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Best of Gannett 2014: Phoenix, Palm Springs and Staunton lead USCP Honorees

McLEAN, Va., Feb. 27, 2015 — U.S. Community Publishing today announced winners of its annual Best of Gannett contest, which recognizes the group’s best journalism in 2014.

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix, the Journal & Courier at Lafayette, Ind., and The News Leader at Staunton took top prizes for public service journalism. In the watchdog category, The Indianapolis Star, the Lansing State Journal and The Leaf Chronicle at Clarksville set the standard.

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

Division I
Phoenix (10) and the Des Moines Register (seven) had the most overall citations; Phoenix, Indianapolis, Des Moines and The Cincinnati Enquirer each took first place in a pair of categories.

Division II
The Desert Sun at Palm Springs, with eight total citations, led the way. The Poughkeepsie Journal earned three. Palm Springs, Lafayette, Ind., and the Reno Gazette-Journal each won first place in two categories.

Division III
Staunton earned eight citations, winning four categories. Sites with three total citations: Jackson, Tenn., Lafayette, La., and Monroe.

Design studios
The Nashville, Phoenix, Des Moines and Asbury Park studios each earned two citations.

Judges for this year’s contest were:

* Bob Butler, reporter for KCBS radio and president of National Association of Black Journalists
* James Grimaldi, senior writer, The Wall Street Journal
* Katie Hawkins-Gaar, digital innovation faculty member at the Poynter Institute
* Michelle Holmes, vice president of content at the Alabama Media Group
* Etan Horowitz, senior mobile editor, CNN
* Chuck Lewis, former Washington bureau chief, Associated Press and Hearst Newspapers
* Kelly McBride, vice president of academic programs at the Poynter Institute
* Shazna Nessa, director of journalism at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
* Doris Truong, homepage editor at The Washington Post
* Danyel Smith, cofounder of HRDCVR and adjunct professor at Syracuse University/New York City

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 Arizona Republic at Phoenix (First Place)

Two years ago, a Veterans Affairs whistleblower contacted government investigators and The Arizona Republic. The newspaper agreed to investigate and delay publication of the story to allow government inspectors to address the problems. When the news went public, the Republic was already ahead of the story. The resulting series of stories showed that retired service members were dying while awaiting medical treatment on lists. Meanwhile, VA administrators were earning bonuses after falsifying wait-time records to obscure the delays.

Judges said: In a careful and methodical investigation, The Arizona Republic revealed misconduct in the veterans health administration facilities in Phoenix with ramifications that would shake up the entire nationwide VA health-care system. The stories brought national outrage and caused a bipartisan uproar in Congress. The ensuing coverage led to the resignation of the secretary of the VA and investigations were launched in VA facilities around the country, where more problems were found. The newspaper deserves credit not just for the stunning results but the patience to investigate carefully explosive allegations and honor the wishes of a whistleblower intent on seeing real reforms in the veterans health system.

To see the work:

“VA deaths blamed on long waits”

“McCain: VA should let vets go to non VA doctors”

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)

When the number of Central American children amassed at the US border turned into a humanitarian crisis, the staff of the Arizona Republic recognized the gravity and scope of the situation and documented the story.

Judges said: In 2014, the Arizona Republic covered numerous stories of national significance. This heart-wrenching story of thousands of child refugees would easily have won this category, if not beat out by The Republic’s equally amazing reporting on the VA. In documenting the lives and images of these vulnerable children, Republic staff held US authorities responsible for their response and likely improved the chances that these kids will find a positive resolution to their situations.

To see the work:

The entire project can be found at: These are two video excerpts from the town hall.

Detroit Free Press (Third Place)

In describing Detroit’s journey through bankruptcy, the staff the Free Press give their community the gift of a self-portrait.

Judges said: This explanatory package documents the characters and plot turns that carried Detroit through the harrowing passage of bankruptcy. In telling these stories, the staff of the Free Press help Detroit residents see themselves as resilient and creative.

To see the work:


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

Reporters took a widely held belief and reported out the facts. In doing so, they demonstrated that the commonly held assumption that poor black people fled Chicago and moved to Lafayette is wrong.

Judges said: By documenting the truth about migration from Chicago to Lafayette, these journalists shed light on a truth that many in their community refused to see or believe. This team did a nice job finding and analyzing the data, yet making the story about the people.

To see the work:

Asheville Citizen-Times (Second Place)

“No place to call home” explored the problem of child and family homelessness in Buncombe County, N.C. The journalists found that the number of child homeless has grown steadily to at least 750 over the past five years, more than doubling since the height of the Great Recession in 2009.

Judges said: Using government data, the Citizen-Times committed significant time and resources to expose the largely hidden problem of child homeless in Buncombe County. The stories also revealed how varying government definitions of child homeless can further obscure the problem. The stories engaged readers, drew responses from government officials and fueled a spirited community forum sponsored by the newspaper. More than 130 people attended the forum to discuss the root causes of the homeless problem.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Third Place)

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs revealed that since 2007 more Marines from nearby Twentynine Palms base have died on American soil than serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sixty Twentynine Palms service members died in war zones in the Middle East, but 64 died of non-hostile deaths, such as suicide and car crashes, mostly in the High Desert while stationed or training at the base.

Judges said: Using thousands of federal, military, state and local data and documents, The Desert Sun reporters Brett Kelman and Drew Schmenner revealed that more Marines died at home of non-combat deaths than perished in foreign wars. The sensitively executed series shined a spotlight on an important local military base and discovered findings that surprised national news media and even Marines back at home. The beautifully presented project provided important insight to the Marine community and its neighbors and thoughtfully explored the causes for the deaths.

To see the work:


The News Leader at Staunton (First Place)

For an ambitious year-long project examining the incidence of drug abuse among registered nurses in Virgina. The project included a database analysis, numerous in-depth portraits and a look at some of the most notorious offenders. The series delves into the flawed system in Virginia that allows nurses to continue working and have continued access to narcotics. Ultimately it prompted the government to enact new laws.

Judges said: This shows great initiative for a small paper. Marshaling a year-long project with a big database component is no easy task. The resulting package is comprehensive and involves great storytelling. Prompting the state to change its laws by adding criminal background checks for registered nurses makes this truly public service journalism.

To see the work:

news content: main editorial: other editorials:

Iowa City Press-Citizen (Second Place)

For a nice supplement to the information already available from the Iowa City Police Department. It provides residents a good way of seeing what is going on in their own neighborhoods.

Judges said: The print and online presentation give residents a way of understanding crime in their community. This package holds police accountable and shines a spotlight on crime trends that would not be visible to the general public.

To see the work: Crime database:

News Journal at Mansfield (Third Place)

For a generous year-long look at the Ohio National Guard and its ties to the community. This series includes several job profiles as well as a history of the base.

Judges said: This series demonstrates the paper’s commitment to keeping the Air National Guard located in the community. The dedication of staff resources and space in the printed paper signals to the community the newsroom’s support of the base. The depth and breadth of these stories give the audience a window into the base that many would not have.

