The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division II

DIVISION II | Circulation 90,000 to 199,999

Finest in Features Sweepstakes awards

This award honors three publications in each circulation category that garner the most awards in the other 22 categories.
First place: NJ Advance Media
Twelve awards, including five firsts (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Food Feature, Narrative Storytelling, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Sports Feature), three seconds (Integrated Storytelling, Diversity in Digital Features and Special Section), one third (General Commentary Portfolio) and three honorable mentions (General Feature, Food Writing Portfolio and Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio).
Second place: The Virginian-Pilot
Nine awards, including three firsts (Best Section, Special Section and Niche Product), two seconds (Food Criticism and Niche Product), one third (Narrative Storytelling) and three honorable mentions (Special Section).
Third place: San Antonio Express-News
Seven awards, including two firsts (Features Digital Presence and Food Criticism), three seconds (Best Section, Short Feature and Food Writing Portfolio), one third (Food Criticism) and one honorable mention (Special Section).

Best section

The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage.
First place: The Virginian-Pilot
Judge’s comments: The stories in this section set it apart: a woman’s search to learn about what happened to her Japanese grandfather after World War II, Thomas Jefferson’s conflicting ideas of freedom and slavery and the status of country western music in Hampton Roads pegged to Ken Burns PBS series. The pages mirror the diversity of the population the paper serves. It interacts with readers, is visually inviting and fun. Headlines including “Let’s Give ‘Em Something to Taco ‘Bout” draw readers in.
Second place: San Antonio Express-News
Judge’s comments: What’s not to love about these sections? Visually stunning, whether it’s cool treats, carne guisada or a plate of brisket. You get to see inside San Antonio homes, compare the food at Ikea and Costco (Ikea wins!) and learn how to make a Bourbon and Basil Blackberry Smash. True to Texas, you learn that a salon tool can be used for the barbecue. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a weekly story about where to get a burger all year long.
Third place: St. Louis Post-Dispatch  
Judge’s comments: The Post-Dispatches sections are a must-have guide to events happening in and near St. Louis. Find out the best places to eat during the Stanley Cup finals. Get a map to lead you through the Shakespeare Festival’s Love’s labor Lost. Most compelling was a section looking at the influence of the events that unfolded in Ferguson five years later on music, films and art.
Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Best features digital presence

The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Staff—San Antonio Express-News, “Taste”
Judge’s comments: You could spend hours consuming the food coverage from the team at the San Antonio Express-News and never be full or finish it all. From breaking news to recipes to reviews to trend pieces: This team is on it. That includes thoughtful stories that go deeper, about food’s role in our communities and lives. They have built a strong community through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And it’s all delivered through a clear San Antonio lens as they respond to seasons and events and what’s happening in people’s lives. 
Second place: Tony Norman, Steve Mellon, LA Johnson—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The Notorious Trial of Joe Thomas”
Judge’s comments: The staff at the Post-Gazette uses a variety of digital tools—and uses them well—to tell all kinds of stories: a shameful chapter of the city’s past, the arrival of a record-setting roller coaster, how selling plasma has become an economic lifeline for many and how the city has lost many of its historic buildings through neglect. The digital “bells and whistles” are not just window dressing; they add to the depth of the storytelling, creating an immersive experience that print can’t deliver.
Third place: Michael Mayo, Gretchen Day-Bryant, David Schutz—South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Let’s Eat, South Florida”
Judge’s comments: This was such a competitive category, with all three places strong contenders. Let’s Eat, the Facebook group started by and moderated by the Sun Sentinel, continues to be a passionate community of food enthusiasts. True engagement with community members, who regularly post and support each other, at a time when we’re all looking for ways to keep audiences interested.

