SFJ conference 2017 in Kansas City adds college track

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Contact Barbara Allen
barbara.allen@okstate.edu
405-744-8369 or 405-385-1345

 

Students will get one-on-one feedback from hiring editors and that nation’s top writers; registration is just $125 per student.

Kansas City, Missouri — For the first time, the Society of Features Journalism is adding a college journalism track to its annual conference.

In an effort to help students nearing graduation and to network with the future journalists of America, this track will include one-on-one sessions between students and professional writers and editors to provide students with direct feedback on clips, portfolios, resumes and job-seeking/interview skills.

“We are excited to be able to offer this in Kansas City,” said Kathy Lu, assistant managing editor for features at The Kansas City Star and SFJ board president. “We’re always looking for ways to build our relationship with journalism students. With the conference being so centrally located this year, it’s a great opportunity to draw from nearby campuses.”

The conference is Sept. 27-30 in Kansas City, with the college track taking place Friday, Sept. 29 to Saturday, Sept. 30.

Registration for college students is just $125, and includes a ticket to the Kansas City Royals game Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Kauffman Stadium.

Hotels rooms at the conference hotel, the Westin Crown Center, are available for about $160 per night (rate available through Aug. 27).

While Friday will feature fellowship, fun and education, including a session by Lynden Steele, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Saturday will feature individual sessions among students and professionals. Students should plan on bringing several copies of their resumes and clips for on-the-spot markups, and laptops or tablets to show off their portfolios and other digital work.

“We hope this new offering will be beneficial to the students and to newsrooms in the years to come,” Lu said.

For questions or more information, please contact Barbara Allen, Oklahoma State University director of student media, at 405-385-1345 or barbara.allen@okstate.edu.

The Society for Features Journalism promotes the craft of writing and innovation in lifestyle, arts and entertainment journalism. For more information on SFJ, visit featuresjournalism.org.

2017 SFJ conference schedule: Success Stories

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REGISTER TODAY! Early-bird deadline has been extended to July 21!

 


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 27

6-9 p.m. Opening reception at the hotel.

Come meet your fellow features creatures, register for the conference and relax.

THURSDAY, Sept. 28

Location: The Star’s Press Pavilion, 1601 McGee St.

8-9 a.m.: Shuttle service from hotel to Press Pavilion. Continental breakfast and registration at the Pavilion.

9-10 a.m.: Robb Armstrong of “Jump Start (an Andrews McMeel syndicate) will tell us how he went from a college student at Syracuse University with a comic strip to becoming a nationally syndicated cartoonist. He’s also written a memoir, Fearless: A Cartoonist’s Guide to Life.”

10-11:15 a.m.: Digital tools you shouldn’t live without, by Jennifer Brett of Atlanta Journal Constitution. Topics she’ll cover include:

  • How to repurpose user-generated content from Facebook without an embed code. (once you have secured the content creator’s permission, of course)

  • How to use geo curation to enhance social searches

  • How to repurpose ephemeral Snapchat or Instagram Stories

  • How to create engaging social pushes to promote your content using a combination of apps

  • Facebook Live tips

11:15-11:30 a.m.: Break.

11:30 a.m. to noon: Visit KC — KC’s tourism bureau — welcomes us. 

Noon-1:30 p.m.: Awards luncheon. 

1:30-2 p.m.: Break

2-3 p.m.: SFJ winners tell all.

Contest organizer and retired Virginian-Pilot features editor Jim Haag will host a panel discussion with some of this year’s winners about how they do what they do.

3-4 p.m.: Show & Steal. Sharon Chapman and Laura Coffey.

One of the most popular segments of the conference, editors share their best ideas from the year past for anyone to steal.

4-5 p.m.: Shuttle service back to hotel.

5:30-6:30 p.m.: Shuttle service to Andrews McMeel from hotel lobby.

6-9 p.m.: Silent Auction at Andrews McMeel, 1130 Walnut St

If you have “Doonesbury,” “For Better For Worse” or “Phoebe the Unicorn” in your paper, then you’re an Andrews McMeel client. The syndicate is hosting this year’s Silent Auction in its lovely art deco digs.

FRIDAY, Sept. 29

Location: The Star’s Press Pavilion

8-9 a.m.: Shuttle service from hotel to Press Pavilion. Continental breakfast 

9-10 a.m.: How to dive deep, author Candice Millard

Kansas City-based bestselling author and journalist Candice Millard has written three award-winning New York Times bestsellers: “The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey,” “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine & the Murder of a President” (about James Garfield) and her latest, “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill.” Candice will explain how she does her meticulous research and how she finds the story that no one else has told.

10-11:30 a.m.SPJ-Google News Lab Training: Google Tools Fundamentals with Abigail Edge

Freelance journalist Abigail Edge will give an overview of how Google’s tools can help you research stories, fact-check, find what’s trending, and locate useful datasets. The workshop will highlight: advanced Google Search techniques, Google Trends, Google Public Data Explorer, and more to ensure you’re covered on how to fully uncover things.

11:30-noon: Break

Noon-1 p.m.: Lunch and hear from our amazing Diversity Fellows.

1-2 p.m.: How to use design thinking for newsroom brainstorming sessions*

2-3 p.m.: Facebook Live is all the rage, what we’ve learned.*

The Kansas City Star has launched several regularly scheduled Facebook Live shows, some of which are sponsored. Here are some lessons we’ve learned.

3-4 p.m.: Lynden Steele: Life after the Pulitzer — how to find the story after the story

Lynden, assistant managing editor for photography at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and his team won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for its coverage of the protests in Ferguson. But the stories don’t end with journalism’s highest honor; Lynden will share how the newsroom followed up with even more award-winning coverage.

4-4:30 p.m.: Introduce our college student and programming. Conference wrap up.

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Shuttles back to hotel.

Free evening. Possible tours TBA. Students heading to Royals game.

SATURDAY, Sept. 30 (Campus connection)

This session is designed for our college participants. However, journalists who would like to volunteer to help provide feedback or network with the students are welcome.

8-9 a.m.: Breakfast, location TBA

9 a.m. to noon: Network & feedback, location TBA

Professional journalists will spend about 10 minutes with each student who wants feedback on various topics, including resume feedback, portfolio feedback, and interview tips.

12:30-1:30 p.m.: SFJ board meeting, location TBA


*Subject to change

Congratulations to 2017 Excellence in Features writing winners!

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The Society for Features Journalism has honored four Pulitzer Prize winners and a host of other journalists as part of its 2017 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Three newspapers also were recognized with the Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards, which go to those publications that received the most honors in the annual contest. The second-ever Best College Features Journalist in the Country also was named. Winners in the 18 categories were announced today.

More than 700 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations in the United States and Canada. Winners will be recognized at SFJ’s national conference Sept. 27-30 in Kansas City, Mo.

SFJ President Kathy Lu (AME/features at The Kansas City Star) said, “"Life in 2016 was about many things, from the election to the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, from needing treasured recipes to craft beer, from eating raccoon to hunting gator. The 2017 Excellence-in-Features Journalism winners show the wide range of stories that enrich our lives through great writing, and how today’s journalists can come up with wonderfully creative print and online presentations. Congratulations to all!”

Pulitzer Prize winners who received SFJ awards include:

  • Liz Balmeseda of The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, who was second in General Commentary Portfolio in the small-newspaper division. She won the Pulitzer for Commentary in 1993, when she was with The Miami Herald.
  • Robin Givhan of The Washington Post, who was second in Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio in the large-newspaper division. She won the Pulitzer for Criticism in 2006.
  • Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times, who was third in Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio in the large-newspaper division. He won the Pulitzer for Criticism in 2007, when he was with LA Weekly.
  • Tom Hallman Jr. of The (Portland) Oregonian, who received first place in General Commentary Portfolio in the large-newspaper division. He won the Pulitzer for Feature Writing in 2001.

Several journalists won multiple awards in SFJ’s contest, including:

  • Mike Hixenbaugh of the Houston Chronicle, who accomplished the rare feat of winning two first-place awards in different circulation categories. Both of his honors were for Short Feature; one was written while he was at The Virginian-Pilot and the other at the Houston Chronicle.
  • Rashod Ollison of The Virginian-Pilot, who received three honors – a second in Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, a third in Short Feature and an honorable mention in Features Series or Project.

Winning the Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards in the small-newspaper category (circulation of 90,000 or less) was the (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union. The Times Union won seven honors, including three-first place awards. NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune was second, and The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post was third.

In the medium-size category (circulation of 90,001 to 199,999), the Finest in Features Sweepstakes winner was The (Portland) Oregonian, which garnered 10 awards. The Kansas City Star finished second, and The Baltimore Sun was third.

The Finest in Features Sweepstakes honor in the large-newspaper category (circulation of 200,000 and above) went to The Washington Post, which won 13 awards, including four first-place honors. Second was the Houston Chronicle, and third was the Los Angeles Times.

Bianca Quilantan of California State University was named the Best College Features Journalist in the Country. The judges lauded her for a strong voice and eye, commenting, “It’s obvious that her subjects trust her as she is able to extract telling details..” Other honored college journalists were Stetson Payne of Oklahoma State University, second; and Dana Branham of the University of Oklahoma, third.

The following is the full list of winners in the 2017 Excellence in Features contest.


DIVISION 1  |  Circulation up to 90,000

FINEST IN FEATURES SWEEPSTAKES AWARDS

These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 18 categories.

First place: (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union

Seven awards, including three firsts (Best Section, Integrated Storytelling, Best Niche Product), two thirds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Short Feature) and two honorable mentions (Features Series or Project, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio).

Second place: NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune

Six awards, including two firsts (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio), two seconds (Feature Series or Project, Best Niche Product), one third (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio) and one honorable mention (Short Feature).

Third place: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post

Seven awards, including three seconds (General Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, General Commentary Portfolio), three thirds (General Feature, General Commentary Portfolio, Video Storytelling) and one honorable mention (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio).

BEST SECTION

The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage.

First place: (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union

Judge’s comments: This excellent section is filled with vibrant stories and beautiful design. The content is geared toward engaging the community. The writing, headlines and captions all feel fun and breezy. This section stood out far beyond the competition.

Second place: The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call

Judge’s comments: The Morning Call does a great job with clean design and a strong effort to include boxes, references and links to online content. The quirky election section gets our vote for an innovative way to cover the same old, same old story.

Third place: The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette

Judge’s comments: This publication has beautiful design and highly enjoyable stories that fit the community’s love of the outdoors. We particularly enjoyed “The Stanley Hotel” feature, which was
a great mix of fun and travel.

Honorable mention: (Greensboro, N.C) News & Record

BEST FEATURES WEBSITE, DIGITAL CHANNEL OR APP

The best digital or online publications showcasing A&E, lifestyles or other features topics.

No awards given.

GENERAL FEATURE

Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.

First place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, “The Cost of Being King”

Judge’s comments: A beautiful profile of a Colorado character. What keeps crazy Jim Bishop working on his castle up in the mountains? Boster keeps you reading until the end to find out.

Second place: Larry Aydlette, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “The Centerfold Next Door”

Judge’s comments: The subject of this piece, a Florida retiree, brags about being the “oldest living Playboy Playmate.” That’s not technically true, but her story in Aydlette’s hands still makes for a fun read.

Third place: Eliot Kleinberg, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “A Final Salute to a Fallen Father”

Judge’s comments: This is a harrowing tale of a decades-old military plane crash, told through the eyes of the surviving children. It features a strong beginning and end.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE

Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Brett Anderson, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Eating Raccoon With Dr. John”

Judge’s comments: Dr. John and eating raccoon – a one-two combo for an award-winning story if we ever heard one. And Anderson makes the most of what he’s given. He creates a food story filled with knowledge and humor – and a celebrity angle to boot.

Second place: Simi Horwitz, American Theatre, “But is ‘God of Vengeance’ Good for Jews?”

Judge’s comments: An interesting and thorough look at a play that could have gone unnoticed in lesser hands.

Third place: Steve Barnes, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Still Willing to Bare Secrets”

Judge’s comments: The burlesque dancer’s personality oozes from this story at every turn. In fact, we want to meet her!

SHORT FEATURE

Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.

First place: Margaret Moffett, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, “Zoo Hopes New Polar Bear Makes Love Connection With Female”

Judge’s comments: All reporters know they will, sooner or later, be confronted with an assignment that doesn’t seem quite as thrilling as others – ribbon-cuttings, book fairs, missing pets. This reporter was tasked with writing about the local zoo’s new polar bear, an animal that was imported with the hope that he would breed with a current resident, produce polar bear babies and, perhaps, increase interest in the zoo. Moffett used humor and pacing to construct a fun, readable story. Her style is fresh and a little sassy.

