Winners of 2022 Society for Features Journalism Excellence-in-Features awards

Featured

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 22 categories.

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

Twelve awards, including four firsts (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Video Storytelling, Best Special Section and Niche Product), four seconds (Best Section, Best Feature Digital Presence, Video Storytelling and Diversity in Digital Features, two thirds (Features Specialty Writing, Video Storytelling and Short Feature) and two honorable mentions (General Features and Food Feature).

Second place: The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier

Eight awards, including five firsts (General Feature, Feature Series or Project, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Food Writing Portfolio and Diversity in Digital Features), one second (Narrative Storytelling), one third (Food Features) and one honorable mention (Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio).

Third place: Deseret News

Eight awards, including one first (Arts & Entertainment Commentary), four thirds (General Feature, Narrative Storytelling, Arts & Entertainment Commentary and Sports Features) and two honorable mentions (General Commentary Portfolio, Feature Series or Project and Sports Feature).

Fourth place: Austin (Texas) American-Statesman

Four awards, including two firsts (Best Section and Features Digital Presence) and two seconds (Arts & Entertainment Portfolio and Best Special Section)

BEST SECTION

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

First place: Austin (Texas) American-Statesman

Judge’s comments: “From music profiles to the ‘Deep Fried I-35’ to a quirky feature on the plywood ‘Couch Potatoes’ outside a North Austin furniture store, the Statesman’s Austin 360 is a brash, lively and fun read with great variety.”

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

Judge’s comments: “A strong sense of place infuses every beautifully photographed story in The Gazette’s features section. From a bracket challenge based on Colorado’s most picturesque peaks to a feature on a leather shop inside a working ranch, the features here offer a wonderful escape.”

BEST FEATURES DIGITAL PRESENCE

The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. 

First place: Austin360, Austin (Texas) American Statesman

Judge’s comments: “If you don’t know anything about Austin, Austin360 is the place to start. It gives the insider’s perspective without being pretentious (a la Matthew McConaughey). We love how it has used Instagram videos to really showcase the staff’s fun personalities and to grow followers – more than 104K as of this writing. Kudos to the staff for their energetic work through these hard times.”

Second place: OutThere Colorado, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette

Judge’s comments: “We appreciated the balance of useful guides (hot springs, ‘easiest’ fourteener) and newsy stories that OutThere Colorado provides. It’s also interesting that OutThere has a completely different approach to Instagram, where it doesn’t share stories but stunning photos of Colorado scenery taken mainly by photographers who live or work in the state. The photos are properly credited and accompany an inspirational quote. Altogether, this publication combines a celebration of the state’s beauty and what to know if you live there or want to visit.

Third place: Mickayla Miller, LNP | LancasterOnline, “Mickayla Miller trending/scene reporter”

Judge’s comments: “Though Mickayla Miller just started as the trending/scene reporter in August 2021, her stories show she has the pulse on what’s fun in Lancaster County, Penn. We appreciate how she uses her own tweets in posts. From festivals to free events to interviews to viral moments, Mickayla keeps her audience’s interests in mind.”

GENERAL FEATURE

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

First place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston) Post and Courier, “I am Omar: A quest for the true identity of Omar ibn Said, a Muslim enslaved in the Carolinas”

Judge’s comments: “Incredibly ambitious and truly riveting. I was engrossed, entertained and I learned so much. By the end, I wanted to applaud Omar for his resiliency and efforts to send his message out and I wanted to applaud these journalists – and their editors! – for committing to such a project that has righted a historical myth and inspired a new generation of teachers.”

Second place: J. D. Gallop and Finch Walker, Florida Today, “Breaking the Barrier: Diverse Superheroes”

Judge’s comments: “Well researched, well-sourced and well-written feature with a diversity of voices on a topic off the news.”

Third place: Dennis Romboy, Deseret News, “Pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan a complicated question for slain Utah soldiers’ families, veterans”

Judge’s comments: “Moving, well-explored topic with just enough facts and figures to ground the story and explain the context. We were legit drawn into reading graf after graf through to the end.”

Honorable mention: Stephanie Earls, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Community, family mourn homeless man who died on sidewalk next to busy Colorado Springs street”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE

Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “In Colorado desert, 65-foot-tall tank offers otherworldly experience | Colorful Colorado”

Judge’s comments: “A fascinating exploration of a musical treasure unknown to most of America. That’s what good stories do: surprise and enlighten. But the writing elevates this with prose that helps us understand why the subject is so special. It’s patient but engaging writing.”

Second place: Stav Ziv, Forward, “After a house is destroyed in a fire, a Jewish artist finds a way to preserve its spirit”

Judge’s comments: “There’s poignancy in this piece, taking a very simple story about a simple practice and using it to relate the power of nostalgia in the sense of place, and a place where we come from.”

Third place: Tracey O’Shaughnessy and Bill O’Brien, (Waterbury, Conn.) Republican-American, “Memoir from Beyond the Grave”

Honorable mention: Todd Price, (Montgomery, Ala.) Advertiser, “An Alabama folk artist brings to life stories of honky-tonks, angels and evil spirits”

SHORT FEATURE

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

First place: Doug MacCash, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com, “Softsoap brand body wash: The fragrance that will ‘cover a lot of sins’”

Judge’s comments: “Some might say that a “Mardi Gras” named Softsoap is an easy target – something that’s easy to make fun of. What’s hard… is to do it well. Doug MacCash does it beautifully. ‘Hearn would have certainly appreciated the translucent, purple, syrupy texture, the abundant, hard-to-pinpoint floral bouquet and the satisfying lather. As I do. It’s clear to me that the product is not meant to echo the olfactory outrages of Mardi Gras, it is meant to be their antidote! No one put it better than my wife, who, upon getting a whiff of the fragrance, said, ‘Well that should cover a lot of sins.’” No argument here!

Second place: Erin Negley, LNP | LancasterOnline, “This Strasburg Township family built a log cabin in their backyard; here’s how” 

Judge’s comments: “The beauty of this story is its range – which is relatively narrow: a family reassembles an old log cabin on their property… with logs that were first assembled a very, very long time ago. There were no instructions; there were stops and starts. But the dedication of these family members to getting it right makes for a delightful reader’s journey.”

Third place: Karen Hendricks, TheBurg (Harrisburg, Penn.) “Signs of the Times: Marty Mummert creates hand-painted signs the old-fashioned way – one at a time”

Judge’s comments: “Stories about craftmanship can be challenging. A reader’s assumption might be: If they’re writing about it, it must be good, right? In this story, the joy is in the details of a man who knows the source of his joy.”

Honorable mention: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “The walk and emu that helped heal a Colorado Springs woman’s heartbreak | Glimpses”

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: Laura Hayes and Michael Loria, Washington City Paper, “Life on the Line: D.C. Cooks Confront COVID-19 Risks, Lack of Job Security”

Judge’s comments: “Laura Hayes and Michael Loria’s well-reported, humanizing piece about the struggle of restaurant workers during the pandemic gives an unvarnished look at the risks the employees face and struggle of the business owners. Great details: ‘Picture wearing a mask on a regular day, but standing over a wok that’s 700 degrees.’… ‘There’s no social distancing in kitchens. Boxing seven people standing next to each other in a small space all day long trying to cook, clearly that’s a bad idea.’ … ‘We don’t have the luxury of being able to stay home.’”

Second place: Todd Price, The American South, “Black chefs stirred the pots for New Orleans’ cuisine. But today, they are hard to find”

Judge’s comments: “The piece explores why there are so few Black chefs in a predominantly black food town. Price does a deep dive into history and talks with those shaping the city’s restaurant scene today. The writing is vivid – ‘Now if all the Black executive chefs in New Orleans went out for dinner, they wouldn’t even count as a large party.’ – and ‘French, Spanish, Cajun, Italian – all these ethnic groups live in New Orleans, but they are not running the kitchens of the best restaurants in the city,’ he wrote. ‘The single, lasting characteristic of Creole cuisine is the Black element.’”

Third place: Hanna Raskin, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Unpublished 1936 guide to Black life in Charleston reveals the city’s first restaurant critic”

Judge’s comments: “Hanna Raskin explores how the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writers’ Project’s South Carolina Negro Writers’ Project provides a flawed, censored, but still fascinating look at life and Black restaurants in South Carolina. The guidebook, created to document the country and encourage citizens to tour it, is ‘only surviving record of most of the restaurants featured in it.’ She draws you in from the start with how lost history affects the way a community sees itself and how individuals see their families.”

Honorable mention: Ian McNulty, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, “At Mosca’s, a false alarm, a timely reminder of what matters, a lot of garlic.”

Honorable mention: Ian McNulty, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, “Saints and Red Beans.” 

Honorable mention: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “In Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a mission behind ‘mountainous grub’ | Craving Colorado”

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT

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

First place: Tony Bartelme and Lauren Petracca, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “The Greenland Connection”

Judge’s comments: “From hiking onto a melting ice sheet to flying with NASA scientists, Tony Bartelme and Lauren Petracca went above and beyond to tell a story we all need to read and see (the photos are breathtaking).”

Second place: Staff, The (Nashville) Tennessean, “Hallowed Sound”

Third place: Jennifer Tormo, Maggie Heyn Richardson and Benjamin Leger, 225 Magazine, “Pizza Party”

Honorable mention: Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News, “Vaccines and religion”

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: Katya Cengel, Alta Journal, “Michaela’s Shadow”

Judge’s comments: “Beautifully structured, heartbreakingly sourced with everyone you hoped you’d hear from … except the one person this story was about.”

Second place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “The journey of one pregnant woman who almost died of COVID-19”

Judge’s comments: “Fantastic structure that kept us guessing what was going to happen without being dramatic or cloying, only hopeful. Pacing was excellent and this was a very narrow miss at first place. Keep up the amazing work!”

Third place: Chad Nielsen, Deseret News, “The dreams he carried”

Judge’s comments: What a heartbreaking and beautifully told story. So much deep research and sourcing really made the star of this story come alive.”

Honorable mention: Geoff Ziezulewicz, Military Times, “How a military jail failed to protect a suicidal sailor from himself”

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: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Jennifer Berry Hawes portfolio of stories”

Judge’s comments: “Two stories and a major project that work to correct and fill in missing parts of a troubled history, told with grace, care and strong narrative writing. We didn’t want these stories to end, and we want regular updates on the people we feel like we got to know a little bit. I appreciate the visuals used as part of the storytelling, particularly the videos and the map that explained part of the history in the story of Omar ibn Said.”

Second place: Matthew Leimkuehler, The (Nashville) Tennessean, “Matthew Leimkuehler feature writing portfolio”

Judge’s comments: “Every part of these stories will draw readers in, from the detailed and compelling narratives to the video and other visuals. The richness and strength of the Nashville music community and history is baked in, and the writer knows when to let his subject’s voices have the mic.”

Third place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Seth Boster Portfolio”

Judge’s comments: “We’re never going to race across a frozen lake or scramble up a mountain before dawn, but we enjoyed meeting some people who do. And it was lovely to go behind the scenes of a big-time athlete to meet the woman providing very critical support. Lively writing and focused narrative in all three entries.”

Honorable mention: Andrew Silverstein, The Forward, “Andrew Silverstein Portfolio”

FOOD WRITING PORTFOLIO

Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic.

First place: Hanna Raskin, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “With Charleston Wine + Food Festival on hiatus…; With Charleston hospitality staffing app mixing up labor market, our critic worked a shift; Unpublished 1936 guide to Black life in Charleston reveals the city’s first restaurant critic”

Judge’s comments: This trio of entries embodies the best of what food writing can be. All of the stories are incredibly well sourced and highly detail oriented, while remaining utterly engaging to the reader. The above-and-beyond effort of pulling a shift as a restaurant server to explain the way a gig economy works was particularly bold and compelling.

Second place: Laura Hayes, Washington City Paper, “Washington City Paper Food Editor Laura Hayes’ Impactful Submissions”

Judge’s comments: “This submission demonstrated the author’s wide range of talent. Whether it was a meaty enterprise piece, a colorful profile or a highly detailed roundup, each was expertly executed.”

Third place: Suzy Fleming Leonard, Florida Today, “Restaurant owner takes vaccine advice from God; Florida craft breweries law; COVID fatigue is real”

Judge’s comments: “These well-written entries provided an excellent snapshot of the pandemic’s impact on a community. The writer’s deep dive into Florida’s Byzantine beer distribution laws provided impressive clarity to a complex subject.”

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: Mike Hirsch, The (Allentown, Penn.) Morning Call, “The unexpected peace in knowing how you will die; Could vortexes in Sedona save my life; Reimagining fall as a season of life.”

Judge’s comments: “In his beautifully written “Your Call” columns in The Morning Call, Mike Hirsch chronicles his own ALS diagnosis with honesty, humor and so much grace. His deep gratitude and love for his family, friends and high-energy dog shine through in these columns, as does his appreciation for everyday moments and encounters with strangers who become fast friends. At every turn, Hirsch’s writing is so lovely. His descriptions of the “natural cathedral” of the autumn woods in the Adirondacks took our breath away. So did the contents of his prayers.”