General feature

Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.
First place: Vince Beiser—Los Angeles Magazine, “How a Former Bank Robber Saved Her Football Star Son from a System Unkind to the Mentally Ill”
Judge’s comments: Heart-wrenching, skillfully told story of a mother’s fight against the broken criminal justice system to get her mentally ill son the care he needs. Vince Beiser’s nuanced, thorough reporting combines with a lively narrative that traverses years, places and people and feels like a movie. But what’s most impressive is how seamlessly he blends in the important contextual reporting that gives the piece depth: for instance, the statistics on the proportion of mentally ill people in the prison system and how that has increased over the years. Such a rich story with interesting, compelling characters. Told brilliantly.
Second place: Sarah Butrymowicz—The Hechinger Report, “Refugee girls want to improve the world. Will we let them do so?”
Judge’s comments: Love the lede. Really paints a detailed scene and puts you in the schoolroom with these kids. (“A sea of 76 students in bright violet uniforms with pointed white collars confronted Jessica Deng as she stepped into her classroom.”) Solid nut graf, too. Succinct, simple but sets the stakes almost immediately. Gives just enough of the history so you understand what’s happening, but not so much that it’s overwhelming. “When I ask what they wish outsiders knew about their lives”—that is a great question that more people need to ask. She has a good grasp of pacing and scope—zooms in and out cinematically. Lovely circular ending that gives hope despite the despair you’re made to feel—masterfully, because of how the reporter has structured the piece—throughout. Great story. Thoroughly reported and researched, so much rich depth, and yet, colorful details down to the color of the teacher’s T-shirt.
Third place: Keith BieryGolick—The Cincinnati Enquirer, “Allegations of ‘doping’ at Ohio fair, a private investigator and a steer named King”
Judge’s comments: Well-reported, well-put together story that shows how one very murky allegation changed a family’s life for years. Gives a glimpse into the rhythms and importance of farm shows to people who live in small, rural towns, and really does well to show how the small town thing can hurt a family’s livelihood. Good detail, good pacing, the narrative unfolds in compelling fashion.
Honorable mention: Jessica Remo—NJ Advance Media, “My mother found out her father wasn’t her father from a DNA test—and it’s all my fault”

Arts & Entertainment feature

Feature treatment of an arts andFeature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic–such as architecture, art, books, dance, movies, music, opera, television or theater.entertainment topic.
First place: Bobby Olivier—NJ Advance Media, “Pop mastermind Jack Antonoff is N.J.’s artist of the decade”
Judge’s comments: An exceptionally written profile on pop music producer and singer Jack Antonoff. It was detailed, descriptive, entertaining and full of great quotes from several voices.
Second place: Chris Kaltenbach—The Baltimore Sun, “’Blair Witch’ turns 20: How a surprise hit horror movie made this Maryland town infamous” 
Judge’s comments: This story, about the 20th anniversary of the cult favorite film “The Blair Witch Project,” flowed nicely and didn’t miss a beat. The writer perfectly captured the essence of the film and why it made a huge splash two decades ago.
Third place: Mary Carole McCauley—The Baltimore Sun, “How Chesapeake Shakespeare Company creates intimacy on the stage in the #metoo era”
Judge’s comments: There have been so many #MeToo features in the last two years, and they’re all worth reading. But this story about the growing trend of intimacy choreographers being hired for films, TV shows and the stage offered deep insight on something that’s been ignored for years. The article was well researched and nicely written.
Honorable mention: Phillip Valys—South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Zero Empty Spaces”

