The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division I

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DIVISION 1 | Circulation up to 90,000

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 (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
Five awards, including five firsts (General Feature, Food Criticism, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Food Writing Portfolio and Integrated Storytelling).
Second place: The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate/NOLA.com
Six awards, including one first (Niche Product), three seconds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Sports Feature) and two thirds (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Food Writing Portfolio).
Third place: The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Five awards, including one first (Diversity in Digital Features) and four seconds (Best Section, Features Digital Presence, Video Storytelling and Special Section).

Best section

The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage.
First place: Austin American-Statesman
Judge’s comments: These sections stand out because of the eye-popping photos, strong writing and diversity reflecting the community. Plus, there’s so much to love. The Austin360 Dining Guide doesn’t just have one photo per restaurant listing. Several have three or four, giving the dinner guest visual stimulation to go with the tantalizing descriptions. The size makes it convenient to keep and take along later. Not only do you learn the main acts of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, but who’s playing outside of the festival if you want to avoid the crowds. You meet the Fajita King who first commercialized fajitas 50 years ago, and you visit a ranch for a Mexican style rodeo, where charros compete in a charreada.
Second place: The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Judge’s comments: The Colorado Springs Gazette feature sections introduce you to what you must see and do as well as everyday people doing special things. The presentation makes the stories and photos pop off the page and gives readers an easy way to consider what books to read and movies to see. You meet the 100-year-old granny rocking a 5-week-old in the Fort Carson nursery and an 11-year-old struggling to survive cancer. And who can’t relate to that slice of life problem of missing socks?
Third place: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post
Judge’s comments: History dominates the pages of these sections of the Palm Beach Post as readers reflect on their summer of ’69. The Oscar issue takes a look back at native icon Veronica Lake and her lasting legacy. And readers are taken back to the Burt Reynolds Theater’s performances featuring Eartha Kitt and Carol Burnett. It’s all presented clean and crisp to draw readers in.

Best features digital presence

The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Staff, Austin American-Statesman, austin360.com
Judge’s comments: Austin360 offers a thorough look at this city’s vibrant entertainment and food scene. It’s informative, easy to navigate and well written. Bonus points for COVID-19 coverage during the pandemic.
Second place: Staff, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, Out There Colorado
Judge’s comments: An authoritative look at the cool things to do in Colorado, this website is useful and fun. If you’re visiting Colorado, you’ll want to check out this site.

General feature

Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.
First place: Tony Bartelme, Glenn Smith, Lauren Petracca—The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.), “Our Secret Delta: An epic story about power, beauty and how one of South Carolina’s last great places faces new threats”
Judge’s comments: The writing of Tony Bartelme and Glenn Smith, combined with the visuals of Lauren Petracca, create a masterclass in sense of place. Line after line—from the thwack of deerflies on skin at the outset to the twilit grass that puts the story to rest—is vibrant and tactile, in the way that can only be achieved when reporters spend ample time in the field and that serves the story only when they deeply research and care about the setting. Among this brilliant scenery, Bartelme and Smith adeptly weave the environmental, racial and economic histories of South Carolina’s Lowcountry into a tale that feels fluid but never superficial, serious but not cumbersome, and sweeping but deeply human.
Second place: Mark Patinkin—The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal, “Touched by Cancer
Judge’s comments: Mark Patinkin’s writing is accessible and unsparing. His personal portrayal of cancer devastates the reader while revealing abstract medical procedures as vivid and real. The reporting includes interviews with his own children and doctors, evidence of rigor and reflection that elevate this story—unlike any we’ve read before.
Third place: Katie Sullivan Borrelli, Anthony Borrelli—The Ithaca Journal (New York), “Light in the Dark: A beloved trans woman was brutally murdered by her boyfriend. Her story reveals a nationwide problem
Judge’s comments: This retelling of a life lost to domestic violence, compounded by the victim’s transgender identity, moves and informs the reader in a nuanced and respectful way that is worthy of praise. Writers Katie Sullivan Borrelli and Anthony Borrelli ensure that Josie Berrios does not simply become another statistic in a world full of violence against trans women. Her story serves to shed light on a national, complex issue that these writers handle with care.
Honorable mention: Marc Lester—Anchorage Daily News “A day in the life of a United States senator: Lisa Murkowski

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: Gillian Friedman—Deseret News, “Hallmark is making Hanukkah movies this year. I’m Jewish, and I’m not excited about it”
Judge’s comments: The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are a cliche of the season, so we found Gillian Friedman’s take–as a Jewish viewer–to be refreshing. The personal column about two Hanukkah/Christmas movies was well-written and provided a thought-provoking cultural take.
Second place: Keith Spera—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com, “Dr. John achieved greatness only after getting sober with the help of a friend and manager”
Judge’s comments: Writer Keith Spera took the opportunity of a high-interest obit to tell the fascinating backstory of New Orleans legend Dr. John’s sober journey. This was well-written and with a wealth of detail and local color.
Third place: Jennifer Tormo—225 Magazine, “Life in the Fast Laine”
Judge’s comments: This profile of “American Idol” winner Laine Hardy was a pleasure to read. Nice storytelling, polished writing and good turns of phrase by Jennifer Tormo.
Honorable mention: Rachel Gallaher—Gray Magazine, “A Modern Medici”

Short feature

Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.
First place: Amaris Castillo—The Lowell (Mass.) Sun, “With every step, joy”
Judge’s comments: This story is lovely, and we continue to be astonished by its dual nature: simple yet complex. It is the story of two people walking, but it is so much more. We learn about a lifetime of love and obstacles and heartache in a relatively short read. There is nothing sappy or cloying in this piece. It just is. It made my heart ache, and it made my heart soar. It’s a gift.
Second place: Leigh Hornbeck—(Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “’Kissed by fire’: Local redheads meet ‘Game of Thrones’ author”
Judge’s comments:
How can any one not love a story that references Alan Moore and George R.R. Martin? We have a weakness for redheads and “Game of Thrones” (who doesn’t?) and were totally charmed by this story.
Third place: Riley Bienvenu—inRegister Magazine, “Pig Paradise”
Judge’s comments:
The subject of the story had me at hello. I must admit that I don’t think a lot about pigs, but this story has changed me – permanently. It’s a notable example of turning something that might be described as “quiet” into a very fun story.
Honorable mention: Liane Faulder—Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “A beloved spot for ladies-who-lunch shuts down in Edmonton”

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 Malloy—Phoenix New Times, “Lightning in the Hand: An Apache Leader Hunts for the Past to Nourish the Future”
Judge’s comments:
Chris Malloy’s writing is compelling and storytelling at its best, from a wonderful lede to vivid descriptions of what it takes to hunt and kill woodrats to skillfully capturing the voice of life on an Indian reservation.
Second place: Micah Castelo—Rooted, “An Inside Look at Home Canners Who Preserve by their Own Rules”
Judge’s comments: Micah Castelo offers an interesting and well-researched perspective of what it is to be in the shoes of rebel canners. The narrative is smooth and weaves in facts and figures without missing a beat.
Third place: Katelyn Weisbrod—The Daily Iowan, “2 years ago, she was pre-med at the UI. Now she’s running her own farm.”
Judge’s comments:
In a clean and efficient way, Katelyn Weisbrod conveys the challenges that first-generation farmers face in Iowa. The graphic adds an informative layer to the story.
Honorable mention: Emily Wolfe—Mountain Outlaw, “Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard Thinks Food Could Save the Planet”

