Show & Steal 2017: Sharing our favorite ideas that went viral, engaged readers

By Laura T. Coffey
writer, editor, producer, TODAY Parenting Team and TODAY.com
and Sharon Chapman

features editor, Austin American-Statesman

Huge thanks to all the hard-working features editors who shared so many amazing coverage ideas at the Society for Features Journalism conference in Kansas City! Remember, journalists are encouraged to borrow and adapt the ideas discussed at our Show & Steal presentations each year. We’re all doing more with less, we’re all eager for good ideas that worked — and, thankfully, we’re all in this together.

This year, editors shared dozens of smart submissions in the following categories:

Let us plan your year: Yes, the holidays, but also think seasonally — spring, summer, back-to-school, winterizing, hurricane prep — anything that happens annually. We want to help each other plan a calendar of content ideas.

New ideas that worked: A digital feature, a new digital presentation, a new way you grew audience or got reader solicitations. Content, events, whatever you tried that worked!

That’s entertainment: The name says it all — the best of your culture coverage, both high and low.

Editor’s favorite: Cool multiplatform presentations and anything else you loved.

It went viral: We all need the traffic. Tell us how you scored page views and engagement.

Also, in the wake of this year’s destructive hurricanes, we added a special category about how to handle coverage of hurricanes and other natural disasters while living through the danger on a personal level. Thank you to the Houston Chronicle in Texas and the Sun-Sentinel in Florida for taking the time to tell us how you did what you did.

Here are the Show & Steal ideas for 2017. Click on the link below the images for the PDF slideshow:

Plan your year

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It went viral, for these reasons

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ViralShowandSteal2017


Making the most of entertainment

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EntertainShowandSteal2017


Hurricane lessons for everyone

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Hurricane coverage


Editors loved these ideas!

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EditorsfavoriteShowandSteal2017


New ideas that worked

new ideas

NewIdeasShowandsteal2017

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Meet SFJ diversity fellows Michelle Zenarosa of Everyday Feminism, Rashod Ollison of Virginian-Pilot

Michelle Zenarosa

MichelleZ

Michelle is a media-maker, storyteller, and new mom based in Los Angeles. With over a decade of experience in the industry, Michelle currently serves as the managing editor for the online magazines Everyday Feminism and the newly launched Woke.

She was formerly an editor at Fusion Media and New America Media, as well as a producer for the PBS featured docu-series, “Maria Hinojosa’s America By The Numbers.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism at California State University, Long Beach, and her master’s in public affairs journalism at University of Maryland, College Park, where she served as the Howard Simons fellow for the Washington Post.

Twitter (and Instagram) handle: @zenagrossa
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ikilledbellatrixlestrange

Q: Tell us about your current work.

A: I am currently the managing editor for two publications. The first, Everyday Feminism, is one of the world’s most popular feminist digital media sites in the world with millions of viewers across 140 countries. Everyday Feminism has been known for its unique, inside-out approach to applied intersectional feminism.

The second, Woke, is an upcoming digital media company and creative agency that features content that creates spaces for underrepresented communities to showcase stories that speak to their authentic lives. We connect tech-savvy, multi-cultural Millennials to content on identity and culture shift and are set to launch in August.

In my over 15 years of working in the journalism industry, I’m proud to say that while my storytelling has taken on many different iterations, my commitment has always stayed the same: to tell stories that amplify voices that are not often heard in mainstream media.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

A: My favorite project I’ve worked on is running a local youth media organization called VoiceWaves. Under my helm, I was able to grow a six-person blog to a vibrant community media organization with a multimedia website and print newspaper that was translated into 16 different languages with hundreds of youth reporters producing content about their communities.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

A: I was once lucky enough to interview the dynamic legendary journalist Helen Thomas at a conference once 10 years ago. I hadn’t known much about her until I was assigned to interview her, but of course, when I talked to her, she delivered.

In a climate when journalists weren’t asking hard-hitting questions she told me, a young journalist just forming my path, not only to not be afraid to be a bold objector to injustice, but that it was my duty as reporter. At 87 years old, her example and brash attitude inspired my then 23-year-old self to trust my gut and to never compromise my beliefs.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist/student?