Second place: Stephanie Earls, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Weed or Wildflower”

Judge’s comments: How is it possible to write a funny, compelling piece about a weed? Earls is a master at it – combining a first-person technique with humor and solid reporting in a story that has a lesson for us all: Know your plants!

Third place: Leigh Hornbeck, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Animal Instincts, Human Courtship”

Judge’s comments: The writer does an excellent job of turning a “coming-attraction” story into an engaging read – from start to finish.

Honorable mention: Ann Maloney, NOLA.com, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “What It Costs to Make a Luxury Cheeseburger at Home”

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT

Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.

First place: Staff and Contributors, Nieman Reports, “Election ’16: Lessons for Journalism”

Judge’s comments: Excellent package about the lessons learned from the election. Educational and inspirational for journalists who are seeking to raise the bar with future coverage and to better understand the shortcomings of the coverage in 2016. Good variety of voices, with strong credentials, weighing in on the topic.

Second place: Ann Maloney, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Seeking Treasured Recipes to Try”

Judge’s comments: We’re betting that readers loved this series. We know that we did – so much so that we didn’t want to stop judging this entry, fearing we wouldn’t get to these recipes to save them for ourselves. This series featured excellent reader engagement – both for those who got to share treasured recipes and for those on the receiving end.

Third place: Jennifer Bogdan and Tom Mooney, The Providence (R.I.) Journal, “Pot and Profit”

Judge’s comments: A comprehensive and educational look at marijuana – a topic that continues to be hotly debated – that features strong reporting.

Honorable mention: Leigh Hornbeck, Brianna Snyder, Matt Hamilton, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Women in Politics”

NARRATIVE STORYTELLING

A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme.

First place: Jennifer Sangalang, Florida Today, “A Tale of Twins: Trials No Match for Their Bond”

Judge’s comments: Detailed account of the lives of twin sisters – Olivia, the outgoing, spotlight-loving one who has cerebral palsy, and Adrianna, the quieter, more introspective of the two. They face hardships, which bring them closer together, and it’s the little moments that illuminate both sisters’ personalities as well as their strong bond.

FEATURE SPECIALTY WRITING PORTFOLIO

Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, food, health, religion, technology or travel.

First place: Nancy McLaughlin, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record

Judge’s comments: McLaughlin writes with purpose and passion. Tackling a beat that many reporters might find deadly dull, she brings a fresh sense or surprise and humanity to her stories, elevating the everyday experiences.

Second place: Larry Aydlette, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post

Judge’s comments: Aydlette masterfully brings to life quirky, endearing characters. He teases out their stories – re-creating the eras in which a now 87-year-old Playboy Playmate was in the spotlight and  detailing how a portrait artist came to fame. His writing is crisp and evocative, his subjects compelling, his profiles must-reads.

Third place: Jed Lipinski, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune

Judge’s comments: It would be tempting to overwrite a profile about a woman’s descent into heroin addiction or a story about those trying to stem an epidemic. But Lipinski’s stories are compelling because he doesn’t do so: He tells each story without unnecessary embellishments, letting his sources speak through him. Despite the gritty subject matter, his pieces are accessible, his sources are approachable, his language is clear and concise – all of which helps make his work hit harder.

Honorable mention: Barbara Marshall, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post

GENERAL COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO

A collection of three columns or essays by the same writer on any human interest or specialty topic, excluding editorials.

First place: Mark, Patinkin, The Providence (R.I.) Journal

Judge’s comments: Great writing, including a thoughtful approach to a story that could have easily become woefully cloying. Beautiful use of details throughout.

Second place: Liz Balmeseda, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post

Judge’s comments: Vivid use of details and color. Delightful reads from start to finish.

Third place: Leslie Streeter, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post

Honorable mention: Susan Ladd, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO

A collection of three columns, essays or reviews by the same writer on any arts and entertainment topic, including dining reviews but excluding editorials.

First place: Todd Price, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune

Judge’s comments: Price is clearly a veteran food writer and reviewer with an engaging style. He has mastered his topic, and that authority, combined with his confidence, makes for criticism that encourages readers to come along for the ride. There’s no pretension or cheerleading here; Price just wants to share the joy of discovery.

Second place: Simi Horwitz, Film Journal International

Judge’s comments: Movie critics must somehow explain a plot, assess a movie’s strengths and weaknesses, and remind us how the times we live in influence our perception of film. All this, while reaching back into cinematic history for context. Horwitz manages to bring all that to the table and be engaging at the same time.

Third place: Jonathan Guyer, freelancer for The Cairo Review, L.A. Review of Books and The Art Newspaper

Honorable mention: Amy Biancolli, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union

SPORTS FEATURE

Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: Nathan Ruiz, The O’Colly at Oklahoma State, “The Stamford Star: James Washington, the Brightest Son of a Slowly Dying Texas Town”

Judge’s comments: This story has so many moving parts. A small west Texas town dying a slow death. A young resident whose “greatness” was predicted before his birth. Will he or won’t he leave home, friends, family – and a town with a future that appears as bleak as his seems bright? With spare prose, attention to detail and impeccable pacing, Ruiz weaves all these elements into a compelling portrait of small-town life, death and rebirth.

Second place: Mark Wogenrich, The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call, “Born to Run”

Third place: Vince Guerrieri, Ohio Magazine, “The Marathon Men”

Honorable mention: Powell Latimer, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, “The Odd Couple: Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige”

VIDEO STORYTELLING

The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length.

First place: Mike Kane and Valerie Vozza, Equal Voice News, “The Dignity of Living: Appalachia’s Power Failure”

Judge’s comments: A thoughtful and even-handed look at how the collapse of the coal industry has devastated one Kentucky county. The story – told through moving interviews and evocative still photographs – gains its power by focusing on one man who was laid off last year.

Second place: Paige Woiner, Penn State University CommMedia, “Recovering in the Kitchen”

Judge’s comments: Yes, men get eating disorders, as this video shows. It looks at a program at Penn State that helps students with such problems and follows one of the program’s founders as he explains the goals of the project while whipping up a tempting dish of stuffed cabbage.

Third place: Thomas Cordy, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “Godzilla, Who Protected Florida From Hurricanes, Is Dead”

Judge’s comments: It’s short – only 45 seconds – but it’s also sweet. The video’s playful tone contrasts nicely with the black-and-white images and moody tone.

INTEGRATED STORYTELLING

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, online, social media, video and any other platform.

First place: Jennifer Gish, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Naughty or Nice Cookie Challenge”

Judge’s comments: Love the naughty-or-nice twist on a traditional holiday story. All components work well – yummy photography, educational video and spirited writing. We also loved the reader connection while bringing in an extra revenue stream. This is an idea to steal.

Second place: Thomas Brennan and George Steptoe, The War Horse in connection with Vanity Fair, “Inside the Painstaking Recovery Process of a Medal of Honor Marine”

Judge’s comments: The video with this entry is top-notch, weaving together the voices, still photography

Third place: Staff, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, “National Folk Festival”

Judge’s comments: Overall, a good package, with interviews conducted by different people from throughout the organization. That was a fresh touch.

DIVERSITY IN DIGITAL FEATURES

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic that highlights the diversity within a publication’s audience.

First place: Staff, Equal Voice News, “America’s Stateless People: How Immigration Gaps Create Poverty”

Judge’s comments: This story illuminates an unusual facet of the immigration debate. The digital display – which includes video, photos, documents and pull-out quotes – helps to explain the complicated issue.

Second place: Staff, Equal Voice News, “An Act of Courage: The Fight to Vote in Gould”

Third place: Dawn Kane, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, “On Stage and Inclusive Offers Theater For All”

BEST NICHE PRODUCT

The best examples of a niche product – such as a magazine or special section – published at least two times a year.

First place: Jennifer Gish and Staff, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, Women@Work

Judge’s comments: Women@Work covers its niche with depth, authority, wit and superior engagement with its readers. It offers useful information on page after page, and the stories are relevant. This is a magazine that speaks directly to its readers.

Second place: Brett Anderson, Todd Price and Carol Carpenter, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, Dining Guide

Judge’s comments: These two guides to eating and drinking in New Orleans are authoritative and definitive. If you live in or travel to this city, you’ll need to read these useful, elegant publications.

Third place: Staff, The (Everett, Wash.) Daily Herald, Washington North Coast Magazine

Judge’s comments: This magazine enthusiastically reflects its location and readership. It’s chock full of interesting stories covering a variety of topics, including food, local adventures and gardening. It’s a magazine to flip through or to linger with for a while.


DIVISION 2  |  Circulation 90,000-199,999

FINEST IN FEATURES SWEEPSTAKES AWARDS

These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 18 categories.

First place: The (Portland) Oregonian

Ten awards, including four firsts (General Feature, Narrative Storytelling, General Commentary Portfolio, Sports Feature), three seconds (Sports Feature, Video Storytelling, Diversity in Digital Features) and three thirds (Features Series or Project, Narrative Storytelling, Sports Feature).

Second place: The Kansas City Star

Seven awards, including two firsts (Video Storytelling, Diversity in Digital Features), four seconds (Best Section, General Feature, Arts & Entertainment Feature, General Commentary Portfolio) and one third (Integrated Storytelling).

Third place: The Baltimore Sun

Eight awards, including two firsts (Best Features Website, Digital Channel or App; Integrated Storytelling), one second (Integrated Storytelling), four thirds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, Diversity in Digital Features, Best Niche Product) and one honorable mention (Best Features Website, Digital Channel or App).

BEST SECTION

The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage.

First place: Austin American-Statesman

Judge’s comments: Austin’s 360 sections demonstrate a good mix of features and event coverage, with strong visuals and an easy-to-navigate layout. Articles are varied and interesting, and most of the content is written by staffers – as opposed to other publications that use wire services or articles from other publications. The sections truly represent the range of activities and interests of the city. The Paul Qui piece is particularly good, as are stories on the National Park Service and the closing of the restaurant El Azteca. Excellent food and entertainment coverage.

Second place: The Kansas City Star

Judge’s comments: We particularly like the feature “I Am: Raising a Black Child.” It is both serious and uplifting, providing a good sense of issues that are relevant to this community and beyond. The sections showcase good entertainment coverage, and all sections feature a good use of dominant cover visuals.

Third place: San Antonio Express-News

Judge’s comments: “Filling Up on History” and “Get the Art Out” are particularly good slice-of-life features, and the former features nice visuals. All section covers use strong dominant images.

Honorable mention: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

BEST FEATURES WEBSITE, DIGITAL CHANNEL OR APP

The best digital or online publications showcasing A&E, lifestyles or other features topics.

First place: Staff, The Baltimore Sun, baltimoresun.com/entertainment

Judge’s comments: This website has a clean layout, strong photos and sharp writing – David Zurawik’s TV criticism is particularly impressive.

Second place: Staff, Sun Sentinel, SouthFlorida.com

Judge’s comments: A lively website with a nice integration of video.

Third place: Staff, San Antonio Express-News, “Top 100: Dining & Drinks 2016”

Judge’s comments: This whets our appetite for the city’s restaurants.

Honorable mention: Staff, The Baltimore Sun, baltimoresun.com/features

GENERAL FEATURE

Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.

First place: Casey Parks, The (Portland) Oregonian, “Could She Love Her?”

Judge’s comments: This story takes an almost overplayed topic and makes it fresh and relatable. By delving deeply into character and asking questions that readers might not have imagined, the writer brings a story of a very modern family to life. Parks’ language and choices are never overwrought. Lovely job.

Second place: Mary Sanchez, The Kansas City Star, “Refusing to be Silent”

Judge’s comments: We like that this story goes behind the headlines to reveal the human tale beneath a brutal rape. Though difficult to read at times, the piece captures a controlled sense of outrage. We feel for the victim and also admire her presence of mind, courage and resolve. We also laud how Sanchez writes clear summary sentences to guide readers through a tough topic.

Third place: Stephanie Allmon Merry, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Be Their Guest – A Stay at Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Perfectly Fixed-Up Magnolia House”

Judge’s comments: From the opening lines, we know this story will be a rollicking good read. It’s full of energy and humor, and it also provides a sense of place while dishing on a couple of TV celebrities.