Food criticism

A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry.
First place: Hanna Raskin—The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Malagon serves marvelous food to those allowed into downtown Charleston restaurant”
Judge’s comments:
Imagine reviewing a restaurant where you haven’t eaten. Hanna Raskin’s account of her efforts to crack into a Charleston restaurant that had warned her not to come is filled with bright writing and laudable restraint. Striking moment: While a review always reflects the perspective of the critic who wrote it, he or she is just an emissary of the people who have to think twice before plunking down $100 for dinner on a random Tuesday night.
Second place: Susie Davidson Powell—(Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “ca.1883 Tavern at the Stewart House in Athens”
Judge’s comments:
Susie Davidson Powell’s review transports the reader to right to the seasonal table of this restaurant with fabulous descriptions framed with just enough restaurant/chef context to follow along.
Third place: Matthew Odam—Austin American-Statesman “Comedor’s sophistication unmatched in Austin’s Mexican dining scene”
Judge’s comments:
Matthew Odam’s review deftly translates the dining experience at this Spanish restaurant for the uninitiated.

Features series or project

Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.
First place: Marisa Kwiatkowski—The Indianapolis Star, “Ashley’s Story: Her foster home seemed perfect. It held a dark secret.”
Judge’s comments:
Wow. Marisa Kwiatkowski takes what could have been a run-of-the-mill story about a young woman’s struggles and turns it into a sometimes beautiful, oftentimes troubling five-part series you won’t soon forget. It’s an exhaustive (but not exhausting) look at a young woman coming to terms with an abusive childhood and trauma throughout her life. The series is painstakingly reported, even though there are barriers at every turn, including a main character who disappears for months at a time. But it all pays off in this no-holds-barred series that is harrowing, heartbreaking and, in the end, a little bit hopeful. It’s a sweeping tale that you won’t soon forget.
Second place: Tony Plohetski—Austin American-Statesman, “19 Days”
Judge’s comments:
Tony Plohetski does a magnificent job of recreating “19 Days” in which Austin, Texas, law enforcement worked to stop a serial bomber from terrorizing the city. Exhaustive reporting leads to a detail-filled account of the bombings and their aftermath. It’s a not-often-seen look inside the investigation process, with superb writing and some compelling audio, also.
Third place: Staff—Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “ADG Pages from the Past Project”
Judge’s comments:
When the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette turned 200, they celebrated in a big way–a 200-day series looking at a historical front page every day. But this was more than just reproductions, which are fascinating on their own. They were accompanied by essays that analyzed the news of the day, leading to a wonderful history of the past 200 years. All centennial and bicentennial celebrations should be this well done.
Honorable mention: Janine Zeitlin, Amanda Inscore—The News-Press/Naples (Fla.) Daily News, “Forsaken: Anber’s Story”

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: G. Wayne Miller—The Providence (R.I.) Journal “Redemption”
Judge’s comments:
This reads like a crafted piece of work — in form, function and emotional aptitude. The writing is nice, but it’s the storytelling that sells it so well as we discover how a man’s life led to a fateful moment.
Second place: Alexandra Becker—TMC Pulse, “Saving Officer Barnes”
Judge’s comments:
Wonderful writing. Great detail and scene building. There are times you feel like you were part of a tragedy that you’re so thankful you didn’t have to experience.
Third place: Devon Heinen—New Statesman America, “Life after Parkland”
Judge’s comments:
What makes this story work is how the writer uses the tangents of grief mixed with daily life to illustrate the bizarre experience of trying to parent and deal with your grief while the nation is watching every move you make.
Honorable mention: Jesse Hyde—Deseret News, “A nun, a shooting and the unlikely legacy that could save the Amazon rainforest”

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
Judge’s comments:
Beautiful writing and moving, well-researched storytelling. Telling stories of our community that make a difference is what the best of features journalism does, and this writer does it extremely well. The assisted suicide saga had me literally weeping.
Second place: Doug MacCash—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments:
With great ledes that hook you right away and interesting bits tucked in throughout the stories, you come away feeling like you know these people, their way of life and the city they live in.
Third place: Keith Spera—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments:
Music writer Keith Spera examines the life and legacy of three giants of the New Orleans music scene who died in 2019. The writer moved well beyond the basic obit to tell the story of someone’s life. We liked the three different approaches.

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
Judge’s comments:
Hanna Raskin goes deep in her coverage of food and culture. She delivers a history lesson on the role of restaurants in the civil rights movement for those too young to have lived it, and delivers some unexpected pleasures in her story about an unusual niche in pop culture: prison DIY birthday cakes. Her stories are timely, well reported and expertly written.
Second place: Suzy Leonard—Florida Today
Judge’s comments:
Suzy Leonard speaks for residents of Brevard County in her restaurant scene coverage that spans the complicated place for dogs in restaurants, Florida’s evolving peach industry and even the are-we-cool-enough longing for a Trader Joe’s of their own.
Third place: Ian McNulty—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments: Ian McNulty oozes NOLA in his dissertation about tea vs. sweet tea, the father-son bond of a tortilleria dream and the joy that comes with the return of a favorite pub.

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: Mary C. Curtis—CQ Roll Call
Judge’s comments: Wonderful work by a writer who uses great reporting, combined with thoughtful perspective, to create work that makes readers think and feel. No ego-driven tricks as she allows her work to speak for itself.
Second place: Andrea Brown—The (Everett, Wash.) Daily Herald
Judge’s comments: A wonderful example of work that captures the heart and soul of a community. Wonderful piece on a street musician who found redemption.
Third place: Ashley Sexton Gordon—inRegister Magazine
Judge’s comments: Such clarity and voice in her pieces, she builds an intimacy with her readers.