A: Keep at it. The ever-changing media industry is getting more difficult to survive in as a journalist. Instead of aspiring to work at legacy institutions with some job security, journalism has sort of become like a gig economy where freelancing and short contract jobs have become the norm. But if you keep going, even at the hardest times, I truly believe that you’ll find that gold at the end of the rainbow. Even if it means that gold will look like cultural shifts instead of actual, literal money.

I truly believe that if we provide what the world is calling upon to offer and we do that well, we can financially sustain ourselves.

Q:  We all read serious journalism! But what are some of your favorite fun/guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?

A: I religiously follow Wendy Williams and 105.1 The Breakfast Club. And I have no guilt whatsoever about it, but Teen Vogue is killing it and is serious journalism.

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

A: Roxane Gay’s “Hunger.”

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants — from hole-in- the-wall to let’s-dress- up-and- go-out kind of dining — in your town?

Thai food is my favorite food and here in L.A., we have the best of it. For cheap street food eats, I go to the late night spot, Sanamluang Cafe. I’ve been going there for years and it’s open till 4 a.m. The garlic pepper tofu over rice with a fried egg is life.

For mid-priced Thai, it’s all about Wat Dong Moon Lek. The place has grown, and the clientele has become more transplant-y thanks to the cute pop culture art and attractive Thai waiters, but the food is damn good. Get anything on the menu and don’t second-guess getting a slushy. They always do you right.

For (modern) fine dining, make a reservation at Night+Market. One order of the “ice cream sandwich,” which is condensed milk ice cream sandwiched between grilled sweet bread and fried mung beans on top, won’t be enough. I guarantee you’ll at least need to order two. Other standouts are the crab fried rice and the oxtail. The food is unforgettable.

Rashod Ollison

Rashod1

Rashod is an award-winning culture critic and author from Little Rock, Ark. He’s currently the staff culture critic and entertainment writer for the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He’s also been a staff critic at the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Dallas Morning News, and the Journal News in Westchester, N.Y. His literary debut, “Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues; Coming of Age Through Vinyl,” was published in 2016.

Facebook: Rashod Ollison
Twitter: @rashodollison
Instagram: @rashodollison
Website: www.rashodollison.com

Q: Tell us about your current work.

A: I’m the culture critic and entertainment writer at the Virginian-Pilot. I average about three to four pieces a week, from critical essays to longer narrative stories for the Pilot’s Sunday Magazine.

My literary debut, “Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues; Coming of Age Through Vinyl,” was published in January 2016 by Beacon Press/Penguin Random House. Critically well-received, it was released in paperback last January.

A memoir written like a novel that centers on my childhood in central Arkansas in the 1980s and early ’90s, the book blossomed from a piece I wrote for the Sunday Magazine. I’ve tentatively started another project, a novel about a mother and son imprisoned by their relationship.

Q: What’s your favorite story or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

A: Writing my book, something I did in an almost clandestine way, was rewarding creatively and, given the subject matter, emotionally. Three years ago at the Pilot, I wrote a serial project, “The 25 Greatest Musicians of Hampton Roads,” in which I contextualized the careers of famous and unsung musicians from various genres with roots in Virginia.

Q: Most memorable person you’ve ever interviewed?

A: Donna Summer. She was the first celebrity interview I was assigned when I started
out as a music critic intern about 20 years ago. I did what no reporter is supposed to do: I started the interview gushing over her and going on and on about how much I loved her music, being the totally obnoxious fan. But she was so nice and graciously steered me back to the matter at hand: the interview. Ten years later when I interviewed Summer again, I was very seasoned and knew what the hell I was doing.

She remembered our encounter a decade earlier, and, again, she was so kind and encouraging. She didn’t have to be, but she was.

Q: Advice you would give to an aspiring features journalist/student?

A: Read everything — features, poetry, novels, nonfiction, whatever. Study well-written pieces and take them apart, analyzing what makes them work, and fold some of those techniques into your own writing.

Q: We all read serious journalism! But what are some of your favorite fun/guilty pleasure reads/social media feeds?

A: I read those inane Buzzfeed lists.

Q: What book is on your nightstand right now?

A: I have several because I’m forever behind on my reading. Currently on the nightstand: “Selected Poems” by Gwendolyn Brooks, “Home,” by Toni Morrison, and “Life on Mars,” by Tracy K. Smith.

Q: Because we love recommendations, what are some of your favorite restaurants — from hole-in- the-wall to let’s-dress-up-and-go-out kind of dining — in your town?