Short feature

Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.
First place: Carlos Frias—The Miami Herald, “‘Hialeah’s best-kept secret’: How a local KFC has secretly sold flan for 45 years”
Judge’s comments: I like surprises and I like flan. I am less enthusiastic about KFC, but after reading this story from Carlos Frias, I may need to rethink that. Carlos continues to be a gifted writer with an eye for multi-layered stories. This piece is deceptive. It’s not just about flan; it’s about ambition and tradition and love. And sugar. Perfection.
Second place: Vincent T. Davis—San Antonio Express-News, “Glory Days”
Judge’s comments:
It’s easy to fall into the grips of nostalgia when surveying a long life. But I was hooked on this article with the first sentence: “His bat of choice was a Louisville Slugger.” Readers quickly learn Willie Doria had a superpower—and away we go. He has lived a big life—with joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures. But, oh, has he lived. We should all be so lucky.
Third place: Tom Hallman Jr.—The Oregonian, “They Mate for Life”
Judge’s comments:
Animal stories can be dangerous. The temptation to veer toward cute is almost irresistible. And—let’s get serious—when do animals actually make news? Don’t we have some corruption to uncover or an epidemiologist to interview? And yet, in the hands of Tom Hallman Jr., a story about an animal—a bird, for heaven’s sake—is magical. And it’s not even a hummingbird or a swan or a peacock. This story is about a goose, and we know what they do—they poop a lot. But apparently, they also fall in love. As Tom writes: “When the mate of a goose dies, researchers discovered that bird will mourn. Many geese will refuse to ever again mate, flying solo, a widow or widower.” It will no surprise you to learn that the star of our story loses a mate, and Hallman’s observations about the universal nature of love should resolve any editor’s misgivings about an animal story—forever. Those left behind mourn. They carry on. What remains within is love. I dare you to try to resist the magic.
Honorable mention: Mark Gauert—South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Rock of Ageless”

Food feature

A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic.
First place: Jeremy Schneider—NJ Advance Media, “Behind the scenes with an eccentric pizza master and his legendary little N.J. shop”
Judge’s comments:
Great word pictures in this story. Beautiful writing that doesn’t feel forced. Here’s the start: “The ancient brick oven looms like an incinerator, occupying most of the claustrophobic kitchen. // Pizza worshippers have told tales of this monolithic wall of clay and steel. For more than 60 years, it’s baked many of the most deliciously distinctive Sicilian, pan and tomato pies prepared in New Jersey—and if your pizza is the best here, it’s the best anywhere, full stop.”
Second place: Mark Gauert—South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Our Madeleine Moments” 
Judge’s comments: Beautiful writing. I feel like I’m sitting with the author enjoying this meal. A taste: “I was born in Kansas. Grew up in New Mexico. But, with one taste of the chef’s Smoked Oysters, I’m transported back to my childhood on the rocky coasts of Maine. (At least, I think it’s Maine. I can’t say for sure because I’ve never actually been there). It’s early autumn here in what I think is Maine. It’s getting cooler, the leaves are changing, and an applewood fire is crackling in the fieldstone hearth of my mom’s kitchen.”
Third place: John-John Williams IV—The Baltimore Sun, “At Baltimore restaurants, black women rarely hold positions of power. Here’s what they’re doing to change that”
Judge’s comments:
Interesting topic. Great sources. Nice writing style. A sample: “In a city that is 63 percent black, African-American women are a rarity in positions of power in restaurants. Although it’s not easy to pinpoint one cause—or the numbers, aside from anecdotal testimony by industry insiders—some attribute the dearth of black female leaders to a lack of access and opportunity, a perception that restaurant jobs aren’t viable careers, and a pervasive “good old boys” club in the industry’s upper echelons.”
Honorable mention: Phillip Valys—South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Nice ice, baby”

Food criticism

A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry.
First place: Mike Sutter—San Antonio Express-News, “Paesanos Lincoln Heights”
Judge’s comments:
A textbook example of good food criticism. Informed with lively bursts of surprising writing. Mike Sutter uses food criticism as a springboard to a larger cultural discussion.
Second place: Matthew Korfhage—The Virginian-Pilot, “We tried 50 old-school burgers all over Hampton Roads. Here are the best.”
Judge’s comments:
This mega roundup is full of strong opinions, sharp writing and insights into local culture.
Third place: Mike Sutter—San Antonio Express-News, “Mixtli”
Judge’s comments:
The entire exuberant review is cleverly built around a single metaphor that both structures the writing and serves as a vehicle for exploring the restaurant’s cooking.