Second place: Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, “Columns by Keith Spera”

Judge’s comments: “As we read Keith Spera’s tributes on NOLA.com to the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts, the Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees and the long-running show “NCIS: New Orleans,” we kept thinking about how much New Orleans readers not only deserved these pieces but also NEEDED them. With great style, use of telling details and a clear sense of place, Spera crafted end-of-an-era pieces that conveyed the grief and gratitude of generations of New Orleans residents. Bravo!”

Third place: Tracey O’Shaughnessy, (Waterbury, Conn.) Republican-American, “Sunday Reflections”

Judge’s comments: “At a time when divisiveness is rampant across the country, Tracey O’Shaughnessy’s nuanced and thoughtful “Sunday Reflections” columns bring people together by making them smarter. While taking on topics like the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan and religion’s role in politics, O’Shaughnessy manages to strike a balanced tone that helps readers of all persuasions think hard and consider new perspectives. Her offhand references to Greek mythology, medieval poetry and the “Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature” also are downright fun!”

Honorable mention: Jennifer Graham, Deseret News, “Jennifer Graham columns”

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: Lottie Elizabeth Johnson, Deseret News, “Lottie E. Johnson criticism”

Judge’s comments: Lottie E. Johnson writes on a variety of music and keeps us fascinated. We especially  enjoyed her second piece on ‘Summer of Soul.’ It makes us really want to watch this music documentary.”

Second place: Eric Webb, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “Eric Webb portfolio”

Judge’s comments: “Eric Webb makes us feel as if we were actually in attendance at these concerts. He has a love of live music and it shines through his writing.”

Third place: Herb Scribner, Deseret News, “Herb Scribner commentary portfolio”

Judge’s comments: From movies to video games to music, Herb Scribner knows his topics. We especially enjoyed his piece on Brandon Flowers.”

Honorable mention: Maura Hogan, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Three columns by arts critic Maura Hogan”

SPORTS FEATURE

Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: Jason Wolf, The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, “He had no memory of it whatsoever: How Chuck Crist’s family discovered he had CTE”

Judge’s comments: “The great stories, the ones that rise above news, require access. Jason Wolf clearly brings not just journalistic skills, but his ability to get people to talk with him, in this piece. A great opening that hooks the readers. He trusts his reporting, structure and writing to tell the story. Not overwritten, slowly letting readers ‘feel’ this story.”

Second place: Jason Wolf, The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, “A hockey whodunit: Is this $10,000 puck the first goal in Sabres’ history?”

Judge’s comments: “A fascinating story well told. Jason Wolf takes first and second place in his category. Great for him. But even better for the readers of the Buffalo News who get to read his work.”

Third place: Ethan Bauer, Deseret News, “Lineage on the line.”

Judge’s comments: “Taking us behind the scenes of a person we believe we know simply because they put on a uniform. A reminder of the person behind that uniform.”

Honorable mention: Dick Harmon, Deseret News, “In autumn of life, Roger Reid feels blessed caring for wife who has Alzheimer’s”

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: Skyler Ballard, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, HIGH AND DRY | Colorado in Drought: Part 2, The Present.”

Judge’s comments: “This beautifully filmed and profoundly moving video focuses on Gary Paul, a self-described ‘at least’ fifth-generation rancher in Yoder, Colorado, as he details the effects of an ongoing drought on his land, livestock, and livelihood. Paul remains stoic for most of the roughly five-minute runtime, making his breakdown after the two-minute mark all the more striking. ‘Sometimes it makes me feel like a failure,’ he says, his voice cracking with emotion. Interspersing clips of Paul performing ranch duties with bird’s-eye shots of his barren surroundings, producer, cinematographer, and editor Skyler Ballard captures the scale of the crisis, highlighting the human impact of natural disasters that are only set to become more frequent and severe as climate change advances.”

Second place: Katie Klann, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “LIFE: The Pie Queen.”

Judge’s comments: “This video highlights pastry chef and drag queen Martin Howard, who managed to parlay his two passions into a successful business at the height of the pandemic. As his alter ego, Chocolatina Q. Dessert, Howard delivers homemade pies to customers in Denver, Colorado, capping his house calls with a song performance. With her blond beehive, dramatic eyeliner, and endlessly quotable turns of phrase, Chocolatina Q. Dessert is a riveting protagonist. Splicing together footage of Howard rolling dough, doing his makeup, and breaking into a Barry Manilow number before a birthday boy, cinematographer and editor Katie Klann crafts a character-driven narrative that tells a heartwarming story about finding joy when and where you least expect it.

Third place: Skyler Ballard, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “LIFE: A museum of whimsy and wonder”

Judge’s comments: “In this video, artist and photographer Karin Winter describes her passion for collecting knickknacks. ‘The inspiration … is really growing up in Europe,’ she says. ‘I’m Dutch, and I moved to the United States when I was 21 years old.’ During the pandemic, Winter began building her collection in earnest and has since dubbed it the Museum of Whimsy and Wonder. Cinematographer and editor Skyler Ballard’s camera lens lingers on walls overrun with paintings, shelves cluttered with Japanese lusterware, and display cases filled with taxidermied animals. Eccentrically decorated as it is, Winter’s house makes for a visually interesting subject.”

Honorable mention: Rob Landers, Andrew Atkins and Suzy Fleming Leonard, Florida Today, “5 James Beard-nominated chefs at Disney Springs”

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: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “I am Omar: A quest for the true identity of Omar ibn Said, a Muslim man enslaved in the Carolinas”

Judge’s comments: “This is a remarkable piece that keeps the reader enrapt as the narrative moves across continents and throughout history. Jennifer Berry Hawes skillfully and patiently unfolds this awesome tale with the precision and detail of a historian. She assembles Omar’s story by conjuring all five senses, weaving scenes from Dakar past and present, pre-Civil War America, and even from the hull of one of the last slave ships to cross the Atlantic and land on Charleston’s shores. It’s a riveting and painful examination of our shared history. It’s also a reminder of the power of journalism to unearth these oft-forgotten histories, while also connecting them to the stories we need to hear today.”

Second place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Once a place of ruin and hard memories, Colorado Springs native restoring childhood landmark”

Judge’s comments: “By making space for stories like this one, The Gazette plays a crucial role in helping residents reclaim their families’ histories. And Seth Boster so artfully tells this family’s through the lens of redemption and redevelopment. Boster is a natural storyteller who honors his subject’s memories with empathy and understanding. This story is rich with detail but it keeps its momentum till the final line.”

Third place: Car Shapiro and Ilhy Gomez Del Campo Rojas,  Jerk magazine (Syracuse University), “Exposed and Empowered”

Judge’s comments: “This personal essay is a wonderful reminder to write about what gives us fear and makes us vulnerable. Car Shapiro’s examination is unflinching and honest. It’s also a celebration of the uncomfortable moments that are uniquely human—a perfect subject for a writer to connect with their audience!”

BEST SPECIAL SECTION

The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. 

First place: Staff, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Exposure”

Judge’s comments: “We felt like an armchair traveler while reviewing this entry of gorgeous photographs that we suspect will, or already have, win honors on their own. Bravo!”

Second place: Mathew Odam, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “Matthew Odam Austin360 Dining Guide”

Judge’s comments: A true dining guide with plenty of background on the culinarians who make Austin Austin. Matthew Odam has mastered his beat and uses original, thoughtful language to describe their work.”

Third place: Kelli Bozeman, Hoa Vu and Melinda Gonzalez, InRegister Magazine (Baton Rouge, La.), “InRegister Weddings”

Judge’s comments: “The enchantment of weddings is captured in this guide. We especially liked the wedding shorts in the back of the book.”

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 (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “OutThere Colorado Winter Guide”

Judge’s comments: “This seasonal winter guide, with a focus on outdoor activity such as camping and skiing, goes beyond listings to include an impressive lineup of news, feature and travel writing.”

Second place: Karen Taylor Gist and Andrea Daniel, Times Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, “InsideOut New Orleans Home and Garden tab”Judge’s comments: “This solidly written, well-designed home and garden section shows off New Orleans’ amazing range of historic, renovated and contemporary homes.”


DIVISION 2  |  Circulation 90,000 to 199,999

FINEST IN FEATURES SWEEPSTAKES AWARDS

These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 20 categories.

First place: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Eighteen awards, including five firsts (Best Features Digital Presence, Feature Series or Project, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio and Integrated Storytelling), five seconds (Best Feature Digital Presence, Narrative Storytelling, General Commentary Portfolio, Video Storytelling and Best Niche Product), four thirds (Food Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Food Writing Portfolio and Integrated Storytelling) and four honorable mentions (Best Features Digital Presence, General Features, Diversity in Digital Features and Niche Product).

Second place: Chicago Sun-Times

Second place: Chicago Sun-Times

Twelve awards, including four firsts (General Commentary Portfolio, Sports Features, Best Special Section and Headline Writing Portfolio), three seconds (General Feature, Sports Feature and Best Special Section), three thirds (Feature Series or Project, General Commentary Portfolio and Digital Innovation) and two honorable mentions (Arts & Entertainment Feature and Short Feature).

Third place: San Antonio Express-News

Eight awards, including one first (Food Criticism), four seconds (Best Section, Food Criticism, Feature Series or Project and Headline Writing Portfolio), two thirds (Best Feature Digital Presence and General Features) and one honorable mention (Food Feature).

Fourth place: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Nine awards, including one first (Narrative Storytelling) two seconds (Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio and Video Storytelling), three thirds (Food Criticism, Sports Feature and Diversity in Digital Features) and three honorable mentions (Narrative Storytelling, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Sports Feature)

BEST SECTION

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

First place: Arts Staff, The San Diego Union-Tribune, Arts + Culture section

Judge’s comments: “Bold, graphic and well-designed, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Arts + Culture Sunday section is loaded with style, but the stories also have substance, including features on how local artists are grappling with the pandemic and social justice issues.”

Second place: Emily Spicer, San Antonio Express-News, S. A. Life

Judge’s comments: “S.A. Life has a clean, crisp design and engaging photography that pulls you into a fun and surprising mix of stories, ranging from “must hug” toys (Squishmallows) to edgy cuts and color at the Toxic Salon.”

Second place: Amy Bertrand and Gabe Hartwig, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Judge’s comments: “The St. Louis Post-Dispatch got our attention with a full-page, towering Zombie cocktail and then closed the deal with its illustrated guide to “King Lear” — a fun and creative approach to an arts journalism story.”

BEST FEATURES DIGITAL PRESENCE

The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. 

First place: Staff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The Block Project”

Judge’s comments: “This entry will prove to be a great time capsule of life one year into the pandemic. The design is user-friendly on a computer, the photos and videos capture the spirit of the neighborhoods and hearing from the people of the community was necessary. Our only wish was for more! We hope the newsroom follows these neighborhoods and continues to build out the maps for a more expansive picture.”

Second place: Polly Higgins, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Eat Pittsburgh”

Judge’s comments: “A wonderful design that really does provide a culinary tour of some of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. We appreciate the use of maps, the beautiful (and tempting) photos and the guide to costs. I hope this project continues to grow to include even more places.”

Third place: Emily Spicer, San Antonio Express-News, Taste

Judge’s comments: “Vibrant food coverage of San Antonio’s food scene that has thousands of followers across various social media platforms.We appreciate how the Instagram account has a distinct personality.”

Honorable mention: Laura Schneiderman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Passenger revolt over Shanksville”

GENERAL FEATURE

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

First place: Joanne Kimberlin, The Virginian-Pilot, “Looking for Leroy”

Judge’s comments: “This inspiring and insightful narrative is about an unhoused man who was a regular neighborhood presence, then went missing. A neighborhood chat group pieced together bits of information, revealed throughout the story. It becomes a community tale, ending on a hopeful note. Lovely craftsmanship.”

Second place: Patrick Finley, Chicago Sun-Times, “Back from the brink”

Judge’s comments: “Written with muscle and verve, Patrick Finley’s story tracks a former football phenom who suffers from depression but, with help from his friends, comes back from the brink. Great use of dialogue and quotes throughout.”

Third Place, Rene Guzman, San Antonio Express-News, “The Chancla has become a venerated symbol of Mexican American culture and here’s why and how”

Judge’s comments: “Originality and humor vaulted this story to the top. The author explains how flip-flop sandals mean something special, and a bit scary, to Mexican Americans, and uses pop culture as a jumping off point. Well-told.”

Honorable Mention: Laura Malt Schneiderman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Paralyzed: The last massive vaccine rollout — for polio — started in Pittsburgh”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE

Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Douglas Perry, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian, “Marv and Rindy Ross scored pop stardom with Quarterflash, flamed out, then found their true musical path”

Second place: Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun, “A new family, a school and a tuba: how Richard Antoine White went from being homeless in Sandtown to the New Mexico Philharmonic”

Third place: Ben Crandell, South Florida Sun Sentinel, “South Florida tribute bands”

Honorable mention: Stefano Esposito, Chicago Sun-Times, “Rock and roll survivor”

Competition Comment: “Really strong category, showing the range of tightly focused local interest pieces that reveal truths of the past to expansive examinations of pop culture moments. In the end, the feature on pop act Quarterflash, by the Oregonian, stands out the most. It felt like a surprising history of a song/band we all are familiar with, but know virtually nothing about, and told in a way that kept us wanting to get to the next sentence.”

