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Des Moines, Palm Springs, Reno and Jackson, TN Lead Second-Quarter Awards of Excellence

McLEAN, Va., July 31 — U.S. Community Publishing today announced winners of its quarterly Awards of Excellence, which recognize the group’s best journalism for April through June 2014.

The Arizona Republic at Phoenix, the Asheville Citizen-Times and the News Journal at Mansfield won top prizes for public service journalism. In the watchdog category, the Detroit Free Press, the Poughkeepsie Journal and The Leaf-Chronicle at Clarksville set the standard.

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

Division I
Des Moines Register (seven) and The Arizona Republic at Phoenix (six) had the most citations. Phoenix won the most categories (four).

Division II
Reno Gazette-Journal and The Desert Sun at Palm Springs, with four citations each citations, led the way. Reno and Asheville both won in a pair of categories.

Division III
The Jackson (TN) Sun (five) and The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, LA (four) had the most citations. Clarksville and The Advocate at Newark each won a pair of categories.

Design studios
The Asbury Park and Des Moines design studios both earned three citations.

Judges for the second quarter were:

– Amanda McElfresh, reporter, Lafayette, La.
– Herman Fuselier, food and culture editor, Lafayette, La.
– Melanie Payne, columnist, Fort Myers
– Laura Ruane, senior writer, Fort Myers
– Josh Susong, storytelling team director, Phoenix
– Carrie Watters, East Valley regional editor, Phoenix
– Jewel Gopwani, assistant editor/opinion and editorial, Detroit
– Cynthia Burton, morning news director and copy editing chief, Detroit
– Nathan Groepper, creative director, Des Moines Design Studio
– Adam Drey, sports team designer, Des Moines Design Studio
– Dann Miller, senior digital and operations editor, Salem
– Laura Fosmire, reporter, Salem
– Tasha Stewart, entertainment editor, Cincinnati
– Meghan Wesley, breaking news editor, Cincinnati

If you’d like to nominate a judge for future quarters, call Mackenzie Warren, who administers the awards programs.

Prize money
First Place winners receive the following prizes: For a First Place award where the newsroom is cited, the newsroom gets $250, through intracompany deposit. If an individual is named in the First Place award, that individual gets $250 through a payroll deposit. Up to four individuals may be cited and they will split the $250 prize. For winning entries that cite five or more staffers, the $250 will go to the newsroom.

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 (Winner)

For The Arizona Republic’s long-term probe into the mismanagement of the Veterans Administration Health Care System in Phoenix, as it turned into a story of national significance.

Judges said: The Republic’s investigative work shines as an example of great journalism – a local story that reveals a national scandal, reaching into the highest levels of government. The Republic tirelessly fought the bureaucracy and red tape to uncover a web of death, deceit, and corruption. As the Republic’s coverage became national news, they never lost sight of the core story – Veterans. It was their personal stories that remained out in front, through community conversations and partnerships with other media. Media observers, citizens, and veterans will feel the effects of the Republic’s landmark on journalism for years to come.

To see the work:
“April 10: “”VA deaths blamed on long waits””: Includes TV coverage and embedded video of victim’s family cited in story.

May 10: “”McCain: VA shold let vets go to non VA doctors””
With videos and sidebars:

The Cincinnati Enquirer (Finalist)
Krista Ramsey, columnist; Laura Trujillo, editor; Cara Owsley, photojournalist

For their stories published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the profiling of 14 children from neighborhoods surrounding the killing or accusing of children of serious crimes. Their stories provided stark testimonies to the crime, poverty, and other challenges these children face in their daily lives.

Judges said: The Enquirer’s 14 on 14 stories were powerful journalism without relying on talking heads, government officials, or statistics. Children were simply allowed to share their thoughts on the challenges they face every day. These engrossing stories have been hard to get out of our heads and hearts. They have sparked community conversations and calls for action.

To see the work:
the story: reaction: the video:

The News Journal at Wilmington (Finalist)
Adam Taylor, reporter; Jennifer Corbett, visual journalist; Daniel Sato, visual journalist

For their team impact, examining the affects of heroin on the Wilmington community – including recent effects on the drug’s newer, younger addicts.

Judges said: The News Journal told the story of heroin’s human toll in Delaware through fresh voices and faces. The resulting community outreach was an impressive movement, with hundreds attending a forum, and creating partnerships with local organizations.

To see the work:


Asheville Citizen-Times (Winner)
Casey Blake, social issues reporter; Erin Brethauer, visual journalist; Robert Bradley, visual journalist

For their package examining trends among the homeless in North Carolina. Reporters spoke to families and officials about what it is like to be homeless, how the problem is currently being addressed, and what more can be done. In their report, they also included data on schools and prices for affordable housing.

Jusdges said: It would be relatively easy to write a standard story about homelessness, using public data, or talking to one or two families and maybe a couple of officials. It’s much more difficult to take the time to tell the story behind the story. Rather than just taking a surface look at the issue, the journalists dug deeply, looking for the gaps in the system. It was clear the journalists spent considerable time with families and were committed to telling the true saga of what it’s like to fall between the cracks. We were moved by their plight, and also a little scared at the thought that we could find ourselves in the same kind of situation with just a few bad breaks. Though, what truly set this package apart, was how the journalists took the extra steps of moderating a forum on the topic, sharing their own thoughts and pushing for changes.

To see the work:

Press & Sun-Bulletin at Binghamton (Finalist)
Steve Reilly, investigative editor

For his story describing the phenomenon of people working for sub-minimum wages. It explored the details of the laws that allow it to happen, the lack of oversight, and what it means for those who are forced to work for such low wages.

Judges said: While judging this category, we thought a lot about what constitutes true public service. We concluded that it can take many different forms. In this case, the main service was drawing attention to a serious problem that affects thousands of people, yet has gone unnoticed and unreported for years. The piece was well-researched and deeply touching, and it continues with the acknowledgement from officials that there is a problem at hand. I look forward to seeing follow-up stories about any long-lasting changes that are made.

Montgomery Advertiser (Finalist)
Kala Kachmar, reporter; Allison Griffin, reporter

For The Montgomery Advertiser’s effort to drawn attention to the neglected Antioch Cemetery. In addition to coverage of the cemetery’s plight, these two reporters have also mobilized their co-workers and the community to improve the cemetery’s condition.

Judges said: The story of Antioch was both sad and fascinating. The reporters did a great job of chronicling its history, the people who are buried there, and its current condition. They then, took it a step further by working to improve the cemetery and mobilizing volunteers. This has evolved into a larger movement (#DoMoreMGM) to encourage volunteerism and community outreach. Kudos to the staff for becoming such a large part of their own community and encouraging others to do the same.

To see the work:


News Journal at Mansfield (Winner)
Gere Goble, Features and Engagement Editor, MNCO

For the Mansfield News Journal’s launching of the Ohio Summer Reading Project – which includes daily essays from their audience about what they are reading, intending to emphasize the importance of literacy.

Judges said: This project stood out above all others. What made it unique was how the newspaper turned the tables, by letting their audience tell their own stories about reading. Some personal essays were cute, some were thoughtful, but all provided a personal connection between the essayist, the paper, and the general audience. The stories made us think about our own experiences with books and summer readings. While summer reading can sometimes be a standard or stale story, the staffers here went outside the box, and provided outstanding results.

To see the work:

Chillicothe Gazette (Finalist)
David Berman, reporter

For the chronicling of errors and missing names in Chillicothe’s Korean War memorial, and the inspiring of community action.