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: Court Mann—Deseret News
Judge’s comments: Slick and sassy on the surface, Court Mann’s takes on pop culture could be dismissed as shallow. (Can we please all agree on Seth Rogen’s hotness?) But Mann reaches for deeper truths here, like the value of interdependence in contemporary music, and the way women pop stars are consistently underestimated for what they bring to the table. These are well-crafted, highly digestible columns.
Second place: Jackson Arn—The Forward
Judge’s comments:
Though they’re aimed at a niche audience, Jackson Arn’s pieces pique broader interest with sharp cultural takes that display a subtle intelligence. His takedown of Daniel Mendelsohn speaks eloquently to what good criticism should achieve—going beyond a simple thumbs up or down to evoke what a particular work of art might have to say about society and the human condition.
Third place: Tracey O’Shaughnessy—(Waterbury, Conn.) Republican-American
Judge’s comments: Tracey O’Shaughnessy’s scholarly takes on art and history don’t merely respect her reader’s intelligence. They demand it—a precious rarity in the newspaper world. Yet they never talk down.
Honorable mention: Talya Zax—The Forward

Sports feature

Feature treatment of any sports topic.
First place: Jennifer Graham—Deseret News “Inside the mind of the man who keeps Tom Brady in the game”
Judge’s comments: The lede hooks you (“… these are the hands that massage Tom Brady. These hands.”) and the story keeps you there. Jennifer Graham goes beyond what can be the usual sports territory — how does a trainer keep Tom Brady going physically, although we learn about that, too — to deliver a deeper profile. A model for anyone trying to capture the essence of a person.
Second place: Doug MacCash—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com “Saints superfan has 64 players’ autographs tattooed on body: Brees, Kamara, Gleason, even Gayle Benson”
Judge’s comments: So many details woven throughout enrich Doug MacCash’s story of a Saints superfan and prove what we know to be true: Everyone has an interesting tale to tell. Some nice writing throughout, including this imagery: In time, his back has become like the bottom of the U.S. Constitution, a selection of important though largely illegible scribbles. He wears a custom-made jersey with a transparent back made from a clear shower curtain, to let his collection shine through. He calls himself the “Signature Saint.”
Third place: Anna Kayser—The Daily Iowan “Tom Brands leads through accountability in the Iowa wrestling room”
Judge’s comments:
Anna Kayser gets past the corny cliches (and the ones just corny enough) to profile a storied wrestling program and the coach who sets the tone and the standards, on and off the mat. We get a clear picture of a coach and man who walks the walk and does not let down his athletes, who are not yet grown up when they come to him.
Honorable mention: Jeff Mills (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record “A&T’s Kayla White Uses Dancer’s Precision to Create Art of Speed”

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: Madeline Powell, Kayla Thomas—The Fall Workshop 2019 | Syracuse University, “Beyond My Reflection”
Judge’s comments:
Visually this video was a stunner. And the filmmaker weaved all the components–including gorgeous b-roll–into a tight feature package. As viewers, we are treated to the awesome dance moves of the soloist, who doubles as a creative way to move the narrative along. Very well done!
Second place: Katie Klann—The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “The Time We Shared”
Judge’s comments: The filmmaker is a talented storyteller. This lovely vignette is well-paced and weaves nicely the dual themes of an artist’s passion and love and loss.

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: Tony Bartelme—The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “The AGEs Puzzle”
Judge’s comments: AGEs – what a fascinating topic! Well written, engaging, informative, educational. Tony Bartelme Breaks down a difficult topic, digests it and serves it up to readers in terms they can easily understand. That’s good writing! Video supported the topic well.
Second place: Staff—Florida Today, “Apollo 11 50th anniversary coverage”
Judge’s comments: The Apollo 11 50th anniversary story invoked awe and pride – to think what the men and women at NASA did with such rudimentary equipment (compared to now) is absolutely incredible. The film captures all of it. Watching the faces of the ground crew during moon takeoff really showed the concern they had for a successful launch. The malady called “Apollo 11 disease” was an interesting element to add. The advancer about the 1960s-themed party was fun.
Third place: Staff—The Rooted, “This Instagrammer is Turning Road Kill into Leather Goods”
Judge’s comments:
This story about a woman who is a homesteader was fascinating. To live off the land and put roadkill to good use by tanning hides and making a multitude of leather items is fascinating. A totally great online presence. Well written and informative.
Honorable mention: Cody Duty, Britni McAshan—TMC Pulse, “Curated: The Intersection of Arts and Medicine”

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: Seth Boster—The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette “Lost and found at the auction
Judge’s comments: Reporter Seth Boster found love–and two charming characters–in an unexpected place. A greatly enjoyable read!
Second place: Mike Fisher—UMagazine, “How do we protect the most vulnerable?”
Judge’s comments:
A thorough and well-researched overview of an important issue—this is a great example of how to localize an international story.

Best special section

The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Rebecca Vaughan, Staff—Palm Beach (Fla.) Post “Palm Beach County 2030”
Judge’s comments: A clear winner: solid writing, easy-to-use graphics, great photography and an appealing layout.
Second place: Staff—The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Colorful Colorado”
Judge’s comments: The Gazette has much to work with on this topic and makes the most of it. The written profiles bring the characters and places to life, and the photography more than adequately captures the scenery.
Third place: Staff—(Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, “Veterans section”
Judge’s comments: The appealing layout and great content selection for the two-page spread give this section a slight edge.
Honorable mention: Greg Lovett, Rebecca Vaughan—The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post “Up Above Palm Beach County”

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: Karen Taylor, Andrea Daniel, Annette Sisco—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com, “InsideOut”
Judge’s comments: This section offers useful–and sometimes unusual–tips on home decor, gardening and real estate. The writing is lively and informative. We especially loved the tour of some of New Orleans’ secret gardens. And the regular feature called Cool Stuff, which showcases local treasures, is a must-read for shopaholics.
Second place: Features staff—(Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Upstate Magazine”
Judges comments: This well-done magazine showcases the offerings of upstate New York. The Family Vacations issue offered tons of ideas for quick get-aways, and the Best Of edition is a wealth of information.

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

2020 conference canceled—and other updates from our president

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Hello everyone. I want to share some updates for SFJ 2020, but first, I want to say thank you.

THANK YOU.

For all the hard work you’re doing to keep your newsrooms together, even while apart, to inform readers, to take care of yourselves and your families.

What we do is more important than ever—and our industry is more fragile than ever, it seems. But we persist, and we do it together.

Earlier this month, the board met (via Zoom, of course) and voted to cancel this year’s conference in October. We are sad that we won’t get to gather in person—there is such power in our group and its energy. We don’t know what the world is going to look like in the next few months, or what newsroom budgets will look like by October, and it was the best decision we could make with what we know right now.

But that doesn’t mean 2020 is a wash for SFJ. As we navigate the new working remotely realities and the challenges and stress of covering the pandemic, we’ll be holding virtual seminars, training sessions, and happy hours. We’ll also use our members listserv to continue to list available journalism jobs and continue our mission to connect people—which is more important than ever.

So, there’s never been a more important time to be a member—and now it’s free! Here are the details:

ICYMI: We are making membership free for 2020.

Usually March and April are membership drive months. If you’re a current member, you will remain one for another year without renewing, and new members can join. We will spread the word—our organization is not just for features journalists. We are to open everyone, again, at no cost for 2020. (We will take membership donations if anyone wants to give something.) Please share the link from our website with others who might want to join: https://featuresjournalism.org/membership/how-to-join/

We will meet virtually.

We’re planning a series of Zoom/Google Hangouts/webinars. Some will have speakers and topics; some will be more casual, chances to connect with no agenda beyond hanging with people who get it. We hosted our first one with Poynter’s Al Tompkins, who shared 20 pandemic ideas in 20 minutes. We’ll send out announcements on the listserv and via our social media, so fund us and follow us.