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 Indianapolis Star (First Place)
Ryan Sabalow, reporter; Robert Scheer, photographer; Steve Berta, editor

For a four-part series that exposes issues within the hunting preserve industry. Throughout his reporting, Ryan Sabalow explored the ethics of hunting farm-raised deer and the risks of diseases being spread to a variety of species, including humans.

Judges said: This series — which investigates a little-known industry — is fascinating and extremely engaging. The writing is excellent, the graphics are easy to digest and the photos and videos are perfect complements to the reporting. Sabalow’s background as a hunter gives him unique insights into the hunting culture, but he produces explanatory writing without being condescending. Most impressively, this series explores legislation around the captive deer industry in a thorough way that isn’t a bit boring.

To see the work:

This was a four-part series. The first two parts were published in March, 2014. The last two parts were published in April, 2014. ONLINE VERSION:

Detroit Free Press (Second Place)
Jennifer Dixon, David Jesse, Lori Higgins, Kristi Tanner, staff writers

For the Detroit Free Press’ examination of the state’s $1 billion system that educates some 140,000 students. They found lax state regulations and questionable financial operations. The state leads the nation in the number of for-profit charter schools.

Judges said: “On Guard for 183 Years,” proclaims the Page 1 skyline of the Detroit Free Press. A chapter in that mission was the Freep’s comprehensive examination of Michigan’s $1 billion charter school system that educates 140,000 students. Key findings: – The state has lax regulation of the charter schools and the largest number of for-profit schools in the nation. – Instances of questionable financial operations penetrate the system, which also is characterized by limited financial disclosure rules. The project included a searchable database listing all public and charter schools and their relative academic performances.

To see the work:

Michigan spends $1B on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable:’s biggest charter operator charges big rents: 14 schools pay $1M each:
Most Michigan charter companies don’t follow financial disclosure law:
5 stories of dubious decisions, wasteful spending, even a deal for swampland:
Weak Michigan charter school laws enable scams, insider dealing:
Charter school board members found themselves powerless:
Pro-charter lobby shows its clout in Legislature:

The Indianapolis Star (Third Place)
John Russell, reporter

For a three-part series that explores the relationships between veterinarians and drug firms, and questions whether pets are safe under the federal approval process for animal drugs. There have been more than 700 dog deaths reported to the FDA since Trifexis was released to the market in 2011.

Judges said: John Russell’s investigation into the pet drug industry shines light on a serious and under-reported issue. Unlike some watchdog reporting that can be dense and cumbersome to read, Russell deftly combines emotional, rich details with hard facts and figures. Well-shot photos and videos and easy-to-read graphs added significant value to the report. The Star’s dogged efforts — combing through data, examining public records and studies and conducting dozens of interviews — resulted in an engaging and fascinating series.

To see the work:


Lansing State Journal (First Place)

For comprehensive coverage of the aftermath of a massive wintertime power outage and how the Lansing Board of Water and Light handled the situation.

Judges said: The State Journal maintained a drumbeat of accountability on BWL as well as its general manager, obtaining a series of e-mails that he said he deleted after determining that they had ‘no useful value.’ The newsroom’s persistence on this story led to a community review team that round the utility failed its customers.

To see the work:|dnmiss|umbrella|5

The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss. (Second Place)
Jerry Mitchell and Emily Le Coz, investigative reporters

For a comprehensive look at life in Mississippi prisons, including shocking revelations about lawlessness and corruption.

Judges said: Strong writing made this series a particularly enjoyable read. The detail in tracing money-laundering was especially appreciated. The desperation of prisoners and their families was palpable.

To see the work:

Poughkeepsie Journal (Third Place)

For an in-depth look at the scourge of heroin and the toll on its victims, whose lives were caringly retold.

Judges said: With engaging narratives supplemented by hard facts presented in interactive databases, the series made clear a problem that extends far beyond a single community.

To see the work:


The Leaf-Chronicle at Clarksville (First Place)
Tavia D. Green, schools reporter; Chris Smith, senior editor; Jimmy Settle, business editor

For ongoing coverage of the development of Oakland Elementary School. Through a series of articles, The Leaf-Chronicle exposed that developer John Rochford had an unfair advantage toward winning the school’s $18 million property contract.

Judges said: This is community watchdog journalism at its core. After reviewing two years worth of emails, The Leaf-Chronicle broke the story that the developer of Oakland Elementary had an unfair edge in winning the school contract. The Leaf-Chronicle remained with the story for a month, resulting in complaints from readers and community leaders and, ultimately, public apologies from school officials.

To see the work:

Video: Timeline:

Star-Gazette at Elmira (Second Place)
Steve Reilly, CNY investigative editor

The city of Elmira, N.Y., has a generous policy of paying management employees for unused sick leaved and vacatin when they retire or resign. Reporter explores this practice and the cost to the city.

Judges said: Using the case of the retiring city manager to introduce the topic, reporter Steve Reilly examines the generous policy of the city of Elmira to pay retiring or resigning management employees for untaken sick leave and vacation. The department city manager got a $89,000 send-off, the most lucrative of city payouts over a three year period that totaled more than $500,000. Reilly’s story does an excellent job of providing context and he compares Elmira with other New York cities of comparable size — Ithaca, Auuburn, Watertown — and the sweetner policies in other states. Elmira’s city ordinances provide for these payouts.

To see the work:

March 23: March 23:

The Ithaca Journal (Third Place)
David Hill, reporter

This two-part watchdog package examines the renovation of Ithaca’s downtown Commons and the construction delays and cost-overuns that plague it.

Judges said: Ithaca Journal reporter David Hill takes a look at the rebuild of Ithaca’s downtown Commons and the delays and construction over-runs that have hobbled the prolject. No single villain emerges in his carefully reported examination but, instead, a series of small problems have combined to create the shambles that has hobbled some businesses on the Commons. His reporting was accompanied by a Journal editorial urging city leaders to get it done and to learn from the “fiasco.” An excellent example of the watchdog at work.

To see the work:

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 Des Moines Register (First Place)
Des Moines staff and Gannett Digital

For an in-depth series about an Iowa farm family, told through emerging virtual reality technology using the Oculus Rift platform. Long form reporting and visuals tell the story of how demographic and economic changes in America are affecting Iowa farm families. This is accompanied by an immersive 3D virtual tour of a family farm that includes 360-degree video segments.

Judges said: This project explores emerging technology and unknown territory using the Oculus Rift platform. Virtual reality can be a tricky area journalistically and careful steps were taken to make sure that images, sound and details represent reality. This work moves the needle of experimentation with new storytelling forms. As with all experiments, there’s risk and learning, which is vital to our industry.

To see the work:

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)

For a mobile tool allows users to easily and clearly see the statements of public officials — and their veracity. The tool allows the public to use their phones to upload statements they believe worth checking.

Judges said: The Arizona’s Republic’s dedication to public service and participation in the democratic process is evident in the work of the Fact Check iOS app. Clear and clean, simple to understand and to use, this project put accessible fact-checking tools into the hands of users, both as consumers and active participants in the process. The team’s dedication to the highest journalistic values of transparency and accuracy was bolstered by this innovative approach to connecting with a mobile audience.