SHORT FEATURE

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

First place: Carlos Frias, The Miami Herald, “‘The original Twitter.’ Meet the Hialeah liquor store owner whose signs amuse and offend”

Judge’s comments: Carlos Frias is the master of many things, and the short feature is one of them. The subject –a liquor store marquee–might seem a little … quiet. But the store owner and his sign turned out to be a gold mine. Robert Gewanter has turned the marquee into a place “to comment on all manner of political and pop culture zaniness.” Who knew a liquor store might also be a comedy club? This is a light and bright feature in the best possible way.”

Second place: Tom Hallman Jr., The Oregonian, “Goodbye, goodbye”

Judge’s comments: “How best to remember the guy who ran a sundries shop? Tom Hallman knows how– by reminding us that the people we interact with on a regular basis become part of our community whether we realize it or not. “Choo was part of a community, that nebulous thing that has nothing to do with our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Instead, it’s made up of strangers who slowly and unexpectedly become part of our daily life.”

Third place: Mark Gauert, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “When you wish upon a seashell”

Judge’s comments: Is a day at the beach remarkable in South Florida? It is, if you and your community and your town and your state are trying to emerge from pandemic lockdown. Mark Gauert reminds us that beauty is not to be taken for granted.”

Honorable mention: Neil Steinberg, Chicago Sun-Times, “The cat that broke things”

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: Carlos Frias, The Miami Herald, “’Cuban’ beer is being sold in Miami. Is it a communist invasion or clever capitalismo?”

Judge’s comments: Carlos Frias explores the history of knockoff Cuban beer in South Florida and the ongoing struggle between competing companies to capitalize on the nostalgia and pride of Cuban exile beer-drinkers. A fascinating, briskly paced tale of food memories, the lingering Cuban political divide and aggressive marketing.”

Second Place: Christina Tkacik, The Baltimore Sun, “Inside Ekiben’s six-hour trip to make a special dish for customer dying of cancer”

Judge’s comments: “Christina Tkacik’s story goes straight to the heart of the way that food connects people, making them feel loved and nurtured. Beautiful writing about beautiful people and much more than a restaurant story.”

Third place: Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “701 pierogies in 7 hours: For this Polish family, it’s tradition”

Judge’s comments: “The heartwarming tale of a family cooking project that is really a tribute to their immigrant heritage. Gretchen McKay tells this story in a witty and loving way while in the process offering up a primer on pierogies, Polish immigrants and family.”

Honorable mention: Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News, “Instagram a crucial tool for San Antonio chefs, restaurants, affecting menu choices, plating and even chefs’ hygiene”

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, “Review: At Pinkerton’s Barbecue in downtown San Antonio, the honeymoon’s over”

Judge’s comments: “An ideal example of a restaurant review. Deeply informed. Brisk writing with moments of clever wordplay. And a clear vision all the way to the kicker.”

Second place: Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, “Review: Mixtli is still good after Southtown move, but it’s no longer San Antonio’s best restaurant”

Judge’s comments: “With aplomb, Sutter tackles the difficult subject of describing a restaurant that has changed and while still good was better before. Making the balanced opinion clear to the reader required great skill.

Third place: Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “At Milwaukee’s Tavolino, a successful Italian restaurant rises from the pandemic”

Judge’s comments: “A smart and focused review.”

Honorable mention: Ian Froeb, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Dixon’s BBQ delights with brisket, burnt ends and irresistible ribs”

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT

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

First place: Staff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “20 Years Later: Pittsburgh stories”

Judge’s comments: “Talk about ambitious! The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s coverage of the 20-year anniversary of 9/11 — with a chilling review of what happened aboard United Airlines Flight 93 before it crashed in a field in southwestern Pennsylvania — was both smart and powerful. The 18 separate submissions with this entry were all so different and so thoughtfully executed, down to the very last photo caption. Particularly compelling were the exploration of Tom Ridge’s legacy, the look back at 9/11 through local journalists’ eyes, the long-term impacts of 9/11 on Pittsburgh International Airport, and the tick-tock of the final moments aboard Flight 93.”

Second place: Mike Sutter and Chuck Blount, San Antonio Express-News, “52 Weeks of Food Trucks”

Judge’s comments: “This 52-part celebration of food truck fare in San Antonio is both ambitious AND delicious! I want to eat the lobster rolls, the brisket grilled cheese sandwich, the fish and chips — all of it! It’s easy to understand why this yearlong series would be such a hit with readers, and it’s wonderful to see the incredible diversity of the food truck operators. Mike Sutter’s and Chuck Blount’s engaging and conversational writing styles — in concert with their strong photography skills — make the whole package sing. Here’s to eating, drinking and being merry!”

Third place: Stephanie Zimmermann and Tom Schuba, Chicago Sun-Times, “What’s in your weed?”

Judge’s comments: “This Chicago Sun-Times investigation by Stephanie Zimmermann and Tom Schuba — tackled nearly two years after recreational marijuana was legalized in Illinois — looked like SO MUCH WORK, and boy, did that work pay off. The result is a fun-to-read, data-driven deep dive into the world of the new, legal cannabis industry. The investigation revealed that many joints sold in Illinois are contaminated with mold and yeast, and that consumers cannot be sure they’re getting cannabis that is as potent as the label claims.”

Honorable mention: Douglas Perry, The Oregonian, “The Obsession”

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: Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “New Milwaukee doctors fight pandemic while facing their own fears”

Judge’s comments: “What a piece of service journalism. Deeply sourced, chronologically told (which was the right choice) and full of reflections from a population we don’t hear from enough, especially in this vulnerable way. An easy pick for first place because of the subject, a winner for the crisp, compelling writing.

Second place: Steve Mellon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “On a damp day, painful memories at the Flight 93 Memorial”

Judge’s comments: “A great idea beautifully executed. This well-written piece demonstrates perfectly how good journalists work to find the stories that are around us every day.”

Third place: Theoden Janes, The (N.C.) Charlotte Observer, “He spent 40 years not knowing who rescued him from that plane crash. Then, on Christmas…”

Judge’s comments: “Compelling, exciting, connective story about humanity that checks all our boxes: moving, well-written and a bonus “happy” ending.”

Honorable mention: Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “A Wisconsin mom gave birth in a COVID-19 coma before slipping to the brink of 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: Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Anya Sostek | Health”

Judge’s comments: “All three of Anya’s stories are gripping tales with fascinating detail. She conveys complex medical information in a clear and easy-to-understand way. And each feature is perfectly paced — satisfying as both a narrative and a medical story.”

Second place: John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun, “John-John Williams IV Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio”

Judge’s comments: “This entry had three smart feature stories that tapped into often-underserved communities. The Black Thanksgiving story was particularly rich with sources and detail.”

Third place: Jeremy Reynolds, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jeremy Reynolds | Classical Music Beat”

Judge’s comments: “This portfolio shows versatility, great ideas and good writing.We especially enjoyed the dissection of what makes an earworm and the behind-the-scenes look at the audition process for the symphony.”

Honorable mention: James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I got vaccinated, but my wife may not; My wife was skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccination; A silent byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic”

FOOD WRITING PORTFOLIO

Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic.

First place: Carlos Frias, The Miami Herald, “Carlos Frias: a Miami food-writing portfolio”

Judge’s comments: “Carlos Frias’ work is informative and well informed, offering deep insights into one of America’s most complex culinary cultures.”

Second place: Phillip Valys, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Phillip Valys Food Portfolio Trends Commentary”

Judge’s comments: “Phillip Valys’ writing takes in the culture and economics of food while also providing the service element of a good reviewer.”

Third place: Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Gretchen McKay | Food Beat”

Judge’s comments: “A winning mix of curiosity and culture brought this entry to life.”

Honorable mention: Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Daniel Neman columns”

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: Ismael Pérez, Chicago Sun-Times, “A selection of 3 columns”

Judge’s comments: “In these powerful columns for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ismael Pérez shares his personal experiences as an “anchor baby,” a “mestizo,” a gay Latino man and a son of an addict. He writes with so much candor and courage, and he never simply writes about himself. Instead, he deftly weaves his own experiences into the larger tapestry of life in America right now — and he does so in such a likeable and open way that he’s bound to make readers of every walk of life and political persuasion think differently about the world around them.”

Second place: Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Gene Collier | In a sea of heartache, an obit with an edge, GOP talking point of the week? Tough one, Pain from 0-to-10 pain question exceeds the actual pain”

Judge’s comments: “With his beautiful writing style, keen sense of humor and eye for telling details, columnist Gene Collier has a knack for making his readers feel like long-lost friends. His range is amazing; in the columns submitted for this contest entry, he shared a moving tribute to a woman who died unnecessarily from COVID-19, skewered the GOP’s bizarre talking points with comedy and clarity, and crafted a funny (yes, funny!) piece about the pain levels he’s been enduring after an injury. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette readers are fortunate to have a columnist and pal like Collier in their corner.”

Third place: Mark Brown, Chicago Sun-Times, “A selection of 3 columns”

Judge’s comments: “Mark Brown writes that he’s ‘not exactly known for being warm and friendly’ — but his columns betray him as a big-hearted observer with an enormous amount of empathy for his story subjects. It’s almost impossible not to feel a lump rising in the ol’ throat while reading about the life lessons he learned from grieving family members who lost loved ones to COVID-19. His “Lost Time List” about all the things he’s dreaming of doing again after being cooped up during the pandemic is a thing of beauty, and his piece about the Chicago man who jumped into Lake Michigan every single day for a year is a masterpiece.”

Honorable mention: Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Columns by Aisha Sultan”

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: Jeremy Reynolds, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Jeremy Reynolds | Classical Music Beat”

Judge’s comments: “This razor-sharp writer clearly understands the power and scope of a review. Reynolds doesn’t just assess a performance: he relates its history and backstory; asks insightful questions of performers and audiences alike and explains his critiques. His ledes are arresting. His commentaries include truly memorable lines. And he has the rare gift of being able to make a subject like opera — which many might find intimidating or boring — entertaining, informative and accessible.”

Second place: James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Truth in what the ESPN crew said about Milwaukee; During Pride Month, celebrate common ground; Milwaukee’s Kwanzaa celebration”

Judge’s comments: “James. E. Causey seems to have the talent and the guts to take on tough topics, including intraracial gender bias and racial equity in his own hometown. His spirited writing, strong reporting, excellent sourcing and smart arguments make him a must-read.”

Third place: Mal Vincent, The Virginian-Pilot, “Mal Vincent portfolio”

Judge’s comments: “What a confident voice, what incisive observations, a breadth of experience Mal Vincent brings to his commentaries. His writing is inviting, thoughtful and very enjoyable to read. He makes excellent use of the first person to share a sliver of the knowledge he’s gained and the experiences he’s had in what must have been a long and successful career.”

Honorable mention: Theoden Janes, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, “Collection of articles: Theoden Janes”

SPORTS FEATURE

Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: Patrick Finley, Chicago Sun-Times, “Patrick Finley, ‘Back from the brink’”

Judge’s comments: “An amazing story that starts with trust. This reporter had to get access to tell this story. That gets to credibility. And then given that trust and access, Patrick Finley crafts a gripping story that is full of humanity.”

Second place: Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times, “Rick Telander, ‘Maris, Mantle, Martin and me’”

Judge’s comments: “Only a great writer can take what is a moment and turn it into something grand: Personal, a story full of characters and history, and allow the reader to come along for the ride.”

Third place: Lori Nickel, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “It took a hustler, a native son, a priest’s blessing and a city hungry for sports to bring the Bucks to Milwaukee”

Judge’s comments: “Wonderful idea that began with a simple question: How? The story answers the question that most readers had not thought to ask. But once done with this story, a reader gets a sense of history and community.”

Honorable mention: Jim Owczarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “What happened to the coin that determined the fate of the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns in 1969?”

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: Vickie Connor, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian, “The Venderia”

Judge’s comments: “Well-produced, intimate, and charming. A nice, tight example of lifestyle feature journalism on video.”

Second place: Alexandra Wimley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “In Focus: Pittsburgh Rhinos Blind Ice Hockey”

Judge’s comments: “Heartfelt, powerful, and well-produced, this video engages the viewer and shines light on the community. Audio transitions could be smoother, and soundbites from parents and coaches will round out the story.”

Third place: Samantha Swindler, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian, “Smallest Park”

Judge’s comments: “This is a big, well-produced and deeply reported piece on something so small. The play of scale and size is very compelling here. The story runs a bit long but is engaging.”