Judges said: Numerous mistakes and omissions in Chillicothe’s Korean War memorial would be comical if they weren’t so disrespectful to the deceased local veterans. Reporter David Berman captured the controversy with facts, fairness, and numerous voices, including one organizer’s baffling comment that he “(doesn’t) see what the big deal is.” Berman’s report resulted in an outcry from the community, national media attention, and pledges from the memorial’s organizers to right a major wrong.

To see the work:

The Reporter at Fond du Lac (Finalist)
Laurie Ritger, reporter

For the series of stories describing the history, status, and fate of the historic Retlaw Theater – including the debate over its preservation and possible demolition.

Judges said: Reporter Laurie Ritger went to great lengths to ensure the public’s knowledge on the details that surrounded this difficult, even emotional, decision. Ritger highlighted the theater’s historic significance, its current neglected state, and the controversy over re-developing or demolishing it. These could have been boring, bureaucratic stories, but Ritger brought them to life with her comprehensive reporting, and strong storytelling skills. Anyone in the Fond du Lac area would have no excuse for not being aware of the situation surrounding the theater, largely in part due to Ritger’s tireless efforts.

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.


Detroit Free Press (Winner)
Paul Egan, Lansing bureau team leader

For his report on a contracted food service vendor for Michigan’s Department of Corrections. He points to the pitfalls of privatization, the underscores, and the need for holding vendors accountable.

Judges said: Egan and his team’s use of the Freedom of Information Act set this story apart in its ability to clearly explain and uncover problems with a vendor. We particularly liked the way the reporter did not let up and continued to follow the story, balancing the taxpayer/money issues that readers care about, with the human side of the group that doesn’t garner much sympathy.

To see the work:

Detroit Free Press (Finalist)
John Wisely, staff writer; L.L. Brasier, staff writer

For their fascinating tale of a Congressional candidate who made millions off the misfortunes of others.

Judges said: This stood out because of its human component, nicely balanced with old-fashioned digging. We were impressed by the variety of source documents, and the depth of the analysis without ever bogging down the reader. It was a great read and a top contender in a competitive field.


Poughkeepsie Journal (Winner)

For their tackling of an important story about the unintended consequences of the war on prescription drug abuse.

Judges said: This was a tour-de-force of writing, graphics, layout, headlines — the works. It had an amazing human feel for a story that was generated by numbers and laws. It had fabulous use of graphics to convey information. The clear standout in its division.

To see the work:

Tallahassee Democrat (Finalist)
Jeff Burlew, senior writer

For his showing of how the Leon County Schools’ superintendent may have manipulated the competitive bid process to benefit campaign donors.

Judges said: Burlew gave a clear and compelling story that is of importance to the community. Whether or not the FBI investigation goes anywhere, this community now knows about a potential breach of ethics in an institution charged with teaching good judgment to our young people, thanks to Burlew’s reporting.

To see the work:

Reno Gazette-Journal (Finalist)
Jason Hidalgo, reporter

For his comprehensive and fascinating report on a legal real estate scheme that hurts consumers, the housing market and a community’s tax base.

Judges said: Jason Hidalgo not only knew his stuff, he wrote clearly and compellingly. We were impressed with how he reached out to the community to answer people’s questions.

To see the work:
2Q Excellence in Watch Dog Reporting Content April 20, 2014: Sold Short: April 20, 2014, “Short sales remain big business in Reno-Sparks”: April 20, 2014, “Lowball short sales hurt banks and consumers”: April 20, 2014, “10 questions to ask when short selling”: April 21, 2014: Live chat today with RGJ reporter on short-sales investigation: April 22, 2014, “Nevada to investigate short sale flipping”: April 25, 2014, “From KNPR: Do investors manipulate short sales?”: April 25, 2014, “Reader: As RGJ described short sales, it’s insider trading”: April 29, 2014, “RGJ editorial: Dual-agency short sales raise questions”:


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

For the two-year, plowing through of emails between a real estate developer and a school board COO. As a school building was steamrolled through, their chummy relationship resulted in a sweet deal for the developer.

Judges said: We were impressed by how Tavia Green hustled to stay apace with her findings, while the project rolled forward. The reporter’s use of detail elevated the story beyond a simple account of a questionable deal in a development project.

To see the work:
Video: Timeline:

Star-Gazette at Elmira (Finalist)
Steve Reilly, investigative editor

For his uncovering of an interesting and disturbing fact about the transportation of hazardous materials on roads in New York.

Judges said: A good, solid watchdog piece that uncovered an issue of importance to the community.

Times Herald at Port Huron (Finalist)
Nicole Hayden and Nicholas Grenke, reporters

For taking a heavy number-based story and turning it into a good read.

No big scandal, just good solid information that took a lot of digging to shed light on how tax money is spent. This article is the kind of watchdog reporting that holds public officials accountable and makes newspapers important to their communities.

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.

All divisions consolidated for this category

The Des Moines Register (Winner)

For the Des Moines Register staff’s mobile-first special content for the June primary election.

Judges said: We loved the mobile-first focus for all of the special features; the interactive comparison tool and the live results app are of equally high-quality on mobile and desktop. Both features included lots of information in an easily digestible format with multiple entry points for engaging users. The live video was well-produced and the hosts were authoritative and relatable; it incorporated previously generated content, social media and multiple sources (including analysts), resulting in a well-rounded and robust experience that encouraged readers to join the conversation throughout the evening.

To see the work:”

Asbury Park Press (Finalist)

For the Asbury Park Press’ Go Jersey Shore app, a visitors guide to dining, local attractions, hot spots, beaches and more.

Judges said: The app’s utility increases as more content is added to it, giving it a long shelf life. The content is data-based instead of story-driven, enabling it to be more easily updated. It is visually pleasing and we love the feature that allows users to create post cards with their own photos. The app appeals to all target audiences and appears to have a lot of sponsorship and revenue potential especially as some bars already give discounts when people download the app.

To see the work:
GO JERSEY SHORE APP, found at the iPhone and Android app stores


Green Bay Press-Gazette (Finalist)
Doug Schneider, reporter; Chris Hur, web developer; Chris Speckhard, digital desk editor; Robert Zizzo, regional sports editor; Pete Dougherty, Packers beat reporter; Jeff Ash, editor

For the Green Bay Press-Gazette sports staff’s interactive roster builder, which allows users to play general manager, deciding which players to spend the team’s budget on.

Judges said: This interactive is the football version of “The Sims.” It’s easy to understand and use, and plays into the passionate culture of football in Green Bay. The tool appeals to both casual and die-hard fans and has the potential to be replicated in other cities. Since it is dynamically updated, it stays relevant and gives fans an incentive to come back again and again. The tool’s engagement time of 2 million minutes is particularly noteworthy as all Gannett properties work to increase time on site.

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 Arizona Republic (Winner)
Daniel Gonzalez,senior reporter; Bob Ortega, senior reporter; Michael Kiefer, senior reporter

For coverage that begins with immigrants being dropped off at a local bus stop, and rapidly expands to on-the-ground features from Latin America and the president weighing in on a “humanitarian crisis.”

Judges said: Stories in the entry run the gamut. At times, reporters are simply getting the news out. At times, they’re boiling a complex and shifting story down to a set of simple questions and answers. At times, they’re on location in Central America, filing copy in what was surely a difficult situation and feeding back video reports ready for broadcast TV. So the Republic’s coverage distinguishes itself both for its good reporting and for its breadth of reporting for various platforms. Story styles include straight news, Q&As, political explainers and narrative storytelling. And the writing finds the emotional touchstones within complex issues, as a longtime immigrant exposes the scar where smugglers attacked him, as two young cousins from Honduras brave a sinister street in a foreign land, unsure whether they will survive.