Features series or project

Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.
First place: Jane Gerster—Global News, “For the Good of the Force”
Judge’s comments:
Jane Gerster takes on what feels like the middle of a story—long-needed changes are still in process at one of Canada’s longtime symbols. There is no neat ending here. Gerster writes about hard but important topics—the treatment of indigenous people, sexual harassment, discrimination—without exploitation and seems to have won the trust of multiple sources who have experienced trauma. All of that takes time and skill, which comes through in the series.
Second place: Dan Horn, Carol Motsinger, staff—The Cincinnati Enquirer, “The Long, Hard Road”
Judge’s comments:
The depth and breadth of this series is staggering. The staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer finds the people and the personal impact within our country’s wealth disparity. These stories will take you through many emotions while also making you think. You’ll remember these subjects and these stories for a long time.
Third place: Steve Mellon, Tony Norman—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The Notorious Trial of Joe Thomas”
Judge’s comments:
History repeats, as Steve Mellon and Tony Norman show us by examining a racist and disturbing chapter from their city’s past. Thoroughly researched and unflinchingly presented.
Honorable mention: Shondiin Silversmith—Arizona Republic, “Navajo Code Talkers: The last of the living WWII heroes share their stories”

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: Spencer Kent—NJ Advance Media, “The Man Who Lived”  
Judge’s comments:
This is a superb narrative that operates on several levels. It’s a journey story—we know a man lost his limbs to flesh-eating bacteria—so we read to see why and how this happened. Spencer Kent skillfully blend’s the medical narrative with the man’s personal history and science, never losing any of the threads. It succeeds as a story about medicine, environment, one man’s grit and a family’s love.
Second place: Keith BieryGolick—The Cincinnati Enquirer, “10 years after Fort Hood: The forgotten soldier and the father who is still fighting his war”
Judge’s comments:
This piece offers an almost painfully intimate portrait of a man whose son, a survivor of the Fort Hood shooting, committed suicide. Along with excellent pacing and a strong writer’s voice, the story is distinguished by the clever use of official documents as chapter breaks and to advance the story.
Third place: Denise Watson—The Virginian-Pilot, “A mystery and a mission: A woman’s quest to discover what happened to her Japanese grandfather after World War II”
Judge’s comments:
Whether describing modern-day Japan or the United States in the 1940s, Denise Watson creates vivid mental pictures in “A Mystery and a Mission.” The tale of a woman who discovers her grandfather’s hidden past, the narrative is distinguished by its expert pacing. The carefully placed revelation of a key fact—about cremains—made this judge gasp.

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: Matthew Stanmyre—NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments:
The Montclair High School story is an exemplary example of narrative storytelling, with vivid descriptions, gut-punch quotes and cliff-hangers that pull you along from chapter to chapter. As the writer noted, the story has a compelling and often untold perspective: “… little ever was written about the people from the losing side, and the void sparked a question in my mind.” The rest of the entries revealed excellent reporting delivered through strong writing that informs the community.
Second place: Casey Parks—The Hechinger Report
Judge’s comments:
Education is a topic rich with feature stories, but it is often relegated to procedural reporting. This writer finds the heart of the matter, reflecting how the system affects real people and so how it affects its own community. Good writing with diversity and sensitivity.
Third place: Anya Sostek—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judge’s comments:
Feel-good stories have to walk that line between engaging and mawkish. This writer does that beautifully. She puts readers at the bedside, in the hospital lounge, even inside a parent’s head as she explores some of the most intimate moments of their lives.
Honorable mention: Caitlin Dewey—The Buffalo News, “Urbanism and economic development in Buffalo, N.Y.”

Food writing portfolio

Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic.
First place: Carlos Frias—The Miami Herald
Judge’s comments:
Carlos Frias is a master of his craft. He’s clearly dedicated to exploring a diverse range of cuisines, restaurants and, more important, the people behind the plates. His voice is strong, engaging and warmly welcoming. And his choice of topics delight. Whether he’s writing about a KFC that serves flan or a neighborhood burger joint, his writing has the breadth and depth to address weightier issues, including equality and legacy. Bravo!
Second place: Paul Stephen—San Antonio Express-News
Judge’s comments:
Paul Stephen brings such a sense of place to his fresh, conversational writing. He starts with gotta-read ledes and only gets better from there. In his well-crafted stories, he manages to be informative, downright funny and a joy to read.
Third place: Polly Campbell—The Cincinnati Enquirer
Judge’s comments:  Polly Campbell clearly understands her city’s standing in the world of food. Yet she celebrates, in an underdog way, the food the people embrace—including its odd and varied chili. Her writing is fresh without being cheeky.
Honorable mention: Jessica Remo—NJ Advance Media