Honorable mention: Staff, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Let’s Go, South Florida: This delicacy costs $500 an ounce and is illegal to import. We take you to the one spot where you can get it”

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: Laura Malt Schneiderman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Passenger revolt over Shanksville”

Judge’s comments: “Clearly-presented and compelling treatment of history. Although the project mined events whose details are already well-known, this presentation gave us those details in gripping and creative ways, from the use of historical photos to audio to transcripts from the victims and terrorists’ own last moments. The information was brutal to read and hear, but was moving and compelling all the same.”

Second place: Staff, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Abuse of Trust”

Judge’s comments: “The staff did a great job taking a difficult, complicated issue and breaking it down clearly with excellent use of timelines, cast of character lists and a very creative presentation of the players’ connections to each other (it’s great that even on mobile view, the graphics showing all the various players’ connections to each other still works. Great job there). It was a great example of breaking down a complicated scandal into understandable and digest-able pieces.”

Third place: Lauren Rosenblatt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “COVID unemployment interactive: Those out of work during the pandemic faced hard quest for state jobless aid”

Judge’s comments: “Clean and clear presentation that managed to distill a global crisis into personal terms that brought the COVID epidemic home to readers. Great use of video and interactives to tell the personal stories of some of those most affected by pandemic-driven unemployment. Hope the reporters have a chance to follow up with some of these sources a year or two later; We would bet readers would love to know how they’re doing.”

Honorable mention: Samantha Swindler, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian, “Mr. Gresham”

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: Denise Watson, Saleen Martin and Lisa Vernon Sparks, The Virginian-Pilot/Daily Press, “Confederate monuments in Hampton Roads”

Judge’s comments: “This series reveals the tensions, emotions and complications that arise when a community truthfully reckons with its racist roots. The reporters and photojournalists—community members themselves—exquisitely and unflinchingly capture the tenacity of those who hope to build a more hopeful future.”

Second place: Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Aisha Sultan stories”

Judge’s comments: “It’s clear from these dispatches that Sultan is trusted as a community narrator. She has brought to life so artfully the anxieties and fears, and also the joys and new beginnings that 2021 has meant to folks in St. Louis.”

Third place: Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “He invests in residential rental properties in Milwaukee — from Stanley Correctional Institution”

Judge’s comments: “This is the kind of uncommon story that makes local reporting so vital to our communities. At its core, Daykin’s report is about a man who, like many of us, has found meaning and purpose in his work—only while currently serving a long prison sentence. This story comes to life with honesty and empathy. It’s also just plain interesting to learn about this man’s journey and to be inspired by it!”

Honorable mention: Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “How an MLK meme split the Thomas Merton Center and co-founder Molly Rush”

BEST SPECIAL SECTION

The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. 

First place: Staff, Chicago Sun-Times, “’Rising from the ashes’ — marking the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire”

Judge’s comments: “A superlative section, anchored by a masterful account of the Great Chicago Fire. Truly authoritative, it contains a well-rounded selection of stories, with terrific design that delivers impact. Well-conceived and executed — a knockout!”

Second place: Robert Herguth and Bryan Barker, Chicago Sun-Times, “Chicago’s murals and mosaics”

Judge’s comments: “A spectacular print payoff to an excellent idea. Over two years, the Sun-Times documented public murals and mosaics in neighborhoods across Chicago through a weekly feature that invited reader submissions. Then it pulled the best of it together in this well-designed and thematically organized full-color, 52-page section. Just … wow!”

Third place: Ian Froeb and Gabe Hartwig, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The STL 100”

Judge’s comments: “A lively, inviting and useful section.”

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: Mark Gauert, Cassie Armstrong and Anderson Greene, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “Explore Florida and the Caribbean”

Judge’s comments: “Excellent magazine about travel with a good mix of general travel features and news you can use (calendars, recipes). Strong design, headlines and photography. Good variety of bylines, including a few by the editor, who obviously knows this territory very well.”

Second place: Staff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Goodness: “February 21 & December 5, 2021”

Judge’s comments: Good variety of features, short pieces and letters from readers in this uplifting section. “We bet readers really look forward to this coming out (and a few said so in their letters). Nice job!”

Third place: Mark Gauert and Anderson Greene, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “City & Shore PRIME Magazine”

Judge’s comments: “Another strong niche product from this publication, with a nice focus on women in one of the issues reviewed here. Strong design and content.”

Honorable mention: Staff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Business of Pittsburgh: January 10 & July 4, 2021”


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 22 categories.

First place: Los Angeles Times

Eighteen awards, including six firsts (Best Section, Arts & Entertainment, Short Feature, Food Criticism, Food Writing Portfolio and Video Storytelling), four seconds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, Sports Feature and Best Special Section), six thirds (Podcast, General Feature, Food Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, General Commentary Portfolio and Sports Feature) and two honorable mentions (Narrative Storytelling and Best Special Section)

Second place: NJ Advance Media

Eight awards, including two firsts (General Feature and Best Section), three seconds (General Feature, Integrated Storytelling and Diversity in Digital Features), one third (Video Storytelling) and two honorable mentions (General Feature and Food Writing Portfolio)

Third place: Boston Globe

Six awards, including three firsts (Feature Series or Project, Narrative Storytelling and Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio), one second (Best Section), one third (Integrated Storytelling) and one honorable mention (Food Feature).

Fourth place: San Francisco Chronicle

Seven awards, including one first (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio), two seconds (Food Feature and Digital Innovation) two thirds (Narrative Storytelling and Food Writing Portfolio) and one honorable mention (Narrative Storytelling)

BEST SECTION

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

First place: Staff, Los Angeles Times, “Faking It”

Judge’s comments: “Stellar work, from the inventive story ideas to the excellent execution. The Oscars preview is always a must-read section, and the Latino Culture Gap section is revealing. Loved the Food section, with its creative illustrations and exemplary writing.”

Second place: Staff, Boston Globe, “Boston Globe Arts”

Judge’s comments: These sections shine in writing, photography and design. What a treat for Globe readers to get such incisive and entertaining work on a daily basis.

Third place: Features Section, Seattle Times, “The Mix best sections 2021”

Judge’s comments: “These sections feature solid and creative coverage, with clean design, good writing and excellent story selection.”

Honorable mention: Melissa Aguilar and Staff, Houston Chronicle, “Houston Chronicle Features Sections”

BEST FEATURES DIGITAL PRESENCE

The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. 

First place: Staff, Newsday, “Newsday’s FeedMe restaurants coverage”

Judge’s comments: “It’s clear from the quality and variety of the coverage as well as the tenor of the conversation among writers and readers that FeedMe is indispensable to its community. The staff have reflected the history of Long Island’s foodways and abundance of flavors in ways that are approachable and joyful.”

Second place: Staff, Upstate Unearthed, upstateunearthed.com

Judge’s comments: The deep and nuanced exploration of this well-known topic—the great outdoors!—through the lens of our modern lives is superbly expressed in Upstate Unearthed. The writers, editors, photographers, designers and social media editors should be very proud!”

GENERAL FEATURE

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

First place: Brittney Davies, Joe Atmonavage and Matthew Stanmyre, NJ Advance Media, “The great boat lift of 9/11”

Judge’s comments: “Wow, what a tale. A 9/11 story I knew so little about. Incredibly researched and sourced. Beautifully organized, thoughtfully told and riveting from the start.”

Second place: Keith Sargeant, NJ Advance Media, “My father was a war hero who saved lives and I never knew”

Judge’s comments: “Wow. What an emotional ride. Personal, investigative journalism to uncover the truth about one’s dad. Honest, raw and gracefully done.”

Third place: Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, “She was dying of COVID-19. Her last hope would save her or kill her”

Judge’s comments: “So moving and well written. Incredibly dramatic, action-packed. Explains not just the immediate impact of the patient, but what her illness meant to her family — emotionally and financially — as well as to her doctors and nurse.”

Honorable mention: Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media, “The $1 million gamble”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE

Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, “The lowrider is back”

Judge’s comments: “This feature brings readers into L.A.’s contemporary cruising scene, which enjoyed a resurgence during the pandemic — it was a safe escape. It also details that scene’s rich history and includes many distinctive voices. The photos accompanying the story are great, too.”

Second place: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, “How a Compton artist’s lost prison painting found its way to the Hammer Museum”

Judge’s comments: “Renowned prison artist Wash’s story has been told before. By focusing on single painting, and the artist’s attempt to track down the original and create a new version, this feature reveals new details about the artist’s life inside and out of prison.”

Third place: Rebecca Alter, Vulture, “Boys, Interrupting”

Judge’s comments: “This short, engaging profile introduced the comedy trio before they broke through to the mainstream on Saturday Night Live. It’s smart about comedy and social media and accessible to readers who may not be well-versed on one or the other.”

Honorable mention: David Chiu, The New York Times, “Overlooked No More: Jobriath, Openly Gay Glam Rocker in the ’70s”

SHORT FEATURE

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

First place: Daniel Miller, Los Angeles Times, “L.A. mystery: The mourning doves stopped singing. What happened to them?”

Judge’s comments: “A beautifully written lament for the mourning dove is both a nostalgic personal reflection and a warning about climate change. Daniel Miller grapples with the absence of the dove’s call, and shows how he comes to understand it foretells greater environmental perils.”

Second place: Kristen Hare, Tampa Bay (Florida) Times, “This queen fostered a new generation of drag in Orlando”

Judge’s comments: “This sensitive obit — written with warmth and compassion — opens cinematically to reveal layer by layer the life and death of a drag queen who is so much more than her stage presence.”

Third place: Lane DeGregory, Tampa Bay (Florida) Times, “’How are you?’ A phone call lets seniors know someone cares”

Judge’s comments: “Dialogue, most of it one-sided, propels this slice of life inside a senior center, where a cheerful volunteer calls to check in on fragile and lonely elderly people.”

Honorable mention: Thomas Floyd, The Washington Post, “A 9/11 survivor wanted nothing to do with ‘Come From Away.’ Now she’s seen it a dozen times.”

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: Lea Konczal, Texas Monthly, “The Pig’s Last Stand: America’s First Drive-in Celebrates One Hundred Years”

Judge’s comments: “By the end of Lea Konczal’s affecting, melancholy story about the Pig Stand and its longtime owner and champion, Mary Ann Hill, the reader may be close to tears. For Mary Ann, her customers and employees, this place is like a family. Bravo for this grave and eloquent profile that captures the Pig Stand and the people who aren’t sure what they’ll do when it’s gone.”

Second place: Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, “San Francisco Chronicle: The Prisoner”

Judge’s comments: “We couldn’t stop reading Esther Mobley’s story about the red wine blend with the prison-themed marketing strategy. It’s a great angle that illuminates the history of blended wines, the trap that companies find themselves in when social movements collide with their outdated and troublesome branding, and the national conversation around race and incarceration. Beautifully done and very thought-provoking.”

Third place: Stephanie Breijo, Los Angeles Times, “Take a peek inside the Sugar Lab, L.A.’s 3-D-printing candy shop”

Judge’s comments: “Stephanie Breijo takes us on a brisk and fascinating tour of a candy factory that uses 3-D printing tech to mold unique treats. The process and its history are all clearly explained in detail, yet the story never loses the whimsical charm that’s appropriate for a story about candy. Sweeeet!”

Honorable mention: Devra First, Boston Globe, “Slade’s Bar & Grill: a real Boston story”

FOOD CRITICISM

A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry.

First place: Lucas Kwan Peterson, Los Angeles Times, “We should pay more to eat in restaurants”

Judge’s comments: “Strong opinion, deep reporting, a thorough examination of the restaurant industry in the fog after COVID’s darkest days. Lucas Kwan Peterson covers so much ground in this piece, but leaves nothing behind. 2021 was the year of asking existential questions about the industry, both as an owner and as a customer. This article is the framework on which those answers might be built for a more sustainable future. Should we pay more as customers? Yes. Should we cover the industry more thoughtfully as writers? Your answer is right here.”

Second place: Hanna Raskin, The Food Section, “Into the Awards Void”

Judge’s comments: “You could argue that Hanna Raskin’s piece exploring the relevance of the James Beard Awards is an insider exercise. Outside the industry — the owners, the chefs, the writers — who follows the Beards? (More than we think.) But this piece goes much deeper, exploring how culture and social movements shape who gets awards and why, and how efforts to reform the awards create problems of their own. The point about how even modest restaurant progressivism in conservative areas carries disproportionate risks rang bells in my head, it was so clear. This is how you draw widening circles around smaller points, with sound logic, clearly articulated.”

Third place: Erica Marcus, Newsday, “Long Island’s best pizza”

Judge’s comments: “We value food writing that asks the big philosophical questions. I’d argue that in Newsday’s circulation area, the questions don’t get much bigger than, “Where can I get a good slice around here?” Erica Marcus answers that question with authority, a story told in 12 parts that accomplish the impossibly simultaneous tasks of depth and brevity. Every capsule tells a story: part history, part travelogue, part pizza education. The reader service piece is not dead! And coming out of the pandemic, it might be one of the strongest ways to reconnect readers with the restaurants they love and the connections they need.”

