editorial team should feel proud. It appears that the editor’s handling of delivering the news justifying the discrepancy involving the blood-alcohol tests with police and medical experts was handled with sensitivity, diplomacy and grace. The characters are fully developed, allowing readers to connect with each individually. The Journal & Courier set standards for news organizations on how to handle an emotional, subtle, layered and complicated family-focused narrative reporting. The lede is compelling. The judges would have liked a bit more context and explanation of the concept of the “live donation.” The reference to the watch served as a nice bookend-motif for the narrative.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Third Place)
Tatiana Sanchez, reporter

For The Desert Sun’s serial narrative on one of the highest concentrations of undocumented immigrants in the country, the Coachella Valley. Strong reporting and storytelling.

Judges said: The examination of a topic in the national dialogue is reported with depth and an attempt at comprehensiveness. The judges would have liked to have read more from the voices in the communities, with slightly less reliances and emphasis on the voices of experts. This editorial team attacked the story aggressively and skillfully.

To see the work:


The News Leader at Staunton (First Place)
Megan Williams, writer

For Megan Williams’ compelling series that told the story of a young girl’s battle with cancer.

Judges said: Norah’s story pulls at the heartstrings, and Williams’ prose makes it impossible to put down. Six months of deep reporting shines through with telling details: a “too competitive” Wii tennis match, a laundry list of Norah’s nicknames. Every character gets his or her due. Williams paints a picture of Norah, her parents, and even the teenage older sister — a portrait of a family dealing with grief and trying to make the most of its youngest member’s final days.

To see the work:

Daily World at Opelousas (Second Place)

For a strong historical review of a fascinating story about a pedophile priest and his attorney.

Judges said: The lede is so compellingly written, the judges are unsure how any reader could avoid being pulled into this narrative. The reporter clearly enjoyed an opportunity to carefully craft phrase and fully develop the sense of place for the readers. The story paints strong picture of the characters — describing Mouton as a young man, for example, then switching gears: “Gilbert Gauthe was none of those things.” — but could help the reader connect more meaningfully.

To see the work:
Main story:
Gauthe sidebar:
Book review:

No Third Place was cited.

Short-form writing/Voice
As we package and promote more of our content in smaller snapshots, short-form writing is critical. This award is designed to recognize a distinctive voice as expressed through short-form written text. Examples of short-form writing include text messages, push alerts, headlines, packaging in e-mail newsletters and activity on social media channels, to name several. The work submitted is not confined to any one of these. The work may be from a single journalist, or may be from more than one journalist. Judges will be looking for clarity, precision and brevity. But they will also be looking for a distinctive voice that helps set the journalist or the news organization apart from competitors and connects with target audiences.


Detroit Free Press (First Place)
Nathan Bomey, Alisa Priddle and Brent Snavely, writers

For The Free Press’ team coverage of the Detroit bankruptcy hearings in tweets/live blog. Reporters provided an incredible public service by not only reporting the complexities of this event in real time, but they did it in a way that was incredibly engaging, accessible and entertaining.

Judges said: The reporters, particularly Nathan Bomey, did a fantastic job of offering much more than play-by-play accounting of the hearings. They answered questions, instantly translated legalese and provided color commentary that brought the event to life for those following along. And it clearly worked, as it held the attention of 18,000 simultaneous viewers, with replays topping 80,000. Reading this entry was a delight.

To see the work:

Detroit Free Press (Second Place)
Jim Schaefer and Tresa Baldas, writers; Michele Siuda, web editor; Stefanie Murray, editor

For the Detroit Free Press’ Jim Schaefer, Tresa Baldas, Michele Siuda and Stefanie Murray and their use of a live blog and social media in covering the Kwame Kilpatrick trial.

Judges said: Jim Schaefer and his colleagues didn’t just report on the Kilpatrick trial. They built an entire community around it. Thousands of visitors came back to the site daily to tap into the latest news and to connect with one another. Staffers reported, provided context and engaged the self-named “Bloggerville” community. They were attracted to the news and information, but they were equally compelled by the personable approach and colorful writing on the site.

To see the work:

The Des Moines Register (Third Place)
Kyle Munson, writer

For Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson’s colorful observations via Twitter from the Iowa State Fair.