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Third Place)
Brian Indrelunas, digital editor and Robert Hopwood, digital producer

For a three-part series which revealed that more Marines from the Twentynine Palms Marine base have died at home than in the war-torn Middle East. Since 2007, 30 Marines from the isolated base, located in San Bernardino County, Calif., have been killed in off-duty vehicle accidents.

Judges said: The high number of off-duty Marine deaths in Twentynine Palms is notable enough — a traditional linear article would suffice. But Indrelunas and Hopwood took their reporting further, creating a beautiful and informative long-form interactive. The supplementary map, photos and videos created a rich experience for the user and were incorporated seamlessly into the story. The effort that The Desert Sun put into testing and designing the project shines through and pays off tremendously.

To see the work:

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.


The Indianapolis Star (First Place)
Marisa Kwiatkowski, reporter

For reporting on the social services beat includes profiles of abuse and neglect of children and young adults as well as responses by the state Department of Child Services, law enforcement agencies, the court system, the non-profit sector — and loving and committed adoptive parents.

Judges said: The entry by Marisa Kwiatowski of the Indianapolis Star demonstrated her mastery of the social services beat, with stories of abuse or neglect of children and handicapped adults and efforts of the state Department of Child Services, the courts, law enforcement agencies and the non-profit sector to deal with them. Her seven-story entry also includes heart-warming examples of adoptive parents whose love and commitment help them navigate inter-racial adoption and the case of grandparents who adopt a two-year-old handicapped girl. The Star should be saluted for putting many of Kwiatowski’s stories on page 1. These case studies might not make for pleasant reading but they shine the spotlight on tragedies that can’t be glossed over by a society that proclaims a quest for social justice.

To see the work:

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)
Daniel Gonzalez, Bob Ortega, Michael Kiefer, senior reporters

For devoting extensive time and resources reporting on the number of undocumented immigrants sent to Arizona from Texas, The Republic covered the story from the time people crossed the border to their detention by the border patrol to their disposition, whether they were deported or sent to live with family in the United States.

Judges said: Through the use of interviews, video and still pictures, the reporters showed why people risked their lives to cross the border illegally. Their follow-ups were submitted as a separate entry, but they were pivotal in giving context on why this is such an emotional issue. The Republic’s reporting team explored the origins of the immigration surge from Central America and why federal officials were channeling immigrants — mainly, women and children — from the Rio Grande valley in Texas to bus stations in Arizona for their eventual dispersal to other U.S. destinations. A focus of the beat reporting of the “Immigration Pipeline” was the concentration of immigrant children in Nogales, Ariz. This controversial practice triggered emotional debate on immigration that the reporters explored from different viewpoints, including explanations for why these family units were taking the risk of leaving their homes for unknown fates north of the border.

To see the work:

Migrants released in Texas

Food, Water, Smiles

Why kids are being sent to Arizona

Children fleeing gangs
With Ortega broadcast segment:
With Gonzalez broadcast segment:

Migrants amass at River’s edge

For Young Cousins, a Journey…

Media in Central America

Immigration Reform Anniversary

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Third Place)
Robert Anglen, reporter

By constantly watching out for consumers, The Republic’s Robert Anglen keeps readers informed of the various frauds being perpetrated by scammers. He exposes those who are taking advantage of the uninformed, unsuspecting and the vulnerable.

Judges said: Whether you are accused of committing multiple acts of fraud, a non-profit that is part of a web so tangled that you can’t tell where your donations are going or a company that takes off with valuable paintings, you can’t hide from Robert Anglen. At a time when ripped-off consumers are often left with no recourse, The Arizona Republic should be proud to have a watchdog like Robert Anglen shedding light on fraudulent schemes.

To see the work:


The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (First Place)
Ian James, environment reporter

Ian James, covering the water beat in the California desert, produced a package of stories exploring water depletion and the relentless pressures on this resource from increased demand of golf coureses, agriculture and population growth, on the one hand, and the shrinking supply caused by drought and a dwindling aquifer.

Judges said: Talk about “owning the beat!” Beat reporter Ian James seems to know when any faucet or sprinkler is turned on in the greater Palm Springs region. His calm writing about the water crisis was reflected in a package of stories that ranged from the cosmic — global warming — to the local — a profile of a small town that is running out of water. The result is the kind of powerful journalism that can only be produced by a beat reporter who has the experience and sourcing to write with the authority and breadth of The Desert Sun’s water specialist. He richly deserves first place in the beat category.

To see the work:

Golf courses commit to cutting water use – Feb. 3 Borrego Springs grapples with tough decisions as aquifer declines – March 16 Sen. Barbara Boxer at water symposium: ‘Water wars have got to end’ Vanishing Water – June 15 – Part of the series ‘Scorched Earth: How Climate Change is Altering the Deserts of the Southwest’ Bottling water from a desert spring – July 13 As developers plan thousands of new homes, some question the water supply – Aug. 31 Desert Water Agency settles lawsuit – Oct. 31 Despite drought, groundwater pumping holds steady – Dec. 7 Once desert springs, now dry – Dec. 28

Lansing State Journal (Second Place)
Steven R. Reed, investigative reporter

For a comprehensive look at what led to a dangerous 2011 chemical spill at a water plant operated by the Lansing Board of Water and Light and how the utility handled a December 2013 ice storm that left some customers with no power for more than a week. Steven R. Reed’s reporting — backed up by the company’s internal investigation report acquired through a FOIA request — showed a series of errors before the chemical spill that caused millions of dollars in damage, sent several employees to the hospital and endangered employees and residents of the surrounding community. Reed’s reporting also detailed that the utility lacked a comprehensive emergency action plan that could have restored power days sooner after the ice storm.

Judges said: Steven R. Reed’s reporting revealed serious shortcomings in the management of the local utility that led to a chemical spill at the local water plant that caused $23 million in damage, injured workers and endangered the surrounding community. Reed’s reporting also documented how the same utility botched the handling of a December 2013 ice storm that left some customers with no power for up to ten days.

Statesman Journal at Salem (Third Place)
Tracy Loew, environment reporter

Environment beat reporter Tracy Loew explores the health inspection status of Salem area grocery stories and finds a limp inspection regime.

Judges said: Local newspaper takes on local grocery stores, naming names and citing lapsed health inspections. Within days of her first story, inspections were ramped up as if the Oregon Department of Agriculture was sprucing up its inspection record ahead of her next inquiry about inspection status. That’s impact. Her beat reporting also described the difficulty that consumers have in trying to obtain information about grocery inspections. To counter that, the Statesman Journal also published a database giving the inspection status of area grocery stores. This enterprise reporting deserves our commendation.

To see the work:

Is your supermarket safe?: How safe is your grocery store? It’s not easy to find out: Grocery store inspections database: Food safety experts: Make inspections public: Fukushima radiation identified off northern California:


The Jackson Sun at Jackson, Tenn. (First Place)
Jordan Buie, online/social media editor; Megan Smith, photographer/videographer; Nichole Manna, reporter

The Jackson Sun staff reported on this story from the time police searched the property of one of the eventual suspects charged for Holly Bobo’s murder, through the court proceedings, the discovery of her remains all the way until the state attorney general recused himself from the case. This was a textbook example of beat reporting: Cover the story and stay on it until all angles are covered.