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:

The Des Moines Register (Finalist)
Donnelle Eller, reporter

For Donnelle Eller’s wide-ranging set of stories on agricultural and environmental issues that always keep the focus on how the topic will affect the economy and her audience.

In a category with numerous environment-beat entries, Eller’s work stands out for a writing style that features impact prominently. Consistently, her story tops cut from the topic straight to the effect, in a way that makes something as esoteric as “glyphosate-resistant amaranth” or “ephemeral gullies” far more approachable. Stories showed balance and excellent sourcing, and each was accompanied by a video or multimedia element online. Reader comments there bear out the community’s interest in agriculture as business — or as controversy.

To see the work:

Detroit Free Press (Finalist)
Nathan Bomey, staff writer; Matt Helms, staff writer; Joe Guillen, staff writer

For solid sourcing that allowed their team to continually break news in the high-profile Detroit bankruptcy.

Judges said: The keys to the Free Press’ work on ongoing bankruptcy negotiations typically lie in the phrases that keep popping up in their ledes: “According to sources close to the negotiations,” “sources familiar with the deal said,” or “according to confidential documents obtained by the Free Press.” That kind of sourcing kept the team ahead of the news on a heavy story that was drawing national attention.


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

For the ongoing investigations and reporting on the Lansing Board of Water and Light after a disastrous winter power outage and hazardous chemical mishap. The public utility’s functions directly affect residents in the coverage area.

Judges said: Rarely would one expect beat coverage of a public utility to generate a gripping narrative read. But that’s just what Reed crafted as one of the stories in this entry. His work on the Lansing Board of Water and Light ranges from ongoing coverage of public reports to his own investigative digging. His news coverage keeps the focus clearly on impact. As the community continued to grapple with the problems exposed by a winter power outage, Reed covered a public investigation and the ongoing discussion. But his ledes always go to impact, focusing on how systemic breakdowns affected customers who were left without power for days. The highlight of the entry, though, was on yet another apparent systemic breakdown: chemicals mishandled at a water treatment plant releasing a toxic cloud and utility employees struggling with the problem for hours (at personal risk) before following the utility’s own emergency procedures and calling in a fire department hazmat team. Reed’s vivid retelling, based on his own document digging, puts readers inside the plant from the moment the “chemical cocktail bubbled up.” This story shows how the power of narrative writing makes any work, especially watchdog work, a reality for readers.

Reno Gazette-Journal (Finalist)
Chris Murray, sports columnist

For his illumination of the local story of a Nevada man’s horse racing in the Kentucky Derby, expanding as California Chrome chased the Triple Crown.

Judges said:The stories swoop readers into California Chrome’s exhilarating run for a Triple Crown with vivid detail about the owner, a local man who operates a press at a local machine shop. Murray’s reporting offers details into Steve Coburn, a guy who lives in a manufactured home, got into race horses as a way to curb his tax liability and returned to work a few days after his horse won the Kentucky Derby. The reporter did a good job of sticking with the story as it grew, traveling to the Belmont and offering profiles on the trainer and jockey, as well as online optimized content. However, the highlight was the initial stories that made us fall in love with the storyline.

The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss. (Finalist)
Geoff Pender, political editor; Sam R. Hall, assistant managing editor; Jimmie E. Gates, political writer; Deborah Barfield Berry, Gannett Washington Bureau

For the exhaustive coverage of a closely watched Senate primary race, and how it took turn after bizarre turn, as dirty tricks or mishaps led to more mudslinging.

Judges said: The ongoing commitment the team made to covering this rollicking race was fantastic. Near-daily coverage of such contests often amounts to a horse race. Here, reporters had a wealth of colorful twists and turns. The writing is, at turns, functional, engaging, or even lyrical. By the time we reach the Sunday step-back piece before the runoff election — and we get to a lede that reads “The 2014 U.S. Senate GOP primary in Mississippi will go down as one of the most bitter, mudslinging-est, bizarre politi- cal hootenannies in state history” — it’s clear this is a political team having a blast doing its job.

To see the work:
In addition to stories, these two blogs were updated multiple times each day with Senate information:


The Advocate at Newark (Winner)
Bethany Bruner, reporter; Hannah Sparling, reporter

For their stunning coverage of a high school assault case. The reporters used public-records requests, court coverage, and interviews to get to the heart of the event.

Judges said: The Advocate’s ongoing coverage of alleged assaults in the basketball locker room puts a hard-news framework on the hot topic of school bullying. Reporters Bethany Bruner and Hannah Sparling use clear and concise writing that gets directly to the points: How the school handled the investigation and what if any school policies would change. The stories demonstrate many key tools of good beat reporting: documents requests, good sourcing, continued pushing on those in charge. One story exhibits perhaps the best way to handle the classic scenario of a ridiculously-over-redacted document: Write about it anyway, in effect calling out officials for their lack of transparency. Excellent use of quotes from the document show the perspective of students who witnessed the locker room assault: It’s “stuff that seniors do to younger classmen,” one student said, “like the impossible situp and like tormenting them.” … and the kicker, “Because at first everyone was laughing about it and we didn’t realize how big of a deal it was,” the student said. “Because we didn’t think it was a big deal and we should have.” The coverage also shows follow-through, dogging the court case and defendants’ claims, and ultimately appears to be the driving force behind a new district effort to head off future assaults.

To see the work:
Final online articles are the same as print.

The Leaf-Chronicle at Clarksville (Finalist)
Stephanie Ingersoll, city and crime reporter

For her breaking news story about dead puppies found in a home that quickly expanded into a shocking discovery of even more dog deaths, with personal stories from people who lost dogs to a training program they had trusted.

Judges said: The first two days of coverage show how a breaking crime story can move up the ladder. After the discovery of the remains of a few dogs, reporter Stephanie Ingersoll comes back the next day with a bigger story: Reader interaction from her initial online posting leads to the discovery of more dogs, and the reporter reaches the trainer in question for her side of the story. So the reporting would have been solid from that point, even before things took a turn for the more bizarre: Deputies in another town seize dozens of dogs and, tragically, the remains of dozens of others from the woman, and charge her with cruelty. This set of stories peaked with a takeout on the owners who lost their dogs: Why they trusted this trainer and how they feel now that they’re left to wonder whether their dogs are dead or alive.

To see the work: Gallery: Social: Facebook response page: Response page website:

The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La. (Finalist)
Amanda McElfresh, education reporter

For her piece that exposes personnel changes at a local elementary school and probes deeper into the cause of the school’s problems — and the potential solutions.

Judges said: Amanda McElfresh did a good job with the breaking news of the principal of a failing school being placed on leave, but she stood out for coming back at the issue — taking a deeper look at what was going on at the long-troubled Faulk School. She used data and sourcing in an explainer about the school’s ongoing academics and potential solutions. Clear writing and scene-setting helped elevate this story from a dry personnel or data story: “In many ways, Faulk looks like any other elementary school. On a recent Friday, a fourth-grade class enjoyed a library period. Some students watched a video on recycling, while others searched for books to take home for the weekend. Preschool and kindergarten children played basketball, pushed themselves higher on the swings and hula-hooped on the expansive play- ground. In a kindergarten class, an Americorps volunteer read to a child while others put together an alphabet puzzle or used computers to play word games. “But Faulk students often face challenges that are more difficult than their counterparts at other schools.”

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.

To see the work:
**Nov. 9, 2013, 1A, 6A, 7A Common Core **Nov. 30, 2013, 1A, 7A Struggling students connected to tutors Cut and paste video ID into browser: 2842352850001 Nov. 6, 2013, 1A, 5A Reported threats at school frustrate parents Oct. 9, 2013, 1A, 5ADressed to Live (Cornell tech/fashion students team up) October 21, 2013, 1A CU researcher’s ultra-thin glass is 2 atoms thick


The Des Moines Register (Winner)

For there response to a riot break out, at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, during Iowa State University’s annual spring festival. The Register paired tweets, video, and photos from the scene with incredible organization in the newsroom, where an editor focused on a timeline and gallery.