Honorable mention: Sadie Dingfelder, Washington Post Express, “Here’s How to Find D.C.’s Accidental Museum of Paleontology”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE

Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Philip Jankowski, Austin American-Statesman, “A Rambler’s Life: How a 1964 Classic Car Drove Austin’s Comedy Scene to the 21st Century”

Judge’s comments: This story is much more than an old car and title that changed hands over the years among some guys trying to make a name in the comedy circuit. The piece showcases the excellent use of an object to personalize and tell a slice of Austin history. We love the descriptions, the characters, the structure, the flow – heck, we love everything about this story – and we don’t even love cars.

Second place: David Frese, The Kansas City Star, “A Mainstream Rebel”

Judge’s comments: This story is like a captivating mural put into words. Nice balance of past and present. A good read that makes us want to go to a hospital.

Third place: Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun, “Their Names Didn’t Die: An Installation at the Lewis Museum Invites Visitors to Memorialize Victims of Violence and Bear Witness to an Epidemic”

Judge’s comments: This piece highlights the issue of gun violence by taking an exhibit and delving into the context, texture and meaning of the art itself. It’s written in a clean and compelling way, with a nice use of names on the toe tags throughout.

Honorable mention: Carlos Frias, The Miami Herald, “How a Miami Musician Overcame Hearing Loss to Help Create the Music to ‘Hamilton’”

 

SHORT FEATURE

Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.

First place: Mike Hixenbaugh, The Virginian-Pilot, “D-Day Vet, Last Member of Local National Guard Unit, Buried in Norfolk”

Judge’s comments: This man’s story feels fulfilled in this short feature. We’re not left wanting or wondering about his story or his essence because it’s captured here so well. Plus, the intro grabs you, the pacing keeps you invested and the ending is a payoff. Nicely done.

Second place: Kristen Page-Kirby, The Washington Post Express, “At Arena Stage’s ‘All the Way,’ It’s a Different Show Backstage”

Judge’s comments: Excellent story. It’s a great idea to focus on one moment – and one aspect – of the backstage whirlwind. The prose is fluid, the pacing is steady and the story ends with you wanting more but feeling satisfied. Nice work that shows readers something they rarely would see otherwise.

Third place: Rashod Ollison, The Virginian-Pilot, “Another Act of Terrorism and Dreams Deferred”

Judge’s comments: First, applaud the writer for the idea. Second, cheer the paper for supporting and running it. Third, acknowledge that this poem, with its stuttering rhythm and fractured prose, is more effective in capturing the emotion and reaction of the Orlando tragedy than 100 standard news stories.

Honorable mention: Sadie Dingfelder, The Washington Post Express, “This is What Happens When a Fiddle Player Gets Her Grubby Hands on a Stradivarius Violin”

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT

Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.

First place: Adam Kemp, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman, “Hunting Holtzclaw”

Judge’s comments: Kudos to this entire package – the story, with its thorough reporting and engaging writing, structure and flow; the art, which is almost perfect, with a courtroom-drawing style; and the media clips, which include audio and video embedded in a timely and relevant fashion. The story is long but not laborious, and the pacing and structure enhance the intrigue and hold the reader’s interest. It’s also a nice way to tell the story of the good things police officers do even when the piece is about bad cops. And that’s the twist that makes this one a winner.

Second place: Staff, San Antonio Express-News, “The Next Million”

Judge’s comments: A great project. The execution is smart and effective. The right questions were asked. The topic is ultra-local. The multimedia is well-done. The online design is wonderful. And the whole thing just feels smart. Although the girth of the project is a bit much for people living outside the interest area, that’s a good problem for a “local” newspaper story.

Third place: Jamie Hale, The (Portland) Oregonian, “Oregon Monuments”

Judge’s comments: This series, which looks at the designation of national park lands and monuments, is an unexpected way to frame the left-vs.-right argument over environment and heritage. The stories capture the divide and the humanity involved, and, overall, the project is ambitious and smart.

Honorable mention: Rashod Ollison, The Virginian-Pilot, “Gen X”

 

NARRATIVE STORYTELLING

A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme.

First place: Casey Parks, The (Portland) Oregonian, “The Hate Keeps Coming: Pain Lingers for Lesbian Couple Denied in Sweet Cakes Case”

Judge’s comments: This is so much more than a story about two women who were denied a wedding cake. It’s about their courage to carry on despite the hate mail they have received and the medical problems they and their daughters have had to confront. It’s all about courage, grit and sheer determination.

Second place: Melissa Stoeltje, San Antonio Express-News, “Trapped in a Dying Body: How ALS Robbed Walter Root”

Judge’s comments: This story is draining on readers, so we can only imagine how tough it was on the reporter and photographer. Besides chronicling the progress of the disease and the family’s response to it, this piece also shows the idiocies of the insurance system – and, as far as we’re concerned, you can’t do that enough.

Third place: Ted Sickinger and Laura Gunderson, The (Portland) Oregonian, “Burned: Poor Planning and Tactical Errors Fueled a Wildfire Catastrophe”

Judge’s comments: This is a massive, well-told tale about a horrendous fire.

Honorable mention: Joanne Kimberlin, The Virginian-Pilot, “A Family Secret Rooted in War, Revealed in Death”

 

FEATURE SPECIALTY WRITING PORTFOLIO

Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, food, health, religion, technology or travel.

First place: Mike Mayo, Sun Sentinel

Judge’s comments: These stories are written with tremendous exuberance and force – Mayo is a joyful celebrant of the food he loves, a pitiless critic of the food he hates and a passionate advocate for his community’s culinary scene. Terrific stuff.

Second place: Jennifer Hiller, San Antonio Express-News

Judge’s comments: Hiller’s articles explore Texas’ oil economy with impressive breadth and nuance. The writer’s ability to elucidate complicated legal and economic issues is especially notable.

Third place: Carlos Frias, The Miami Herald

Judge’s comments: These terrific food-and-dining features are richly detailed portraits of a community and its passions.

 

GENERAL COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO

A collection of three columns or essays by the same writer on any human interest or specialty topic, excluding editorials.

First place: Tom Hallman Jr., The (Portland) Oregonian

Judge’s comments: What a storyteller! You want to race to the end of the columns to find out what will happen. And though the endings are satisfying, they aren’t necessarily tidy or happy. Sometimes there are no good answers, and this writer doesn’t sugarcoat that.

Second place: Jenee Osterheldt, The Kansas City Star

Judge’s comments: This writer tackles tough subjects, such as racism and family strife, with honesty and compassion. She shows people in all their dimensions. That is what journalism is meant to do.

Third place: Jamesetta Walker, The Virginian-Pilot

Judge’s comments: True and resonant, witty and nicely written.

Honorable mention: Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO

A collection of three columns, essays or reviews by the same writer on any arts and entertainment topic, including dining reviews but excluding editorials.

First place (tie): Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman, and Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News

Judge’s comments: Both Odam and Sutter write about food and dining with grace and authority. Once you immerse yourself in their language, observations and recommendations, you’ll never let go. That is exactly what excellent food writing should be – not only informative but also entertaining and, upon occasion, transformative.

Second place: Rashod Ollison, The Virginian-Pilot

Judge’s comments: Ollison is a lovely, lyrical writer who knows pop culture – and knows what to do with it. He can take the familiar – or what we believe to be familiar – and make it new again. What a talent!

Third place: David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun

Judge’s comments: Strong, sophisticated writing and smart observations about TV and the media in general, set against the backdrop of the 2016 election. Zurawik connects the dots in surprising ways, further distinguishing his writing from others who jumped into the critic’s pool last year.

 

SPORTS FEATURE

Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: John Canzano, The (Portland) Oregonian, “JT Taylor: Opening a Fresh Portland Trail Blazers Season With Old Friends”

Judge’s comments: It’s hard to insert yourself into a story and have it come off as natural and real as this effort. A splendid job.

Second place: Andrew Greif, The (Portland) Oregonian, “As Oregon Standoff Raised Tensions, Burns Found Common Ground in Basketball”

Judge’s comments: A tense, well-focused portrait about how sports ekes into every aspect of our culture.

Third place: Andrew Greif, The (Portland) Oregonian, “‘World’s Greatest Sneaker’: How a Portland Collector Beat Out Nike to Land Famed Moon Shoes”

Judge’s comments: A fun story about a passion that has no price tag.

Honorable mention: David Hall, The Virginian-Pilot, “Love Meets Basketball at Norfolk State”

 

VIDEO STORYTELLING

The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length.

First place: Shelly Yang, Monty Davis and Aaron Randle, The Kansas City Star, “KC’s ‘New Wave of Hip Hop’ Group Cypher”

Judge’s comments: Technically, the video is well-produced, compelling and thoughtfully conceived. The camera work is engaging, and the movement is enough to provide dynamism and energy without becoming overwhelming. Aside from the technical accomplishments, the video stands out because it does something new: It gives a sense about a musical movement in a way that no written story or collections of individual videos could provide.

Second place: Teresa Mahoney, The (Portland) Oregonian, “An Autistic Boy Gets His Voice Back, One Letter at a Time”

Judge’s comments: A well-told and compelling story. Though a bit long by online standards, the video remains engaging, partly because of smart editing choices, such as speeding up the touch-board sequences. The use of subtitles accompanying the boy as he uses the touch board shows a sophisticated choice of how a standard video practice (subtitles) can be used to reinforce the narrative itself (the boy tapping out words).

Third place: Kristen Zeis, The Virginian-Pilot, “There’s No Treasure Chest”

Judge’s comments: Lovely photography at the start draws the viewer into an interesting and somewhat mysterious story.

Honorable mention: Steve Earley, The Virginian-Pilot, “Boatbuilding with Tidewater Wooden Boat Workshop”

 

INTEGRATED STORYTELLING

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, online, social media, video and any other platform.

First place: Staff, The Baltimore Sun, “Retro Baltimore”

Judge’s comments: It was difficult deciding between the first two entries, but this one takes first because it is such a great idea. And that great idea was executed with useful interactive elements throughout.

Second place: Staff, The Baltimore Sun, “Beach Guide”

Judge’s comments: This guide to finding your perfect beach is presented in a highly interactive and entertaining way.

Third place: Katy Bergen, Laura Bauer and Mara Williams, The Kansas City Star, “Sexual Assault Survivors: Believe Us, Protect Us, Educate, Act”

Judge’s comments: This piece features compelling reporting and writing on a difficult subject.

Honorable mention: Melissa Stoeltje and Lisa Krantz, San Antonio Express-News, “Trapped in a Dying Body: How ALS Robbed Walter Root”

 

DIVERSITY IN DIGITAL FEATURES

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic that highlights the diversity within a publication’s audience.

First place: Staff, The Kansas City Star, “I Am …”

Judge’s comments: The first-person video aspect of these already moving, engrossing and highly personal stories adds an emotional layer of vulnerability. Perfect storytelling.

Second place: Casey Parks, The (Portland) Oregonian, “She Loved Her Husband. Could She Love Her Transgender Wife?”

Judge’s comments: An achingly well-written piece, which unfolds like a gentle mystery, because the question of whether this deeply loving and deeply connected couple will find a way to be together when one decides finally to be truly herself isn’t settled until the end.

Third place: Staff, The Baltimore Sun, “Women to Watch”

Judge’s comments: A well-rounded presentation of a group of impressive leaders who are as diverse as the city they represent.

Honorable mention: David Martindale and Staff of Indulge magazine, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Super Latina: TV Mogul Gaby Natale Uses Her Voice to Power Her Dreams”

 

BEST NICHE PRODUCT

The best examples of a niche product – such as a magazine or special section – published at least two times a year.

First place: Amy Bertand, Gabe Hartwig and Ian Froeb, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Go: Ian Froeb’s STL 100 and Craft Beer Guide

Judge’s comments: These tabloids were printed on cheap paper, but their content shines. The guides exemplify the mission of a niche produce: providing info that is user-friendly, well-organized, informative, clever, interesting and, in the case of the dining guide, tasty. Even if you don’t drink beer, you’ll love the guide to the best brews – and you’ll want to try a cider, imperial, IPA and whalez (we know the terms, thanks to the handy glossary). We suggest using the prize money to buy everyone in the newsroom a beer. Cheers!

Second place: Clay Barbour and Staff, The Virginian-Pilot, Distinction

Judge’s comments: This publication deserves the label of “Distinction.” There’s a definite “wow” factor here. Stunning photography. Elegant typography. Beautiful design. The essays are good reads. Overall, this is the whole enchilada.