We want to know what you want.

Look for a Google form in the next few weeks. We want to know what topics you are interested in, and we want to share your successes and good ideas.

Contest judging started April 1. 

Thanks to Jim Haag for all his hard work organizing this year’s Excellence-in-Features Awards. So many great entries! Judges have about a month, and winners will be announced in June.

— Sharon Chapman, Features editor at the Austin American-Statesman

Deadline extended! SFJ Excellence-in-Features contest knows you need more time

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Update: The new deadline for the contest is March 7, our final extension!

———————

The 32nd 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 2020.

All entries – other than those in the Best Features Digital Presence category – must have been published in print or online between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019.

First-place winners in each category will receive $300. Winners will be announced in June and honored at SFJ’s national conference in St. Petersburg, Fla., in October.

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. The deadline for entries is Feb. 22, 2020.

For questions, contact the contest co-chairs:
* Jim Haag, retired features editor at The Virginian-Pilot, 757.639.2675, visitwithjim@gmail.com.
* Sharon Chapman, features editor at the Austin American-Statesman, 512.445.3647, schapman@statesman.com

CATEGORIES

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 on 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 Features 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 Features Podcast
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast. One entry consists of links to three podcast episodes 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 2019 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 Jim Haag, SPJ-SFJ Contest 2019, 4967 Cinder Cone Drive, Victor, ID 83455. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15, 2020.

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 Jim Haag, SPJ-SFJ Contest 2019, 4967 Cinder Cone Drive, Victor, ID 83455. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15, 2020.

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 2019 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 Jim Haag, SPJ-SFJ Contest 2019, 4967 Cinder Cone Drive, Victor, ID 83455. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 15, 2020.

023 Finest in Features Sweepstakes Awards
This award honors three publications in each circulation category that garner the most awards in the other 22 categories. No entry is necessary. Instead, points are assigned for each of the other winning entries, and the publications with the highest number of points receive the sweepstakes awards.

About SFJ’s annual Excellence-in-Features awards honoring storytellers

Featured

awards

For more than three decades, the Society for Features Journalism has honored the best in features storytelling and design with the annual SFJ Excellence-in-Features Awards.

Though the contest categories have evolved through the years, the mission has remained the same: To highlight the writers and storytellers who strive to portray and preserve a slice of today’s culture.

The SFJ contest also awards $300 to first-place winners — a rarity in journalism contests.

For details on how to enter the 2020 SFJ contest, follow the first item under the “SFJ Contest” tab or go to featuresjournalism.org/2020/01/08/sfj-excellence-in-features-contest-adds-2-categories-including-podcast.

Good luck!

Winners of 2018 SFJ Excellence-in-Features Awards!

Featured

Certificate

2018 SOCIETY FOR FEATURES JOURNALISM
EXCELLENCE-IN-FEATURES AWARDS

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 20 categories.
First place: NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune
Seven awards, including five firsts (Best Features Digital Presence, Feature Series or Project, Integrated Storytelling, Diversity in Digital Features and Best Niche Product) and two thirds (General Feature and Food Feature).
Second place: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post
Six awards, including two firsts (Best Special Section and Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio) and four thirds (Best Special Section, Narrative Storytelling, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and A&E Commentary Portfolio).
Third place: The (Colorado Springs) Gazette
Four awards, including two firsts (Best Section and Best Special Section) and two seconds (Short Feature and Sports Feature).

BEST SECTION
The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage.
First place: The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call
Judge’s comments: Wonderful, eye-popping designs make these sections memorable. As so do timely and lively topics and spectacular writing. And don’t forget the clever headlines, including “Second, Best,” a great take on the “La La Land”/”Moonlight” fiasco at the Oscars. It all combines to make these sections shine.
Second place: The (Colorado Springs) Gazette
Judge’s comments: Striking designs – including a fun spread on pen pals – are the hallmark of these award-worthy sections. They feature a nice mix of local and national topics, and they are tightly and brightly written.
Third place: (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union
Judge’s comments: Some fine, fun sections with excellent design – check out the beautiful package on heirloom apples. The sections do a great job of speaking to local audiences.
Honorable mention: Edmonton (Canada) Journal

BEST FEATURES DIGITAL PRESENCE
The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Where NOLA Eats: New Orleans Food and Dining Coverage, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, Todd A. Price, Ann Maloney and Brett Anderson
Judge’s comments: NOLA.com knows food, and it’s extremely apparent that this culinary team are the experts when it comes to food and dining in New Orleans – and readers tap into that on multiple platforms. In this digital age of trying to marry Facebook and the print product, “Where NOLA Eats” has a creative strategy that clearly pays off.
Second place: CraftsmanshipQuarterly.net, Craftsmanship Quarterly, Todd Oppenheimer and Gaynor Strachan Chun, Craftsmanship Quarterly, “How the Principles of Craftsmanship Can Inform Our Lifestyle Choices and Create a World Built to Last”
Judge’s comments: Beautiful storytelling. Each medium – the stories, photos and videos – showcases the subject expertly while stirring nostalgic memories and giving readers an “I want more” feeling. These stories are addicting.

GENERAL FEATURE
Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.
First place: Greg Stanley, Naples (Fla.) Daily News, “1,100 Miles: Discovering Florida’s Hidden Trail”
Judge’s comments: This story – following a hiker along a daunting trail in Florida – stood out for its graceful writing, for its strong sense of place and for a journey that never felt exhausting or plodding.
Second place: Lindsay Moore, Phoenix New Times, “Refusing to Drown Her Sorrow”
Judge’s comments: A terrible accident. A mother’s determination. A promising treatment. It adds up to a compelling read.
Third place: Jed Lipinski, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Justice for Danny”
Judge’s comments: This man’s story – a small-town pharmacist who goes after his son’s killer – is pretty incredible, showing how he channeled his pain into a life of purpose.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.
First place: Liane Faulder, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “Broadway-Bound Show Hits the Stage at The Citadel with Hadestown Debut”
Judge’s comments: The writer might not agree with this assessment, but there’s some irreverence here, and that’s what makes this story so enjoyable. A lesser writer would have built this story around the celebration of the accomplishment that Broadway came calling to Canada’s middle section. But the irreverence is that this story lets the reader in on the secret that Edmonton’s theater scene is better than
you think it is – and worthy of Broadway’s attention. That vibe starts with the first sentence and doesn’t die until the final punctuation point. Along the way, the writing is easy to read with a voice of life and purpose.
Second place: Amy Biancolli, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “On Music, Race History and ‘The Closet’”
Judge’s comments: Let’s applaud this writer for being myopic. For deciding that this story didn’t need to have a laborious nut graph explaining how this tale relates to America’s great shame or to have a stilted section that forcefully runs through a history of segregation and tangentially ties this tale to it. Let’s applaud the decision to simply tell a man’s story and to let the subtext or quick phrases handle the connective tissue of history. Yes, let’s applaud, because it was a wonderful read of historical importance that could have been forgotten or ignored – or worse yet, written like a “news” story.
Third place: Simi Horwitz, Film Journal International, “Risk-Takers: Middle Eastern Filmmakers Defy Danger to Capture the Region’s Turmoil”
Judge’s comments: It’s nice when stories help readers understand the inspiration behind art or the motivation to create and tell stories. And this feature does that quite well, while reminding us that art as rebellion doesn’t just have to be a video by a pop star who’s feeling saucy. The story is written well and sourced expertly.
Honorable mention: Dawn Kane, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, “Photographer Carol Highsmith’s Work for Library of Congress is Her Calling”