Judges said: The Register’s effort is an excellent example of digital breaking news coverage. Working through the night, a reporter, photographer and editor ensured they had the most comprehensive coverage ready for readers when they picked up their phones in the morning, a decision that paid off with high number of mobile page views for the story.

To see the work:

Detroit Free Press (Finalist)
Katrease Stafford, staff writer; Robert Allen, staff writer; The Detroit Free Press Staff

For their wall-to-wall coverage of this Free Pess story. It seemed like all anyone in Detroit could talk about for weeks. A white man, Steve Utash, accidentally hit a black child who darted out on the street. He jumped out of truck to check on the boy, and a mob of people assaulted him.

Judges said: Free Press reporters ensured that the Free Press was first in this story in a unique way. Through a family friend on Facebook, reporter Katrease Stafford reached out to the victim’s daughter, who worried about how their family would pay for Utash’s hospital bills. Stafford explained the crowdfunding sites that could be used to raise money (the family created a site, and raised more than $100,000). But that early kindness solidified the relationship between the family and Katrease, who gave Katrease the only interview that night.

To see the work:

The Journal News at Westchester (Finalist)

For a story of national interest, the Journal News used their advance notice on the indictment of a local mother suspected of poisoning and killing her five-year-old son to offer an in depth coverage including video, audio, and a live chat, dominating coverage from even before the announcement, with a five part series on the mother, to the day of the sentencing.

Judges said: The reporting and editing team’s sourcing, attention to SEO and persistence paid off. They clearly knew the story, having published a series on the child’s death, but these journalists still pushed by asking for the video in the courtroom during the trial. The team optimized stories to increase re-circulation. The efforts paid off with strong page views and Chartbeat metrics.


The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss. (Winner)

For staff coverage of tornadoes that swept through the state, the people they hurt and the damage left behind.

Judges said: What stood out about this coverage was its comprehensive nature. Staff zeroed in on all aspects of the storm under daunting conditions. Using push alert notifications and Twitter to help readers without power keep track of the tornadoes and connecting readers with services after the fact put the staff in a caretaker role that surely benefited the community. Using the long-form template to tell Six hours of Hell from three different reporters added depth and completeness to the coverage. Stellar art, videos, maps and personal stories rounded out the coverage. A huge effort.

To see the work:

The Times (Finalist)
Vickie Welborn, regional reporter; Maya Lau, crime and courts reporter; Henrietta Wildsmith, visual journalist

For their team coverage of the kidnapping of a woman by her estranged husband that turned into a heart breaking murder-suicide. The killing resulted in a law that allows instant divorce in domestic violence situations and tightens bail restrictions for domestic violence offenders.

Judges said: The coverage of this kidnapping-turned murder-suicide stands out because of good follow-your-nose reporting, good writing and good use of digital tools: updates in the status of the woman as police searched for her, and the powerful images of notes she’d written about the abuse that the team tracked down and shared via Instagram. Continued reporting would show this family had seen this kind of violence before. The coverage ends with the beginnings of a change in law.

To see the work:

Lansing State Journal (Finalist)

For the staff covering a shooter on the loose as he moved from a shooting at a Rite Aid, to a second shooting, and then a standoff.

Judges said: This coverage is notable because the team reacted to the story’s real-time element (shooter on the loose!) by using push alerts, Twitter, Facebook and the website to update and explain to citizens what was happening and how to navigate the area to stay out of harm’s way. The lead reporter recapped the story for print the next day. A true example of digital-first.

To see the work:


The News Leader (Winner)

For covering the breaking news of a body found at the main city park, the News Leader at Staunton did an impressive job of balancing the time of the death with subsequent identification of the victim around the story with the habits of their readers.

Judges said: What’s most impressive is the distinction News Leader staffers made between what they posted on Twitter and Facebook. Twitter was for breaking updates, and Facebook for the personal posts around the story. It’s a smart strategy. Editors described a similar strategy thinking about how readers wanted their content, debuting a video in the 9-10 am time slot shown more readers were on desktop.

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

The Daily Advertiser (Finalist)

For the tremendous job of covering the University of Louisiana’s regional baseball tournament. But the story didn’t stop there. An ESPN anchor in town for the tournament said there “isn’t much else to do” in Lafayette, and knowing their audience well, the Advertiser jumped into action.

Judges said: Knowing and feeling the pride that Daily Advertiser readers have for their community, the Advertiser barked back with ways readers could show their spirit — including “CheerTheBeard” masks in print, side-by side stories proclaiming 10 things to know about UL and Ole Miss fans with the Clarion-Ledger and a tailgate party attended by thousands of people over two weekends. The Advertiser was clearly on the side of fans and helped them show that ESPN anchor what Lafayette is really like.

To see the work:

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 look for precise and purposeful choices, which you should explain in the entry.


The Courier-Journal (Winner)

For the staff of the Louisville-Courier, which spent months planning then executing coverage of the parties, celebrities, horses, owners, trainers and other events that culminated in the greatest two minutes of sports, the Kentucky Derby.

Judges said: The staff captured the fun and frolic of the Derby through creative use of all platforms, from a game in which you could get your Derby horse name to social media updates from #KyDerby, and betting tips and results aimed at the mobile audience. Standout features included a video history called Derby Moments; a behind-the-scenes telecast daily of trainers and horses, and for real race geeks, a color graphic that plotted every horse and rider position at each turn. The efforts struck the hearts of race lovers and resulted in a 40% increase in page views and a jump in mobile.

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

The Des Moines Register (Finalist)
Kyle Munson, Iowa columnist; Rodney White, multimedia photographer

For their multiplatform tribute to Iowa’s most beloved film, “Field of Dreams,” on its 25th anniversary.

Judges said: Pushing beyond the usual remembrances, Munson and White dug deep to find archival material to tell the story behind the making of the film and the disputes about the site itself. Anecdotes from cast and crew and reflections from regular Iowans resulted in an evocative, polished 22-minute video documentary, the perfect vehicle to capture the heart of the movie and the heart of Iowa. The project also included live coverage of the return of the stars of the film to the state for Father’s Day. Use of the long-form-storytelling template cemented an already stellar presentation in digital.

To see the work:

Gannett Government Media

For this staff’s multimedia depiction of life at Arlington National Cemetery as the military burial ground turns 150

“Arlington 150” is sponsored content that captures the essence of the military burial ground through video with simple sounds (birds chirping, guard boots clicking) and stunning images. An interactive map is useful for navigating burial sites if you are looking for a loved one or if you have an interest in history. It’s high production value and emotional images likely connect well with readers.


Reno Gazette-Journal (Winner)

For their extraordinary efforts to help voters get to know 18 candidates running in the city’s primary mayoral election. The Gazette Journal paired constant coverage of the election with (just to name a few components) community participation by crowdsourcing which candidates should be in a live forum. They also executed a comprehensive digital plan through election night.

Judges said: The Reno Gazette-Journal has created a model that all newsrooms can use when approaching a heated election. From the filing deadline through election night, the staff took every opportunity possible to include readers, print, digital and social. You have to wonder how many more people voted in a primary election because of the Gazette-Journal’s efforts.

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”: May 30, 2014, “Mayoral debate rating results”: “It’s Schieve, Pezonella for Reno mayor”:

Fort Collins Coloradoan (Finalist)
Jennifer Hefty, web producer; Stephen Meyers, reporter; Miles Blumhardt, editor; Dan Belknap, web producer; Adrian Garcia, reporter; Richard Haro, photographer; Alexandra Smith, digital editor.