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT

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

First place: Penelope Overton, Jenna Russell and David Abel, Boston Globe, “The Lobster Trap”

Judge’s comments: “Where have all the lobsters gone? This project chronicles the highs and lows of New England lobstering through the compelling lens of the families whose livelihoods depend on the critters. The Globe team brought the drama to what could have been a dry story about climate change, leaning into the human storylines that are illustrated with strong visuals and enhanced with digital map-graphics that make the science as easy-to-digest as the prized crustaceans.”

Second place: Staff, Honolulu Civil Beat, “Hawaii Grown”

Judge’s comments: “Hawaii’s sky-high cost of living took new prominence during the pandemic, when the state (which imports 80% of its food) struggled to feed its own population. What can be done to change? The Honolulu Civil Beat’s year-long project breaks down the causes-effects and showcases solutions through stories about grassroots farming efforts, experiments and failures. It was an ambitious undertaking complemented with Facebook Live panel discussions, calls-to-action and fun elements “including a reader recipe contest featuring home-grown ingredients. It’s all organized in a lively digital section front.”

Third place: Lane DeGregory, Tampa Bay (Florida) Times, “Who wants to be a cop?”

Judge’s comments: “Who WANTS to be a cop these days? That’s the headline that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go through the Tampa Bay Times’ eight-part series that chronicles a class of new police recruits making their way through the academy. Lane DeGregory’s effortless storytelling commands the reader’s attention, from the mandatory pepper spray to the eyes through the self-doubt that comes with botching knock-and-enter drills. A fresh POV on a topic that has enduring national significance.”

Honorable mention: Staff, Philadelphia Inquirer, “Wildest Dreams: An Anthology of Black Inheritance.”

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: Evan Allen, Boston Globe, “Under the Wheel”

Judge’s comments: “Writer Evan Allen, a new mom fearful that she will pass her family’s history of violence onto her daughter, sets out to answer an ambitious question: Is violence inherited like other traits? She focuses on Anthony Pledger, a federal inmate who began committing crimes at age 7, and she weaves his story with hers. It’s an incredible feat of reporting: The “interviews” amounted to more than 2,000 pages of correspondence between the reporter and the inmate, and the resulting story is compelling, eye-opening, tragic and forceful. It’s also gorgeously written with an ending that is both resigned a nd hopeful.”

Second place: Lane DeGregory, Tampa Bay (Florida) Times, “Twelve Hours in a Florida COVID-19 ICU”

Judge’s comments: “Masterfully told by one of the best narrative writers in the business, this story follows a trauma nurse named Jen on a harrowing day as the delta variant floods her hospital with ICU patients. We see Jen do the impossible – try to offer care for those who are too far gone. We hear telling dialogue that moves the story along, and handpicked details which convey Jen’s inner struggle about whether she should leave her position. The ending is both quiet in tone and loud in emotion. It’s a heart-wrenching story told matter-of-factly, and that gives it even more power.”

Third place: Matthias Gafni, San Francisco Chronicle, “One hiker’s peak of desperation”

Judge’s comments: “A 57-year-old man sets out to scale Boundary Peak in Nevada, a 13,000-foot mountain that can be conquered in one day. Then he slips and falls off the trail, and we are thrust into a nail-biting adventure as he tries to find his way out. On the fifth day, the man is near delirious when he sees three of his closest friends about to rescue him. Or are they a hallucination? Reporter Matthias Gafni gives us a wild narrative that readers simply can’t put down.”

Honorable Mention: Tyrone Beason, Los Angeles Times, “A Black Reporter’s Road Trip to the Inauguration, and a Search for America’s Soul”

Honorable mention: Jason Fagone, San Francisco Chronicle, “The Jessica Simulation”

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: Dugan Arnett, Boston Globe, “Stories examining the human conflict boiling deep within law enforcement amid a nationwide reckoning over police abuse”

Judge’s comments: “Richly reported and nuanced stories off the police beat at a time when policing in America was under heightened scrutiny. A respected police chief reveals his conflicted past in a harrowing narrative that reads like a thriller. A story with a simple premise — Who would want to be a police officer today? — is remarkably complex. And a Black suburban police chief tries to be a beacon for reform. Dugan Arnett excels at painting intimate portrayals of large and urgent issues.”

Second place: Adam Bernstein, The Washington Post, “Three obituaries: Fanne Foxe, Cloris Leachman, Cicely Tyson”

Judge’s comments: “The art of the obit at its finest: Detailed reporting, cultural context and just enough reverence for the subject. The death of Fanne Foxe — the stripper who brought down Wilbur Mills — likely would have gone unnoticed but for Adam Bernstein’s advance reporting. The result captures in glorious detail the classic D.C. scandal. Cloris Leachman and Cicely Tyson are vividly remembered.”

Third place: Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times, “Starving cows. Fallow farms. The Arizona drought is among the worst in the country”

Judge’s comments: “A sense of place is strong in this portfolio of consequential stories: Drought in Arizona; troubling signs at Lake Mead; an iconoclastic rancher trying to breed more efficient cattle. Together they reveal the real issues of climate crisis through the people who work the land and the water.”

FOOD WRITING PORTFOLIO

Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic.

First place: Jenn Harris, Los Angeles Times, “The next time you order takeout, call the restaurant”

Judge’s comments: “All three are well-told, informative with straightforward, clear writing. Delivery app story lays out the issues in a concise way. The cacio e pepe features delightfully spare writing peppered with lively, fun quotes. Love this lede: “Las Vegas — Two halves of a split lobster tail intertwine like lovers. Both sides arch upward, balancing atop a mound of noodles tangled around bean sprouts and shards of green onion.” Captures the joyful, over-the-top reason these chefs love LV.”

Second place: Brad A. Johnson, The Orange County (California) Register, “Saucedo, Blu Skybar and 50 Best Places to Eat Tacos”

Judge’s comments: “50! That’s a lot of tacos. Fun ledes that draw you in and then comprehensive, solid reviews that tell diners what they need to know. Great descriptions that capture the mood and style of the place. Love this lede: A brass ensemble with a remarkably nimble tuba player honks from the jukebox at Saucedo in Garden Grove while a rhythmic, percussive “thwack thwack thwack thwack” emanates from the kitchen. The latter, we can tell by peering through the pass, is the restaurant’s lone chef, chopping carne asada with a large cleaver as orders for more tacos stream in.”

Third place: Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, “San Francisco Chronicle: Soleil Ho”

Judge’s comments: “Takes chances with her writing. The stories have lots of detail and color that put you in the place and allows you to truly imagine how the food tastes. Vivid.”

Honorable mention: Sharyn Jackson, (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune, “Food reporting: Sharyn Jackson”

Honorable mention: Jeremy Schneider, 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: Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post, “When Personal Finance is Personal”

Judge’s comments: “Singletary’s pieces carry commonly relatable themes as they also focus on the minority experience. Many can relate to being a caregiver for a loved one or sending a child off on their first real job interview, but Singletary combines these experiences with her unique perspective, telling stories that are filled with emotion and facts. Each piece is enjoyable on its own, but we’re guessing Singletary’s readers look forward to the next installment.”

Second place: Laura Yuen, (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune, “Features columnist Laura Yuen”

Judge’s comments: “You feel Yuen’s pain as she’s taunted by a woodpecker amid the pandemic. And her discussion of the Chinese experience in the U.S. sheds light on a topic not often discussed. Yuen’s pieces pull at heartstrings while sharing diverse perspectives.”

Third place: Erika D. Smith, Los Angeles Times, “A solution for gentrification in South L.A.? ‘Don’t sell your damn house!’”

Judge’s comments: “Whether she’s talking about her own frustration with the Black community’s reluctance to get vaccinated or sharing another’s story about gentrification, Smith’s pieces are filled with emotions, and she does an excellent job of using real-life scenarios to explain complicated subjects.”

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: Simi Horwitz, The Forward, “Three film reviews”

Second place: Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, ‘The Disciple’ is already one of the year’s best movies. Does Netflix know — or care?”

Third place: Laurie Hertzel, (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune, “Books: Laurie Hertzel”

Honorable mention: Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle, “Joey Guerra, arts commentary”

SPORTS FEATURE

Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: Staff, The Christian Science Monitor, “Game Changers/Breaking Grass Ceilings: Why more women are coaching in men’s professional sports”

Judge’s comments: “A well-researched and well-told all-encompassing look at women in coaching. It hooks you from the beginning and keeps you until the thoughtful ending.”

Second place: Nathan Fenno, Los Angeles Times, “What makes Katie Ledecky the most dominant Olympic swimmer?”

Judge’s comments: “A perfect example of an athlete profile. By the end you know her and admire her accomplishments.”

Third place: David Wharton, Los Angeles Times, “Beneath the bling: Lakers championship rings feature many special surprises”

Judge’s comments: “It’s a profile of a jeweler and a basketball team told through a simple ring. Well, not so simple. So well told and described you almost didn’t need the graphics, but they were wonderful as well.”

Honorable mention: James Causey, Slate, “The Great Migration of Henry Aaron”

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, Los Angeles Times, “How my mental illness became my superpower”

Judge’s comments: “Seamless integration of form and content. Production is expertly handled and story is sensitively told. There is news value to this. Would be good to weave broader public health data and trends into this narrative. Why does this type of mental health model matter? How does it alleviate shortage and inaccessibility in Los Angeles?”

Second place: Scott Vogel, Chris Ware and Susan Yale, Newsday, “The story behind Shuga Pie in Babylon”

Judge’s comments: “Vibrant and well-produced lifestyle segment that captures the fun parts of the community. Would be more engaging and powerful to focus more on the founder’s story rather than just the food.”

Third place: Andre Malok, NJ Advanced Media, “N.J. community embraces young man with autism who lost both of his parents”

Judge’s comments: “Nice tribute to a community fixture. It was important to hear from E.J. himself, which we thought this piece did well.”

Honorable mention: Annie Boos, The (Syracuse University) Newshouse, “The Comeback Year”

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: Jackie Varriano, Jade Yamazaki Stewart and Taylor Blatchford, The Seattle Times, “The Seattle Times Great Pie Package”

Judge’s comments: “Beautiful photos and videos with this yummy package about apple pies. Great team effort and research to bring Seattle Times readers everything they need to know about baking, buying or eating a pie for Thanksgiving, including how-to instructions for three different skill levels for bakers. I finished this package thinking even I could bake (or buy) a great pie and appreciate all the attention to detail that goes into the best. Nicely done. Bookmarked!”

Second place: Staff, NJ Advance Media, “A pickle(ball) in paradise”

Judge’s comments: “Great use of audio, photos and graphics to tell the story of the pickleball conundrum. Terrific story!”

Third place: Jeneé Osterheldt, Boston Globe, “A Beautiful Resistance”

Judge’s comments: “Terrific series with nice audio interviews. We enjoyed the nice variety of sources and the many different ways they told their stories about being part of the fabric of Boston.”

Honorable mention: Meghan Giannotta and Rachel Weiss, Newsday, “Working Dogs of Long Island”

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: Salma Abdelnour, Pam Kaufman, Everyday Health, “Too Many Doctors Are Misdiagnosing Disease on Skin of Color”

Judge’s comments: “A wonderfully written and researched read on how racism in dermatology is compromising the care that Black patients get for diseases and conditions that affect the skin.”

Second place: Amy Kuperinsky, NJ Advance Media, “I’m tired of being afraid”

Third place: Kamal Morgan, Upstate Unearthed, “BLK in the ADK”

Honorable mention: Nhari Djan, The Newshouse (Syracuse University), “Social Media Support”

BEST SPECIAL SECTION

The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. 

First place: Staff, NJ Advance Media, “The long shadow of John List”

Judge’s comments: “A fascinating look at one of our country’s most notorious crimes on its 50th anniversary. The reporting and writing are first rate. And though it’s not a whodunit, it’s gripping from beginning to end.”

Second place: Staff, Los Angeles Times, “101 Best Restaurants”

Judge’s comments: “Chock full of fantastic mini-reviews, features and photography, this is the ultimate guide to eating out in Los Angeles. A must-have section for any tourist or resident.”

Third place: Melissa Aguilar and Nadya Shakoor, Houston Chronicle, “Houston Gives”

Judge’s comments: “A beautifully designed publication showcasing Houston’s philanthropic community. The features are well written, and there is a LOT of content, all displayed with wonderful artwork and photography.”

Honorable mention: Staff, Los Angeles Times, “Unshaken”

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: Sue Campbell, Star Tribune, StarTribune Magazine

Judge’s comments: “Amazing photography, great covers and nice variety of story topics. Especially strong profile stories and regional travel content. Smart design.”

Second place: Melissa Aguilar, Jody Schmal and Nadya Shakoor, Houston Chronicle, Page Magazine

Judge’s comments: “Strong themed section about food and impressive travel content. Nice photography.”

Third place: Newsday Staff, Newsday, FeedMe Magazine

Judge’s comments: “Attractive design and nice mix of food stories. The fold-out guides on burgers and cocktails were great news we could use– something we’d want to have on hand if we were in the area.”