Judges said: Oh, the butter cow. How does one cover something so absurd, and yet so beloved? Kyle Munson’s updates from the Iowa State Fair capture the color, the absurdity and the passion that Iowans have for the fair in a truly unique way.

To see the work:


Tallahassee Democrat (First Place)

For live tweets from the Senate Education Committee hearing that provided a play-by-play of the heated hearing — in 17-syllable Haikus. This was not only a creative endeavor. It was an inspirational effort that got readers to engage in a legislative issue that could have had a major impact on school across the state.

Judges said: This work made readers care.

To see the work:

Fort Collins Coloradoan (Second Place)
Paul Berry, engagement editor

For Coloradoan engagement editor Paul Berry’s use of Facebook to inform and engage readers during historic September 2013 Colorado floods.

Judges said: When disasters strike, people crave information. Paul Berry’s use of Facebook to not only inform, but to also engage the community in a conversation, was remarkable. Using photographs, links and thoughtfully written updates, Berry helped to ensure that readers had the information they needed and a place to get answers to key questions during this difficult time. For Coloradoan engagement editor Paul Berry’s use of Facebook to inform and engage readers during historic September

To see the work:

No Third Place was cited.


The Jackson Sun (First Place)
Megan Smith, photographer

For The Jackson Sun photographer Megan Smith’s photo tweets that both show and tell the community how she sees the world around her. Matching colorful, conversational language with poignant pictures, Smith captures the heart of Jackson and the hearts of readers.

Judges said: Photos are such an important way to communicate and connect with others. Megan Smith’s tweets do just that. They capture the heart of the community and tell wonderful stories that everyone can appreciate. Smith uses hashtags in a masterful way that both brightens the tweet and adds value.

To see the work:

The Leaf-Chronicle (Second Place)
Lester Black, multimedia journalist

For Lester Black’s live Twitter coverage of Clarksville City Council meetings and city issues.

Judges said: Lester helped push our staff to the next level with Twitter, and his aggressive Tweeting seems to have had an effect in City Hall as well, with a burst of new Twitter accounts among city employees now following his work. A few key city leaders have joined in on the often-casual observations he makes in his Tweets, and that has had the important side effect of strengthening his relationships with key sources.

To see the work:

News Journal at Mansfield (Third Place)
Gere Goble, features and engagement editor

For Gere Goble, features and engagment editor at The News Journal, who used the site’s Facebook page to provide digital holiday reminders for readers along with tips and tricks to making the holiday season easier to navigate. From Thanksgiving week until Christmas Day, Goble posted daily reminders, links to helpful stories and tips on everything from reducing stress to holiday cooking.

Judges said:Social media is about connecting with others over shared experiences. The stress of the holiday season is one universal experience that was made easier for the readers of the News Journal through Gere Goble’s informative social series of holiday tips. Brightly written, each post engaged readers and offered helpful information. Nice job.

To see the work:

Submissions may consist of a single photo or photo gallery, or of a collection of work. Photos can illustrate all subject areas covered by the newsroom, but judges will add particular weight to coverage that ties directly to passion topics or the needs of target audiences. Photos should tell the news at a glance, convey emotion, drama and personality, and give audience members a sense of place. Photo galleries may contain music or dialogue.


Detroit Free Press (First Place)
Diane Weiss, photographer

For an Instagram series that became a front-page print and video story about a BMX bike park built by its riders in an abandoned lot, sandwiched between the interstate and Ford Field.

Judges said: Community photojournalism at its best, the photographer developed this highly visual story as she wandered through her neighborhood. Rather than just documenting story she started a conversation on Instagram. We valued the medium and dialogue she creates even though the iPhone is not as capable of more advanced photo equipment. Still, the essence of the experience shines. That social media conversation was just as compelling as video story as well. This is the ideal combination of an iPhone and social media to tell an unexpected, community story.

To see the work:

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)

For overall photo coverage of the major forest fire that started in Yarnell, Ariz., and left the state mourning 19 firefighters and a lost town.

Judges said: The photos of the fire covered the event from the its onset to its painful conclusion. These images of a disaster feel sadly familiar. They speak in equal parts to the pathos and pain of this particular community. For the Arizona audience the images shared moments of heroism and pain while battling nature. The closer the lens got the more powerful the images became.