Third place: Staff, The Baltimore Sun, Howard magazine

Judge’s comments: Great local feel. Impressive variety of stories. Crisp writing. Easy-to-read and interesting. Nice vibe throughout.

Honorable mention: Sports Staff, San Antonio Express-News, Spurs Nation


DIVISION 3  |  Circulation 200,000 and up

 

FINEST IN FEATURES SWEEPSTAKES AWARDS

These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 18 categories.

First place: The Washington Post

Thirteen awards, including four firsts (Best Section; Best Features Website, Digital Channel or App; Narrative Storytelling; Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio), four seconds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, General Commentary Portfolio, Sports Feature, Headline Writing Portfolio), three thirds (Sports Feature, Integrated Storytelling, Diversity in Digital Features) and two honorable mentions (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, General Commentary Portfolio).

Second place: Houston Chronicle

Six awards, including four firsts (General Feature, Short Feature, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, Best Niche Product), one second (Video Storytelling) and one third (Best Section).

Third place: Los Angeles Times

Seven awards, including two firsts (Arts & Entertainment Feature, General Commentary Portfolio), three seconds (Best Section, General Feature, Best Niche Product) and three thirds (Short Feature, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio).

 

BEST SECTION

The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage.

First place: The Washington Post

Judge’s comments: The gold standard. Focusing on topics as diverse as Dollywood to a lively, laugh-out-loud back-to-school celebration, The Post bores smartly and fully into its journalism. The magazine devoted to the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a commemoration issue to keep forever. This entry emboldens our faith in features journalism. Bravo

Second place: Los Angeles Times

Judge’s comments: Every section exudes a strong sense of moment and place. The Oscars section is a sparkling example of all-hands-on-deck, no-angle-is-overlooked coverage. The Travel section – an ode to the road – is mesmerizing. Everything about these sections transported us to California.

Third place: Houston Chronicle

Judge’s comments: At times sophisticated, at times whimsical and always evocative and surprising – a narrative about a woman’s first alligator hunt? We’re in! – the Chronicle has a deep, distinctive voice. And it sounds just as it should: like Texas.

Honorable mention: (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

 

BEST FEATURES WEBSITE, DIGITAL CHANNEL OR APP

The best digital or online publications showcasing A&E, lifestyles or other features topics.

First place: Staff, The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com/lifestyle

Judge’s comments: An inspiration – and aspiration – for features websites everywhere. This one has it all – clean design, compelling art and smart, intelligent writing.

Second place: Staff, CNN.com, CNN.com/specials/cnn-longform

Judge’s comments: Serious, deep reporting makes this a site we will return to often.

Third place: Staff, The Dallas Morning News, Guidelive.com

Judge’s comments: This site has a strong and lively visual style. The frequent integration of Instagram adds to the visual appeal while engaging readers. And the writers, especially Leslie Brenner, are strong.

 

GENERAL FEATURE

Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.

First place: Maggie Gordon, Houston Chronicle, “Gator Hunting: A Love Story”

Judge’s comments: Is there romance in the mucky swamp of an alligator hunt? Gordon gives you the answer in her wonderfully written narrative, with its perfect details, clever phrasing and sense of humor. But she smartly lets her characters steal the show by bringing readers into the boat and letting them meet an endearingly quirky couple who are making a date out of bagging a gator.

Second place: Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times, “U2’s The Edge and His Decades-Long Fight to Build on a Pristine Malibu Hillside”

Judge’s comments: Deeply reported and deftly written, this story of a famous musician’s years-long battle to build on precious land isn’t another “problems-of-the-rich-and-famous” story. Reporter Dolan gives stacks of public records the features treatment, unpacking points of view so carefully that readers aren’t always sure whom to root for. The accompanying virtual tour of the property plays into the quagmire.

Third place: Jana Pruden, The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, “The Elephant Nobody Forgets”

Judge’s comments: It’s easy to write about embattled animals, but it’s hard to do it in a different way. Pruden’s story is as compelling to people who’ve been following this elephant’s plight for years as it is to those new to the controversy. The story is a good reminder that taking people back to the beginning of a saga can dredge up fresh perspectives.

Honorable mention: Frank Main, Chicago Sun-Times, “Life on a Ledge”

 

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE

Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, “L.A. Helps Havana’s Vintage Neon Signs Glow Again: ‘It Marks a New Era, a Return of the Light, of Hope’”

Judge’s comments: This writer shares a fantastic slice of life through this story. Her writing is terrific and engaging. She does what the best of the best do – she brings the readers on the journey with her, creating visual imagery with her words. Wonderful job.

Second place: Hank Stuever, The Washington Post, “A Wealth of Material in “Nothing Left Unsaid”

Judge’s comments: What a great read. The dialogue is perfectly woven throughout the story, which makes readers feel as though they are in the room as Gloria and Anderson talk. The inclusion of history gives the piece context.

Third place: Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast, “Rose Styron: The Truth About Life with her Husband, Literary Legend William Styron”

Judge’s comments: A great glimpse into the life of a fascinating woman. Teeman does an excellent job interweaving quotes with history, painting a picture of an interesting life and time.

Honorable mention: Kelsey McKinney, Fusion, “The Truth About Life After ‘American Idol’: Seven Former Contestants Tell All”

 

SHORT FEATURE

Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.

First place: Mike Hixenbaugh, Houston Chronicle, “For This Little Vampire, Sunshine is Rare Treat”

Judge’s comments: Sublime use of restraint with quotes is shown, and it works beautifully. Perfect setup. The pacing of the story and details – especially the paragraph describing Santy’s “entourage” – also are superb. A beautiful little story about one special day in the life of a child.

Second place: Jason Nark, The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Keepers of the Flame”

Judge’s comments: That lede – oh, man, that lede. You reread it and reread it to savor every tidbit. Of course, it’s a great story because it goes well beyond the lede and dives into the attraction that accordions possess while also bringing alive the sounds and people of the shop.

Third place: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, “Garrison Keillor Reflects at the Hollywood Bowl, Rehearsing for Final Show: ‘I Just Want To Be Good’”

Judge’s comments: Even if you care little about Garrison Keillor, you’ll want to read every word of this story – that’s how strong the writing is. In less than 1,000 words, we learn who Keillor is, who he was and who he hopes to be. A “bomp, bomp, du-du-ja, du-du-wop” great story.

Honorable mention: Gerry Smith, Bloomberg, “Hollywood is Running out of Tombstones”

 

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT

Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.

First place: Hannah Dreier, The Associated Press, “Venezuela Undone”

Judge’s comments: In dispatches that are told with factual scrupulousness yet leave readers chilled and horrified, Dreier unravels the reasons that Venezuela is collapsing. Her stories on how people are forced to live with lines for food, how a simple scraped knee can almost kill a child and how military and government corruption is keeping food from the people are international reporting of the highest order. It is essentially war reporting from the front lines. And Dreier’s tweets about daily life in the country are a smart and deeply effective use of social media.

Second place: Laura Reiley, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Farm to Fable”

Judge’s comments: This series might be in second place, but it is first-rate all the way. The project is a marvelous example of local reporting that ended up having state and national impact. This series on how food claims by restaurants and farmers’ markets are flat-out fiction impresses on two levels: the lucidity and compelling voice of Reiley’s writing style and her dogged, old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting. (Young journalists, take note!) This series is both important journalism and a delight to read.

Third place: John Sutter, Jackson Loo and Ingrid Formanek, CNN.com, “Vanishing”

Judge’s comments: These reports on the vanishing species caused by climate change, pollution and other aspects of modern life are deeply convincing and compellingly told through personalized narratives and interactive media. An important series that everyone should read – and heed.

Honorable mention: Jamie Kalven, The Intercept, “Code of Silence”

 

NARRATIVE STORYTELLING

A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme.

First place: Monica Hesse, The Washington Post, “A Well-Exercised Birthright”

Judge’s comments: This story is beautiful in its simplicity; the writer lets the tale reveal itself.

Second place: Christopher Wynn, The Dallas Morning News, “Room, With a Muse”

Judge’s comments: The imagery in this story is lovely. The writer is concentrating on artists, and his story is a work of art, too.

Third place: Ashley Powers, The California Sunday Magazine, “The Man in the Woods”

Judge’s comments: This one reads like a suspense novel. The writers puts a human face on a problem too long ignored.

Honorable mention: Eric Moskowitz, The Boston Globe, “The Tragedy That Boston Forgot”

 

FEATURE SPECIALTY WRITING PORTFOLIO

Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, food, health, religion, technology or travel.

First place: Andrea Sachs, The Washington Post

Judge’s comments: Sachs is foremost a storyteller, and that trait imbues her work with wit, nuance and humanity. Her penguin search that takes her to the Falkland Islands is hilarious. She is travel writer who seems to have a blast doing her job, and our goal is to one day accompany her on a trip.

Second place: Joshua Green, Bloomberg

Judge’s comments: Great profiles – and insights – into two of the men, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, who are now shaping how the country is run. Great reporting coupled with engaging writing.

Third place: Christopher Dickey, The Daily Beast

Judge’s comments: Compelling reporting and writing that illuminate little-known characters from World War II.

Honorable mention: Michael Cavna, The Washington Post

 

GENERAL COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO

A collection of three columns or essays by the same writer on any human interest or specialty topic, excluding editorials.

First place: Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times

Judge’s comments: If the state of California ever stood up, shook off the dust and started speaking, we’re guessing that we’d hear Lopez’s voice. His masterful work is engaging, wry and passionate. A gold medal for the voice of the Golden State.

Second place: Robin Givhan, The Washington Post

Judge’s comments: In one piece, Melania Trump, far from the catwalk, searches for sartorial footing: Did anyone ever look so good breaking all of fashion’s rules? In another about a monumental building, the writer sees her own story – and takes a white friend to see it, too.

Third place: Michael Merschel, The Dallas Morning News

Honorable mention: Michael Cavna, The Washington Post

 

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO

A collection of three columns, essays or reviews by the same writer on any arts and entertainment topic, including dining reviews but excluding editorials.

First place: Alison Cook, Houston Chronicle

Judge’s comments: Cook is a fine writer who masters the art of service journalism and criticism. Her writing is backed by detailed and vivid reporting and displays great turns of phrase and smooth storytelling.

Second place: Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast

Judge’s comments: This entry shows a great development of personal voice and fresh, bright, sprightly writing. Great ledes.

Third place: Jonathan Gold, Los Angeles Times

Judge’s comments: Gold displays an obvious command of the topic, with excellent, clear and engaging writing.

Honorable mention: Leslie Brenner, The Dallas Morning News

 

SPORTS FEATURE

Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: Michael Cohen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Jermichael Finley Runs a New Route in Life”

Judge’s comments: Using beautiful storytelling – and, clearly, a lot of legwork – Cohen dives deep into a sports figure that Packers fans might have thought they knew. The result is a lovely profile about a man after the spotlight is gone.

Second place: Liz Clarke, The Washington Post, “Earnhardt Was Master of Glorious Era”

Judge’s comments: It would have been easy for Clarke to make an essay like this about herself – and it was – but, more than that, this piece offers a true appreciation for Dale Earnhardt Sr. that doesn’t let Clarke’s own experiences get in the way. Instead, it was enhanced by them. That’s a tricky balance to find, and Clarke did so beautifully.

Third place: Sally Jenkins, The Washington Post, “What’s Your Dream, Frankie?”

Judge’s comments: This story about a sports family is more about a family than sports, which means it does what a lot of great sports writing can do: It reveals something about people, not merely what they do on the field or court.

Honorable mention: Bartt Davis, Las Vegas Review-Journal, “Prep Coaches Face Discipline in Lopsided Basketball Games”

 

VIDEO STORYTELLING

The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length.

First place: Staff, WebMD and Starfish Media, “A Heavy Load: Teens and Homework Stress”

Judge’s comments: In a competition where every entry was strong, this video stands out for the way it integrates research, titles, illustration, music and camera work toward a single narrative goal. We found ourselves getting a bit stressed, just like the kids, as we learned about all they had to do on a daily basis.

Second place: Maggie Gordon and Michael Ciaglo, Houston Chronicle, “Gator Hunting: A Love Story”

Judge’s comments: We appreciate how this video stands back and presents its subject without using voiceovers or an interview. The opening shots are beautiful, and we’re immediately immersed in the action. The editing is tight and rhythmic. This kill shot is unexpected and unflinching. This is a compelling video that does what prose or still photos could not.