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: David Templeton—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judge’s comments: David Templeton’s wry vignettes focus on the strength, humor and wisdom of ordinary people, including a rural landowner, a recovering addict and a curmudgeonly diner owner. Beautiful use of quotes and snapshots of America through the eyes of people who might be called ordinary but who actually defy that description.
Second place: Aisha Sultan—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Judge’s comments: Aisha Sultan writes about a good mix of personal and wider-ranging topics, in a clear direct voice (“But there are moments when you start to realize how far you have drifted from youth”). She makes you think about your life and bigger issues, while presenting her own clear viewpoint.
Third place: Jessica Remo—NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments: Love the strong voice throughout these stories. One of the pieces is engrossing and personal while also offering a larger appeal. Jessica Remo has mastered writing about her experiences in a way that speaks to larger universal truths.
Honorable mention: John Canzano—The Oregonian

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: Theoden Janes—The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
Judge’s comments: Theoden Janes’ concert reviews offer a complete experience for readers who missed the show—and a chance to relive the night for those who were there. The writing is energetic, fun and on point. In a review of a Fleetwood Mac show, for example, he writes, “It’s almost like everyone else is performing a show for middle-aged couples in button-down shirts and dressy blouses while (Stevie) Nicks is at Burning Man riding a pot-brownie high.” While offering praise, Janes doesn’t hold back on passing judgment. His being-there reporting gives attention to the audience along with the performers onstage. His Jonas Brothers review begins: “Imagine if, every time you tried to try to say something you thought was kind of profound, an ocean of 17,000-plus people started shrieking like Drew Barrymore when the killer leaps out at her in ‘Scream’?” This collection of reviews offer context as well, whether background on Phil Collins’ health or previous Jonas Brothers visits. His insight and originality make Theoden Janes a byline worthy of following, no matter the subject.
Second place: Rod Stafford Hagwood—South Florida Sun Sentinel
Judge’s comments:
Rod Stafford Hagwood brings a mastery of the subject and an understanding of theater-lovers to his reviews. In his piece on the cut-down version of the latest “Les Miserables” tour, he writes: “It is noteworthy that even though there is no Broadway pizzazz-y spectacle, the musical still grips and satisfies that entertain-me craving we all bring when we see a big show on a big stage in a big venue.” He provides background, context and the answer to the all-important question: Why should you go? In the less well-known “Dear Evan Hansen,” he explains a perfect moment when the main character completely controls the audience. “It is powerful and unforgettable,” he writes. “And the stagecraft and performances that lead up to it are faultless, eliciting something primal inside us. That’s how good this show is.” Whether guiding readers to the best theater performances touring through town or offering insight into trying out new, less polished works, such as “Pray the Gay Away,” this is a voice we trust.
Third place: Ben Crandell—South Florida Sun Sentinel
Judge’s comments: In Ben Crandell’s Rolling Stones review, he shares the tension of a show-must-go-on approach of both band and audience facing an approaching hurricane. With the encore song, “Give Me Shelter,” the sky opened and poured rain upon Mick and the backup vocalist. “It was a thrilling thing to watch Jagger, a superstar, a septuagenarian (he’s 76), figuratively shake a defiant fist at the storm. It also was great show business, especially for an audience this particular week in South Florida.” The tale is dramatically paced and draws the reader into a fine piece of writing. His inventive descriptions bring a smile: “Keith Richards, his face evolving into a Matt Groening caricature and hairline in full retreat.” Crandell’s piece on Madonna’s small venue tour brings the full audience experience into play, including detailed advice to those attending the next six shows. His review of a Jonas Brothers concert is tightly written, while offering a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. Nick removed his jacket, revealing a sleeveless dress shirt underneath. Crandall writes: “The audience seemed to enjoy this.” Each review is tailored to the performance and audience. No cookie-cutter formula here.
Honorable mention: Bobby Olivier—NJ Advance Media