Judges said: The staff of the Jackson Sun covered every angle of a very difficult and emotional story. The reporters’ coverage reflected an understanding of how Holly Bobo’s kidnapping and murder affected the community. They showed dogged reporting and compassion.

To see the work:

Special web page created for Holly Bobo related content, where photo galleries and videos can be viewed:

The Advocate at Newark (Second Place)
Bethany Bruner and Hannah Sparling, reporters

Upon learning that several students at Heath High School were accused of hazing, reporters Bethany Bruner and Hannah Sparling used a combination of public records, interviews and sources to let their readers know that this was not an isolated incident. They did not let a heavily redacted investigation report stop them from uncovering a ritual at the school that had been in place for many years.

Judges said: Reporters Bethany Bruner and Hannah Sparling joined forces to uncover a troubling tradition of hazing at Heath High School. They refused to back down even after the school district responded to the Advocate’s public records act request by providing a copy of the school’s investigative report that was so heavily redacted it was almost unreadable. Congratulations to the Advocate for a job well-done.

The Town Talk at Alexandria (Third Place)
Leigh Guidry, education reporter; Randy Benson, local news editor

For an education reporter who blankets the ongoing story of local college president who seems to step in controversy at every turn.

Judges said: Joe Aguillard, the embattled president of Louisiana College, a private Baptist school, fended off controversies involving accusations of diversion of funds to Africa, debates over Calvinism, whistleblower complaints from former staffers and criticism by disgruntled trustees. Education reporter Leigh Guidry followed every twist and turn in the drama. Her steadfast pursuit of the biggest story on her education beat deserves our hurrahs!

To see the work:

Feb. 22: Feb. 27 March 2 March 3 March 5 March 9 March 12 March 13 March 16

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 Cincinnati Enquirer (First Place)
Sherry Coolidge, reporter and Cindi Andrews, opinion editor

For coverage of the suicide of a transgender teen and in-depth stories in its aftermath as the world learned about the young woman’s struggle to claim her identity and her family’s reaction.

Judges said: So often breaking news contests are made up of fires, shootings, storms and planes falling out of the sky. This story started much more quietly. But the team’s rolling approach to breaking pieces of the story as it simultaneously developed an international following was an impressive feat. Sensitive but clearheaded, quick and thoughtful, this story helped people understand the unfolding tragedy in as close to real time as possible. Good sourcing and knowledge of the community helped this team get out front and stay there while continuing to dig for the deeper stories.

To see the work:

story: editorial: fellow teen’s letter to Leelah: Jan. 2: Full coverage:

The Des Moines Register (Second Place)

For breaking news coverage of a fire that destroyed the historic Younkers building in downtown Des Moines. Told in video, social media, photos and stories within minutes of flames being reported.

Judges said: Long before Iowans woke Saturday March 19, the Des Moines Register team had assembled an impressive collection of videos, photos, stories and social media on a fire that raged through a historic building in the city’s downtown. The witness accounts, historic galleries and other augmentations to on-the-scene live coverage made a complete and impressive package that allowed the audience to fully experience and interact with the news. The audience this package drew is evidence that the storytelling captivated many thousands of viewers. As other media across the country spread the story, the Register owned it, broadening coverage into the cause and exclusive interviews with firefighters on the scene. Impressive teamwork produced excellent breaking news coverage.

To see the work:
Full coverage is here:

The Des Moines Register (Third Place)

For coverage of riots during Veishea, Iowa State University’s annual spring festival, that resulted in cars overturned and a student seriously injured.

Judges said: Twitter became the breaking news mode of choice as student violence broke out during Iowa State University’s annual Veishea festival. The team responded to news with full staffing that allowed photography at the scene and a timeline of events. Live coverage of the university’s response and broad background of the event’s past problems offered viewers a chance to fully understand the scope of the issue and track it on social media, online and in print. The Register’s commitment to the story in quick action, and continued staffing and resources to tell it across news cycles, made it an strong example of breaking news with context and scope.

To see the work:


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

For coverage of a shooting at Purdue University that shocked the community and made national headlines.

Judges said: Immediately following the university’s announcement, the staff of the Journal & Courier raced to the scene and provided some of the first pictures and updates. As the situation unfolded, the staff stayed on top of the breaking news developments while also working on important angles such as the effectiveness of the university’s emergency alerting system. The coverage was smartly packaged and tailored for all platforms, from a Storify of social media updates to comprehensive coverage in the next day’s paper.

The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss. (Second Place)

For coverage of major tornadoes that ripped through three major areas of Mississippi.

Judges said: Through its tornado coverage, the staff of the Clarion-Ledger demonstrated its wide-ranging ability to provide both important incremental updates as well as deeply reported and moving narratives. These two achievements are best summed up by the staff’s liveblog and social media updates and its beautiful “Six Hours of Hell” narrative. Besides just covering the tornadoes, the staff actually helped with recovery efforts by setting up a phone help line, a vital step to further cement its important role in the community.

To see the work:

Poughkeepsie Journal (Third Place)

For coverage of IBM’s decision to sell its plant that employed thousands in Dutchess County.

Judges said: For a long time, the staff of the Poughkeepsie Journal knew an announcement was coming from IBM, but they didn’t know what it was. So they meticulously planned for a variety of scenarios, enabling their breaking news coverage to stand out when the announcement was made. The coverage had great audience engagement elements as well as useful sidebars and columns that explained to ramifications of the announcement.


The News Leader at Staunton (First Place)

For coverage of an F-15 fighter jet that crashed in the mountainous forest west of town.

Judges said: Staff led the national news around this important story, both on social media and with constant online updates. This breaking news approach led into deep reporting that offered many ways to experience the story. Expressive writing and multimedia story brought this story home to local residents while offering “home base” for a national audience seeking details and context. Excellent packaging and storytelling.

To see the work:


The News-Star at Monroe (Second Place)

For coverage of a tornado that struck the heart of Monroe, knocking out power to thousands of homes as well as to the newspaper’s offices.

Judges said: Through its coverage of the Oct. 13 tornado, the staff of the News-Star proved its vital role in providing essential information to its readers. Although the tornado did not result in any deaths or serious injuries, it disrupted the lives of thousands of people including the staff of the News-Star, which had to operate from a local university after its offices lost power. The coverage was both extremely useful and powerful, all the more impressive while the staff was without its newsroom.

To see the work: (first day coverage will have Oct. 13 publication date stamp)

The News Leader at Staunton (Third Place)

For coverage of the murder of a popular teenager with special needs that shocked the community.

Judges said: The staff of the News Leader owned this story from the moment word of a body broke until another teen was arrested and charged. From tweets with quick updates to a richly told profile of the beloved victim, the coverage was both comprehensive and compassionate.

To see the work: FB: FB: FB: competitor lag, copying us on “breaking news”:

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 Des Moines Register (First Place)
Jason Clayworth, investigative reporter/video producer; Charlie Litchfield, photographer/documentarian; Amber Eaton, online project editor

For an interactive and documentary look at thousands of Iowa’s shuttered schools.