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Third Place)
Nick Oza, photographer/videographer

For “Cleansing the soul in India,” a photo essay in the Arizona Republic’s AZ tablet magazine that documented a Hindu pilgrimage.

Judges said: The technical merits of Nick Oza’s photographs speak to the talent and skill of the photographer and his willingness to seek out subjects not usually shared with readers. The best of these beautiful images are haunting. Each striking image is part of a loosely connected narrative that speaks to the scope and scale of this religious festival.

To see the work:


Montgomery Advertiser (First Place)
Amanda Sowards, photographer

For the “Jordan-Hare Prayer,” a pair of photos documenting the critical moment of one of college football’s most critical games.

Judges said: Photographers are always searching for Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment.” These sports photographs capture the two halves of the decisive moment. The “Jordan-Hare Prayer” manages the challenging feat of showing both the tip and the impending catch that changed Auburn’s season — in fact, turned the entire college football season upside-down. Sports moments are rarely better captured. These two images allow readers to soak in just how close play was to ending up the opposite way. The hands and eyes tell the whole story in a way that might be missed in flash of video.

The Burlington Free Press (Second Place)
Ryan Mercer, multimedia editor

For intimate photos of the rescue of a young woman who had fallen into a rain-swept creek in Jericho, Vt.

Judges said: Photographer Ryan Mercer captured the magic of this rescue scene with outstanding shots. He ingeniously relied on a rescuer’s high-powered helmet flashlight beam to light the photo. Mercer did not set aside his own humanity, managing to help in the rescue and to capture the emotion of the scene.

No Third Place was cited.


The News Leader at Staunton (First Place)
Katie Currid, photographer

For “Losing Norah,” a series of photos documenting a young girl’s final six months as she battled brain cancer.

Judges said: The photographer made the best of her long-term project following the Mastrandea family. She showcased the laughter, the love and the joy shared in a family’s final months with their little girl. A story like this cannot be told without a personal investment on the part of the journalists. The images show the trust Currid earned with the family during the most challenging of times.

To see the work:

The Salinas Californian (Second Place)
Jay Dunn, Multimedia Reporter

For the year-long photo story covering Aztec ceremonies, in which the photographer examines how ancient rituals inform modern life.

Judges said: ‘Eagle Warrior: Let the Children Know’ shows how deep and regular photo coverage can create a melange that teaches about other cultures in meaningful ways. The photographer plays an educational role in helping to transmit the culture across generations and acts as a preservationist, saving these events for future generations. The rich detail of the storytelling strings together a series of moments that demonstrates the beauty of dance and the intricacy of the preparation.

To see the work: === SHORT URL:

Palladium-Item at Richmond (Third Place)
Joshua Smith, photographer

For a pair of the Palladium-Item at Richmond’s news photographs capturing the emotion of daily life in different ways.

Judges said: These two news images by Joshua Smith show what photojournalists need to do: watch, wait and then capture the singular instant that offers insight and evokes the passion of the people experiencing that moment. It lets viewers revel in the emotions that normally go unnoticed.

Video Journalism
Where video was previously combined with photojournalism, it now stands in its own category. Judges will be looking for great storytelling, which could range from breaking news to features to mini-documentaries. They will also weigh technical aspects of the video, including sound, lighting and editing choices. This category is not just the province of video specialists with high-end gear; judges understand that reporters who produce videos on their iPhones can create compelling video storytelling too.


The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (First Place)
Michael Chow, photojournalist

For exceptionally creative video in time lapses from 28,347 images representing 2013 in Arizona.

Judges said: Arizona Republic photographer Michael Chow found an amazingly clever solution to a classic story assignment. Chow demonstrated outstanding editing skills to create this time lapse video full of humor. Chow’s talent and vision make us share his love for the Valley.

To see the work:​

Detroit Free Press (Second Place)
Eric Seals, photographer

For videographer Eric Seals’ wonderful video showcasing the passion of shipwreck hunting.

Judges said: There are few news video which haunt you. Eric Seals’ video is definitely one of them. The judges were extremely impressed by Seal’s exceptional storytelling talent as by his remarkable artistic shots. Seals surpassed the technical challenges thanks to GoPro footage bringing us to the depth of Lake Huron.