Sports feature

Feature treatment of any sports topic.
First place: Matthew Stanmyre—NJ Advance Media, “The Day That Changed Everything”
Judge’s comments: Impressive depth of reporting paired with superb storytelling weave a compelling story that was a joy to read. Matthew Stanmyre reaches several layers deeper than the everyday tale of anguish after a loss. Beautiful work.
Second place: Rick Telander—Chicago Sun-Times, “As Bears legend Mike Ditka nears 80, he is shaken, not deterred”
Judge’s comments: Great writing evokes a sense of former Bears coach Mike Ditka’s own personality and vernacular. Historical knowledge is used effectively with great sourcing. We feel like we know Ditka—the highest praise for a feature story.
Third place: Steve Greenberg—Chicago Sun-Times, “One shining moment”
Judge’s comments:
With a beautiful touch of humanity, this column gives us a glimpse past the winning shot into a winning soul. Talking to high school athletes isn’t always easy, and this student’s personality comes shining through in “One Shining Moment.”
Honorable mention: Sam McDowell—The Kansas City Star, “Anxiety, depression, panic disorder: Royals pitcher Danny Duffy reveals silent pain”

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: Brooke Herbert—The Oregonian, “Darcelle”
Judge’s comments:
This is features storytelling at its finest. The filmmaker masters the art of the classic narrative and the science of captivating audio and stunning visuals. The rhythm and pacing of this story is virtuosic. The filmmaker unfurls Darcelle’s story with as much confidence, compassion and wry wit as the drag queen herself. The crescendo leading to Madam Darcelle’s grand emergence on stage—from the music to the way the filmmaker captures the intimate backstage rituals—quite frankly slays.
Second place: Meg Vogel—The Cincinnati Enquirer, “Fort Hood soldier and the father who is still fighting his war”
Judge’s comments: The filmmaker treats his subject with the reverence, honesty, and compassion this topic deserves. The narrator’s interview is masterfully produced—the shallow focus and the mix of ambient and natural lighting saturates the screen. Paired with the archival b-roll and family photos, it creates an intimate portrait of grief.
Third place: Samantha Swindler—The Oregonian, “Mel’s Last Mission”
Judge’s comments: This delightful feature unfolds at the perfect pace, as smooth and breezy as a ride with Mel himself. The filmmaker’s savvy use of camera angles and perspective add a dynamic layer to this already lovely and heartwarming story.
Honorable mention: Elizabeth Rich, Erin Irwin, Maya Riser-Kositsky—Education Week, “From the Pueblo to College: The Journey of Two Rural Students, Chapter 1: ‘Not giving up on school’”

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: Carlos Frias, Matias Ocner—The Miami Herald, “La Ventanita: A print, podcast and video series with food stars dishing at the walk-up windows where Miami meets for Cuban coffee”
Judge’s comments: Of all the entries, this one truly embraced the spirit of integrated storytelling. This series took advantage of each medium: the video, the podcast and the written word to bring the interviews to life. Clips and gifs were also made for social media. The “La Ventanita” concept also feels authentic, giving viewers and readers a taste of something distinctly Miamian while learning about some of the best chefs in the world. And scoring Pitbull as a guest so that people can witness his appreciation for food? That’s the glaze on the pastelito.
Second place: Staff—Spencer Kent, Andre Malok, Sydney Shaw—NJ Advance Media, “The Man Who Lived”
Judge’s comments: The story itself is riveting –– a man fights for his life after contracting “flesh-eating bacteria”—but the treatment it received in this package took it above and beyond. The video brought the Angel Perez’s story to visual life while the story flowed smoothly from fear to science to heartache to hope. Well done.
Third place: Dave Killen, Noelle Crombie, Kale Williams—The Oregonian, “No Mercy”
Judge’s comments:
A story of unforgivable abuse and heartbreak that’s well-researched, pwell-resented and told with the right amount of sensitivity and horror. I appreciated the timeline as another way to navigate through the story.
Honorable mention: Denise Watson, Jamesetta M. Walker, Amy Poulter—The Virginian-Pilot, “The sage of sharecropping”