COMBINED DIVISIONS

HEADLINE WRITING PORTFOLIO

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

First place: Darel Jevens, Chicago Sun-Times

Judge’s comments: “Headline writers wear many hats on their … heds? Darel’s equally comfortable working a deep profile (‘Sesame’ seeds), an old-school Dear Abby (Upstairs neighbor springs a leak, then blows a gasket) and a TV review (What to suspect when you’re expecting). The first engages wordplay to pull us into the Sesame Street backstory. The second brings just the right amount of salty razzmatazz for Dear Abby’s target audience. And the third? It’s just one of those moments when a pop-culture touchstone can be retooled to fit a story with the wicked tweaking of just. one. word.”

Second place: Greg Anglin, San Antonio Express-News

Judge’s comments: “”Headline” is the right word to describe the banners for Sports columnists. You have to get into their heads, live in their worlds just long enough to draw out the deeper meanings behind the sports news they’re reacting to. And then you have to make those headlines entertaining, and then you have to make them fit. Greg is equal parts mind-reader, performer and broadsheet navigator on this set of heds. The turnaround wordplay on “fancy passing/passing fancy” feels like a wicked on-court juke. The “double bubble” hed melds the drama of COVID with the procedural realities players face because of it. And the CWS vaccine hed tells the full story in an 8-word main and a 9-word deck. It’s smart, concise and blunt, and it conveys the emotion of the column.”

Third place: Thomas Floyd, The Washington Post

Judge’s comments: “In the days of multitasking-by-necessity, it’s not always a given that a headline writer understands the subject as well as this. Each of the three heds shows a craftsperson with an understanding of Sports writing, Sports readers, and Sports headlines. The mullet head is as form-follows-function as the haircut it describes: business in front, party in the back. And the hed on the story about the football kicker shows how a good headline writer pulls the essence of the story to the top even when the heart of the story’s buried on the jump.”

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, The Newshouse (Syracuse University)

Judge’s comments: “This was an amazingly competitive category! The best of these entries are sophisticated and nuanced. Some of them are fun; all of them are visually striking. In the end, the weight of history represented in “Visualizing 81” carried the day. It is a remarkable work, a history that, I suspect, many in Syracuse are unfamiliar with. It is a history that we should all learn, and it’s an inspiration for other publications that want to present readers with an unvarnished version of community history. This mixed-media event should be studied across the country.”

Second place: Food & Wine Staff, Alex Fong and Paula Friedrich, San Francisco Chronicle, “Best Day Ever”

Judge’s comments: “I dare you to resist the charms of “The Best Day Ever in Chinatown.” The photos, the curation (morning/afternoon/night/late night), the multiple options and the bright graphics will lure any reader into this series. If your publication is dedicated to dining out, we’d suggest you steal this concept!”

Third place: Jesse Howe, Chicago Sun-Times, “Through the flames”

Judge’s comments: “The art of map making (and map-reading) may be fading with the rise of the digital age. “Through the flames,” however, mixes the best of the old and the new worlds, taking readers on a rather breathtaking journey through a city that was devastated by fire. The Great Chicago Fire has a place in American history and mythology. This work brings the facts and the sadness very much into the 21st century.”

Honorable mention: Jonathan Harris and Hanna Martin, Upstate Unearthed (Syracuse University), “Live Oaks and Dead Folks: Exploring Oakwood Cemetery and its Loyal Caretakers”

BEST PODCAST

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast. 

First place: Soleil Ho, Justin Phillips, Erika Carlos, Téa Price, San Francisco Chronicle, “Extra Spicy”

Judge’s comments: “While food is the throughline for this podcast, we appreciate how the hosts go beyond that by covering — among other things — the minimum wage debate, Chinatown’s identity, and their own perspectives of the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. It’s not just a pod about food; it’s also about our current culture and states of mind.”

Second place: Jamila Paksima, Yvonne Latty and Jordan Gass-Poore’, Southern Poverty Law Center,  “Sounds Like Hate: Collateral Damage Part I and II”

Judge’s comments: “What makes this podcast so powerful are the stories of the people featured and how they fit into the ways our system disenfranchises voters. It’s an important and undercovered topic.”

Third place: Staff, Los Angeles Times, “The Trials of Frank Carson: first 3 episodes”

Judge’s comments: “We appreciate this deep narrative dive into a controversial local personality. There’s a lot to cover and the podcast did its best to lay it all out.”

2022 SFJ Excellence-in-Features contest deadline extended!

Featured

Designed by Jim Haag

The 34th annual Society for Features Journalism Excellence-in-Features contest, which honors the craft of feature storytelling and the people who do it for a living, is taking entries for 2022.

All entries – other than those in the Best Features Digital Presence category – must have been published in print or online between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021.

The writing contest is open to journalists working for legacy and new media (including nonprofit), whether you’re a freelancer or full-time employee.

First-place winners in each category will receive $300. Winners will be announced in June. We are not having an in-person conference in 2022.

The cost of each entry is $45 for all professional writing, online and video entries, and $60 in the Niche Product, Features Digital Presence and Best Section categories.

To enter, go to https://betternewspapercontest.com and search for Society for Features Journalism.

Deadline to submit is through Friday, March 25March 11, 2022. If you have any questions, please email sfjcontest4@gmail.com.

001 General Feature

Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic. Entries can be a single trend story, profile, interview, news feature or general feature of 1,000 words or more. Sidebars accepted. Each entry consists of one story. Multiple bylines accepted.

002 Arts & Entertainment Feature

Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic – such as architecture, art, books, dance, movies, music, opera, television or theater.

NOTE: Food stories should be entered in one of the food categories. Entries can be a single trend story, interview or feature story. Each entry consists of one story.

003 Short Feature

Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words. A word count is required with each entry; entries exceeding the limit will be disqualified. Enter the word count in the “Comments, Credits & Other Info” field on the entry form. Each entry consists of one story.

004 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. Each entry consists of one story.

005 Food Criticism

A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry. Each entry consists of one story.

006 Feature Series or Project

Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts. Sidebars accepted. Can include a written explanation of not more than 250 words on how the story was reported. Each entry consists of the stories that comprise the series or project. Multiple bylines accepted.

007 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. Each entry consists of one story.

008 Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio

Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, health, religion, technology or travel. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category.

Entries can be trend stories, profiles, interviews, news features, general features or narratives covering the same topic. Columns and commentary are excluded. Each entry consists of three stories from the same writer.

009 Food Writing Portfolio

Three stories by the same writer on any food topic. Entries can be stories, columns or reviews. Each entry consists of three stories from the same writer.

010 General Commentary Portfolio

A collection of three columns or essays by the same writer on any human interest or specialty topic, excluding editorials. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category.

Each entry consists of three examples of the writer’s work, showing a range of reporting styles.

011 Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio

A collection of three columns, essays or reviews by the same writer on any arts and entertainment topic, excluding editorials. NOTE: Food writing entries should be entered in the Food Writing Portfolio category.

Each entry consists of three examples of the writer’s work.

012 Sports Feature

Feature treatment of any sports topic. Entries can be a trend story, interview or feature story. Each entry consists of one story.

013 Headline Writing Portfolio

A collection of three headlines and accompanying decks by the same writer for feature stories or columns. Headlines must be attached to the stories or columns and can be accompanied by related visuals. Entries will be judged on clarity, accuracy and creativity. One entry consists of three headlines and accompanying decks and stories. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.

014 Video Storytelling

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

015 Integrated Storytelling

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, digital, social media, video and any other platform. One entry consists of the package of stories and other elements used to cover the topic.

016 Podcast

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast. One entry consists of links to three podcasts by the same person or persons. NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.

017 Diversity in Digital Features

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic that highlights the diversity within a publication’s audience. Diversity can include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs or other ideologies. One entry consists of a story or a series of stories on the same diversity topic. Multiple bylines accepted.

018 Digital Innovation

New or improved digital ventures, which can include new or upgraded websites, apps, social media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world. Entries will be judged on creativity and impact. Must include a description of no more than 250 words on how the innovation came about, its goals and its success. Submit explanation as a Word document attachment or enter explanation in the “Comments, Credits & Other Info” field on the entry form. One entry consists of one innovation, such as an app or a website.

NOTE: All entries, regardless of circulation group, compete in one group.

019 Special Section

A special section published in 2021 either in print and/or online once a year. (For sections published two or more times, enter Niche Product.)

Submit one hard copy or PDFs of the entire or provide the URL (if it’s an online-only entry) in the comments section on the entry. Each entry must also include a PDF of the cover or homepage of the section. On the back of each hard-copy issue, attach a printed entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted.

Mail entries to Terry Bertling, 15042 Preston Hollow, San Antonio, TX 78247.

020 Niche Product

The best examples of a niche product – such as a magazine or special section – published at least two times a year. Submit two hard copies of each niche product or PDFs of the entire product of the same niche product. Each entry must also include PDFs of the covers from both of the submitted entries.

One entry consists of one copy of each of the two issues and the two PDFs. On the back of each hard-copy issue, attach a printed entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted.

Mail entries to Terry Bertling, 15042 Preston Hollow, San Antonio, TX 78247.

021 Features Digital Presence

The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. Submit links to a website; features channel; app; and/or social-media page such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. Entries are judged on content, which includes timeliness, depth of coverage, voice and style. One entry consists of links to a website, features channel, social-media pages or app.

022 Best Section

The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. Submit five sections, either hard copies or PDFs of the entire sections, from the 2021 calendar year. One must be an arts-and-entertainment-themed section, and one must be a Sunday section. (If your publication doesn’t print on Sunday, submit one section from Saturday or from your premiere weekly section and add a note of explanation).

The other three are the editor’s choice from regularly appearing features sections. Entries are judged on content, which includes the range of topics, depth, voice and style; service, which includes the inclusion of everyday people, useful information and the level of reader interaction; and design, which includes the use of photos and illustrations, headlines, navigational tools and
the “wow” factor.

One hard copy of each section or PDFs of the entire section is required. One entry consists of one copy or PDFs of each of the five sections and PDFs of three of the submitted section fronts (PDFs of the section fronts only). On the back of each section, attached a printed version of the entry label, which automatically appears after each entry is submitted.

Mail entries to Terry Bertling, 15042 Preston Hollow, San Antonio, TX 78247.

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Combined divisions

Featured

All circulation categories compete together.

Headline writing portfolio

A collection of three headlines and accompanying decks by the same writer for feature stories or columns.
First place: Vince Rinehart—The Washington Post
Headlines:
“Upsetting the a la carte,” “They’ll take crushed hopes, Alex,” “Adam Schiff’s toughest script”
Judge’s comments: These entries display wonderful wordplay that capture the stories’ gist without seeming forced. Our favorite on a story about a San Francisco food critic doing things her way: “Upsetting the a la carte.”
Second place: Panfilo Garcia—The Washington Post
Headlines:
“Congress: Hello? Hello? US: smh,” “Nick Cave and the seeds of communion,” “’CMAs cowboys up (again)”
Judge’s comments: Smart, effective headlines that make you think–and smile. Kudos especially for this one: “Nick Cave and the seeds of communion.”
Third place: Thomas Floyd—The Washington Post Express
Headlines:
“A statuette of limitations,” “Old yarn, fresh spin,” “Free Solo’s’ Honnold is staying grounded”
Judge’s comments: Another set of clever headlines that tell the story. Best of the bunch (on a story about attempts to limit Oscar participation): “A statuette of limitations.”
Honorable mention: Joe Stalvey—(Albany, N.Y.) Times Union
Headlines:
“Weather permitting, a chance to soar,” “Some extra legs to break onstage,” “Cannabis’ kin generating its own buzz”
Honorable mention: Mesfin Fekadu—The Associated Press
Headlines:
“Regina is already a King, but what about president?” “Dilemma of having an R. Kelly-penned hit: Sing or sink it?” “The talking dead: Life during and after ‘Game of Thrones’”

Features podcast

The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast. 
First place: Doug Fabrizio, Benjamin Bombard, Tim Slover—RadioWest, “RadioWest”
Judge’s comments: RadioWest uses the audio format expertly to tell a feature story in a way that feels effortless, professional and even comforting. Host Ted Giola is a curious, steady interviewer, the kind you can’t wait to hear take on your favorite notable subject. Listening to the entries submitted reminded one of the best feature stories that peel back the layers of its subject in an intimate way. Every episode felt like a conversation between really smart friends. The Tan France interview was a standout. RadioWest might not use audio in a flashy way, but it is substantive and calmly addictive.
Second place: Noah Rosenberg , Ryan Sweikert—Narratively, “Believable”
Judge’s comments: Believable captures mood and tone in an almost dreamlike way, which gives it an arresting quality. It uses music and atmospheric sound more effectively than any other entry. The concept of Believable and foregrounding of its subjects’ voices also stood out. It was a close call between first and second place; laying out the “nut graf” of the episodes, so to speak, a little more explicitly and immediately would have tipped the judging in this podcast’s favor. That’s ultimately a minor critique, as Believable stood head and shoulders among almost every podcast entry for its excellence in craft and approach to audio storytelling.
Third place: Staff—Syracuse Side Hustles, “Syracuse Side Hustles”
Judge’s comments: “Syracuse Side Hustles” is charming. A fabulous concept executed with lean efficiency. Episodes are quick and to the point, which more podcasts should try to be. The stories it tells feel essential and potentially transformative. Wouldn’t the world be much better if we asked our neighbors what they really cared about?
Honorable mention: Zachary Siegel, Kaitlin Benz, Alexander Charles Adams—Undark, “The Undark Podcast”