A: I don’t dine out too often in Hampton Roads, Va., because the area, basically seven sprawling suburbs connected by bridges and tunnels, is overcrowded with way too many chain restaurants. I do a lot of cooking at home, but there’s a great Chinese joint, MeiZhen, up the street from my place. I’m in there so much they know my face and know my order before I even place it.

2017 SFJ conference schedule: Success Stories

sfj17 banner

REGISTER TODAY! $125 for college students; $350 for members; $450 for non-members!

 


WEDNESDAY, Sept. 27

4-5:15 P.M. | SFJ board meeting
The Star’s Press Pavilion, 1601 McGee St.
Board and committee chairs gather to discuss last-minute details about the conference and begin planning for next year.

6-9 p.m. Opening reception at the hotel
Brookside Room at the Westin Kansas City at Crown Center, 1 E. Pershing Road
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.
They’ve received their awards – now hear about their work. Jim Haag, a contest coordinator and retired Virginian-Pilot features editor, will lead a panel discussion with Rashod Ollison of The Virginian-Pilot, Jeneé Osterheldt of The Kansas City Star and Christopher Wynn of The Dallas Morning News.

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 + Diversity Fellows presentation
Grab a bite to eat while listening to our amazing Diversity Fellows, Rashod Ollison of The
Virginian-Pilot and Michelle Zenarosa of Everyday Feminism and Woke magazines.

1-2 p.m.: Facebook Live shows: How to do them, and do they make money?
The Kansas City Star has launched several regularly scheduled Facebook Live shows, some of which are sponsored. Here are some lessons The Star has learned, presented by Brittany Coale (digital sales manager), Rachel Crader (growth editor), Jill Silva (Chow Town Live host and barbecue writer) and Shelly Yang (video journalist).

2-3 p.m.: Atten-TION! with Jennifer Rowe of Missouri School of Journalism
Help your stories get noticed with exciting headlines and compelling leads. This session will provide tips for how to write attention-grabbing headlines and story leads with contemporary and classic examples from award-winning features. Learn how to sell your stories and start them off so that readers just can’t turn away.

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.

4-4:15 p.m.: Meet the future
We’ll introduce our student attendees.

4-4:15 p.m. | Changing of the guard
It’s a time-honored tradition: The current SFJ president, Kathy Lu, turns over the gavel – and a few other surprising pieces of clothing – to the incoming president, Jim Haag. Then, sadly, it’s time to wrap it up.

4:30-5:30 p.m. | SHUTTLE BACK TO HOTEL

Free evening. Students heading to Royals game. Meet at the lobby to board the bus.

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.

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

8-9 A.M. | Shuttle service + hot breakfast 
Pick up shuttle at the hotel; breakfast

9 a.m. to noon: Network & feedback
Professional journalists — Jim Haag, Kathy Lu, Margaret Myers, Jeneé Osterheldt, Alice Short,  and Emily Spicer — will spend time with each student who wants feedback on various topics, including on resumes, clips and interview tips.

12:30-1:30 p.m.: SFJ board meeting, with lunch
The planning for next year begins now, as the new officers and committee members begin setting goals for 2018.

OPTIONAL FOR CONFERENCE ATTENDEES (please RSVP at registration)

BB+J (BASEBALL, BARBECUE + JAZZ) TOUR 
This tour is designed for any conference participant who wants to get to know a little bit about the city we’re meeting in.

10 A.M. | Depart hotel on bus

10:15-10:30 A.M. | Visit American Jazz Museum, 1616 E. 18th St.
Explore the museum’s history in the changing exhibit, “The Legacy Plays On,” which celebrates the museum’s 20th anniversary.

10:45-11:15 A.M. | Tour the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, 1616 E 18th St.
Video presentations and memorabilia chronicle the history and heroes of the leagues – from their origin after the Civil War to their demise in the 1960s.

11:20-11:50 A.M. | More time at AJM, 1616 E. 18th St.
Linger at the place that honors jazz masters such as Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Big Joe Turner and hundreds of others.

NOON-1 P.M. | Lunch at Gates-Bar-B-Q, 1221 Brooklyn Ave.
Enjoy a family-owned Kansas City tradition, cafeteria-style. Owner George Gates will offer a history of his place and KC’s role in the world of barbecue.


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

Downtown_Kansas_City,_Missouri_from_Liberty_Memorial

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