Judges said: This is an ambitious project that is equal parts documentary, historical investigation and audience participation. All that adds up to a compelling body of work that starts with the personal story of Charlie Litchfield. The project is richly for incorporating Litchfield’s personal story and family history. It stands out for its scope and cinematic quality.

To see the work:

The Courier-Journal at Louisville (Second Place)

For coverage of the Kentucky Derby and the events leading up to and following the race itself.

Judges said: The Kentucky Derby is perhaps what you’d find in a textbook under “planned news event.” Yet The Courier-Journal’s coverage was novel and exciting. Stand-out features included a quiz to generate your own horse name, special features for mobile users and a behind-the-scences look at how the staff photographs the race.

To see the work: (now has more recent horse news but still some of the Derby elements)–kentucky-derby-moments-the-complete-collection/7961331/

Detroit Free Press (Third Place)

For coverage of a judge’s approval of Detroit’s bankruptcy plan.

Judges said: From live tweets and updates of the announcement to reaction and analysis, the staff of the Free-Press had all angles of the announcement covered. Of particular note was a cinematic video showing what was happening in Detroit on the day of the announcement.

To see the work:


Reno Gazette-Journal (First Place)

For coverage of the 18-person Reno mayor’s election that featured no frontrunners. The coverage targeted readers of varying interest levels through frequent updates, useful articles and features and fun and participatory aspects.

Judges said: The staff of the Reno Gazette-Journal played a pivotal role in serving as a clearinghouse for the 2014 Reno mayoral race. The paper made it easy for readers to get to know the 18 different candidates and decide which ones most aligned with their own values, most notably through a candidate selector quiz. By having readers submit ballots to decide which candidates should appear in a debate and giving readers tools to instantly react while watching the debate, the RGJ demonstrated its vital place in the civic discourse of Reno. Election coverage can be daunting for readers to sort through — especially with 18 candidates — but the staff truly offered something for everyone.

To see the work:

2Q Planned Content Some examples of our planned content for our digital audience: “Mayor Watch”: April 29, 2014, “Full table at Reno mayoral forum”: May 1, 2014, “Who’s ahead in Reno mayor debate ranking?”: May 5, 2014, “Who are you most like? Take the 2014 Reno Mayor Quiz”: May 22, 2014, “Who’s in, out of Reno mayor debate”: June 10, 2014, “Check out Tuesday’s #IVotedNV selfies and add your own”: “Watch Reno mayor debates”:

St. Cloud Times (Second Place)
Kirsti Marohn and David Unze, reporters

For in-depth coverage of military members who return to civilian life with physical and emotional scars that forever change them and their families. Fine, detailed writing offered insight into little-understood struggles. A broad perspective on the resources available and the ways people could reach out for help offered an important interactive component to the work.

Judges said: A multimedia display offered many entry points to experience the stories of veterans, their families and their communities in the aftermath of service in today’s military. Compelling photos, videos and stories.

To see the work:

The online content is available here: The Facebook page is at:

Press & Sun-Bulletin at Binghamton (Third Place)
Meghin Delaney, education reporter; Kristen Cox Roby, features editor

For a deep look at the making of a high school musical, in which the staff followed the cast and crew of a local production from auditions to closing curtain and the hours afterward, telling stories of excitement, pride and nerves of young performers and their families.

Judges said: From video that captures the excitement of “Did I get a part?!” to stories that touch on lifelong friendships in a small town, this series makes a statement about the Press and Sun Bulletin’s commitment to its readers and their families. Explanatory columns drove home that relationship, while live tweets offered entry points for students who saw journalism taking place in front of them. Descriptive writing and well-composed photos tell a story that will surely be archived and appreciated by many families.

To see the work:


The News Leader at Staunton (First Place)
Laura Peters, reporter and Griffin Moores, photographer

For chronicling the sights and sounds on the night shift — from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. — in Staunton, Virginia.

Judges said: Reporter Laura Peters and photographer Griffin Moores took an old idea and put a new twist on it by creating a participatory experience that played to the strength of each platform. The subjects they chronicled were well chosen and universal and the team deftly used social media to take have readers drive the reporting of the story. The inclusion of an up all night Spotify playlist was clever without feeling forced. The print package had engaging graphics, photos and illustrations and showed that the team thought carefully of how to package the project appropriately for each platform.

To see the work:

Longform wrap up: Spotify URI (if you open Spotify desktop app, you can paste this whole URI in your Spotify search bar): spotify:user:wmramsey:playlist:002JCpV7Ed8qaJrhwQWZUU First-person Facebook bookend videos:

The Jackson Sun at Jackson, Tenn. (Second Place)
Beth Knoll, reporter; Megan Smith, photographer; Jordan Buie, online/social media editor

For their multiplatform coverage of the annual Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant.

Judges said: The team’s thoughtful coverage of the pageant took into account audience — mostly female, and platforms. For digital, a special web page housed all the coverage, which included tweets, an interactive poll asking readers to choose their favorite candidate, and updates from competition that broke after print deadlines. For print, the team prepared feature stories and sidebars. Content was shared on social media. Photo galleries and videos captured the emotion, the excitement and glitter of the proceedings.

To see the work:

Miss Tennessee page:

The News Leader at Staunton (Third Place)

For “Addicted Nurses,” the News Leader at Stauton’s five-day investigative series that revealed gaps in how the commonwealth of Virginia handles addicted nurses and protects patients from them.

Judges said: Reporter Patricia Borns analyzed case records of the Virginia Board of Nursing and interviewed formerly addicted nurses and experts to paint a compelling picture of a seriously troubled oversight system that puts patients at risk. The News Leader also tried some innovative methods of drawing reader interest and attention to the series. All of the content was placed on a curated page that went online a week before the print version. An abridged mainbar was posted online that displayed cleanly on mobile platforms. Well-timed promotional Facebook videos, live chats, radio interviews and sharing material with a local Gannett television station helped promote the series. An outstanding effort on an important topic.

To see the work: FB video at weekly peak time: Gave material to Gannett TV station: Promo interview w public radio:

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.


The Cincinnati Enquirer (First Place)
John Faherty, reporter

Enquirer reporter John Faherty, had Type 1 diabetes for most of his life when he decided the time had come for him to seek a pancreas transplant. He tells the story of his disease and his surgery, battle against organ rejection, help of wife and children and feature about the woman who donated her pancreas after her death in an auto accident.

Judges said: This emotional medical drama is told by the patient, reporter John Faherty, with help from his wife and family, is a high-impact multimedia barrage that embraces the reader and viewer in his quest for a new pancreas that will help him defeat his long-term diabetes (Type 1). The narrative takes the reader through the complexities of transplantation, from recipient selection to organ rejection, in the kind of intimate detail that only the patient can describe. It’s first-person journalism that leaves the reader more sensitive to organ donation — and hopeful that he or she doesn’t some day face the same challenge of searching for a new pancreas.

To see the work:

Main story: Second-day story about the organ donor:
Additional links have been provided as an addendum to this winning work:

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)
Shaun McKinnon, senior reporter

For creative and comprehensive storytelling about the nine surviving men who lived through the attack on the USS Arizona — the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Judges said: Scrupulously reported, both from a historical and a present-day perspective, this project is beautifully conceived and written. From stem to stern, via impeccable storytelling, this project brings to life and to light the people and the places who became a part of history on that awful December day.