Digital innovation

New or improved digital ventures, which can include new or upgraded websites, apps, social-media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world. 
First place: Staff—The Trace, Miami Herald, McClatchy, “Since Parkland”
Judge’s comments: This project – whose centerpiece is a dizzying collection of 1,200 mini-profiles of gun violence victims over the course of a year – works on multiple levels. Instead of retreading the story of Parkland for its anniversary, it tells new stories. In humanizing the victims of under-reported gun crimes, it tells a more nuanced picture of who is affected than the anecdotal or high-profile death. By using more than 200 teen journalists to write those profiles, it makes parallels between the promise of these writers and those that lost their lives at Stoneman Douglas High School. An ambitious, innovative, affecting collaboration.
Second place: Walter Hussman Jr. and Staff—Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “ADG iPad Initiative”
Judge’s comments: This statewide initiative to replace a printed paper Monday to Saturday with a free iPad lease is bold and with potential to meaningfully change the paper’s bottom line. The instructional videos and telephone support line are thoughtful ways to ease less tech-savvy readers through the transition. Note to SFJ heads: The ADG iPad initiative also won 2nd place in the same category last year for essentially the same project. In 2018 it was local, in 2019 they’ve expanded it statewide. But if we have a policy against awarding the same project at different stages, this might be counted out. If so, you can count my third place winner as 2nd place and I don’t have a third place selection.
Third place: Eric Roper, James Lileks, Jeff Hargarten—(Minneapolis) Star Tribune News, “Minneapolis 1907: A guided tour”
Judge’s comments: A community history project that takes a simple concept and uses it to connect people to a shared sense of place through their curiosity.

Notice an error on this page? Email Margaret Myers, mmyers@atlantic57.com, for a correction.

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division III

Featured

DIVISION III | Circulation 200,000 and up

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: The Washington Post
Eighteen awards, including four firsts (Narrative Storytelling, Sports Feature, Headline Writing Portfolio and Special Section), eight seconds (Best Section, Features Digital Presence, Food Writing Portfolio, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, Headline Writing Portfolio, Video Storytelling, Integrated Storytelling and Special Section), four thirds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Food Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Niche Product) one honorable mention (Food Criticism).
Second place: Los Angeles Times
Nine awards, including four firsts (Best Section, Food Criticism, Integrated Storytelling and Diversity in Digital Features), one second (Features Series or Project) and four thirds (Features Series or Project, General Commentary Portfolio, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio and Sports Feature).
Third place: Newsday
Four awards, including two firsts (Features Digital Presence and Niche Product), one second (Food Criticism) and one third (Special Section).

Best section

The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage.
First place: Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments: Wow. Readers of the LA Times get a wow with every section from this paper’s features department so it appears. From the Oscars to a new food section to the 50 songs that best represent LA. Oh, and there’s even a special section all about sneakers – an ode to fashion, footwear and basketball. Even if the full-page, sometimes two full-page, illustrations and photos didn’t capture attention, the witty headlines draw you in. Examples: “New Feats of Creativity” of the sneaker issue and “Unexpected ‘favourite'” and “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? (It’s real)” from the Oscar issue. The writing shows the staff’s expertise without being pretentious. There’s so much to love, whether it’s learning about pastrami fried rice, the 88,224 olives served a year in martinis at the Hollywood restaurant institution turning 100 or what was said backstage on Oscar night. And now a few tears, after the 2019 launch of a$1 billion cruise ship that won’t be sailing anytime soon.
Second place: The Washington Post
Judge’s comments: Build a better mousetrap? No, but you can build a better sandwich and the Post shows you how from the basics including how to protect your bread by toasting one side to adding upscale ingredients such as sriracha to a BLT and mango to your curry chicken salad. The lunch issue has other great info including a taste test of potato chips (Lay’s Kettle wins) and what wines go best with fast food. For travel, you can dog sit in Ecuador and sip wine at the National Portrait Gallery. The sections include excerpts from online discussions with staff and readers. Tips on where to have your first date and your last along with advice on how to get your adult children to financial independence can improve readers’ lives. There’s a reference to a video to help you repot our plants and who doesn’t want to know more about Sally Field, Linda Ronstadt and Sesame Street before the Kennedy Center Honor? I sure did.
Third place: Houston Chronicle
Judge’s comments: The Houston Chronicle gives readers what they need and more. The Renew section introduces them to a fitness club owned by a woman who specializes in weight training, renegade row pushups and where in Houston to kayak or canoe. The section promises a focus on mental health as well. Spend a day with Dexter, a facility dog at a children’s hospital. Learn about the aboriginal art exhibit at the Menil and a great way to cook a steak. The Chronicle’s food and entertainment writing excels. And it is Texas: you can watch a BBQ state of mind podcast and read about how those long lines aren’t a marketing ploy.

Best features digital presence

The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Erica Marcus, Scott Vogel, Corin Hirsch—Newsday, “FeedMe”
Judge’s comments: Comprehensive coverage of a local scene using all the media available in our digital world, from stories to Instagram to an online TV show. That alone would be impressive. Throughout all the content is such a strong sense of place. You feel like you are in the community and can almost taste the flavors (my mouth is still watering from the pastrami story — what lively and evocative writing). Well served!
Second place: Staff—The Washington Post, “Lifestyle”
Judge’s comments: The depth and breadth are hard to match these days. So many topics and takes–you can spend hours reading through Washington Post coverage and never get to it all.

General feature

Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.
First place: Barbara Laker, David Gambacorta, William Bender—The Philadelphia Inquirer, “The Untouchables: Carl Holmes’ alleged sexual misdeeds were well known by Philadelphia police and city officials, but a flawed system shielded him for 15 years.”
Judge’s comments: The Philadelphia Inquirer has done it again: Told a deeply investigated piece (police department higher-ups allegedly sexually abusing multiple younger, female cops) through human storytelling. The interviews and documented evidence alone would have made this worth the read, but hearing much of the story told through the alleged abused women was haunting.
Second place: Tyrone Beason, Erika Schultz, Corinne Chin—The Seattle Times, “Beyond the Border: Asylum seekers in Tijuana”
Judge’s comments: The border wall has been an oft-reported subject in the last several years, but this team of reporters found a way to tell it through another character: Tijuana. The almost-poetic writing, along with the grabbing images and videography, makes this a worthy package.
Third place: Marc Ramirez—The Dallas Morning News, “Half a world away, chance connects strangers linked by an iconic Dallas photo taken the day JFK died”
Judge’s comments: The absolute kismet of this story would have gone viral by itself: The daughter of a woman, the subject of a famed photo after the Kennedy assassination, directing a cruise on which the photographer was vacationing. But the story goes beyond that meeting to tell such a beautiful human story.
Honorable mention: Bill Glauber—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “It’s a struggle … Something is wrong”

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: Vernon Silver—Bloomberg Businessweek, “Rock Riff Rip-Off”
Judge’s comments: This story went from a couple of sentences in a court transcript to a visit to the U.S. Copyright Office to a jam sesh with a colleague. That is some research, and I was glad to be along for the ride.
Second place: Ellie Silverman—The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Bathrooms at ‘Hamilton’: Can 200 women make it through 16 stalls in a 20-minute intermission?”
Judge’s comments: One of those stories that could only be told by someone on the ground. Thank you for finding the characters off “Hamilton’s” well-known stage.
Third place: Emily Yahr—The Washington Post, “Taylor & Kanye: How two superstars, four words and 15 seconds of TV influenced a decade of pop culture”
Judge’s comments: It took smarts to acknowledge the 10-year anniversary of this viral moment. And it took skill to turn that moment into a deep look at a decade of pop culture ups and downs.
Honorable mention: Amy S. Rosenberg—The Philadelphia Inquirer, “A Philly artist created a giant sculpture of his father’s head that disappears with the tides. Imagine his father’s surprise.”

Short feature

Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.
First place: Jen Reeder—Today.com, “Meet the man who fills his home with senior and special needs pets”
Judge’s comments: Great, feel-good story. At only 617 words, it was a joy to read, and the writer did a fantastic job getting in those little details – Tofu the turkey loves Madonna’s music – that give the story depth. Delightful.
Second place: Jessica Goodheart—Capital & Main, “Detroit Women Push Back from the Margins”
Judge’s comments:
This is a constituency that goes unheard all too often. The writer brought us into this woman’s world, providing insight and understanding to an all-too-real problem.
Third place: Laura Coffey—Today.com, “Devoted ‘dance dads’ do it all — even makeup! — to support daughters”
Judge’s comments:
OMG. Dads and daughters are always a reader favorite, and the writer did a wonderful job giving us a peek into how these manly men carry on in a girls’ world.
Honorable mention: Tim Teeman—The Daily Beast, “George Kent and His Bow Tie: The Unlikely Winners of Trump’s Impeachment Hearing”

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: Chris Ip—Engadget, “Impossible Foods’ rising empire of almost-meat”
Judge’s comments:
Painstakingly researched, broadly sourced and deeply engaging look at the way our food landscape is rapidly changing in an era of disruption.
Second place: Debra Utacia Krol—High Country News, Roads & Kingdoms, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, “California’s Forage Wars”
Judge’s comments: A perfect examination of how food, history, politics and sustainability collide in a single community.
Third place: Tim Carman, Shelly Tan—The Washington Post, “Made in America”
Judge’s comments:
The salve for our fractious time. This virtual hug of comfort food for all Americans is beautifully supported with superb photography, video and web design.
Honorable mention: Craig LaBan—The Philadelphia Inquirer, “George Washington’s enslaved chef, who cooked in Philadelphia, disappears from painting, but may have reappeared in New York”

Food criticism

A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry.
First place: Lucas Kwan Peterson—Los Angeles Times, “Review: The Cheesecake Factory is the restaurant America wants, deserves”
Judge’s comments:
It’s a bold restaurant critic who ventures into a Cheesecake Factory, made bolder still by the fact that this one is in swank Beverly Hills. And then Lucas Kwan Peterson couches it all in “the 1986 seminal work ‘The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday.’” This clear front-runner is laugh-out-loud funny, insightful and just a whole lotta fun. I read it three times just because I liked it so much. A triumph!
Second place: Scott Vogel—Newsday, “Mi Viejito Pueblito”
Judge’s comments:
Wonderful. A story and a review, with sly descriptions such as this one, about the quality of a tortilla, “with the softness and spring of Memory Foam.” Or the burrito that ” reacted to my plastic knife as it might a scalpel.” Vogel proves here that he is a true wordsmith.
Third place: Devra First—The Boston Globe, “What is fancy? Who is rich? Zuma blurs the lines”
Judge’s comments:
In this review of an uber-upscale chain Asian restaurant, Devra First uses humor, at times self-deprecating, and throughout devises clever, original descriptions of food that transcend the thesaurus-sourced fodder of many a restaurant review. For example, to describe perfectly-sized bites of nigiri, First writes that they avoid the sensation of “a bear-trying-to-eat-a-whole salmon.” Such a pleasure to read from beginning to end.
Honorable mention: Tim Carman—The Washington Post, “Guy Fieri’s fried chicken stand at FedEx Field is a mess. A tasty mess.”  