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: Laura Bauer, Judy Thomas, Eric Adler—The Kansas City Star, “Throwaway kids”
Judge’s comments: Over the past few years, there has been a fear that journalism that makes a difference will disappear from regional newspapers. Well, The Kansas City Star is here to say, “Not today, not today.” This engrossing, five-part dive into the foster-home-to-prison-pipeline—and how it has negatively impacted thousands of Americans who now languish behind bars—is well-reported, solidly written and accompanied by an abundance of excellent videos, photos and podcast-style interviews with the writers. There are so many entry points and each offers insight. In short: fantastic work.
Second place: Cassidy Grom, Amanda Hoover—NJ Advance Media, “Changing Habits: Millennials don’t become nuns. These women did.”
Judge’s comments:
We hear all the time that the priesthood and sisterhood have little appeal to young people today. But rarely do we get a glimpse of the other side of that statement: young women who choose to become nuns. These are millennial women who aren’t in step with their peers but are in step with their beliefs. Cassidy Grom and Amanda Hoover bring us into a cloistered world that’s usually outside of public view. The photos help tell the story, too.
Third place: Theoden Janes—The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, “She’s known for seeing good in others. Why did she fear the worst in coming out to fans?”
Judge’s comments:
Theoden Janes’ profile of Kristen Hampton, a Charlotte TV personality wrestling with coming out to her legions of fans, is written with heart and grace. It takes a familiar story and makes it compelling. The accompanying video (which Janes also had a hand in making) is an informative addition.
Honorable mention: Denise Watson—The Virginian-Pilot, “A mystery and a mission: A woman’s quest to discover what happened to her Japanese grandfather after World War II”

Best special section

The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Staff—The Virginian-Pilot, “Distinction food issue”
Judge’s comments: A stellar food issue of Distinction, featuring great writing, gorgeous photography and crisp design. The pie story is mouth-watering, and we loved the look at the folks often behind the food scene—the bakers, the butcher and the roaster.
Second place: Staff—NJ Advance Media, “The Man Who Lived”
Judge’s comments: Well-done issue on a man fighting a flesh-eating disease. The story is beautifully told with illuminating photography.
Third place: Staff—Chicago Sun-Times, “Chicago-pedia”
Judge’s comments: A cool guide to Chicago, covering everything from buildings to Chicago-isms. It’s fun to breeze through, with wonderful illustrations. Did you know that “fufu” describes someone fake? You’d know that if you read Chicago-pedia.
Honorable mention (tie): Emiily Spicer, Mike Sutter, Paul Stephen—San Antonio Express-News, “2019 Top 100 Dining & Drinks” guide 
Honorable mention (tie): Staff—The Virginian-Pilot, “7 Days of Holiday Eating”

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: Staff—The Virginian-Pilot, Distinction
Judge’s comments: Exquisite from cover to cover, Distinction continues to set the standard for niche products. The covers are beautiful, the writing is authoritative and the photography is gorgeous. Our mouths dropped at the eye-catching photos in the bridal issue, and they watered as we examined the piece on the best local fish tacos.
Second place: Staff—The Virginian-Pilot, Growler
Judges comments: This magazine—which showcases the craft-beer scene in southeastern Virginia—is a smart and surprising publication that tackles issues big and small. One cover story ponders the effects of the eventual legalization of weed in Virginia on craft brewers. Another story is a light-hearted look at the most interesting folks you’ll find at a brewery—everyone from The Hipster to The Old Guard. And the best part of Growler? Perfectly conceived and executed illustrations by Wes Watson enhance each issue.
Third place: Mark Gauert, Anderson Greene—South Florida Sun Sentinel, Prime
Judges comments: This is a beautiful magazine that shines with stellar photography. It’s chock full of information, and the wonderful editor’s notes aren’t to be missed.
Honorable mention: Ian Froeb, Gabe Hartwig, Amy Bertrand—St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Special food/drink editions of Go!

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