Third place: Brian Donohue, NJ Advance Media, “The Trip to David Samson’s South Carolina Home That Made Him Bribe United Airlines”

Judge’s comments: We enjoyed the humorous way that this video brought a scandal to life.

Honorable mention: Samantha Okazaki, Today.com, “See The Rockettes Make This 69-Year-Old Dancer’s Dream Come True”

 

INTEGRATED STORYTELLING

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, online, social media, video and any other platform.

First place: John Sutter, Jackson Loo and Ingrid Formanek, CNN.com, “Vanishing”

Judge’s comments: An enthralling presentation about a planet in crisis, offered in a way that’s dynamic and smoothly moves a reader forward.

Second place: Staff, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, The Death of Prince

Judge’s comments: A comprehensive and compelling look at a man who was a part of a community – as well as being a major star.

Third place: Aaron Steckelberg, Bonnie Berkowitz and Denise Lu, The Washington Post, “Inside the Museum”

Judge’s comments: Gorgeous presentation that goes deep. Educational, compelling and dynamic.

 

DIVERSITY IN DIGITAL FEATURES

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic that highlights the diversity within a publication’s audience.

First place: Staff, The Seattle Times, “Under Our Skin: What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race?”

Judge’s comments: This is a thought-provoking collection of community voices, elegantly presented. It’s easy to poke around, linger and revisit the well-shot videos.

Second place: Sofiya Ballin and Michael Bryant, Philadelphia Media Network, “Black History Untold: What I Wish I Knew”

Judge’s comments: This work is well-executed both in print and online. Concise yet strong voices are accompanied by beautiful portraits. The digital design is engaging and makes good use of social media.

Third place: Staff, The Washington Post, “Historically Black”

Judge’s comments: Creative use of Tumblr to solicit submissions for a “people’s museum” and podcast in conjunction with the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

 

BEST NICHE PRODUCT

The best examples of a niche product – such as a magazine or special section – published at least two times a year.

First place: Melissa Aguilar, Jody Schmall and Laura Goldberg, Houston Chronicle, Luxe Life

Judge’s comments: Beautiful magazine with a great mix of lively, interesting content. The publication shows good planning and strong execution and is fun to read. Fantastic photography. Nice mix of short and long pieces, as well as photo-driven packages. Well done.

Second place: Staff, Los Angeles Times, The Envelope

Judge’s comments: Good, strong writing on awards season in L.A., with interesting profiles on contenders. Nice mix of content to interest the masses.

Third place: Pegie Stark, Katherine Snow Smith and Patty Yablonski, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, Bay

Judge’s comments: Strong local magazine with a nice variety of content.

Honorable mention: Staff, National Parks Conservation Association, National Parks magazine


ALL DIVISIONS

 

HEADLINE WRITING PORTFOLIO

A collection of three headlines and accompanying decks by the same writer for feature stories or columns.

First place: Rick Schindler, Today.com

Judge’s comments: Smart, tight headlines that draw readers into stories. The heads are clever, not cute. Schindler wisely uses nuance to capture the tone of the stories.

Second place: Jim Webster, The Washington Post

Judge’s comments: Well-written headlines that feature strong word choices and just enough play on words.

Third place: Jerry McLeod, Arkansas Post-Democrat

Judge’s comments: Clear, concise heads that deliver the meaning and tone of the stories.

Honorable mention: Peter Donahue, The Providence (R.I.) Journal

 

DIGITAL INNOVATION

New or improved online ventures, including websites, apps, social-media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world.

First place: Staff, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Wisconsin is No Stranger to Craft Beer”

Judge’s comments: A slick and well thought-out interface. We love the fact that it tells you whether a brewery is open at that time. On a cellphone, the interface is even cleaner; obviously a lot of thought was given to the mobile experience. The project is a joy to use on both desktop and mobile and provides the essential information a reader needs about breweries.

Second place: Jana Pruden, Shannon Busta, The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, “The Crighton Farm/Light in the Darkness”

Judge’s comments: We’re drawn to the way the episodic nature of the Instagram posts creates the rhythm of the narrative. The technology is driving the narrative. We also appreciate that it’s a creative use of an existing technology.

 


STUDENT DIVISION

 

BEST COLLEGE FEATURES JOURNALIST IN THE COUNTRY

The top collegiate features journalists, based on an entry of up to three stories

First place: Bianca Quilantan, California State University

Judge’s comments: This reporter has a wonderful voice and eye – we couldn’t help but notice that she did most of her own photography. It’s obvious that her subjects trust her as she is able to extract telling details. Loved the story ideas. Overall, great job.

Second place: Stetson Payne, Oklahoma State University

Judge’s comments: These stories feature wonderful details that must have been gleaned from thorough and exhaustive reporting. The writer is a natural, and we look forward to seeing more of Payne’s work.

Third place: Dana Branham, University of Oklahoma

Judge’s comments: Good story ideas, and strong writing.

 

Apply now for our 2017 Diversity Fellowship!

Apply now for our 2017 Diversity Fellowship!

The Society for Features Journalism is committed to developing news-gathering staffs that are representative of the multicultural communities its members serve.

Toward this goal, SFJ is sponsoring the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program for journalists of color in conjunction with its annual conference, which this year is in Kansas City.

Programming will feature a heavy emphasis on storytelling and leadership, and Diversity Fellows will learn what’s happening in features departments nationwide while networking with outstanding journalists specializing in lifestyle and entertainment coverage.

Fellowships cover SFJ conference registration, airfare within the U.S. and hotel. Fellows also will be reimbursed for expenses toward baggage and transportation.

Deadline:   May 25, 2017

Application requirements: resume, essay, photo, letter of recommendation, work samples (see flyer below for more details)

Submit: Email applications with PDF attachments to Margaret Myers at mmyers@atlanticmedia.com.

Questions: 202.266.7263

SFJ 2017 fellowship

Come to Kansas City in 2017

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You’re heard of Kansas City barbecue — and perhaps the 2016 World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals. But did you know KC is also home to the world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art? That the Kansas City Zoo spans 200 acres in Swope Park, one of the nation’s largest urban parks? That we have James Beard Award-winning chefs, a gaggle of food trucks and a fusion cuisine to satisfy all your cravings?

Plus — the beer! Our region is home to dozens of craft breweries and, of course, Boulevard Brewing Co., which was founded in 1989 and now has full or partial distribution in 31 states and Washington, D.C. We also have our fair share of distilleries.

A downtown renaissance includes the Sprint Center, a performing arts center designed by Moshe Sadie; a burgeoning arts community; and the latest fascination: a new streetcar line.

From Sept. 27-30, I invite you to bring your family to the annual SFJ conference so you can experience all this KC pride for yourself.

Our hotel will be just minutes from downtown and within walking distance to many attractions, including Union Station and Crown Center, which is home to Halls department store, Legoland, and fun shops and eateries.

You also can hop on our streetcar to check out the River Market, which hosts a large farmers market and unique food vendors.

If shopping is your thing, the most popular retailers mingle with local boutiques at the Country Club Plaza — a 10-minute Uber ride away. The outdoor shopping plaza is modeled after Seville, Spain, and is considered the country’s first suburban shopping center.

Here’s another bonus: fall is the most beautiful time of year in Kansas City. So please join us for a fun weekend in the heart of our great country.

Kathy Lu, President of SFJ

Assistant managing editor for features, Kansas City Star

SOCIETY FOR FEATURES JOURNALISM HONORS THE BEST IN ITS FIELD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JUNE 7, 2016

________________

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES

Lisa Glowinski, SFJ president, 217.816.3343
Andrew Nynka, SFJ executive director, 347.260.3874

The Society for Features Journalism has honored three Pulitzer Prize winners and a host of other journalists as part of its 2016 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Three newspapers also were recognized with the inaugural Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards, which goes to those publications that received the most honors in the annual contest. The first-ever Best College Features Journalist in the Country also was named. Winners in the 19 categories were announced today.

More than 700 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations in the United States and Canada. Winners will be recognized at SFJ’s national conference Aug. 10-13 in Austin, Texas.

SFJ President Lisa Glowinski said, “I am beyond impressed with the variety of winners this year. Excellent features journalism is truly alive and well – in print, online, on social media and in our readers’ lives.”

Pulitzer Prize winners who received SFJ awards included:

  • Lane DeGregory of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, who placed third in General Feature of the large-newspaper division for “Dear Birth Mother.” She won a Pulitzer for Feature Writing in 2009.
  • Tom Hallman Jr. of The (Portland) Oregonian, who received an honorable mention in Short Feature in the large-newspaper division for “Trying to Make a Hood River Girl’s Last Birthday Party Special.” He won the Pulitzer in Feature Writing in 2001.
  • Alison Sherwood of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who placed first in Best Features Website, Digital Channel or App in the large-newspaper division for the newspaper’s Fresh channel. The Pulitzer board honored her in 2011 for Explanatory Reporting.

Several journalists won multiple awards in SFJ’s contest, including:

  • Michael Cavna of the Washington Post, who received a first place and honorable mention in Digital Innovation and a second place in Feature Writing Specialty Portfolio.
  • Carlos Frias, who was recognized in three categories – Best Features Website, Digital Channel or App; General Feature and Video Storytelling – for his work at the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. Frias now is the food writer at The Miami Herald.

Winning the first-ever Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards in the small-newspaper category (circulation of 90,000 or less) was The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. The Post won seven honors, including three-first place awards. The (Nashville) Tennessean was second, and the (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union was third.

In the medium-size category (circulation of 90,001 to 199,999), the Finest in Features Sweepstakes winner was The Virginian-Pilot, based in Norfolk, which garnered 11 awards. Tied for second were the Baltimore Sun and The Kansas City Star.

The Finest in Features Sweepstakes honor in the large-newspaper category (circulation of 200,000 and above) went to The Washington Post, which won 16 awards, including six first-place honors. Second was the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, and third was the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Cody Stavenhagen of Oklahoma State University was named the Best College Features Journalist in the Country. The judges lauded him for a strong voice and said, “His stories were compelling and drew us from the lede to the end.” Other honored college journalists were Corey Williams of Auburn University, second; Matthew Lieberson of Vanderbilt University, third; and Baxter Barrowcliff of Columbia College in Chicago, honorable mention.

 

For a complete list of this year’s winners, visit this link: https://featuresjournalism.org/sfj-28th-annual-award-winners-by-category/

______________

FOR CONTEST INQUIRIES:
Jim Haag, contest co-chair, 757-639-2675
Suzy Fleming Leonard, contest co-chair, 321-242-3614

Meet 2016 SFJ diversity fellows from Bradenton Herald, Washington Post, UT-Austin

We are excited to introduce our 2016 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows! They each will receive an expense-paid trip to attend our annual conference, happening in Aug. 10-13 in Austin, Texas.

Get to know them a little here.

Jenny Abella, The Washington Post

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Jenny Abella

Jennifer Abella has been a copy editor at The Washington Post since 2000, when she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Currently the copy chief for Washington Post Magazine, she has held several positions at the paper, including features copy chief and deputy

copy chief of the universal news desk. In her spare time she is a pop culture junkie and Anglophile who blogs and manages social media for UNC’s annual Jane Austen Summer Program.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

I oversee copy editing and production for The Washington Post Magazine: I slot copy, oversee proofing, manage production deadlines, publish stories to the Web and compile our entertainment calendar.

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

We’ve done some great stories recently, including a mascot boot camp and an infographic about black superheroes going mainstream.

Q: How do you use social media?

I am on social media every day mostly for personal use, but also to support my volunteer work for the Jane Austen Summer Program in North Carolina. My work with JASP allows me to experiment —  on a small scale —  with concepts I’ve gleaned from working at The Post.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

I love learning about the personal angles of stories — not just policies or politics, but also the way they affect people’s lives.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” – Jane Austen, “Pride and Prejudice”

It applies to anything you love, really — you don’t even feel it happening; it just happens.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

I am thoroughly addicted to Twitter, particularly news accounts that have a geeky/entertainment bent: The Mary Sue, Hitfix, IGN, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter.

For fun, I read young adult literature as well as pop culture-centric nonfiction.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I’d like to get back in touch with the roots of editing and working with writers to craft a strong narrative without losing the writer’s voice. I’m also really interested in the impact of social media on features stories. I’d love to learn more about crafting compelling social headlines for our content and how other publications enhance their long reads for the web in an age when readers have such short attention spans.