SHORT FEATURE
Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.
First place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs) Gazette, “Snow Man”
Judge’s comments: This story of a sweet man captured his sense of isolation as well as his sense of purpose. Nice job painting a picture of solitary, remote living without overly romanticizing it. Measured, smooth writing.
Second place: Andrea Brown, The (Everett, Wash.) Daily Herald, “Some Dos (and Don’ts) for the POTUS: Local Barbers, Hairdressers Offer Style Ideas for Trump’s Hair”
Judge’s comments: Great idea – to have locals give style tips to the president – offered in a sense of fun and even acknowledging the haters who will protest. Loved the range of hairdressers and their honest curiosity about what makes the president’s hair so bad and helpful ideas for how to fix it.
Third place: Connor Sheets, The Birmingham (Ala.) News/AL.com, “How a Former Sharecropper in an SUV Helped Drive Doug Jones to Victory in Alabama’s Black Belt”
Judge’s comments: This was a perfect subject for a short piece – a zoomed-in look at a fervent volunteer for Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones. She shows her passion and persistence in a story that moved along nicely.
Honorable mention: Emma Graney and Juris Graney, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “Dear Canada: We Just Became Two of Your Newest Citizens. Thank You.”

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.
First place: Ian McNulty, The New Orleans Advocate, “At the Stand-Up Oyster Bars of New Orleans, the Best Seats in the House Aren’t Seats”
Judge’s comments: What a story! This tale about the lack of seats at Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House is compelling, with a grabby lede and simple and direct writing that is sprinkled with evocative images.
Second place: Tim Ebner, Eater, “The Cult of Crystal Hot Sauce”
Judge’s comments: A well-told tale on a surprising subject. This story – about how New Orleans’ cayenne condiment conquered America – features captivating writing and shows that the writer has a keen ear for dialogue and killer quotes. The backstory is just enough to flesh out the tale without overwhelming it. Highly readable, and extremely engaging.
Third place: Todd A. Price, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Café Henri Retools: How to Run a Restaurant When Your Neighbors Are AirBnBs”
Judge’s comments: Starting the story with a failing restaurant made for a fresh take on food writing – and a compelling lede. The piece follows the owners of Café Henri as they revamp their business to meet a growing AirBnB clientele in the neighborhood. Revealing how the restaurant retooled its services made for not only interesting reading but also a cautionary note for others in the food business.

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT
Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.
First place: Brett Anderson, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “John Besh Restaurants Fostered Culture of Sexual Harassment, 25 Women Say”
Judge’s comments: Anderson’s in-depth reporting on the charges of sexual harassment at Chef John Besh’s restaurant group went above and beyond typical coverage for a dining critic. More than eight months of interviews and research went into the piece, which was well-sourced with personal stories, national experts and responses from Besh and his managers. These pieces told the story fairly, without
drama or sentimentality, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions to the veracity of the speakers on both sides.
Second place: Paul Grondahl, Anja Adriaans and Marco Cilissen, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Albany, Nijmegen Bond Celebrates 70th Anniversary”
Judge’s comments: These stories on the 70-year bond between the sister cities of Albany, N.Y., and the Dutch city of Nijmegen encapsulate World War II history, a heartfelt friendship marked by shipments from Albany’s citizens to the war-ravaged city, return gifts of tulip bulbs and a personal tale of a fine pair of shoes given to a Dutch teen. Timed to run before Albany’s annual Tulip Fest, the extensive interviews
and research give the reader much more than a typical preview.
Third place: Tracy O’Shaughnessy, (Waterbury, Conn.) Republican-American, “The Lost Arts”
Judge’s comments: This series goes beyond the basic tales of trades that are being lost to a digital era and a disposable consumer mindset. Each of O’Shaughnessy’s stories gives her readers deeply personal portraits of the artists – from their earliest years, through training and opening a business, to the dismal future with which they are left. Great details about workspaces, personalities and craftsmanship.

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: Danny Wicentowski, (St. Louis) Riverfront Times, “The Final Flight of Martin McNally”
Judge’s comments: Writer Wicentowski clearly built a relationship of trust with his subject, which resulted in an extremely detailed and vivid depiction of an event that took place more than 40 years ago. The story was full of suspense, intrigue and narrative arcs.
Second place: Ken Fine, (Durham, N.C.) Indy Week, “A Requiem for David McKnight: Prodigy, Journalist, Politician, Homeless Street Musician”
Judge’s comments: Well-written and full of details.
Third place: Pat Beall, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “A World With No Floor”
Judge’s comments: In this vividly written tale, Beall takes readers through her personal journey of sexual abuse as a child with the help of imagery and poetic turns of phrase. And she backs up her story with details from the outside world.
Honorable mention: Yereth Rosen, (Anchorage) Alaska Dispatch News, “Amid Deep Grief, Remembering Jack Cooper’s Joyous Life”

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: Larry Aydlette, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post
Judge’s comments: Aydlette has a great eye for stories that flesh out the unique histories that give the area its personality. Kudos for the extensive research and attention to details.
Second place: Dawn Kane, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record
Judge’s comments: Loved the subjects – great variety and great people you wouldn’t know without the reporter writing about them. Nice touch of humor, particularly in the piece about the fashion designer.
Third place: Liz Balmeseda, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post
Judge’s comments: The story choices were great, and the writer used perfect details to convey her subjects’ personalities.

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: Ed Hardin, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record
Judge’s comments: Hardin’s thoroughly reported and beautifully written work is a delight. In one column, you can hear the zoom of race-car driver Richard Petty’s engine; in another, you can hear the water lapping during an Easter morning fishing trip. The piece on the boyhood home of Andrew Jackson was insightful, thought-provoking and skillfully done. An especially impressive amount of reporting is
exhibited in each piece. There’s no substitute for feet on the street, and it seems as though Hardin must wear out plenty of shoe leather on the job.
Second place: Andrea Brown, The (Everett, Wash.) Daily Herald
Judge’s comments: Brown’s work takes readers both back in time and to the party. Brilliant writing brings her subjects to life. Each piece is a lesson, a backstage pass or a time machine – what a treat for readers.
Third place: Ian McNulty, The New Orleans Advocate
Judge’s comments: Rich, riveting reporting makes these columns delectable. Food writer McNulty puts readers at the bar, at the table, at the food court – wherever he is. Reading his columns feels like dining with a friend.