To see the work:

For the amazing narrative of the day, start here: All stories begin at:

Detroit Free Press (Third Place)
Mitch Albom, columnist

For bold storytelling that illustrates ‘what poor looks like’ in Detroit ‘Motown,’ Michigan.

Judges said: Intensely reported, these are stories of the demise of a previous era’s working and creative classes, and about the loss of youth, health and dreams. With precise detail and crystalline narratives, the writer creates portraits of people living on the edge, and of a city forever changed. The work neither aims for nor finds easy answers. It unapologetically tells it like it is.


Lansing State Journal (First Place)
Louise Knott Ahern, news storyteller

For passionate, meticulous storytelling about a woman who survived both the Ukrainian famines of the 1930s and the Nazi slave camps of the 1940s.

Judges said: The work is gorgeously reported, with precise historical and present-day detail. By allowing the voice of the subject to reign, this piece functions as a stellar piece of narrative nonfiction, and writerly portraiture.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Second Place)
Bruce Fessier, reporter

For the story of a poker game, a car bombing and a lot of bravado. This is a narrative look at the history of gangsters in Palm Springs, through the experience of a one guy who came to an untimely end.

Judges said: Bruce Fessier brings these mobsters to life. Nice job blending the historical facts with the narrative pull of a fascinating story.

To see the work:

The Burlington Free Press (Third Place)
Tim Johnson, reporter

For insightful reporting and storytelling about everything from pizza and jewelry to marathons and climate change to Vermont’s historical relationship to slavery.

Judges said: This writer is committed to engaging the reader with crisp, deep reporting and delightful narrative and tone. The work is illuminative with regard to community issues and community history — a true service.


News Journal at Mansfield (First Place)
Rob McCurdy, sports reporter

For a love story.

Judges said: What a great tale of love and history. Bob and Eleanor come to life through this writer’s words. We learn of their straight-forward courtship, their difficult young marriage and their lifelong dedication to each other. This is a story of time and place, as much as it is one of two characters. A perfect example of local narrative journalism.

To see the work:

1) Romance Blooms:

2) Faith & Family:

3) Together in Eternity

4) Life in the Settlement

The News-Star at Monroe (Second Place)
Scott Rogers, public safety/breaking news reporter

For the riveting narrative of a Vietnam veteran’s time in battle and his disheartening return to the United States.

Judges said: This writer made great choices about the structure of this story, including which details to use and how to use them. Vietnam War stories can easily descend into clichés. In this case, the story rises above, detail by detail, until the reader can see the narrative arc of this soldier as well as the broader historical perspective.

To see the work:

The Leaf-Chronicle at Clarksville (Third Place)
Philip Grey, military reporter

When the secret nuclear base is no longer a secret, this writer finds a way to bust some of the myths that evolved after years of truth living in the shadows.

Judges said: This is a nice combination of history, character and narrative. The reporter takes his audience into the base, through the eyes of people who lived through the development of the nuclear weapon and the Cold War. Great approach to an interesting local topic.

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.


FLORIDA TODAY at Brevard (First Place)
Emre Kelly, producer and James Dean, space reporter

Florida Today spent two days live-tweeting about the launch of the Orion spacecraft. Emre Kelly gave the play-by-play on Twitter while reporter James Dean conducted live video interviews. You had to stay with the feed to learn the launch was postponed a day because of glitches and gusty winds.

Judges said: Emre Kelly was riveting as he gave a minute-by-minute commentary on the status of the launch. He also engaged readers by quickly answering their questions about the launch vehicle and the mission. You had to stay with the feed to learn the launch was postponed for a day. Then he and reporter James Dean were back the next day and stayed with the coverage for the 4.5-hour flight. This is outstanding work.

To see the work:

The Des Moines Register (Second Place)
Christopher Pratt, reporter and Annah Backstrom, content strategist

The Des Moines Register staff reacted quickly when a fire engulfed the former Younkers Building downtown in the early morning hours. Christopher Pratt and Annah Backstrom spent hours tweeting and uploading photos and video.

Judges said: Reporter Christopher Pratt and breaking news editor Annah Backstrom sprang into action when fire lit up downtown Des Moines. Their tweets, videos and pictures told a gripping story of the fire destroying the landmark Younkers Building. They provided timely yet comprehensive information on social media with nothing more than their mobile devices.

To see the work:

The Des Moines Register (Third Place)
Danny Lawhon, online content manager/sports

For Danny Lawhon’s game-day coverage on Twitter of Iowa’s football game at Purdue.

Judges said: Social media is an excellent delivery system to talk about sports. Danny Lawhon started tweeting well before kickoff and provided comprehensive play-by-play while engaging with readers the entire game.

To see the work: (which got a thumbs-up from readers at 11:24 a.m. here (and reaction here, 2:40 p.m. mark)


Reno Gazette-Journal (First Place)
Anjeanette Damon, government watchdog reporter

For developing creative and engaging solutions to keeping readers informed in the mayor’s race, which had 18 candidates.

Judges said: Tasked with covering a mayoral race with an especially large number of candidates, government watchdog reporter Anjanette Damon used a number of creative solutions to inform and involve readers. Damon created the #renomayor hashtag to provide information about the election and regularly interacted with her audience via social media. She experimented with new formats, including an interactive quiz. And in a nod to her watchdog title, Damon also called out several of the candidates who allegedly bought Twitter followers, including one who had 1,200 new followers from Russia. Damon’s reporting throughout the election proved that it’s possible to experiment with new formats and forms of storytelling and still cover hard-hitting issues.

To see the work:

“Mayor Watch”: RGJ Election Night update: Could Sen. Kieckhefer lose?: Watch the RGJ’s latest election night analysis: Who are you most like? Take the 2014 Reno Mayor Quiz: Reno Memo: What you need to know about Tuesday’s Reno mayor debate: Reno mayoral candidates spar- sort of- at first forum: Reno mayor’s poll indicates voters have yet to settle on a frontrunner: Watch the Reno mayoral debate: Are Reno mayoral candidates gaming the social media race? Mostly, no.:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Second Place)
Robert Hopwood, digital producer

For a creative Top 10 series of things to do, places to go, restaurants to eat and other treasures in the desert.

Judges said: Digital Producer Robert Hopwood’s “10 Picks” provided great information for readers on events to attend, where to get the best salads and which restaurants allowed you to bring your dog. The series is simple, well-executed and valuable to local readers.

To see the work:

The Post-Crescent at Appleton (Third Place)

For Post-Crescent Media’s fun and lively coverage of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his girlfriend, Olivia Munn, in Packers country.

Judges said: When Rodgers and Munn appeared in downtown Appleton for the quarterback’s Ford truck commercial shoot, the Post-Crescent staff got creative. Instead of a taking a traditional coverage route, staffers mobilized to give their audience a close-up view of the couple in an unexpected setting. Through tweets, Facebook posts, a Vine video, a photo gallery and a short story, staffers had fun with the situation. Clearly, it paid off: The photo gallery is the year’s top performing gallery on, and, accounting for 1,136,896 page views and more than 71,000 viewers.