 Amaris Castillo, Bradenton Herald

Amaris Castillo Photo

Amaris Castillo

Amaris Castillo is a law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, where she has worked since 2014.

Castillo has a multimedia series called Bodega Stories, where she publishes stories and portraits of people who frequent her parents’ Latin market in Saint Petersburg, Fla. The project is her small way of preserving language and culture, which means a lot to her as a first-generation American.

Castillo was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Dominican parents and has a master’s from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from the University of South Florida.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

As the law enforcement/island reporter for the Bradenton Herald, I am regularly sent out to cover breaking news situations such as shootings, fires and crashes. I also report on Anna Maria Island, a 7-mile barrier island that’s filled with challenges related to tourism and all that it brings to residents and business owners. There are three cities on the island, so my job is to keep track of what’s going on in each city. As the night reporter at my newspaper, I’m also called on to cover general assignment stories that range from graduation ceremonies to animal rights protests.

Though law enforcement and the island are my primary beats, I am always searching for interesting feature stories, as well as stories on the immigrant experience — one of my interests.

Q: What are some of the favorite stories you covered?

One is a series on a Honduran boy who crossed the border to reunite with his parents in Bradenton and the challenges he now faces as he seeks asylum. Another story I enjoyed working on was the historic and absolutely bizarre election tie-breaker in Bradenton Beach between an ousted mayor and current-mayor/former- vice mayor — it was one of those “only in Florida” stories where I witnessed an election tie broken through a deck of cards.

Though interviewing people who are grieving after losing a loved one is extremely difficult, I feel it is an honor to tell their stories. Some of my favorite stories have been about grieving and loss; I wrote a story about a grieving mother who lost her daughter to a heroin overdose just days prior to our interview, and I also recently sat down with a local family who lost four relatives in the Ecuador earthquake. It means a lot to have people willing to speak to me despite their overwhelming grief — I do not take this lightly and always do my best to treat what they tell me with great care.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to share my work, as well as the work of my colleagues and other journalists I admire.

I also use social media as a reporting tool; there have been times where these networks have helped me reach a new source. Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I am able to dig and dig and dig until I am able to reach someone I need to speak to for a story.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is important to me because it stretches beyond the formulaic and cut-and-dried story. It allows journalists to expand and try to incorporate feeling and the essence of a source in the story — the exhausted eyes of a grieving mother, the nervous face of a graduate about to step onto the stage and receive his diploma. I am drawn to feature stories because they bring me in and make me feel as if I am a witness to what’s being done and what’s being said.

Features journalism not only informs the public, but it engages the public.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“Nothing happens unless first we dream” by the late poet/writer Carl Sandburg.

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read the Bradenton Herald, Tampa Bay Times, The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, to name a few. I also listen to NPR and different podcasts on my commute to and from work.

For fun, I enjoy watching Buzzfeed videos and I enjoy reading cultural sites such as Remezcla. I also really enjoy reading independent media like The Mash-Up Americans and La Galeria Magazine.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I hope to leave the SFJ conference inspired, rejuvenated and with tools on how to become a better storyteller. My newspaper is smaller compared to other area newspapers, and so I hope to learn and soak in as much as I can to bring this knowledge back to my colleagues.

I look forward to meeting features editors from all over the U.S. and asking them what makes a great feature story to them personally — what are some do’s and, most importantly, what are some don’ts? I am so excited to be in the same space as others who are passionate about features journalism and look forward to productive discussions and workshops that will be both challenging and stimulating.

Emily Gibson, The University of Texas at Austin

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Emily Gibson

I was born in Baltimore, Md., and grew up reading preteen tabloids such as Tiger Beat and J-14. Thankfully, my taste in magazines and journalism evolved, but my appetite for it didn’t.

I measure my lifetime in what blog or project I was writing at the time (my first “novel” was written when I was in grade school and was called Lobster Face, my first middle school blog was about music and was called CantBeatIt, I currently co-run a magazine, etc.)

When I got to high school, I took a newspaper course and that small taste of newsroom experience confirmed what I already knew: that I was going to give this journalism thing a shot.

Q&A

Q: Tell us about your current job.

I currently intern for The Austin Chronicle, I am the communications assistant for the UT School of Biomedical Engineering and I run my own magazine, SMEAR Magazine, which published online and in print (we are currently working on our second print issue.)

Q: What are some of the favorites stories you covered?

I wrote a story about Texas’ first theatrical wrestling league run completely by female-identified people, which was a really awesome experience. I also worked on a story about the Austin Music Census citing a lack of gender diversity in the Austin scene, and how women musicians in Austin responded to that.

Most recently, I did a story about front man John Pelant from a band called Night Moves, which was a good experience because I had wanted to do a long form music feature for some time.

Q: How do you use social media?

I use social media to start conversations. Whether it is a joke status I post on Facebook or a questioning tweet about a policy or a news event, my main goal is always to get people talking and comfortable talking to each other. I think that, at its core, that is the purpose of social media: to be able to talk to people and bring people from different backgrounds and perspectives together.

Q: Why is features journalism important to you?

Features journalism is what attracted me to the field. Being able to meet people from different backgrounds and tell their stories seems like such an ideal job that I often have to remind myself that it is something I am really working toward. I think it’s important to use these platforms to tell stories that make people think – to represent the unrepresented voices and to provide a different perspective on issues. The fact that I am pursuing a job where I can tell people’s stories that could possibly incite some sort of change is exciting to me, and it is important to me to become the best features journalist I can be so I can better represent these people and their stories.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Q: What kinds of media do you personally read for fun and news?

For news, I read The Austin Chronicle, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and Texas Monthly. For fun, I typically like to read memoirs – the most memorable one I have read in the past year was “Slave: My True Story” by Mende Nazer, and I am currently reading “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” by Ruth Reichl. I also like to read music magazines, specifically Impose and Pitchfork. And fiction-wise, I typically enjoy books that are a little strange or dystopian – Chuck Palahniuk and Margaret Atwood, for example.

Q: What do you hope to get from SFJ conference?

I am extremely excited to attend the SFJ conference. I hope to learn about the industry from people working in the field and hear the stories of how they decided to pursue features journalism and their favorite stories they’ve worked on.

Register now for SFJ 2016 in Austin, Texas, Aug. 10-13

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The Society for Features Journalism heads to Austin, Texas next year! You won’t want to miss three days of sessions filled with practical advice, great ideas for coverage and ways to keep adapting in the digital world.

The conference runs Aug. 10-13 and will draw on the faculty and facilities of the University of Texas at Austin’s renowned journalism school. Plan on meeting the top features editors and reporters from around the country!

And, why wait? You can make your hotel reservations now, with a reduced room rate of $179 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin. To reserve now, call 877-744-8822 and request “Society for Features Journalism Annual Meeting.”

Austin is one of the country’s hippest, most creative cities and reduced room rates are available Aug. 9-14 in case you want to plan a family vacation or travel story around your trip.

Conference registration is $250 for SFJ members who make the early bird deadline of July 8.

Non-members pay $350, as do members who register right before the conference. Follow this link to register.

Questions? Contact SFJ today!

Digital Tool Tuesday: Resistance is futile — you must learn Excel

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Journalists attending an APME Newstrain workshop last month were getting a crash course in using spreadsheets to tell stories and reveal information from public records.

The workshop, led by Michael Berens at the Chicago Tribune, reminded me that all journalists should be able to grasp the basics of Excel and similar spreadsheets.

But why should features journalists do the same?

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Digital Tool Tuesday — The List App

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The tool: The List app

What is it? An iPhone app for creating lists. It’s designed as a marketing tool for celebrities and brands (“The Office” writer B.J. Novak is one of the developers). But it could be a great tool for repurposing copy for the social media audience. It’s also great for extending the life of evergreen packages or finding a new audience for your recipes. You can share your lists on Twitter and Facebook.

How does it work? Download the free app (only available through iPhone) and sign in. Much like Facebook and Twitter, you can follow and be followed by folks. It’s pretty easy to create a list using the handy dashboard.

Make your list. Each item can have a photo, a comment (which can include a link). Your headline and read-in also can include a link.

Examples: PBS created a list to complement “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” episode on Barcelona. the Washington Post posted a list of “Creepy Internet Rabbit Holes.”

Digital Tool Tuesday — Tableau Public

Data visualization using Tableau.

Data visualization using Tableau.

The tool: Tableau Public

What is it? Some elegant interactive tools are being made using the Tableau Public tool, which is available at no charge. It’s free data visualization software that — with a little tutorial — you can build interactive maps, tools and other cool stuff.

How does it work? Using a data set you get (or building your own on Excel), building a graphic that tells your story well.

There’s almost too much here to digest (for quickie graphic tools, try canva.com) but if you have an enthusiastic journalist who wants to dabble in data, let them play around with this.

It’s pitched to investigative reporters for serious projects, but think of the way you can use it to round up restaurant inspection reports, compare school data, or even create.

There is a resource page to view videos that show you how to use the data or how to navigate the dashboard.

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Digital Tool Tuesday — Disaster tips

Lead image from "The Flood: What We Saw" published at thestate.com

Lead image from “The Flood: What We Saw” published at thestate.com

Last week, my state gurgled under 20 inches of rain, roads buckles, dams split open, and at least several neighborhoods in my city were under water.

I’m no longer with The State, so I wasn’t able to discern the thinking behind its disaster coverage. But from my point to view it was stellar, with constant live updates paired with great individual storytelling opportunities with words, video and photos.

I thought about what digital tools might be helpful for getting through a disaster, and am sharing some good practices that you might employ if you have a similar situation.

Find more tips and links in this Dart Center guide.

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Digital Tool Tuesday — Newsletters

The lead page of Lenny, a new newsletter by actress Lena Dunham.

The lead page of Lenny, a new newsletter by actress Lena Dunham.

Newsletters are the new black and white and read all over.

While social media networks continue to dominate news readers, newsletters are quietly grabbing fans, niche by niche.

Take Lena Dunham, of “Girls” fame. This week, she launched Lenny, a weekly newsletter that promises to be “a snark-free place for feminists.”

Newsletters bring customized content to readers. They arrive in an inbox, but they aren’t intrusive. You can sell them through sponsorships. They are easy to measure. They get traffic for your stories.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: New Facebook features for journalists

Stream live video through Facebook Mentions

Stream live video through Facebook Mentions

While Facebook tries to dominate the universe even more with its implementation of Instant Articles, it is throwing journalists a small piece of the social network with two new initiative, Mentions and Signal.

Facebook Mentions allows verified journalists (along with celebrities and other public figures) to broadcast live to his or her Facebook followers. It’s a good branding tool to show your readers how you’re covering the news or event.

First, create a professional Facebook page, much like you do with your personal account. The difference is that a Page allows you to get followers, who can see your activity and posts.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: New Snapchat feature

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Have you tried Snapchat yet? Still don’t understand it?

Here’s a new reason to check it out? Incredible selfies.

One of Snapchat’s quirky features is the ability to write on top of the photo or video, or add emoticons or scribbles.

Now you can add special effects to selfies you take within the app. The feature, called Lenses, activates while the camera is open. Play along to create rainbows pouring out of your mouth, hearts on your eyes, and other whatnots.

Now why would you even consider such a selfie? To help promote a weird story or a columnist who is ready to cover something live.

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Sofiya Ballin: Creativity, courage and diversity line the path to journalism’s future

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Sofiya Ballin was one of the two 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs diversity fellows.

I started the SFJ fellowship with my mind on two of the largest reporting weekends on the horizon: Made In America and the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia.

I was feeling very journo’d out and I left full of fresh ideas for how I would contribute to the coverage. Meeting and sharing stories and ideas with reporters and editors across the country was exhilarating.

Though I’ve been at the Philadelphia Inquirer for almost a year, during the conference I was able to better understand what goes into producing the paper. More importantly, I understand better the challenges in our industry that go far beyond reporting stories.

Touring the Washington Post, listening to Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, and observing Michael Cavna and others share showed me how there’s no one way to tell a story and engage audiences. And that when it comes to the future of journalism, the pathway has to be filled with creativity, courage and many entry points.

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Ada Tseng: I’m scared and thrilled about being a journalist in the digital age; so follow me on Facebook

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Ada Tseng, one of two 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs diversity fellows.

It was such an honor to attend the 2015 Society of Features Conference as a Diversity Fellow. I’ve never walked out of a conference feeling so full of energy and new ideas.