Features series or project

Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.
First place: Staff—The Trace, Miami Herald and McClatchy, “Since Parkland”
Judge’s comments:
This vast, in-depth, ambitious entry details the lives of each of 1,200 gun violence victims 18 and under in the one year since the Parkland school killings. The project offers the micro details—and the faces—of each slain child. It also covers the macro details of gun laws across the nation, efforts to make them stricter, and moves that have hampered those efforts. The readers come away heartbroken, enraged, dismayed and far more knowledgeable about the facts.
Second place: Paige St. John—Los Angeles Times, “Man in the Window”
Judge’s comments:
This is the fascinating story of the Golden State Killer who terrorized several neighborhoods with killings, rapes and assaults over decades. It digs deep into the history of the suspect, his early relationships, his wanderings and his eventual arrest. The series includes interviews with witnesses, police officers, and victims still facing trauma from the attacks. It details each brutal attack tied to the suspect and offers a surprising review of how the crime of rape has changed. Each part of the series is riveting.
Third place: Thomas Curwen—Los Angeles Times, “After 9 years on L.A.’s streets, Big Mama needed a home. But it wasn’t that easy”
Judge’s comments:
This long-term investigation focuses on a handful of homeless Los Angeles people who, after snags and waiting, are each given a new start. The reporter spent 18 months getting to know the people relegated to the streets and following their path to gaining shelter. The details are stark and real. Readers are left with hope at some outcomes and frustration at others.
Honorable mention: Stephanie Farr—The Philadelphia Inquirer, “We the People”

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: Stephanie McCrummen—The Washington Post, “The keeper of the secret”
Judge’s comments:
“The Keeper of the Secret” details the quest of 80-year-old John Johnson to identify those responsible for the lynching of an African-American man in Wytheville, Va., in 1926. In this riveting story, Johnson meets with – among other people – a white woman who gives him names, but swears him to secrecy. Johnson, pursuing what Washington Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen calls “his own version of racial reconciliation,” has a quandary. “I’m the keeper of the secret,” Johnson says. “I’ve got the names, and I don’t … know what to do with them before I die.” McCrummen skillfully employs the tools of narrative writing to draw the reader through the story of not only the victim’s brutal murder, but the subtle and overt racism that Johnson has faced in his own life.
Second place: Nestor Ramos—The Boston Globe, “At the Edge of a Warming World”
Judge’s comments:
A subject as broad and as polarizing as climate change is difficult to tell in a way that educates as well as engages the reader. Nestor Ramos of the Boston Globe succeeds in turning the subject into a compelling read by focusing on the personal stories of those along Cape Cod who are dealing with climate change, and adding the science in simple, easy-to-understand language. Readers meet the man who has recorded ocean changes for decades by peering down his arm at his thumb; the scientist who studies the ecological web of the Earth from a marsh on the Massachusetts coastline; the restaurant owner whose livelihood washed away during a storm that years ago would never have touched it; the fishermen, the tourists, the homeowners, and a small shorebird whose journeys are tracked by satellite. Ramos notes, in beautiful words and sentences, the wide scope of climate change, then focuses in on details, such as how building seawalls and jetties to protect individual properties is leading to destruction of the greater area, and gentrification of Cape Cod. “The projects proceed, property by property, pushing the problem downstream, each preserving a small part of the Cape by ruining it, just a little bit, until there’s no beach left.” The simple truth conveyed by this engaging story is, Ramos writes, “The ocean does not negotiate.”
Third place: Doug Bock Clark—GQ, “The American Missionary and the Uncontacted Tribe”
Judge’s comments:
It is hard to beat, for a natural narrative arc, the story of a Christian missionary attempting to convert islanders who live primitive lives protected from the outside world by the government of India. The news was full of John Chau’s illegal visits to Sentinel Island after his body was spotted on the beach. But Doug Bock Clark produced a fascinating, detailed story for GQ that delves into 26-year-old Chau’s motivation and background. Chau survived one attempt to reach the islanders when his waterproof Bible blocked an arrow. The rest of his story is just as dramatic.
Honorable mention: Deborah Barfield Berry, Kelley Benham French—USA Today, “1619: Searching for Answers”

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: Sam Kestenbaum—The New York Times
Judge’s comments:
Deeply reported and well-written profiles of fascinating religious figures. As a collection, they reveal as much about American spirituality as the individuals.
Second place: Jason Nark—The Philadelphia Inquirer
Judge’s comments:
Three stories that paint a vivid picture of a place, and the quirky characters within. These are memorable stories, rich in detail and dialogue.
Third place: Andrea Sachs—The Washington Post
Judge’s comments:
A range of travel stories that are informative and entertaining.

Food writing portfolio

Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic.
First place: Helen Freund—Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times
Judge’s comments:
An interesting mix of topics. Clear, concise writing.
Second place: Tim Carman—The Washington Post
Judge’s comments:
I love the diversity of this portfolio. It’s filled with thought-provoking topics.
Third place: Alison Cook—Houston Chronicle
Judge’s comments: Colorful descriptions make these reviews appealing.
Honorable mention: Megan Giller—Engadget  

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: Jeneé Osterheldt—The Boston Globe
Judge’s comments: Jenee Osterheldt’s voice is unique, powerful and much needed. She uses her lens and platform to move conversations forward and amplify voices and viewpoints that are too-often overlooked or not considered widely. She is able to paint pictures with her words while weaving in lots of details.
Second place (tie): Mark Lamster—The Dallas Morning News
Judge’s comments: Beautiful writing and context elevate these far-from-typical architecture stories. Our favorite reads like a short novel.
Second place (tie): Robin Abcarian—The Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments: A gut-punch in words. Robin Abcarian shares intimate details of her life that feel both personal and universal.
Third place: Andrew Dansby—Houston Chronicle
Judge’s comments: Andrew Dansby writes about music and our heroes with grace and feeling, making the personal universal in stories about the life and death of Daniel Johnston and a Willie Nelson concert. He also makes us (almost) wish to be stuck in traffic for hours, for the collective experience and growth, if nothing else.

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: Jeneé Osterheldt—The Boston Globe
Judge’s comments: In a competitive category, Jenee Osterheldt gets the nod. This is writing from the heart. It’s both painful and poetic, weaving current events, relevant history and the writer’s own unique voice into a final product loaded with passion and power (that doesn’t turn strident). So many lines stick with you: “We dance in the dark between the rhythm of life and the blues of death. We love.”
Second place: Ann Hornaday—The Washington Post
Judge’s comments:
A close, close second. Hornaday writes with authority and precision. Her topics push boundaries that need to be explored, going far beyond the typical movie criticism fare.
Third place: Justin Chang—Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments: “Cats” review was an absolute hoot, even though the movie didn’t meet the same high standards. Strong and decisive writing throughout the three stories.
Honorable mention: Howard Fishman—The New Yorker, Artforum

Sports feature

Feature treatment of any sports topic.
First place: Kent Babb—The Washington Post, “Driven to the End”
Judge’s comments: An engrossing account of an elite athlete driven through life – and ultimately to death. The writer, with meticulous care, paints a devastating picture of a life ended far too prematurely with crushing details of how it all went wrong. Hard to read, but impossible to put down.
Second place: Bill Reader—The Seattle Times, “Pilots shortstop Ray Oyler played only one season in Seattle and batted .165. Why was he so popular?”
Judge’s comments: This was indeed a blast from the past. Digging 50 years into the annals of Seattle baseball, the writer uncovered a sweet tale of one city’s appreciation for one player. It’s a fond reminder of kinder, simpler times.
Third place: Kurtis Lee—Los Angeles Times, “In a neglected cemetery lie black jockeys who helped create the Kentucky Derby”
Judge’s comments:
The kind of story that needs to be told. The writer deftly takes readers to an essential site of horse racing’s past, shining a light on an era that’s too often been ignored.

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—Today.com, “‘Like a dream’: Mom with metastatic breast cancer on outliving her prognosis”
Judge’s comments:
Lushly shot, incredibly intimate portrait of a woman with terminal breast cancer who specializes in nipple tattoos for women with breast reconstructions. Heartbreaking and hopeful – like the best stories always are.
Second place: Allie Caren, Jon Gerberg, Nicki DeMarco—The Washington Post, “One year later: Three generations rooted in Tree of Life”
Judge’s comments: An engaging and fascinating look at three generations of a family impacted by the synagogue shooting. Great sourcing and clip selection.
Third place: Niki Budnick, Danielle Banks, William Jauregui—The Weather Channel Digital, “When Memory Fails”
Judge’s comments: Incredible sourcing on this story – both the experts and the family in the center – make this a jaw-dropping look at the phenomenon of children accidentally left to die in hot cars.
Honorable mention: Staff—Today.com, “Modern Motherhood”

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: Paige St. John, Andrea Roberson, Jessica Perez—Los Angeles Times, “Man in the Window”
Judge’s comments: A comprehensive look at the Golden State Killer that left no multimedia element out – but critically told the most gripping story of an extremely competitive category.
Second place: Staff—The Washington Post, “Altamont ended the ’60s with chaos and death.”
Judge’s comments: Incredible graphics and multimedia elements combined to make this a show-stopper—a deep dive into a well-known but perhaps not well-understood event in history.
Third place: Staff—Erica Pearson—(Minneapolis) Star Tribune News, “The 28-Day Sugar-Free Challenge”
Judge’s comments:
What landed this piece in the winner’s circle was its commitment to creating and sustaining a community outside of its newsroom. While other entries had accompanying podcasts or more sophisticated graphics, this package reached outside of traditional journalistic walls in ways we should all emulate.
Honorable mention: Staff—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and USA Today Network-Wisconsin, “Dairyland in Distress”

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: Jaweed Kaleem—Los Angeles Times, “Sikh drivers are transforming U.S. trucking. Take a ride along the Punjabi American highway”
Judge’s comments: There’s no better metaphor for possibility than driving down the open road, and Jaweed Kaleem captures this brilliantly in his package on Sikh truck drivers and small business owners whose stories are creating vibrant new narratives of American life. This package of stories about life on the interstate–and the tastes of home that drivers get to indulge in along the way–are a reminder of why features storytelling is so vital. Jaweed invites a wider audience to peek inside the heart and soul of this Punjabi American community. In reading this series, we are reminded of our shared humanity.   
Second place: Brian Goldstone—California Sunday Magazine & The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, “3 kids. 2 paychecks. No home.”
Judge’s comments:
Amid a housing crisis that is all too often reported through trends and figures, one thing’s for certain: the human toll of this particular pandemic is best understood through stories like the one of Frankie and his brother and baby sister. Brian Goldstone tenderly narrates this family’s journey with compassion and detail, revealing an honest story about love, sacrifice, and the determination to provide for one’s family. This is the kind of story that shouts for change in a system slanted toward economic inequity, but it does so through adept and masterful storytelling. Paired with Alessandra Sanguinetti’s unwavering photos, “3 kids, 2 paychecks, no home” is an American portrait of our era.
Third place: Ashley Luthern, Angela Peterson—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Cycles of Violence”
Judge’s comments:
This deeply reported feature is a testament to the power of local reporting and storytelling. It is a gut wrenching journey for DeAndre Allen’s mother, and for the families of the men and women whose murders have gone unsolved. Ashley Luthern is skillful at tenderly weaving Allen’s story with the larger issue at play in Milwaukee and its criminal justice system. Angela Peterson’s photos and video are a powerful portrait of grief and hope.
Honorable mention: Staff—Today.com, “Flint residents still reeling from water crisis, 5 years later”

Best special section

The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Staff—The Washington Post, “Prison issue of The Washington Post Magazine”
Judge’s comments:  Important topic with some compelling stories that I simply couldn’t stop reading. Good mix of photos and intriguing artwork.
Second place: Staff—The Washington Post, “The Apollo II: 50th Anniversary Commemorative Section”
Judge’s comments: The writers’ voices on the narrative stories carried this section.
Third place: Staff—Newsday, “Billy Joel at 70”
Judge’s comments: I loved the four-page spread layout and simultaneously was perplexed by how difficult it was to handle physically. In the end, I enjoyed this display and the summary of the Piano Man’s career.
Honorable mention: Tim Campbell, L.A. Johnson—(Minneapolis) Star Tribune News, “Fall Arts: The Changemakers”

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—Newsday, FeedMe
Judge’s comments: FeedMe fed me until I was stuffed with reasons to explore the culinary attractions of Long Island—a place your humble judge had heretofore not associated with culinary attractions. It fills the definition of a niche like a dark cherry pie fills the need for dessert. This is the issue that ends up dog-earred and drawn-butter stained from road trips to oyster bars, farms and clam shacks. Or just pull out the handy guides to ice cream shops or—I believe they’re pronounced “cawffee”—shops. Smart story selection, wonderful photography and layout. I’m not sure how to pronounce “niche” on Long Island—but FeedMe knows how to fill one. Congratulations to Editor Jane Lear and staff.
Second place: Melissa Aguilar, Julie Garcia, Maggie Gordon—Houston Chronicle, Renew Houston
Judges comments: Renew makes you want to get up and do something. Now! C’mon, People! Maybe something you’ve never tried before – maybe something you’d never dreamed of trying before you read it. Get fit, detox, find your purpose, fast your way to fitness, eat your way to fitness. There are profiles and places to go to pursue your newfound passions, recipes – and how to disinfect from floodwaters. Your judge is humbled by your effort, producing this broadsheet every Thursday!
Third place: Staff—The Washington Post, “Dining Guides”
Judges comments: Tom Sietsema offers a bento box of writerly delights in these guides to Washington, D.C., dining. Full credit—in a literal sense—for his intestinal fortitude, reviewing 79(!) restaurants in the October issue alone. (Not to mention more than 9,000 restaurants over 20 years). Here’s hoping the cover’s entered for Best Cover, too, because the image of grilled lobster by Deb Lindsey, styling by Lisa Cherkasky and production by Jennifer Beeson Gregory, made certifiably full people in the judge’s household hungry.

Correction: An earlier reference in the Food Writing Portfolio was incorrect and has been updated to show that Alison Cook (Houston Chronicle) is the sole third place winner.

Notice an error on this page? Email Margaret Myers, mmyers@atlantic57.com, for a correction.

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division II

Featured

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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