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: Keith Spera, The New Orleans Advocate
Judge’s comments: Similar to the adage “all politics is local,” music writer Spera finds hometown dimensions in a visit by perhaps the world’s biggest band, U2. Spera nails his twin roles as reporter and critic with authority, unfussy writing and an eye for telling detail.
Second place: Simi Horwitz, Film Journal International
Judge’s comments: Horwitz’s writing is rich in cinema history. As she describes certain films, you’ll feel the yen to discover them for yourself – a solid measure of success for a critic.
Third place: Leslie Gray Streeter, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post
Judge’s comments: It’s one thing for a writer to have the guts to insert her personal history into a feature story, but to do so in service of a meaningful idea, as Streeter manages to do quite effectively, is another trick altogether.

SPORTS FEATURE
Feature treatment of any sports topic.
First place: Stephanie Earls, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Frigid Fishing”
Judge’s comments: Writer Earls combines humor and vivid imagery in this riveting fish-out-of-water take on ice fishing. Consider this description: “All around us, the ice emits strange bangs and snaps, the sound of glacial chiropractics as it readjusts atop the 175-acre reservoir.” Bonus points for having to take notes in minus-15-degree weather.
Second place: Keith Spera, The New Orleans Advocate, “Dear London: The Saints Are Coming. Brace Yourselves Accordingly.”
Judge’s comments: Our accent! Our football obsession! Our “Who Dat?” When the New Orleans Saints went to London to play football against the Miami Dolphins, writer Spera thought we owed the British an explanation. So he wrote a letter. It’s perfect.
Third place: Ed Hardin, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, “Richard Petty Turns 80: The King and I”
Judge’s comments: This distinctive personal tribute to an aging race-car-driving icon is capped by a moving conclusion.
Honorable mention: Jennifer Sheehan, The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call, “Marathoner Reaches Finish Line”

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: Todd A. Price, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Meet the 2017 James Beard Award Nominees”
Judge’s comments: This entry is proof that you don’t need an entire team of video editors and digital design mavens to pull off something special. The tightly edited chef videos were the perfect complement to tight Q&As that whet the reader’s appetite for more.
Second place: Staff, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, High School Musical Theatre Awards Coverage
Judge’s comments: Smart layering of live social media coverage with all the trimmings of a special community-driven event. This is a coverage model for other large-scale events.
Third place: Staff, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record, National Folk Festival Coverage
Judge’s comments: Comprehensive coverage of a multi-faceted event – these pieces allow readers to delve as deeply into the topic as their interest takes them.

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: Ann Maloney, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “New Orleans-Area Muslims Invite Community to Share Nightly Ramadan Feast”
Judge’s comments: It’s impossible to talk – or write – about diversity in a community without considering its culinary contribution. Writer Maloney immerses herself in the thing that is most important to our food – tradition. By examining Ramadan iftar foods, traditional Asian foods and something as simple as common beach-street foods from the Caribbean, she transports readers to other places, and, at
the same time, gives us a snapshot of what’s happening in our own backyards. Her writing is lively and charming. Well done.
Second place: Jennifer Sheehan, The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call, A Look at Families Dealing with Autism
Judge’s comments: Few health issues are as perplexing as autism. Writer Sheehan examines one element – animation and communication – and writes in a compelling way about the difficulties faced by families affected by autism and the sheer joy that can come from something as simple as hearing your child sing “Frozen” songs or seeing them express emotion by falling in love with a slick red car.
Third place: Paula Simons, Clare Clancy and Mark Iype, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “On Point: Fifty Years Ago, Canada Changed its Immigration Policy and in Doing So Changed the Face of This Country”
Judge’s comments: These pieces look at the timely issue of immigration and consider it from the full spectrum of policies, places and people. The human stories are compelling, and it’s easy to imagine what those first cold winters must have been like for Canada’s new immigrants.

BEST SPECIAL SECTION
The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Staff, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “Hurricane Irma: Surviving the Monster Storm” 
Judge’s comments: This special section stands out for the careful documentation of a natural disaster that made history. The section captures the drama and tragedy of Hurricane Irma through vivid photography and thorough reporting. The Page 3 maps – which detail information about the storm – were particularly well done. This special section provided a great service to the newspaper’s readers, some of whom will surely save it for posterity.
Second place: Staff, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Colorful Colorado”
Judge’s comments: Beautifully written and photographed, this special section does its job of making readers want to visit these lesser-known places in “Colorful Colorado.”
Third place: Staff, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “Eclipse Extra”
Judge’s comments: Palm Beach Post staff members demonstrated that they can consistently produce eye-catching special sections with this preview of the total eclipse.

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: Brett Anderson and Todd A. Price, Dine & Spirits, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune
Judge’s comments: These dining and drinking guides are must-haves for anyone living in or visiting New Orleans. The amount of information is amazing – short reviews of restaurants, bars and barbecue joints; gorgeous photos that offer a feel for the places and a look at their tastiest offerings; and writing that is both informational and illuminating. For instance, it’s telling to know that food critic Anderson has made more reservations at Upperline restaurant than any other. Bravo!
Second place: Staff, Upstate, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union
Judge’s comments: An impressive mix of stories – including short blurbs, Q&As, listings, recipes and longer narratives – keeps things interesting. The covers are striking, and the tone is sometimes serious, sometimes playful. This is a publication you want to linger with.
Third place: Cindy Loman, Whitney Cork and Tina Firesheets, 1808, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record
Judge’s comments: A solid magazine with striking covers, a nice mix of stories and beautiful photography.
Honorable mention: Staff, Washington North Coast, The (Everett, Wash.) Daily Herald

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: The Virginian-Pilot
Fourteen awards, including four firsts (Short Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Video Storytelling and Best Niche Product), three seconds (Features Series or Project, Integrated Storytelling and Digital Innovation), five thirds (A&E Feature, Food Feature, Sports Feature, Best Special Section and Best Podcast) and two honorable mentions (Best Section and Diversity in Digital Features).
Second place: The Baltimore Sun
Eight awards, including three firsts (Food Feature, Integrated Storytelling and Best Special Section), three seconds (A&E Commentary Portfolio, Video Storytelling and Integrated Storytelling), one third (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio) and one honorable mention (Best Special Section).
Third place: San Antonio Express-News
Eight awards, including one first (General Commentary Portfolio), three seconds (Food Feature, Narrative Storytelling and Sports Feature), one third (Integrated Storytelling) and three honorable mentions (Short Feature, 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: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judge’s comments: What impressed us most about The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was its commitment to projects that really cover the city and appeal to all kinds of readers: The “Bridges of Pittsburgh” project, the clever and useful “Burgs and Burgers” and the page-turning “Notorious Pittsburgh” were well-done
and complemented by sharp event previews and commentary.
Second place: Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Judge’s comments: These sections put readers first, offering top-notch service journalism – the guide to SXSW, the Dining Guide and local seasonal food section – along with beautifully written longer reads, such as the Jimmy LaFave piece and a vibrant travel section.
Third place: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Judge’s comments: We love the surprising mix and variety of the Post-Dispatch. The Mocking Meatloaf package illustration was smart and eye-catching, the Fall Book Preview was useful and authoritative, and the overall diversity of stories was impressive.
Honorable mention: The Virginian-Pilot

BEST FEATURES DIGITAL PRESENCE
The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Chow Town, The Kansas City Star, Jill Silva and Sarah Gish
Judge’s comments: The food coverage, across all social platforms, is focused and lively.
Second place: SouthFlorida.com, Sun-Sentinel, Staff
Judge’s comments: Excellent job using various platforms – the Web, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – for features coverage.