To see the work:

The Cincinnati Enquirer (Third Place)
Glenn Hartong and Carrie Cochran, photojournalists; Julie Zimmerman, reporter

For capturing the exceptional wedding ceremony of John Arthur and Jim Obergefell in a medical plane on the tarmac of a Maryland airport.

Judges said: The judges wanted to pay tribute to the impressive teamwork effort which made this outstanding video possible. The staff talent captured with sobriety the essence of this love story, whose impact resonated all over the nation. They demonstrated vision and technical mastery to craft such a powerful piece.

To see the work:


Reno Gazette-Journal (First Place)
Liz Margerum, video editor

For video editor Liz Margerum’s “The Life – Sex slavery in Reno,” a thirteen-minute video investigating sex trafficking in Reno.

Judges said: Margerum made the best of her in-depth video investigation highlighting the voices of two victims and bringing useful factual information into context. The judges enjoyed especially the shot aesthetic and the style of the editing, at the noticeable exception of the music editing. A suggestion: Be careful when choosing a soundtrack for long-ish news documentary style videos, as it can feel like too much music and throw off the pacing of the narrative, ultimately becoming a distraction.

To see the work:

Tallahassee Democrat (Second Place)
Jordan Culver, writer

For Jordan Culver’s portfolio of daily news videos in the second quarter of 2013.

Judges said: The judges enjoyed Culver’s tightly written and composed daily news videos and community video vignettes. He seems to have a practiced and finessed technique for pacing and sense of place. In particular, the judges enjoyed the writing and editing of the Boston Marathon fundraiser and the Supreme Court rulings celebration videos. A suggestion: The voicing has a distracting, echo-y quality that perhaps can be diminished or eliminated if they were recorded in a space that helped absorb some of the sound, and controlled for bounce.

To see the work:
Tallahassee runners run 5.2 miles to support Boston in wake of tragedy: LGBT advocates celebrate DOMA, Prop 8 rulings: Healthy Babies series: Community events:

No Third Place was cited.


Home News Tribune at East Brunswick (First Place)
Jason Towlen, staff photographer

For three videos which excel both technically and narratively, vibrantly showcasing engaging daily news videos.

Judges said: The samples of work from Jason Towlen showcase a unique talent for storytelling and a love for the daily story. Each of these short narratives — how fatal vision goggles can educate high school students, how baseball players shave their heads for cancer fundraiser and the Rutgers commencement — are nicely paced and illustrate a balanced editing technique. Towlen’s demonstrable technical skill is impressive from the variety in shots, to the quality of the editing and the choice of the quotes in such short format. This combination of vision and storytelling expertise makes Towlen able to drive emotion, to educate in a fun way or to mark memorable times. Clearly Towlen is on a trajectory to master the daily news video storytelling on a short format.

To see the work:
Video: Fatal Vision goggles give students perspective on DWI.
Video: Rutgers baseball players shave heads for cancer fundraiser.
Photos and Video: Rutgers Commencement.

The News Leader at Staunton (Second Place)
Katie Currid, photographer

For photographer Katie Currid’s video entry “Losing Norah,” an eight-minute video documenting the last six months of the young girl’s fight against brain cancer.

Judges said: The video story is highly successful at connecting the audience to the characters. Currid clearly invested personally, as well as professionally, in the process of bringing this story to the News Leader at Staunton’s audience. Making the most of a long-term project following the Mastrandea family, the photographer showcases the precious shared family moments in this little girl’s final months. In particular, the judges found moments like the one in which Norah is explaining the pain, at times crying, while the audience is watching her receive a pained, tear-filled treatment. Currid is a polished storyteller, both narratively as well as technically.

To see the work:

The News Leader at Staunton (Third Place)
Katie Currid, photographer

For three videos by photographer Katie Currid, considered by the judges to demonstrate creativity, a strong eye for video vignettes and breadth of talent.

Judges said: The judges enjoyed each of these three video portraits, feeling as if we as the viewing audience had a connection with each: the Uncle Sam character, the bowler and the balloon. Currid exhibits strong subject knowledge and her narrative style promotes clarity and sense of place through plenty of subtle details and context.