For the incredible story built by The Fort Collins Coloradoan on the death of a climber at Longs Peak. Using that tragedy, they were able to explain climbers’ dangerous history with the peak and what can be done to improve its safety. Noteworthy is the difference between the digital publication (mid-morning on a Friday) and print publication on Sunday.

Judges said: Writers Stephen Meyers and Adrian Garcia had us at the first headline: “Victim No. 59.” They proceeded to unravel the harrowing story Burklow. But this story was more than just about a victim. A perfect use of Presto’s long-form template, this story wove videos, maps, charts and a database to explain the danger of Longs Peak and the passion people have for this adventure.

To see the work:

The Times (Finalist)
Alexandria Burris, Shreveport/Caddo government reporter; Sherry Shephard, faith and causes reporter

For reporter coverage on a serious problem: predatory payday lenders targeting military members. Their findings focused on the loopholes in existing laws.

Judges said: The bold print design conveyed the importance of this issue in a city where the well being of service members and veterans is clearly a passion topic. The authors did a great job of telling a story with helpful information in print and online, including where to find help, and an online map showing the number of lenders located near a local Air Force base.


The Daily Journal (Winner)

For the staff’s efforts to capture and celebrate the homecoming of professional baseball player Mike Trout, a hometown hero, during his debut in Philadelphia, across the river from his hometown in New Jersey.

Judges said: The staff’s six days of coverage in print and online put readers in the middle of everything during Trout’s two-day visit home. Print included setups to the day’s happening, 20 pages of fan selfies taken during the games and popular cheer cards. Tweets kept readers up to date about everything from game play and photos to traffic jams leading to the stadium. In total, the coverage captured fan enthusiasm for the games and showcased the joyful connection readers have with their favorite hometown hero. The best part was for readers who couldn’t make it to the games. All they had to do was follow along.

The Jackson Sun (Finalist)
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 Daily Advertiser (Finalist)

For the staff’s extensive and intrepid coverage of the Festival International, an annual music and arts festival celebrating French heritage.

Judges said: The staff’s imaginative use of digital tools to enhance storytelling and improve the experience of festival-goers stood out. Examples included covering a silly string flash mob using a GoPro, presenting dueling columns from staff experts on what was best to see at the festival and creating content unique to mobile. Use of social media for schedules, updates and traffic information also likely helped user experience. Photo galleries collected 100,000 page views, showing that content connected with readers.

To see the work:

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 Cininnati Enquirer (Winner)
John Faherty, senior reporter

For his first-person account of his decision to seek a pancreas transplant and the difficult recovery and doubts that followed.

Judges said: From the story to the video accompanying its longform presentation online, Faherty offered an intimate peek into a personal struggle that was both real and moving. Many first-person narratives suffer from a lack of critical distance — the writer by default can’t analyze himself the way that he could report about another person. Faherty transcends this limitation with an honesty that is sometimes brutal and unflattering, but in the end makes his character all the more human.

To see the work:
Main story: Second-day story about the organ donor:

The Courier-Journal (Finalist)
Chris Kenning, reporter

For his story about a Western Kentucky University professor’s fight to survive after plunging down a 70-foot crevasse in the Himalayan Mountains.

Judges said: The story was an intense adrenaline rush that hooked readers. Kenning crafted the piece with the right amount of detail on the professor’s climatology work and the harrowing account of falling through the ice and climbing out. In a digital world, strong multimedia is huge. Incredible video the professor shot during the ordeal, combined with outstanding graphics and editing by the Courier-Journal elevated the experience into a memorable read.

To see the work:

The Arizona Republic (Finalist)
Karina Bland, senior reporter

For her story about how a husband and father continues after the death of his wife.

Judges said: This would have been a tale we’d heard before if not for the writer’s talent. Bland identified the theme that even the family likely could not verbalize, offering readers an emotional take-away. Early in the story, Karina describes the wife’s job as a firefighter: “When the engine crew sets up a fire hose, they call it laying a line. They lay the line, hydrant to truck, then pull it into the fire … It’s one of the most important things firefighters learn. Don’t stray from the line. Lay that line, they say, pull it into the fire, and then keep it in sight. You might get hurt — plenty of firefighters get burned — but you’ll never be lost.” With a storyteller’s talent, Karina then weaves the story of the couple’s life, wife Brandi’s commitment to creating traditions for their family, her decorative signs posted around the house that show the value placed on family, underlined Bible verses, the cancer, the death. Karina helps it make sense: “Brandi wasn’t only being a mom. Brandi was laying a line. It didn’t mean they wouldn’t get hurt — people get hurt, all the time, and losing her would hurt a lot. But if they stayed on the line, followed it closely, even in the darkness, they would find the way.” The longform digital presentation with numerous family portraits allowed readers to see how Brandi had laid the line for her family.

To see the work:


The Burlington Free Press (Winner)
Tim Johnson, reporter

For his fearless — and sometimes indescribable — plunges into the insignificant, with a nod to the serious along the way.

Judges said: Do marathon runners causes climate change? You know, because of all the breathing? Do pizza joints and jewelry shops generate some bizarre economic symbiosis? You’ve never worried about these questions either, have you? Yet Johnson seemingly has, and can keep spurring us with new discoveries and remarkable bits of empirical data along the way. Sounds strange to say it, but some of the most surprising moments in this collection were the ones where we realize he’s actually reporting — surveying every downtown emporium, firing off e-mails to the consulate of Congo (or is it The Congo?). We’re not entirely sure whether Johnson is always serious. Regardless, he’s not taking himself too seriously. And when he does turn to more serious matters, his hop-skip-and-a-jump writing style smooths into a purposeful cadence: “Early Vermont outlawed slaveholding, so there were no slaves here, were there? Yes, there were.” These stories aren’t what we expect to read in a newspaper, and that’s why they stand out.

The Desert Sun (Finalist)
Tatiana Sanchez, reporter

For her intimate portrait of a boxer whose head injury cost him nearly everything.

Judges said: Sanchez has bitten off a lot of material to cover in her narrative approach, from the life story of a young immigrant boxer to the questions over the fight itself to the inquiries into the management of a state fund for athlete’s neurological exams. The moving among different topics sometimes eclipses the narrative, but the story’s conclusion rewards readers who stick with it, as all the hard realities converge in one bittersweet moment.

To see this work:

Fort Collins Coloradoan (Finalist)
Stephen Meyers, outdoors reporter

For his story of a mountain climber whose death was as mysterious as his life.

Judges said: It’s hard to know a dead man, but Meyers set out to unravel mountaineer Matthew Burklow, for the most principled of purposes: The story of his death on one of Colorado’s famous fourteeners could help save others from the same fate. Burklow remains a bit of an enigma, as his father paints a picture of a quirky young man who also would have been driven to ignore weather conditions. While we wish we could unlock more of the Burklow mystery, we applaud Meyers for his classic structure, spare prose and compassionate treatment of the peak’s 59th fatality.

To see the work:
Longs Peak, Chapter 1 only for narrative entry:


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

For his impeccable writing about the Clarksville base, a military base that was so top secret during the Cold War that some in the area didn’t even know it existed.