To see the work:


The News-Star at Monroe (First Place)
Andy Lefkowitz, social media editor

For a Storify that highlighted social posts from local residents on the first day of school in Ouachita Parish, La.

Judges said: Storify is a great tool for curating social posts, and Andy Lefkowitz does a great job of producing a fun and engaging read. Lefkowitz’s short, humorous transitions and selections from a variety of social media illustrate his ability to write for and engage with digital audiences.

To see the work:

The News Leader at Staunton (Second Place)
Mike Tripp, photographer

For an in-person scavenger hunt, organized by photographer Mike Tripp, which incorporated real-time social media and mobile photography.

Judges said: Mike Tripp organized a scavenger hunt for News Leader subscribers on Nov. 15, 2014, documenting the day via social media and later writing a blog post about the experience. Tripp offered a creative, inventive and engaging adventure for loyal readers, and we’re pleased to see that future hunts are planned.

To see the work:

@RedShirtPhotog on Twitter RedShirt’s scavenger hunt w subscribers:

The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La. (Third Place)
Acadiana history Bill Decker, columnist

For The Daily Advertiser’s daily photo feature, ‘Remembering Acadiana.’ Columnist Bill Decker used old photos to provide short history lessons to readers.

Judges said: From pictures of early college graduates to a photo of a replica baseball diamond, Decker’s short descriptions offered interesting history lessons about the Acadiana region of Louisiana. The series, which runs daily in print and online, features interesting photos and descriptions filled with plenty of personality and details.

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.


The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (First Place)
Nick Oza, photographer

For a strong portfolio capturing the challenges of the mental health system, the chaos in Ferguson and the struggles of being homeless.

Judges said: Oza’s work captures intimate scenes without resorting to cliché. He has clearly gained the trust of his subjects. The images are well-edited and artfully composed, and they show place as well as faces.

To see the work:

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)
Michael Chow, photographer

For bringing us into the world of Salvadorans trying to immigrant to the United States.

Judges said: What a great gallery. You could really understand the lives of the immigrants and their struggle to leave. It took us to a place we couldn’t go on our own, and people looked like themselves.

To see the work:



The News-Press at Fort Myers (Third Place)
Andrew West, photojournalist

For solid chronicling of an indigenous population that shows their humanity and their everyday lives.

Judges said: “The colors and the energy were vibrant, and some images made us stop and say, ‘Wow!’ We could almost smell the Everglades.”

To see the work:

Landing page: iPad: Voices of the Everglades Story page: Photo Galleries: The Land Bobbie C. Billie Tribe Life Osceola Clan The Future


The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (First Place)
Omar Ornelas, photographer

For well-framed photos documenting a boxer’s pivotal match and his recovery from a devastating head injury.

Judges said: These powerful images, including video, captured key moments in a boxer’s life. They showed the intensity of the fight and the struggle for recovery, which was made all the more stark for the choice to show the aftermath in black and white.

To see the work:

The Daily Times at Salisbury (Second Place)
Jay Diem, photographer

For the definitive visual chronicling of the annual Chincoteague pony swim.

Judges said: It showed us a community that not everyone is familiar with, and it captures the dignity of the event. It’s clear the photojournalist is familiar with his subjects; the image of the riderless horse was especially moving.

To see the work:

Gallery: Monday beach walk Gallery: Southern herd roundup Gallery: The swim Gallery: The auction Gallery: The swim back

Asheville Citizen-Times (Third Place)
Katie Bailey, photographer

For images capturing a historic day of same-sex marriages.

Judges said: The joy in the faces is contagious. The photographer captured all the emotions of the day, including from people on the periphery of the celebrations.

To see the work:


The Advocate at Newark (First Place)
Jessica Phelps, photographer

For a stark collection of images showing the life of recovering meth addict Michele Dobos and the people around her.

Judges said: Some of the images submitted are worthy of gallery display. They show moments that are usually private and allow the readers to understand the allure of addictive behaviors.

To see the work:

Herald Times Reporter at Manitowoc (Second Place)
Sue Pischke, photojournalist

For a photo essay on ice caves formed by frozen waterfalls along Lake Superior’s red sandstone cliffs.

Judges said: Many of these images are stunning, and they show us formations that are fairly rare. The additional perspective offered by having people in many of the shots brought a human touch to the chilly scenes.

To see the work:

Marshfield News-Herald (Third Place)
Megan McCormick, photojournalist

For documenting the fall harvest of Wood County’s most abundant food product: the cranberry.

Judges said: The images are artistic, especially the photos showing detail such as a grimey hand lifting berries from the bog. What could have been a workaday assignment turned into something beautiful.

To see the work:

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.


Detroit Free Press (First Place)
Brian Kaufman, photographer

For a documentary that narrates the history and evolution of the Packard Plant building, once the home of Packard Motor Car Co. until 1954. Today the building still stands, attracting a variety of characters, including techno music pioneers, graffiti artists and illegal dumpers.

Judges said: This fascinating documentary blends beautiful imagery to the rhythm of a lively soundtrack that brings an engaging pace to the narrative. The storytelling is at once poetic and gritty, capturing the emotions that surround this historic building and the dramatic change that affected the communities around it.

To see the work: (Password: PackardPa$$)

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (Second Place)
Pat Shannahan, producer

For a documentary that described the attack on Pearl Harbor, as told by survivors of USS Arizona. The men, today all over the age of 90, recount lucid and detailed experiences. Of the 1,522 assigned to the ship, 1,177 were killed.

Judges said: “This short documentary artfully overlays archival images of the attack on Pearl Harbor, with current interviews of USS Arizona survivors. A deep, emotional impact is created when the viewer sees images from the past literally seeping into today. All over the age of 90, the men share intimate details of the horrific moments that unfolded during the attack. Strong editing keeps the pace compact and engaging as the viewer has the privilege of imagining what it must have felt like to be there.”

To see the work:

The Des Moines Register (Third Place)
Kyle Munson, Columnist and Rodney White, photographer/videographer

For a documentary that captured the cultural and emotional impact of the film “Field of Dreams” for its 25th anniversary. Starring Kevin Costner, the film tells the story of an obsessed farmer who ploughs up a farm to build a baseball diamond.

Judges said: “The story of Iowa’s most famous film is celebrated in a multi-part video that goes behind the scenes with interviews and stories that show how it’s more than a baseball movie – it’s also a cultural icon that has touched a local and international audience. Through strong visuals and audio, the videos weave a story that will appeal to both fans and those who have never seen the film.”

To see the work:


Fort Collins Coloradoan (First Place)
Erin Hull, photographer

For vibrant, emotional storytelling that goes beyond free throws and inbound passes. This short-form documentary goes deep into the relationships that tie a coach to a team, teammates to each other, a team to a school — and a school to a town.

Judges said: Thoughtful filmmaking, and a clear and trusting relationship with the subjects and the community led to a brilliant short-form documentary brimming with emotion, drama, storytelling chops and journalistic excellence.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Second Place)
Marilyn Chung, producer and Brett Kelman, reporter

For riveting historical coverage of organized crime in Palm Springs, Calif., Kelman and Chung go “back to the future” as they bring to life the people, places and oft-forgotten crimes that still have impact on their town today.