From the very first panel — featuring The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey, who talked about the value of creating personal newsletters; Atlantic Media’s Tim Ebner, who proposed creative ways of working with sponsors in order to fund journalism, and The Arizona Republic’s Megan Finnerty, who discussed using live events to build diverse communities — it was clear that this conference was going to be about change.

With change comes the anxiety of the unknown, but it also gives us an opportunity for self-analysis. As journalists, what are our core values that we can’t afford to compromise? What are some traditions that would be better left behind?

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Digital Tool Tuesday: SFJ conference wrap-up, with links and great story ideas

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The Society for Features Journalism conference at the University of Maryland was a great success.

In case you didn’t make it, here’s a list of the digital tools we discussed during a Friday morning session with Betsey Guzior, engagement editor at Bizwomen, and Corey Takahashi, a multimedia instructor at Syracuse University, and at other sessions.

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Campus Connection: How to write resumes that impress

School is starting again — and it’s never too early to think about your application for the next internship or your first job.

That’s the focus of our current issue of Campus Connection.

We talk to Dennis Anderson, executive editor of the Peoria Journal Star, about what types of resumes catch his eye and what impresses him.

Here’s something to remember: “But what really helps to make a resume great is a concise sentence at the top, just
under the contact information and before the candidate’s experience. This is your shot to tell the hiring manager who you are and what you can do for the organization.”

Think of it as your Twitter bio, but serious.

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SFJ launches Crowdrise campaign to support fellowship, mentorship programs

In 2012, the SFJ convention at the University of Maryland included a trip to the Newseum.

In 2012, the SFJ convention at the University of Maryland included a trip to the Newseum.

We are on Crowdrise! Check us out at https://www.crowdrise.com/sfj2015/fundraiser/sfjfoundation

Crowdrise is a great way to build support for the work SFJ does. Own main goal is to underwrite the costs of our diversity fellowship program and to launch a mentorship program for student journalists.
Thanks to about a dozen donors so far, we’ve raised $765 — almost enough to underwrite the total cost for one diversity fellow to attend our annual convention! We love having the fellows there because we get to learn from each other. It’s all about sharing.
So let’s keep it going.
Here’s what your donation will do for SFJ Diversity Fellows:

$35: Shuttle from the airport to the University of Maryland

$50: Underwrite the costs for a fellow to attend an SFJ panel discussion on how to help your newsroom make the transition to digital; or a session on ‘show-and-steal’ content ideas to drive traffic and engage readers; or training on how to sharpen your quick video skills.

$75: Shuttle to Washington for Q/A session with columnist Gene Weingarten and followed by a reception with editor Marty Baron.

$150: Foot the bill for one night at the conference hotel.

$1,000: Underwrite the total cost for one fellow.

$5,000-$10,000: Help SFJ launch a mentorship program that pairs professionals with college journalism students, including a weekend writing bootcamp in Washington D.C., distance learning and ongoing personal mentorship.

The SFJ Foundation is a 501c3, and your donations are tax deductible. 

SFJ Conference Schedule

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

SFJ Conference Schedule

Aug. 26-29, 2015

College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, University of Maryland

NOTE: A free continental breakfast will be served in the Knight Hall Atrium Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning from 8:30 to 9 a.m.

All sessions are in Knight Hall on the University of Maryland campus, except the Thursday afternoon/evening trip to the Washington Post, where we’ll hear four speakers, including Editor Marty Baron and two-time Pulitzer winner Gene Weingarten. We’ll have time between speakers (before dinner) for some small group tours of the Post.

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 26:

4-5:45 p.m. SFJ Board Meeting: Board and committee chairs

5-6 p.m. Registration, Knight Hall Atrium (a fairly short walk from the College Park Marriott, our conference hotel on the edge of campus).

6-8 p.m.: Opening Reception, Knight Hall Atrium.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Twitter’s greased ‘Lightning’

twitterTwitter and Apple are hiring journalists to create their own brand of news. And now, Twitter’s Project Lightning includes a plan for followers to keep track of live events, through curated tweets. Buzzfeed sat down with Twitter developers about the project.

 “On Twitter’s mobile app, there will be a new button in the center of the home row. Press it and you’ll be taken to a screen that will show various events taking place that people are tweeting about.”

What does that mean for you?

If you are live tweeting the Oscars red carpet or the Emmys, will your tweets be included for larger consumption, or lost in the curation to larger outlets? The new curation will instantly load videos and have rich image content; and it will be easier to embed tweets across all Web platforms. That could be a great advantage for breaking news events.

Continue reading

SFJ Honors the Best in Features Journalism

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNE 23, 2015

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES
Terry Scott Bertling, SFJ president, 210.250.3112
Andrew Nynka, SFJ executive director, 301.314.2631

The Society for Features Journalism has honored seven Pulitzer Prize winners and a host of other journalists as part of its 2015 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Also receiving recognition were 10 newspapers for outstanding features sections and journalists in 15 other categories. Winners were announced today.

More than 800 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations in the United States and Canada. Winners will be recognized at SFJ’s national conference Aug. 26-29 in College Park, Md.

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Who’s the Best in Features Journalism?

Find out on Tuesday by following the Society for Features Journalism using the hashtag: #SFJ15

The Society for Features Journalism Excellence-in-Features Awards honor the craft of feature storytelling, and the people who do it for a living at news organizations and wire services around the country. Follow along as the Society for Features Journalism announces the winners on Twitter and Facebook, starting at 10 a.m. EST on Tuesday, June 23. The honorees include Pulitzer prize-winning journalists, national news organizations, and state and local reporters.

Are you still not an SFJ member? Join today!

Becoming a SFJ member is easy, and our members take advantage of year-long value. Join hundreds of features editors, journalists, and writers, who are making use of editorial resources and professional networks. An annual membership starts as low as $75 a year. Consider joining SFJ today!

Sofiya Ballin, Ada Tseng named 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows

Congratulations to the 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellows!

They were chosen on the basis of experience, multimedia and writing skills and what they could learn and give back to SFJ.

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Sofiya Ballin

Sofiya Ballin is a features reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. She began her writing career at 17, crafting personal stories about growing up natural for natural hair website, The Coil Review, which ended after 7 years.

An award-winning journalist at Temple University, she also reported and edited for JUMP Philly music magazine, contributed pieces to Ebony.com, became a blogger for Huffington Post, interned at the Philadelphia Daily News, and freelanced for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Ballin joined the Inquirer’s features staff in 2014 after graduation. During her short tenure, she has interviewed mainstream artists and introduced readers to up-and-coming talents, written about trends such as cuffing season and the emergence of Black Twitter, covered major news events such as local Ferguson and Baltimore protests, photographed and produced digital fashion features, and contributed opinion pieces that speak to the millennial soul. Ballin aims to humanize all walks of life through mentorship and her work.


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Ada Tseng

Ada Tseng is a writer and editor based in Southern California, and for the last decade, she’s covered pan-Asian arts and entertainment for Asia Pacific Arts, Audrey Magazine, XFINITY Asia, KoreAm Journal, LA Weekly and more. She hosts a podcast called Bullet Train where she turns silly episodes (about Japanese romance simulation games and “American Ninja Warrior,” for example) into serious explorations (of love and remakes, respectively). She has a series called “Haikus with Hotties.” She studied at UCLA and received her MFA in Writing and Literature at the Bennington Writings Seminars. And she loves writing long feature stories on topics that aren’t being covered in the mainstream media.

Make your plans for the 2015 Society for Features Journalism Conference Aug. 26-29th

Register Online | Download Registration Form | Book Hotel Stay

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Join us for SFJ’s annual conference Aug. 26-29 at the University of Maryland for an array of sessions that will be filled with practical, usable information you can bring back to your newsroom.

The conference kicks off with an opening reception on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 26. SFJ members get a discounted rate for the conference.

Conference sessions include:

– A Q&A with Washington Post Editor Marty Baron, whose newspaper was named the best in the business for digital innovation.

– Success stories on moneymakers in today’s newsrooms, ranging from newsletters to special events.

– Inspiration from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner in feature writing, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, and his editor Tom Schroder who has a reputation for bring out the best in his writers.

– A panel discussion on the new ways publications have transitioned to “digital first” and how journalists who grew up on the print side are thriving and leading the revolution.

– A simple hands-on video how-to that will give you skills to use immediately after the conference.

– Tips on digital tools that are fun and easy to use for cool projects.

– The ever-popular Show and Steal sessions, which feature great ideas from newsrooms around the country.

– An awards ceremony to honor the winners of the Excellence in Features Journalism contest

Hotel accommodations:

Hotel stays can be arranged at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference center on the University of Maryland campus. Conference sessions will be in the Knight Hall in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism in College Park, just a short walk from the Marriott. We’ve arranged for a block of rooms at the Marriott with a rate of $149/night for a king or $159/night for two queens (an affordable option for attendees who want to share a room and share the cost).

Digital Tool Tuesday: Info.gram (with apologies to Jody Mitori)

(AP Photo/Scott Kane)

(AP Photo/Scott Kane)

What is it? Info.gram

What does it do? Creates easy to read infographics, charts and maps

How does it work? Sign up, and a step-by-step process will take you through creating a graphic.

Tips:

It would help to be familiar with how to use a spreadsheet. One is available to fill in, but you can also import various spreadsheets.

You can choose among different types of charts, including treemaps (which show proportion clearly), bubble charts (which plot like charts but also show relativity in a cool way) or population charts.

You can add media, including photos and video, have multiple people collaborate on a graphic, and keep track of analytics.

There is a limited amount you can do with a chart in the free portion of this website. But, for feature purposes, this might be enough.

You can embed the chart into your web page, or share it through social media.

Click here for an example.

Have fun with it.

Digital Tool Tuesday: Memes and sticky social stuff

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A couple of tools today to help your stories get more attention on social media.

Vox meme generator

Allows you to add text, watermarks, quotes to a photo for greater impact when sharing on social media.

Notes: It’s an open source code thingee, so it probably requires someone with coding experience to load it for your organization’s use. But the result is very professional.

http://product.voxmedia.com/2014/6/27/5849812/meme-generation-made-easy

Making GIFs

www.makeagif.com

Easy way to break down a video or upload photos to create a gif.

Notes: Doesn’t include an embed code; stores the GIF on its website, which might not do you much good.

Bridget wishes me a happy birthday on Make A Gif.

Apply now for the 2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship

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2015 Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship

When: Aug. 26-29, 2015, at the University of Maryland

Sponsor: Society for Features Journalism

Who is this for: Journalists of color who produce arts and features content for news organizations or those interested in pursuing careers in arts and features journalism.

What it covers: Travel and lodging costs to our annual conference, plus a $300 stipend for conference-related expenses.

Application deadline: May 22, 2015

The Society for Features Journalism is committed to developing news-gathering staffs representative of the multicultural communities its members serve. Toward this goal, SFJ is sponsoring the Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship Program for journalists of color in conjunction with its annual conference at the University of Maryland. Programming will have heavy emphasis on multimedia, leadership and writing.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Meerkat vs. Periscope


meerkat

Welcome to the weekly feature highlighting a digital tool to leverage for lifestyle and arts and entertainment coverage.

The tools: Meerkat vs. Periscope

Where to find them: Apps for iPhone and Androids

What are they: Easy to-use live streaming to social media. Periscope is a tool fully integrated with Twitter, Meerkat is a standalone app that uses Twitter. Because Periscope is a Twitter-sanctioned tool, it’s easier to stream through it.

How they work: Both give you the ability to live stream from your smartphone to Twitter followers. Both also offer real-time live streams for you to view. Both apps allow viewers to respond with “love” buttons and share the live stream with others.

The difference is in the look of the screen. Periscope’s screen can be highly animated, with little “hearts” indicating viewers’ likes floating during the broadcast. On Meerkat, comments and likes are overlaid on the screen.

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Save the date: SFJ’s annual conference at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Knight Hall at the University of Maryland

Plans for the 2015 Society for Features Journalism Conference at the University of Maryland Aug. 26-29:

We’ll start with an opening reception on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 26, and offer a packed agenda of speakers and conversations that continues through noon Saturday, Aug. 29. Topics that are likely to be on our agenda: money making ideas to take home, new tricks for those moving into more digital content (everyone, right?), new storytelling techniques that resonate with digital readers. And much more.