GENERAL FEATURE
Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.
First place: Dan Horn, The Cincinnati Enquirer, “Abused by a Priest, Now a Champion of the Church”
Judge’s comments: The unusual nature of this story grabs readers and won’t let go. This piece about a man who was abused by a priest is a surprise – it’s remarkably different than most accounts of abuse in the Catholic Church. It’s a story of forgiveness. It’s the story of a man who has made peace with the
horrific circumstances of his childhood. He has embraced the enemy, which apparently is sometimes a good idea. Even though his actions have alienated others, he makes no apologies.
Second place: Nancy Flores, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “Finding Her Way: Transgender Teen Transitions as Gender Identity Under Fire at Legislature”
Judge’s comments: This well-written story may seem familiar, but it’s the details that make it a standout. The reporter has ensured that the central characters are portrayed as real people. The parents are caring but hardly perfect; their child is brave but not heroic. All of them are trying to make their way in a world
that is not universally supportive of the transgender population. An engrossing tale that we didn’t want to end.
Third place: Maria Sciullo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “The Sorrows of a 1977 University of Evansville Plane Crash Were Felt by Many in Pittsburgh”
Judge’s comments: The plane crash, which killed 14 members of the university’s basketball team, was a tragedy that, for Pittsburgh residents, happened in another place at another time. But the story is a great example of how strong reporting and writing can make the past seem urgent and relevant.
Honorable mention: Ginny Monk and Staton Breidenthal, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Heart and Soul: Husband’s, Daddy’s Love an Ever-Fixed Mark”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.
First place: Sadie Dingfelder, The Washington Post Express, “Where Liberals and Conservatives Debate the Issues with Pile Drivers and Body Slams”
Judge’s comments: This is what we all should want from an enterprising features story. It’s a fun piece about a pro wrestling federation in Northern Virginia that should surprise anyone who sees it. It enlightens us to a world we’re unaware of. It’s written in a way that’s as entertaining as the subject matter. And it’s tapped into the zeitgeist. This is journalism that lives in the world outside ourselves and informs us of coming fads.
Second place: Bobby Olivier, NJ Advance Media, “‘Whitney’ at 30: An Oral History of N.J.’s Greatest Pop Album”
Judge’s comments: All snobbery included, we’re not sure that we agree that this is New Jersey’s best pop album. (But, then, we’re a bit obsessed with the Misfits.). Having typed that, the piece makes us think that the headline might be right after all. The piece is written in a way that transfers the electricity and energy of the moments of creation. And while oral histories often are overdone, this was an appropriate
decision here, one that drives the pace and rhythm in a manner that pulls readers deeper into the story. Our only complaint is that it needs a companion piece on the Misfits.
Third place: Rashod Ollison, The Virginian-Pilot, “From Foster Care to Visionary Theater Director, NSU’s Anthony Stockard is Giving the Program New Shape”
Judge’s comments: This story isn’t especially deep, informing or surprising. But the writing is so engaging and descriptive that it elevates a simple profile about a new hire into something that feels like it’s striving to be art.
Honorable mention: Amy Kuperinski, NJ Advance Media, “The Man Who Directed ‘La La Land’ is a 32-Year-Old Wunderkind from N.J.”

SHORT FEATURE
Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.
First place: Joanne Kimberlin, The Virginian-Pilot, “In a Single Week, Chesapeake Family Buries One Son and Gives Birth to Another”
Judge’s comments: A family lost their 4-year-old son to cancer and, less than a week later, had a baby. The writer beautifully captured the emotions and wove in a thread about the family’s faith but never crossed into maudlin territory. Restrained and elegant writing.
Second place: George Morris, The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, “For U-High Grads, Tragedy Created an Unbreakable Bond Called ‘The Tribe’”
Judge’s comments: This tale of old friends reconnecting as one of them was dying felt authentic, showing their actions and revealing their emotions. Written with feeling but not melodrama, the story has the perfect tone.
Third place: Sean Clancy and Kirk Montgomery, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Shoutout for Sister: The Late Rosetta Nubin Tharpe Joins List of Nominees for Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame”
Judge’s comments: Lean and pithy, this piece packed a lot of information into a small space. Good energetic writing.
Honorable mention: René A. Guzman, San Antonio Express-News, “‘NewsCat’ Brings Smiles Amid the Tragedy of Sutherland Springs”

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.
First place: Brittany Britto, The Baltimore Sun, “Unpacking the Chicken Box: The Story Behind Baltimore’s Carryout Staple”
Judge’s comments: This accessible, deftly told story about a city’s love affair with carryout chicken is imbued with local flavor. The tale is told with a briskness that keeps the piece moving while revealing the history of an oft-overlooked favorite food.
Second place: Emily Spicer, San Antonio Express-News, “San Antonio’s Latest Whiskey Imbued with Maverick, Alamo History”
Judge’s comments: Like the drink it lionizes, this story about whiskey is silky smooth. Lyrically written, it is clearly the work of an engaging storyteller who knows how to sprinkle in gems of memorable details that bring the tale to life.
Third place: Rashod Ollison, The Virginian-Pilot, “Virginia Beach Woman Brings Integrity to Soul Food with YouTube Videos”
Judge’s comments: The observations, the dialogue and the details in this story about a woman who has gained a huge following with down-to-earth cooking videos give us a sense of being in the room with her. Delving into the controversy about soul food adds depth to a well-written profile.
Honorable mention: Kelly Brandt and Staton Breidenthal, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “It Starts With Mother: Making Vinegar is Fun, and It Takes Only a Starter and a Bare Minimum of Ingredients”

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT
Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.
First place: Rick Telander, Chicago Sun-Times, “A Season Under the Gun”
Judge’s comments: This series examines the affect of the rampant violence on Chicago’s West Side on high school teenagers through their basketball team. The teens’ stories are as shocking as they are matter-of-fact – for most of them, violent death is merely a part of life. Writer Telander gives readers a personal, insider look at kids coping with difficult lives. These stories – of youths finding joy within the carnage – go beyond headlines and crime statistics.
Second place: Gary Harki and Joanne Kimberlin, The Virginian-Pilot, “The Execution of Ricky Gray”
Judge’s comments: Once reporter Harki was selected to witness an execution, he and colleague Kimberlin took on the task of looking back at the grisly murders that the man committed and at the process of putting a person to death. This compelling story is so well-written that readers are drawn in and carried along without effort. Without sensation or sentiment, we hear from those involved in the execution and are eyewitness to the final deed.
Third place: Kristin Finan, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “Heartbreak and Hope”
Judge’s comments: In this series, writer Finan gives a first-person account of her experience with the foster-care system – from her tween years and adding a foster mother to her later roles as a mom and wife. The roller-coaster experience of tragedy, love, joy and pain is expanded with loads of interviews, statistics and other research. Remarkable story – and a remarkable life!
Honorable mention: Staff, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Dead Asleep: Babies at Risk”