This category recognizes print or digital design or presentation. A premium will be placed on conveying information and subject understanding through design. An entry should be bold and eye-catching as well as clear and easy to navigate. The tone of the design should be appropriate for the subject and the context of the work being showcased.


The Tennessean at Nashville and Nashville Design Studio (First Place)

For a wide range of print designs executed by the Nashville Design Studio.

Judges said: This portfolio of design and illustration work is the strongest and most thoughtfully composed in this year’s contest. This design team is demonstrably accomplished in executing typography, color and information layering. The designers have created effective, information-packed presentations with each visual decision, all of which were clearly made with intention. The illustrations are smart, evoke appropriate emotion and are expertly accomplished. These designers consistently reach for a dynamic quality to their pages. Many of the illustrations and photos are played big and with impact, and on many of the pages, word and visual elements are integrated successfully.

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)
Adrienne Hapanowicz, designer

For a portfolio of Adrienne Hapanowicz’ designs, optimized multimedia-rich tablet user experiences.

Judges said: Clearly Hapanowicz enjoys her work. These packages are taking full-advantage of the potential in the Adobe DPS software to create immersive, media-rich, lean-back iPad visual presentations. There’s a lot of content packed into these iPad-zines — and through the designer’s ability to organize all of the word and visual elements, all of the pages flow well and are easy to navigate. We applaud the designer’s ability to recognize the visual potential of each story’s focus and knowing when to turn up the volume. Use interactivity to enhance understanding of the story, try not to add multimedia elements for the sake of it. At times, the package can feel like a bit “too much.” Bravo for the accomplished execution of the Top 10 April Art picks composition. The numbers create strong visual rhythm, drawing the reader through the story. It’s fun and engaging. It is simple and clean, and captures the tone at a glance. Some suggestions: Pay special attention to headlines that are too vague. The designer has done a nice job of thinking of ways to pull out different bits of info throughout, but the judges wanted to see a little more depth and meaning to some of these pullouts. Watch out for an over-use of special visual effects and interactivity.

Asbury Park Press (Third Place)
Suzanne Palma, art director

For a portfolio of front pages, including a panoramic cover about a major boardwalk fire.

Judges said: These pages truly capture the essence of making something out of, well, sometimes not much, at least when it comes to obvious visual presentations. There’s a lot of content packed into most of these A1s — and through the designer’s ability to organize all of the word and visual elements, all of the pages flow well and are easy to navigate. Bravo for turning the boardwalk fire page on its side and maximizing the impact of the image through the orientation of the page. The headline here is simple and clean, and captures emotion at a glance. The clean-and-simple refers along the bottom give the reader a thorough menu of related content inside. We applaud the designer’s ability to recognize the visual potential of each page’s centerpiece and knowing when to turn up the volume. Some suggestions: Pay special attention to headlines that are too vague (“Still in Ruins” and “Displaced,” for example). Perhaps look at ways to bring together the headlines with the subheads to get the job done — keep in mind that for some stories, a one-word label headline simply isn’t enough.


Poughkeepsie Journal and Asbury Park Design Studio (First Place)
Mike Benischek, sports editor and Dan Pietrafesa, sports writer; Poughkeepsie Journal; Michael Grant, Asbury Park Design Studio

For a portfolio of (mostly) section fronts that focus on sports and activity-related stories.

Judges said: This designer consistently reaches for a dynamic quality to his pages. Many of the photos are played big and with impact, and on many of the pages, word and visual elements are integrated successfully. Items like “Tips for sick running” and the timeline on the “Sailing on Ice” pages add relevant and useful information for the reader. The “Sled Star” page, especially, has a magazine-feel to it and brings together many bits of information in an easy-to-navigate way. The “Tour de Spain” page, also, exudes this in-your-face approach, especially by the use of the diagonal and reverse type splashed across the page. For this page, though, we suggest increasing the readability of the orange pull quote and improving the juxtaposition of the player’s head with the letter “A” in the word “Spain.” While the judges appreciate a strong graphic approach to sports pages — we’d like to point out that the payoff for the reader must be clearly self-evident. For example, on the “Running Fever” page, we see different visual elements used to indicate being sick, but the elements themselves don’t immediately convey useful information to the reader. In this case, we’d suggest that the designer find a way to integrate better the “Tip for sick running” into the overall visual scheme of the page. Finally, the judges would like to comment on the columnist teases, which seem like there could be slightly more flexibility for layout, as well as contain a bit more information for the reader. We would suggest thinking about infusing a photo or screen grab from a video that could add a bit more oomph to the regular tease.