We’ll stay at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference center on the University of Maryland campus. Conference sessions will be in the impressive Knight Hall in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism in College Park – just a short walk from the Marriott. We’ve arranged for a block of rooms at the Marriott with a rate of $149/night for a king or $159/night for two queens (an affordable option for attendees who want to share a room and share the cost).

We’re planning an outing one evening for kicks, but this is a roll-up-your-sleeves conference that promises lots of ideas and content for SFJ members to take home and put to use right away, whether your biggest challenge is boosting revenue, creating better content, or learning new tricks to connect with online readers.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Yik Yak

The Tool: Yik Yak

yikyak

What is it? A social media app that allows users to post anonymously; others “endorse” the posts to make them “hot.” Yik Yak communities primarily are around college campuses; the users are primarily students.

How does it work? People post observations; you can find “nearby” Yik Yaks. There are two options to view; one lets you see the newest posts; the other is to see the “hot” posts — those posted endorsed (liked) by others.

The search button lets you see featured topics, and “peeks,” which are other communities (again, mostly colleges).

You may include a username to Yik Yaks. That might be a good idea if you’re trolling for info as a reporter.

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Digital Tool Tuesday: Useful web sites

spjtoolbox

Digital Tool Tuesday: Useful (and offbeat) websites for features reporting

In this edition, some resourceful websites to use in lifestyle reporting, courtesy of The Journalist’s Toolbox, itself a great compilation of what journalists need to navigate reporting in the digital age.

Food Timeline

http://www.foodtimeline.org/index.html

Simply done, this is a timeline of the history of food. Want to know when “The Virginia Housewife” was first published? This timeline has that. Want to find out when the first dedicated baby food was produced; it’s got that, too. Click on the hyperlink and get a lot of well sourced material to mine for any food history story. Bonus: a page that outlines food prices in the past.

Supertracker

https://www.supertracker.usda.gov

A USDA site, this includes great consumer information and personal tools for weight loss and increasing activity. Editors will find the Food-A-Pedia a useful tool to discover nutritional information on any food.

Math for journalists

http://www.robertniles.com/stats/

Math tutorials from the L.A. Times Robert Niles. We like the simple explanation of percent change.

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Join us on Monday for #SFJStoryClub

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The newsroom gets a phone call — two sisters who had not seen each other in decades are having a reunion. The first instinct is to go cover the event, write it up and move on.

But, the folks at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale did a little digging, and came up with this tale of loss, grief and hope.

Now, we’re going to dissect this story apart and learn how it unfolded. Join us on Monday, February 23rd from 1-2 pm EST for SFJ’s first Story Club Twitter chat about “The Lost Sister,” a great piece by Nicole Brochu and photographer Joe Cavaretta, who tracked down this story and turned it around in record time.

To participate in the Story Club Twitter chat you can send questions to the SFJ listserv by 3 p.m. Friday, February 20th. Or, send them on Monday using Twitter and the hashtag #SFJStoryClub. Be sure to follow along next week!

Digital Tool Tuesday

Digital Tool Tuesday

Digital Tool Tuesday Welcome to a new weekly feature of SFJ, in which we share tips about a digital tool to leverage for lifestyle and arts and entertainment coverage. The tool: Storymap

Storymap screenshot from the Burning of Columbia

Storymap screenshot from the Burning of Columbia

What does it do? Creates clickable map that allows you to tell a story at each point.

What’s cool about it? Embed video and photos at each point, bringing a map to life.

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ABC News, USA Today interns talk to Campus Connection

ABC News, USA Today interns talk to Campus Connection

This fall, we hear from two summer interns and their experiences at ABC News and USA Today. Also, Washington & Lee University (in Lexington, Va.) professors give tips to students.

Our quarterly Campus Connection newsletter aims to connect college journalism students and professors with the features journalism society at large. If you have ideas for future newsletters, please like us on Facebook and leave a comment there. Thanks!

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Diversity fellows: What we learned at SFJ14

Mariecar Mendoza WatsonDenisePhoto (1)

The Penny Bender Fuchs Diversity Fellowship winners, Mariecar Mendoza and Denise Watson, reflect on their time at the 2014 SFJ annual conference:

During a time in the media industry where metrics and analytics rule many newsrooms, it’s refreshing to know that there is a still a smart, creative group of enthusiastic people who champion the art of storytelling.

What’s more, they’re focused on storytelling about music that moves, food that strengthens bonds with loved ones – or helps folks with their gastrointestinal tract.

That’s the biggest takeaway I got from my first Society of Features Journalism conference, hosted in Nashville this summer.

When I was a teen, I always dreamed of being in the same room with arts and entertainment writers and editors who understood the importance of what most newsrooms scornfully dub “fun journalism.” This year, not only got nearly a week with them, but I got real time with them to bounce around ideas – steal a few ideas, too – and find out how they’re dealing with this digital world that has everyone working on so many platforms at such a fast pace.

Tommy Tomlinson, a writer for Forbes, probably summed up what features writing means to me when he told the attentive crowd of SFJers: “I like to write big stories out of little moments.”

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Take our Survey and Help Features Journalism!

bubbleThere’s never a bad time to take stock, which is why we seek your input on the current status of the Society for Features Journalism.

We have a long-standing commitment to recognize and celebrate excellence in feature storytelling and this remains at the heart of the group’s mission.  But times change, and our workplaces are in transition.  Your daily routine may barely resemble what it was just a few years ago.

Please take a few minutes to share your feedback. Let us know how we can help you in this challenging new environment.

We believe that SFJ is an important resource for you and your colleagues — your smart and savvy ideas will help us keep it that way!

Thanks, in advance. And, take the survey now: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SFJ0814

And, the winners are…

Photo courtesy Flickr

SOCIETY OF FEATURES JOURNALISM HONORS THE BEST IN ITS FIELD

FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES:
Betsey Guzior, SFJ President, 803-771-8441
Merrilee Cox, SFJ Executive Director, 301-314-2631

The Society for Features Journalism has honored four Pulitzer Prize winners and three Pulitzer finalists as part of its 2014 Excellence-in-Features Awards contest.

Also receiving awards were nine newspapers for outstanding features sections and journalists in 14 other categories. Contest winners were announced today.

More than 600 entries were judged in the contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living at news organizations and wire services in the United States and Canada.

Pulitzer Prize winners who won SFJ awards included:

–Liz Balmaseda of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, who place first in arts-and-entertainment commentary in the small newspaper division. She won a Pulitzer for commentary in 1993.

–Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post, who placed first in SFJ’S Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio category in the large-newspaper division. He received a Pulitzer for criticism in 2013.

–Eli Saslow of the Washington Post, who placed first in Narrative Writing in the large-newspaper division for “Into the Lonely Quiet,” a poignant look at a family who lost a child in the Newton, Conn., school shooting. He won a Pulitzer this year for Explanatory Reporting.

–Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, who placed second for his General Commentary Portfolio in the large-newspaper division. He has won two Pulitzers for Feature Writing.

Others honored by SFJ included this year’s three Pulitzer Feature Writing finalists, a category in which no award was given. They are:

–Scott Farwell of the Dallas Morning News, who won SFJ’s Series or Project award in the large-newspaper division for “The Girl in the Closet,” a series about a woman’s efforts to lead a normal life after years of severe abuse. He was a Pulitzer Feature Writing finalist for that series.

–Christopher Goffard of the Los Angeles Times, who placed first and second in SFJ’s General Feature category. He was a Feature Writing finalist for “The Manhunt for Christopher Dormer,” which was not entered in SFJ’s contest.

–Mark Johnson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who was the writer of the series “The Course of Their Lives,” which earned two SFJ awards. He was a Pulitzer Feature Writing finalist for that series.

Also winning awards was Carlos Frias, who was an SFJ Diversity Fellow last year. Frias, of the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, received honors in General Feature, Short Feature and for his body of work in General Commentary and Feature Specialty Writing.

Winning best-section honors in the small-newspaper category (circulation of 90,000 or less) were the Colorado Springs Gazette, Edmonton (Canada) Journal and Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

In the medium-size category (circulation of 90,001 to 199,999), the winners were the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

Winners in the large-newspaper category (circulation of 200,000 and above) were the Los Angeles Times, Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Washington Post.

Among smaller newspapers, those receiving the most awards were the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, with nine, and the Edmonton (Canada) Journal and (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, with seven apiece. In the middle-sized newspaper category, the big winners were The Virginian-Pilot with 10 awards, CNN.com with five and the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman with four. In the large-newspaper category, the Washington Post received 13 honors, the Los Angeles Times won 11 and the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times had nine.

SFJ will recognize the winners at its national conference Aug. 20-23 in Nashville. SFJ is an organization that promotes and celebrates features journalism.

For a complete list of this year’s winners, please see this link: https://featuresjournalism.org/sfj-26th-annual-contest-winners-by-category

FOR CONTEST INQUIRIES: 
Suzy Fleming Leonard, contest co-chair, 321-543-4261
Jim Haag, contest co-chair, 757-446-2977

SFJ debuts new quarterly newsletter for journalism students

We are happy to introduce a new venture: SFJ Campus Connection, a quarterly newsletter with a focus on helping journalists of the future.

Our membership of features writers and editors have dozens of years of industry experience among them. So we are taking advantage of their knowledge to produce the pieces that you’ll see in our newsletter. Best advice for interns, for instance, or links to internship postings.

We also take the name literally — we hope this newsletter will better link SFJ and colleges, and become a useful resource for students who want to be features journalists.

So we are providing the first few issues for free, but after that, they will be available exclusively to SFJ members. Remember, we offer a student discount of just $25 per year.

If you have ideas for this newsletter, please share on our Facebook page.

 

SFJcampusconn1

Video x 2 = SFJ14 in Nashville

Capture

Photo courtesy Grant Wickes

“We need more video!” That’s the battle cry from editors in newsrooms. But where you do you go from there?

At SFJ14 in Nashville, you’ll get instruction and inspiration from two seasoned pros, in two sessions on the opening day of the Society for Features Journalism conference. Val Hoeppner travels around the country teaching journalists how to shoot video. She’ll bring her enthusiasm and the newest tools for you to use. Later, learn how to take those skills to the next level with Josh Meltzer of Western Kentucky University.

Sign up for the conference, Aug. 20-23, at the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University in beautiful Nashville. Click here for registration and hotel details.

A Missing Pulitzer Prize: An Open Letter to Features Journalists

pulitzer_logo

The Pulitzer board did not award a prize for feature writing this year.

Why?

The Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark, a former Pulitzer juror and a friend of features folks, speculated this week that part of the reason for the snub is that features journalism is a bit hard to define.

What is features writing anyway?

Members of our organization, the Society for Features Journalism, produce some of the finest narrative storytelling in journalism. Some of us drive cultural and artistic discussions in our communities. Many of us still tell stories no one else would spend to time to do.

And, yes, some of us are writing celebrity blogs, compiling Top 10 lists, making how-to videos, posting reality show recaps and cooking up crazy reader contests.

It’s all features.

Features writers, editors and producers have been rattled by the recession and the changes in the news industry. Arts critics are rare these days, and features sections have been decimated or eliminated.

But know this: Many of the survivors — lifestyle and arts and entertainment journalists — are leading newsrooms into a digital age and finding new ways to reach out to readers and tell stories. Innovative work in newsrooms is being driven by the features staffs, who, through powerful and resourceful storytelling, learned the hard way to create something exciting, often from nothing.

Quality features journalism is spreading beyond traditional print newsrooms. Some of the recent winners in our SFJ national writing awards were from CNN and Today.com.

Did features journalism take a hit Monday when the Pulitzer board decided to withhold a prize in features writing?

No way.

Betsey Guzior
President, SFJ
Features Editor, The State, Columbia, SC

P.S. SFJ guarantees prizes in its annual writing and best section contest. Enter by clicking here

Digital Tools — making headline magic

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Marketing and advertising types are just as obsessed with getting people to absorb their message.

So, here’s some digital tools that marketers use to test headlines.

Coschedule headline analyzer

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Click here for link

Type in a headline, and it will rate it based on its ability to connect emotionally, tell your story simply, and what “power words” you can use. It breaks down a headline on its neutrality, and gives you a preview as a Google SEO.

It’s not free, but you can sign up for a trial period.


Advanced Marketing Institute headline analyzer

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Click here for link

This is a less sexy version of a headline analyzer. It lets you get your headline parsed by subject.


Mailchimp’s subject line analyzer

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Click here for link

You have to be a Mailchimp subscriber to use this, but this can help you hone your subject lines, which could make the difference between a read clicking and not clicking.