Judges said: As he pulls back the curtain on a secret military base, Grey sprinkles hidden writing gems along the way. The base’s secrets emerge “as the fog of Cold War super-secrecy dissipates.” “The reality,” he writes of the base, “was less dramatic, if you remove the fact that the place maintained… the tools to initiate the end of civilization.” Grey never uses “voice” as a cover for overwriting. He simply uses his natural point of view to draw us in to this secretive place where “low-level paranoia lingers” until, at the end, he takes us back to the base’s edges where we see its “creeping fate.” The clear command of his writer’s voice is evident in the opening of another story: “In the realm of interesting job descriptions, there are few things as guaranteed to turn heads and bring on questions as the title of “H-bomb mechanic.” Fortunately, Alex Gabbard isn’t one to drop such a term and then shy away from a discussion ..”

Herald Times Reporter (Finalist)
Adam Thompson, regional sports editor

For his story of a high school baseball player whose father died of cancer.

Judges said: Thompson didn’t just tell us a straight story about the father of a local high school sports star’s father dying, he took us into the story by setting scenes. In a tightly written story, we learn about the father’s cancer diagnosis, how involved the father was with his children’s sports and why playing a baseball game after his dad’s funeral became an escape for Brock Gilsdorf.

To see the work:

The Jackson Sun (Finalist)
Nichole Manna, reporter

For her social-media exploration for the Jackson Sun into a mysterious homicide case where nobody wanted to talk.

Judges said: A college golfer and self-proclaimed Christian evangelist is accused of shooting his fiancée, hiding her body to make her death appear to be suicide and evading police. Those who knew him remember him as devout, happy and hardworking. Then there was the bizarre incident, two years earlier, when someone firebombed his pickup truck, shouting “Jesus freak!” Is he wrongly accused or a cold killer? Reporter Manna mostly had doors closed in her face, with everybody from family to college coaches refusing to comment. Through resourceful use of records and social media, she builds a curious picture of the enigmatic defendant, who tweets happily in the face of adversity, but later, chillingly, posts “It’s crazy that God doesn’t smash me to pieces when I sin.”

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.


The Arizona Republic (Winner)
Laurie Merrill, mobile/digital reporter; Ryan Van Velzer, mobile/digital reporter; Jen Kuhney, mobile/digital reporter

For their digitally friendly features localizing nationally trending topics in a fun, relatable way geared toward target audiences.

Judges said: Several things distinguished this entry: Each feature was written in a casual, everyman (or woman) voice that kept its target audience in mind; reporters identified topics that people were either already talking about or that had high engagement potential; and the features all had highly clickable headlines. This focus on creating sharable content could easily be replicated by other properties.

To see the work:
Merrill: (3 different versions for april, may, june)


Ryan Van Velzer:

The Journal News (Finalist)

For the Journal News at Westchester staff’s live chat on the arrest of a mother charged in the poisoning death of her son.

Judges said: This entry was a good example of how to create new conversation around an ongoing and high-profile story. The chat included many voices — from the reporters covering the case to a health reporter to outside sources, such as a licensed psychologist — which provided a wealth of perspectives, enriching the chat for users. The chat was well-structured, with the panelists establishing the format for participants from the start. The panelists stuck to the facts, clarifying erroneous information when possible and reiterating details from their own reporting. The chat also served as an outlet for readers around an emotionally charged story.

To see the work:

The Des Moines Register (Finalist)
Daniel Finney, reporter

For his humorous, informative Tweets on local weather and, more recently, digital subscriptions.

Judges said: Finney’s weather Tweets are authoritative yet quirky; and he takes an even more lighthearted tone with his call for subscriptions. The weather Tweets are timely and informative with a touch of humor, when appropriate. The subscription Tweets provide a dose of levity that encourage a positive response from users.

To see the work:


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

For government watchdog reporter Anjeanette Damon’s digitally savvy coverage of Reno politics, especially the mayoral race.

Judges said: Damon’s creative use of alternative story forms injects life into what can traditionally be a stuffy collection of political coverage. Her Mayor Watch feature provides interesting snapshots of candidates in an easily digestible and visually pleasing format. The Reno mayor quiz gives a fun spin to political coverage and allows users to see which candidate most closely aligns with their beliefs. Damon’s conversational yet informative voice in her blogs makes casual political readers more likely to want to join in.

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.: Berkbigler ups TV buy: Cashell to endorse Ray Pezonella for mayor today: Reno mayoral candidate Ray Pezonella late on his taxes for a rental property: Creator of the “mayor monster” bows out… for now: Stark calls out Pezonella for questionable joke:

The Clarion-Ledger (Finalist)
Marshall Ramsey, editorial cartoonist

For his witty commentary on the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi.

Judges said: Ramsey’s humorous cartoons make the content understandable for all readers, not just locals or political junkies. His lack of political stance makes his cartoons appealing to people of various party affiliations. Brief introductions accompany his work online, giving amusing additional but nonessential context to the cartoons.

To see the work:

The Times (Finalist)
Maya Lau, crime and courts reporter

For crime and courts reporter Maya Lau’s scoop on the arrest of the city’s fire chief, accused of trying to cover up the abuse of two men by firefighters.

Judges said: Lau’s compelling details — including mug shots, accusations and a secret indictment — provided multiple entry points to lure Twitter followers in and keep them coming back for more. Her comprehensive Tweets allowed the information to be reverse published onto the website and into print. The print presentation took some cues from her Tweets, with several details broken out to update readers on the story and tell them what’s next.

To see this work:


The News-Star (Winner)
Andy Lefkowitz, social media editor

For his coverage of the Season Six premiere of “Duck Dynasty” on social media, encouraging users to watch along with him and join in on the conversation.

Judges said: Lefkowitz’ breezy tone was a perfect fit for the popular reality show and its passionate fans. His transitions in the Storify helped the flow of the narrative. His mix of cheeky comments, keen observations and hilariously appropriate GIFs engaged users throughout the episode. The post-show promotion of the Storify on social media appealed to both users who watched with him and those who missed the episode, allowing them to relive the fun all over again.

To see the work:

The Ithaca Journal (Finalist)

For their compelling breaking news report on a truck that crashed into a downtown Ithaca restaurant and the aftermath.

Judges said: A couple of things distinguished this entry: riveting photos with rich detail to help craft the narrative; frequent updates that allowed people to follow the story, including those just tuning in; repeated promotion of reporters and photographers covering the scene; and the compelling voice in Tweets appropriate given the seriousness of the incident.

To see the work:
Ithaca Journal’s Twitter page.

The Jackson Sun (Finalist)
Megan Smith, photographer

For her lighthearted social media posts featuring her candid snapshots of the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant.

Judges said: Smith added color to the story and offered some welcome variety to standard posed pageant photos. The playful tone of her Tweets fit the mood of the event. Smith had fun with her coverage of the pageant — without making fun of it.

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 (Winner)
Michael Chow, photographer

For his gritty images that captured the moment, and the nation, with a hard to believe deportation story. The Department of Homeland Security took women and children caught illegally crossing the border in Texas and dropped them off at a bus station in Phoenix. Without these faces of families the news would have failed to touch home with the same magnitude for many readers. The international reaction that ensured is a testament to his strong storytelling and the gravity of the issue.

Judges said: Rarely do we see big breaking news photographs that feel so intimate and personal with such clarity and news value. Maybe the most important element of Chow’s photojournalism award is that he helped evoke the question, “why? ”

To see the work:

The Des Moines Register (Finalist)
Christopher Gannon, photographer

For his array of front-page images over the second quarter that provided readers with strong news value as well as intimate storytelling. His work was on prominent cover stories that were conveyed with accuracy and immediacy, amongst a range of challenging atmospheres.

Judges said: This was the strongest variety of images that we saw from any single photographer who’s work was entered. Gannon’s found a way to capture a broad spectrum of emotion, from both tender moments and epic destruction.

The Indianapolis Star (Finalist)
Kelly Wilkinson, staff photographer

For her incredible access, and in-depth personal look and storytelling technique about a 19-year-old inmate’s fourth year behind bars. Her raw and courageous images helped reveal the progress of a young convicted murderer, and put into perspective life not normally seen by the public.