Reno Gazette-Journal and Phoenix Design Studio (Second Place)
James Ball, weekend editor; Scott Oxarart, outdoors reporter; Jackie Green, communities editor; Bianca Camano, Phoenix Design Studio

For a portfolio of section fronts showcasing the Reno Gazette-Journal’s relaunch of its weekly Outdoors and Weekend sections.

This team of storytellers is clearly in cahoots. There seems to be substantial effort in infusing energy into two key areas of reader interest. The drive-in package is fun and the “Easy Getaway” package creates a nice visual rhythm in its use of purple. Some constructive critique: The “Sturdy Spooner” presentation might have been stronger and offered more visual intrigue with the aspen trees as the lead photo. While we applaud the illustration effort in the Earth Day package, but the arrow caused confusion and circle-cropped photos seem far too-tightly cropped, rendering them hard to read.

To see the work:

The Burlington Free Press and Asbury Park Design Studio (Third Place)

For a selection of covers created by the studio in Asbury Park, for The Burlington Free Press.

The judges have a high appreciation for the creative illustration effort in each of the these covers stories. The Rodriguez cover with the bold “Odd Man Out” headline is particularly strong. We like the holistic quality of the headline-writing with the strong use of eye contact in the photo, which allows the reader to lock eyes with the subject of the story.


The Sheboygan Press and Des Moines Design Studio (First Place)
Sean McKeown-Young, Des Moines Design Studio

For two conceptually-driven designs for A1 cover stories — the centerpiece of one focuses on women and guns; the other page’s centerpiece is about cyberbullying.

Judges said: Kudos to this designer for taking some big visual risks with these front pages. Both have dominant centerpiece presentations that jump off the page because of key design choices that give prominence to both the headline treatment and the illustrations. On the cyberbullying front, the fist busts through a computer screen and is right in the reader’s face. (The phrase “Go big, or go home,” comes to mind.) The headline is definitely eye-catching, but also feels a tad gimmicky (and read to us at first as “at ttacker”). A more straightforward headline would have probably worked better, and would not have not competed so much with the large image of the hand and computer. On the women and guns page, we appreciated the use of the iconic image (although it’s too easy for something like this to fall into cliché territory). We liked the idea of adding the holster to the woman, to carry forward the weapon concept, but we felt that visually, the top part of the woman, which is rendered in a more painterly manner, could have been more consistent with the execution of the bottom part, which appears to rely too much on a Photoshop filter. Also, we felt that there could have been better use of space with the type elements, so that there was a bit more breathing room throughout the package. On both pages, the secondary stories and promos feel well-organized, easy to read and do not detract from the dominant presentations. However, there seems to be an inconsistent approach to the “Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team” labeling/branding, and somewhat unnecessarily preciously designed.

The News Leader at Staunton and Nashville Design Studio (Second Place)
Merry Eccles, designer, Nashville Design Studio and Beth Arsenault, team leader, Digital Production Center

For a seven-day enterprise design package, comprehensively planned and nicely executed. The story packaging and strong photo editing/organization are clear and easily navigable, and in support of the overall tone of the story.

Judges said: The aesthetic tone and visual cues defined for this seven-day package were thoughtfully planned as well as consistently executed throughout the entire presentation. The slab-like serif used for the dropcap creates some visual tension in a few of the installments; perhaps the italic typeface would have been a more graceful choice for the dropcap style. The special treatment for the part describing the day the 8-year-old girl was nicely executed. There is consistency between both the web and print story presentations. The photography and photo editing for this package was exceptional, and should be noted as a significant component of the overall strength in the presentation.

To see the work:

The Sheboygan Press and Des Moines Design Studio (Third Place)
Sean McKeown-Young, Des Moines Design Studio

For two conceptually-driven designs for A1 cover stories — the centerpiece of one focuses on school security efforts; the other page’s centerpiece is about human trafficking.

Judges said: The bold presence and illustration are to be applauded. Judges would like to offer a thought to improve this already-good work: “Less is more.”