Judges said: These pieces function as sharp mini-documentaries. The team’s clear commitment to both delighting the viewer with archival assets and providing an enlightening service to the viewer with thorough, concise historical reporting make for a brilliant story.

To see the work:

Asheville Citizen-Times (Third Place)
Katie Bailey, photographer/videographer

For perceptive and heartfelt reporting on a group of archers in Appalachia: the Horse Warriors of Shaman Hill.

Judges said: Vivid imagery, brisk editing, and a deep respect for the voices and the lifestyles of the archers make for fascinating community storytelling.

To see the work:


The News Leader at Staunton (First Place)
Griffin Moores, photojournalist; Mike Tripp, photojournalist; Patricia Borns, reporter

For collaborative video journalism featuring dynamic clips about the Fresh Air Fund, condemned apartments and citizens fighting a pipeline.

Judges said: This work epitomizes the kind of moving, creative storytelling that can be accomplished when journalists work together to merge moving image, still imagery and words to be of service to their readerships. Each video in this entry rings with the kind of authenticity that communities desire — and deserve — from their media organizations.

To see the work:

Fresh Air summer: Condemned apts. news video: Pipeline spurs citizen action: Postcard profile: Ubon Herlong

The Jackson Sun at Jackson, Tenn. (Second Place)
Megan Smith, photographer; Jordan Buie, online/social media editor; Kenneth Cummings, photographer

For the kind of intimate, important community reporting — a prom date, a shooting, a low-key visit from professional athletes — that binds a media organization to the area it serves.

Judges said: These clips serve as a reminder that the most basic building blocks of a community — sports, a high school dance, friendships, tragedy — can be reported with beauty, technique and style. By allowing the voices of citizens to shine through above all, these pieces feel as much of the community as for it.

To see the work:

Holt and Allie prom video

Brianfield Cove shooting video:

Titans caravan video:

Herald Times Reporter at Manitowoc (Third Place)
Sarah Kloepping, videographer

For a three-video project that goes deeply into a local hospital’s catheterization laboratory–known as a “cath lab”–the only one in the community. There are bold images and reporting about the procedures, the staff and the patients.

Judges said: Crisp storytelling goes well past stethoscopes and heart monitors by making clear the need for a 24-hour cath lab in the community. With compelling reporting as well as vivid images of human hearts in action (and in distress), passionate voices of health professionals and grateful patients round out this vital clip.

To see the work:

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 Courier-Journal at Louisville and Louisville Design Studio (First Place)

For special sections leading up to and immediately following the Kentucky Derby.

Judges said: What a tremendous undertaking for an annual event watched by the world. There’s service journalism (comprehensive graphics about the track and what patrons can bring), sports journalism, high-level photography plus great features (nice work finding diversity in the crowd). Special kudos for the tight turnaround on a comprehensive next-day section, especially the graphics showing key turns and each horse’s position.

The News-Press at Fort Myers and Nashville Design Studio (Second Place)
Michael Babin, design studio chief; Lindi Daywalt-Feazal, niche designer; Mike Donlan, graphics team leader; Wes Hulette, web applications developer; Phonethip Liu, designer

For a comprehensive series about Native American life in the Everglades.

Judges said: The design was inviting with many entry points into what could have been an overwhelming amount of information. The photo selection really lets the readers appreciate the fantastic energy and colors of a community that most people might not know.

To see the work:

Landing page: iPad:

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix and Phoenix Design Studio (Third Place)

For an artful look at the remaining nine survivors of the attack on the USS Arizona.

Judges said: This is a topic that has been well-covered in a variety of news and entertainment media, but the Republic brought the humanity and the enormity of the day into fresh perspective. The survivors’ stories were treated with dignity, and the long lead-up to the series’ publication was evident in the accompanying presentation.

To see the work:

The mightiest ship at sea:
The attack that changed the world:
The nine living survivors:
The final toast:
The video documentary — a must-watch:


The Daily Times at Salisbury and Asbury Park Design Studio (First Place)
Jose Soto, designer; Thomas Piatchek, designer; Eddie Alvarez, art direction

For a World Cup preview that ran over two pages in the Sports section of the Daily Times at Salisbury. The spread included informational graphics and illustrations about the countries and players who qualified for the world’s biggest sporting event.

Judges said: An absolute masterpiece. This knockout spread stood out among the design nominees from all the circulation divisions. A perfect combination of a fresh concept, gorgeous details and smart information. Few designers would have the enormous ambition needed to even attempt something this complex. (Much less the technical skills to pull it off.) Simply stunning.

To see the work:

Poughkeepsie Journal and Asbury Park Design Studio (Second Place)
Jose Soto and Thomas Piatchek, designers

For Jose Soto and Thomas Piatchek’s collection of pages covering recreational sports.

Judges said: These pages are as unique and interesting as each of the sports they are meant to cover. While these are inside pages, the illustrations are bold and unexpected forcing the reader to stop turning the page. The headline type treatments are restrained, fitting well into the overall design and story of each page.

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs and Phoenix Design Studio (Third Place)
Tricia Reinhold, Amil Steiner and Take Uda, designers; Brian Indrelunas, digital editor

For Palm Spring’s three-part series “Scorched Earth,” which took a close look at climate change and the impact of drought on California’s desert communities. The entry included both digital and print packages.

Judges said: This entry made smart use of a variety of visual tools to show the devastating impact of climate change on the community. Elements like the jaw-dropping “death of a Joshua Tree” had impact as both a print centerpiece and an interactive graphic. The clarity of the storytelling was very engaging.

To see the work:


The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La. and Des Moines Design Studio (First Place)
Sean McKeown, designer

For a collection of University of Louisiana poster pages, done by the Advertiser at Lafayette, La., in conjunction with the Des Moines Design Studio.

Judges said: McKeown-Young maintained a concept over the course of multiple UL football games, while still providing the readers with a fresh visual experience each day. Some pages were turned on their side to better accommodate the photos, while the little illustrative touches of the fleur-de-lis gave a real Louisiana feel.

The News Leader at Staunton and Nashville Design Studio (Second Place)
Merry Eccles, designer

For the Addicted Nurses series, an in-depth look at the problem Virginia is having with nurses who are addicted to and stealing painkillers from their patients and institutions. The newsroom spent a year investigating and gathering data and personal stories.

Judges said: Wading through and organizing this much information in a way that paces the reader through many pages of content without giving their eyeballs fatigue takes patience and some pure design magic. The scrub-green concept that is carried throughout is so smart and sophisticated for the topic, and each chapter cover peels open a new layer of the story in a very visual way. The visualized data inside add entry points and information to help the reader contextualize the issue.

The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La. and Des Moines Design Studio (Third Place)
Scott Lester, design team leader

For the Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, La.) preview of the Festival International. The three-page guide served as a pullout section for people attending the event.

Judges said: These splashy pages capture the lively energy of a festival. The sophisticated design of the cover grabs your attention, while the inside pages delivered the most important information for festival-goers in a format that was easy to navigate. A great example of knowing your community.