Judges said: Kelly took readers somewhere they hope to never go, producing many memorable images of daily life in prison. While candid and introspective, unfortunately the print version failed to reach the same impact as it did in their online gallery.

To see the work:
The photo gallery link: The online story with photos link: The video link:


Asheville Citizen-Times (Winner)
Erin Brethauer, multimedia editor

For her G315:G328compilation of vivid story telling images and avenues about the rise of youth and family homelessness in Buncombe County. Her photographs are haunting, memorable, and emotional. The comprehensive visuals put an intimate touch on an in-depth and involved community project, about a subject that is easily ignored by the public.

Judges said: Erin was able to drop readers into the difficult lives of homeless families with stunning and stark images. Her impossible-to-ignore work (both in print and online) showed her keen eye for lighting and picking up details.

To see the work:

The Desert Sun (Finalist)
Omar Ornelas, photographer

For his dramatic and thorough story telling photographs about the recovery of an up-and-coming boxer, who was literally sent out of the ring and into a coma. The tragic and unfortunate tale was highlight by having both the sensitive recovery and the jarring knockout blow.

Judges said: Ornela’s decision to use black-and-white photographs was a bold choice, but it allowed readers to focus on moments. His dedication, rich details and strong composition made for a powerful series of storytelling images.

To see the work:

The Burlington Free Press (Finalist)
Glenn Russell, photographer

For hiscombination of news and feature photography (roller derby, high school graduation, murder sentencing, bill signing) that captured moments as much as they told stories. His collection was topically wide-ranging, which showed off his versatility and mastery oftiming and composition.

Judges said: Russell’s strong entry was capped off by an excellent black and white photo essay on a local roller derby. His work emphasizes the importance of the hard-working staff photographer to any newsroom, and how the best photojournalist can give any story an emotional connection to a community.


The Advocate (Winner)
Jessica Phelps, photographer

For her photographs and video that shared the untold stories of foster children in Licking County, as well as provided an unselfconscious look at a unique foster family. Her intuitive images share a sense of intimacy and community on a sensitive topic.

Judges said: Phelp’s extensive collection is impressive not only for her quality composition, but also her commitment to embed herself into the local family (of 35). It was obvious she, and the reporter, got to know their subjects well in their online video interviews.

To see the work:
Main article and 3 videos:

The Jackson Sun (Finalist)
Kenneth Cummings, photographer

For his strong sports photography and sheer volume of work produced during one of the busiest times of the year for high school sports (a passion topic). Between baseball, softball, soccer and track state championships in Murfreesboro, Kenneth provided at least 504 photos in four days for online galleries, as well as their print product.

Judges said: Cummings’ clean, crisp images were abundant, but more importantly vital to their complete local coverage of Tennessee’s prep state championships. Quality + frequency = extraordinary.

To see the work:
photo galleries from Spring Fling

The Ithaca Journal (Finalist)
Simon Wheeler, photographer

For his startling story telling photos and extensive breaking news coverage of a semi-truck that crashed into a downtown building and restaurant. While the devastation was compelling enough, Simon was also able to capture some of the emotional reaction from the community.

Judges said: Wheeler’s exemplary photo coverage of live news stood on its own, but was supplemented by frequent online updates, including live-tweets of important developments from the scene.

To see the work:
CAR CARRIER CRASHES INTO ITHACA RESTAURANT, June 21, 1A, 6A Photo gallery Wheeler also posted images to Twitter during his coverage of the accident. Those are shown in the attached Tweets.

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 Des Moines Register (Winner)
Kyle Munson, Iowa columnist; Rodney White, photographer/videographer

For ” ‘Field of Dreams’ at 25: Magical Movie / Disputed Diamond” a documentary on the anniversary of the making of the movie ‘Field of Dreams.'” The 22-minute movie included interviews that looked at what was involved in building the field in Dyersville as well as what has happened with the site in the 25 years since the movie was released.

Judges said: This was an astonishing stand-alone project that used video to tell the story of a ovie in a way that couldn’t have been repicated in any other medium. The quality of the interviews — from the subjects intervied to the care taken to light, mic, and shoot them — was at a level expected of professional broadcasters. The documentary was pieced togeether in such a way that it was sincerely local and true to Iowa, but could have easily been included on the DVD as a ‘behind the scenes’ or ‘makings of’ extra! it maintained a Hollywood-level production value but still included voices from neighbors and community members that couldn’t have been replicated anywhere else. In addition to the finished product, it was a smart use of company-wide resources to gather the pieces that really made this video stand out from the rest.

To see the work:

The Cininnati Enquirer (Finalist)
Carrie Cochran, visual journalist

For her article, “In sickness and in health,” as it chronicles the story of John Faherty, a reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer, who made the decision to have a pancreas transplant in an effort to cure his diabetes. The video followed both the decision-making process, surgery and recovery offering a very intimate glimpse into the life-changing procedure.

Judges said: This was an appropriate use of the journalist inserting himself (and herself) into the story. Doing so allowed viewers to accompany the family on an emotionally intense journey through a frightening medical issue and gain the perspective of all family members impacted. Carrie Cochran intelligently included her video with first-person narrative and the family’s own photos, whose candid nature provided a sincerity and realistic aspect that staged photographs might not. Most memorable were moments in which the family wasn’t afraid to break down and show the vulnerable aspect of the diagnosis, the surgery and the recovery. All of this was edited together into a project that was both journalistically sound and authentically homemade.

To see the work:
the video: the story:

The Courier-Journal (Finalist)
Matt Stone, photographer

For a collection of videos — all produced during a single shift — that incorporate compelling visuals with interviews and smart editing to tell stories in an entertaining way that complement traditional written and photo coverage.

Judges said: This was a gorgeous example of how beautifully-shot and produced videos can be accomplished within a short time frame. This photographer used his remarkable visual training to capture compelling b-roll that complemented the interviews to tell the story within a matter of minutes in a concise, engaging manner. These submissions stood out not because of expensive resources or tools only accessible to few, but because of the storytellers’ own skill and artistic eye. And to top it off, he turned the videos around in a matter of hours for visually striking videos, told in minutes, which will last with viewers for days.

To see the work:


The Desert Sun (Winner)
Ian James, reporter; Richard Lui, photographer; Marilyn Chung, multimedia editor

For “Scorched Earth: How Climate Change is Altering the Deserts of the Southwest” a documentary on the effects of climate change on Joshua Tree National Park and how the extreme drought was impacting water levels at Lake Mead.

Judges said: The piece took users on a trip from Joshua Tree National Park to Lake Mead in Nevada and back to show different impacts of climate change. It used interviews, spliced together with voice-overs, to tell the story of what climate change could mean to the local public lands. Spending the time to capture the scenic footage and intimate details was important in engaging users and keeping the piece from being just a string of interviews. Photographers played with camera angles to show the tortoises at their level, giving a new dimension to the creature and the roll they played in the narrative. Not only did this show the different effects of climate change in different areas of the region, but the video started and ended with how the climate change impacts their local environment, specifically the local Joshua Trees.

To see the work:

The Greenville News (Finalist)
Mykal McEldowney, photojournalist

For a series about Mackenzie Boswell, who was born with a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, and the family’s struggle to cope with the 19-month-old girl’s condition.

Judges said: There are some emotions that can only be truly expressed in video. This project benefited greatly from the family’s trust and access through every step of Mackenzie’s therapy and surgery. Being able to interview parents, friends and doctors allowed the narrative of the piece to tell the story. One of the main reasons this video is being honored is for the trailer created to promote the project before publication. While the entire video project is worthy of recognition, this short preview could have itself stood alone as an exceptional example of how video can be done. It would be hard for anyone to watch the trailer, hear the kids plead with their mom to take Mackenzie to the hospital, and not want to see the rest of the story. The sensitive treatment of the family not only made it an exceptional video but an educational piece on a little-known condition.

To see the work:
Coming soon: Child fights catastrophic epilepsy for chance at life (trailer) Seizures cause family to fight for child’s life: Medicines, seizures cause severe delays: A seizure is like a thunderstorm: Mackenzie’s medical needs come at a steep cost: Within context of story:

The Spectrum (Finalist)
Jesselyn Bickley, reporter; Brittny Goodsell, assistant digital editor

For the story documentary of Highland Hills residents who learned their retirement homes were build on a landfill and their fight against the city and developer to deal with issues resulting from their location. These issues include sinking homes and methane gas which some residents believe is making them sick.

Judges said: An elegantly crafted, investigative piece with a complete narrative arc. The video both allowed viewers to hear from residents and see how their retirement dreams were, quite literally, cracking and sinking into the ground. The producers took the time to meet with multiple residents of the community, both ensuring this was not an isolated problem and also drawing viewers in with relatable, sympathetic characters. The piece dove deep into the bureaucracy that caused the problem, using informative voice-overs and b-roll to fully show the complex scope of the problem these community members face. This 60 Minutes-style video went beyond mere interviews to include documents and footage from open meetings; residents showing the cracks in the foundations and really making the viewer care about the resolution of these retirees’ shattered dreams.

To see the work:


The Jackson Sun (Winner)
Megan Smith, photographer; Jordan Buie, online/social media editor; Kenneth Cummings, photographer

For “Holt & Allie: A Prom Story” that documented the prom night of Holt McFarland, who is on Autism Spectrum, and his friend Allie Ramsey as they attend Holt’s prom.

Judges said: An example of how video can be a powerful story telling tool. Music added an emotional resonance that enhanced the story without distracting from the natural sound or dialogue. Witnessing Holt and Ashley’s friendship firsthand reinforced the relationship between them that existed well before the prom. The story, while discussing Holt’s autism, wasn’t solely about his condition. It was, instead, about two kids who had an enduring bond. This is the type of story that could have been told in print and photos, but would have lacked the emotional impact added by this touching and charming video.

To see the work:
Holt and Allie prom video

Brianfield Cove shooting video:

Titans caravan video:

The Ithaca Journal (Finalist)
Simon Wheeler, photographer

For breaking news coverage of a car-transport truck that crashed into a building in downtown Ithaca that killed one and injured seven others.

Judges said: Viewers expect breaking news videos to show them the news as its happening. Simon Wheeler did the next best thing: he showed them the aftermath and full impact of the incident. The use of multiple camera angles, from multiple perspectives, made it a strong presentation that enhanced the rest of the breaking news coverage. It is clear that Simon hustled to gain shots from different buildings to capture the full scope of the crash. The video, combined with an informative voiceover, clearly delivered the information needed to put the visuals in context and give viewers the complete story of what occurred.

To see the work:
Truck Crashes in Commons Restaurant, June 29 video Brightcove Video ID: 3643532748001

Herald Times Reporter (Finalist)
Sarah Kloepping, videographer

For a video about the 70th anniversary of D-Day as told through the story of Dick Stolz, a local man who was a Navy signalman aboard one of the ships involved in the Normandy invasion.

Judges said: Sarah Kloepping used smart editing to blend together a local voice with archival footage and sound clips to offer a localized look at the D-Day invasion. Rather than relying too strongly on the local interview or historical photos, the editor blended those with the information voiceover and the historical footage to lead the viewer through the story. The video provides the basic details about the D-Day invasion, while adding the story of the local veteran. While watching, it is easy to forget that there is primarily the story of one person, which is a testament to the editing skills displayed with this piece.

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 and Louisville Design Studio (Winner)
Louisville Design Studio and Courier-Journal Staff

For the Courier-Journal’s extensive coverage of all aspects of the Kentucky Derby, including history, fashion, food, and even the race itself. The pages employed a wide variety of visual storytelling techniques to help readers feel like insiders during the community’s biggest event of the year. The nomination included covers, inside pages and whole sections.

Judges said: There was a lot to love in this robust entry: Gorgeous covers, engaging graphics, beautiful play of photography and many thoughtful visual touches. Nothing looked forced – even in the enormous amount of pages done on deadline – which is a testament to strong planning and the level of collaboration between the newsroom and design studio. The ability to maintain such a high quality of design work on a single topic over a long period was very impressive.

The Arizona Republic and Phoenix Design Studio (Finalist)
Tricia Reinhold, creative director; Brandon Ferrill, designer

For the Arizona Republic’s coverage of aftermath of the devastating Yarnell Hill fire. This entry included a special section and a front page wrap tied to the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.

Judges said: There is a powerful clarity to these pages that was impossible to ignore. The simplicity and precision of the design choices worked to enhance the emotional punch of the content. The level of care given to each element shows an understanding of the importance of this event in the community.

Asbury Park Design Studio and Asbury Park Press (Finalist)
Jen Meyer, designer; Michelle Aed, designer

For conceptual illustrations that appeared on a variety of Rochester Democrat and Chronicle features covers, including: What’s up ROC, ROCFlavors, and ROCArts.

Judges said: The Rochester features covers in this entry were mini works of art. Strong concepts, bright colors and graphic arts discipline were combined into visually compelling packages. The standout in this entry was the charming illustration of the Rochester skyline done in felt. It sends a clear message: We get it. We love it here, too.

To see the work:


Asbury Park Press Press and Asbury Park Press Design Studio (Winner)
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:

The Desert Sun and Phoenix Design (Finalist)
Designers Tricia Reinhold, Amil Steiner and Take Uda, and Digital Editor Brian Indrelunas

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:

Poughkeepsie Journal and Asbury Design Studio (Finalist)
Hannah Burkett, Asbury Park designer; Thomas Piatchek, Asbury Park designer; Jose Soto, Asbury Park Designer; Dan Pietrafesa, Poughkeepsie Journal Players section coordinator

For the covers of the Poughkeepsie Journal’s weekly Players section which highlights recreational sports.

Judges said: Rarely has this topic (recreational sports) been given such gorgeous visual treatments. The poster-like illustrations feature clever concepts and showcase an impressive range of design skills. A real treat for readers in this community who are obviously passionate about this topic.


The Daily Advertiser and Des Moines Design Studio (Winner)
Scott Lester, design team lead

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.

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.

The Reporter and Des Moines Design Studio (Finalist)
Sean McKeown-Young, Des Moines design studio; Stories by Colleen Kottke, reporter; Laurie Ritger, reporter; Sharon Roznik, reporter

For the Reporter (Fond du Lac, Wisc.) front page series on the impact of the minimum wages on workers and businesses.

Judges said: The presentation for this series on the minimum wage was deceptively simple. The use of the penny and quarter made for a bold dominant visual. But it is in the storytelling details where this entry really shines. The subtle changes to the details in the coins and the informational graphics supported the journalism and helped to tell the story.

Oshkosh Northwestern and Des Moines Design Studio (Finalist)

For a collection of front pages for the Oshkosh Northwestern that used a variety of design techniques on a range of topics.

Judges said: This group of memorable front pages speaks to the level of trust between the newsroom and the design studio. These are risky pages often dominated by a single topic with a high level of visual volume in hopes of grabbing a reader’s attention. Both the newsroom and studio clearly understand the need to surprise reader and have knowledge that the community will embrace creative visual solutions like this.