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: Jenna Russell, The Boston Globe, “Alone and Untrained, a Mother Becomes Nurse for her Daughter with Disabilities”
Judge’s comments: This terrific story, written with extraordinary feeling and grace, takes readers deep into the life of a family and illuminates a much larger – and largely unknown – problem about health care for special-needs children.
Second place: Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, San Antonio Express-News, “The Abortion Divide: Two Texas Women’s Stories Dramatize the Crucial Decisions at the Center of Their Lives”
Judge’s comments: A smart take on a hot-button issue, exceptionally reported and well-told.
Third place: Staff, The Cincinnati Enquirer, “Seven Days of Heroin: This is What an Epidemic Looks Like”
Judge’s comments: This look at the heroin epidemic tackles a topic that we’ve all heard much about and sheds new – and sobering – light on it.

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: Elizabeth Simpson, The Virginian-Pilot
Judge’s comments: Simpson weaves moving tales about health issues with gravitas and aplomb – the stories are beautifully structured, with sentences that land just so. Readers feel as though they know the subjects and are in the room with them. Powerful work that requires a deft pen to achieve.
Second place: Bobby Olivier, NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments: This entry shows fantastic range and know-how, and it’s breezily written and fun to read. Irresistible subject matter, too – the opening gambit on the story about the New Jersey man traveling to Germany with $15,000 in his pocket hooked us and didn’t let go.
Third place: Brittany Britto, The Baltimore Sun
Judge’s comments: These enlightening stories, capturing fascinating facets of Baltimore’s African-American culture, show depths of reporting and research about seemingly whimsical topics. We never realized how much we wanted to know about the Crazy Legs dance, chicken boxes and “Baltimorese” – or “Bawlmerese.”
Honorable mention: Silvia Foster-Frau, San Antonio Express-News

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: Emily Spicer, San Antonio Express-News
Judge’s comments: Spicer stands out because she takes on topics not everyone is writing about. And she produces compelling pieces you just can’t put down. Most notable: her column on Boob Glue. That’s right, Boob Glue. Don’t you want to know more? We can’t believe a newspaper ran this column but are so glad it did. Hilarious, a little outrageous but, above all else, informative. Spicer took readers on her sticky journey and bravely posed for some illuminating selfies, resulting in a column that no doubt had readers talking, laughing and, dare we say, uplifted? As soon as you finish reading these comments, please Google this column. It’s a scream.
Second place: Bobby Olivier, NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments: These pieces feel like a backstage pass and a front-row seat. Richly reported, skillfully written and thoroughly informed, this body of work seems destined to create more informed and culturally aware readers one brilliant column at a time.

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: Matthew Odam, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Judge’s comments: It’s probably silly to use a word like “terroir” to describe food writing, but Odam has it. His coverage of Texas capital’s food scene has a healthy respect for what keeps Austin weird even as big-money increasingly drives the restaurant business there. Muscular criticism and sparkling detail mark these beautifully crafted reviews.
Second place: David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun
Judge’s comments: There was much to be outraged about in 2017 if you were a smart media columnist, as Zurawik clearly is. What matters in these pieces, though, is the cogency and careful fact-finding that balances his passion, expressed with clarion-voiced authority.
Third place: Joe Gross, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Judge’s comments: Solid, smart film criticism that never condescends to its audience.

SPORTS FEATURE
Feature treatment of any sports topic.
First place: Vahe Gregorian, Maria Torres and Jill Toyoshiba, The Kansas City Star, “Yordano Ventura’s Final Year Filled With Turmoil, Emotional Distress”
Judge’s comments: In a category with many strong entries, this was the clear winner. Gregorian and Torres explore the death of colorful Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura with in-depth reporting – from stateside as well as the Dominican Republic – and clever writing. “He acted out at opponents for having the temerity to hit the ball off him, or be hit by his pitches.” Toyoshiba adds illuminating photos.
Second place: John Whisler, San Antonio Express-News, “Boxing and San Antonio: A Glove Affair”
Judge’s comments: This look at boxing in San Antonio is comprehensive, entertaining and elevated by Whisler’s writing chops. Consider this gem: “Where San Antonio ranks among America’s best boxing towns is a moving target, about as difficult to define as landing a punch to the chin of Ali in his prime.”
Third place: Ed Miller, The Virginian-Pilot, “A Ref’s Life: One Long Day Under the Looking Glass With NBA Official Leroy Richardson”
Judge’s comments: Miller crafts riveting coverage of a day in the life of NBA ref Leroy Richardson.
Honorable mention: David Hinojosa, San Antonio Express-News, “High School Football Preview: As His Father Heals, Somerset QB Focuses on Season”

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: Vicki Cronis-Nohe, The Virginian-Pilot, “They May Not Have Homes, but Members of this Norfolk Choir Have Voices. And They Want You to Listen.”
Judge’s comments: One of the best things journalists can do is let people tell their own stories, and this piece does that. Members of a homeless choir – a community that isn’t always depicted in a positive light or allowed to speak for itself – are given a microphone and allowed to share a part of their lives not usually seen.
Second place: Ulysses Muñoz, Algerina Perna and Karl Merton Ferron, The Baltimore Sun, “Still Dancing: Baltimore Club-Style Dance Has Legs”
Judge’s comments: This piece accomplishes much in under three minutes: It’s a cultural primer, a historical record, a provocative commentary – and it’s fun. The video leaves viewers with an understanding of an important slice of dance history in Baltimore while curious to learn more.
Third place: Andre Malok and Claude Brodesser-Akner, NJ Advance Media, “For Cash, Name the Candidates for N.J. Governor”
Judge’s comments: This video will make you laugh – and leave you a little afraid for the future of our democracy.

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: Brittany Britto and Staff, The Baltimore Sun, “Keep the Beat: Baltimore Club-Style Dance Persists Past its Peak with Support of Local Dancers, Organizers”
Judge’s comments: Ack! There’s hard-to-read white type on a black background, but that’s the only thing we didn’t like about this online package. Beautifully executed storytelling captures the exuberance of this scene. The piece is well-written, with excellent editing and selection of photos and video. These journalists show rather than tell us about dance. It’s nearly perfect.
Second place (tie): Brittany Britto and Staff, The Baltimore Sun, “Hold Up, ‘Hon’: Baltimore’s Black Vernacular Youthful, Dynamic if Less Recognized than ‘Bawlmerese’”
Judge’s comments: Every publication could steal this idea and apply it to the way that local people talk. It’s an evergreen piece that readers likely would come back to again and again. What better way to talk about how people talk than to hear them speaking. The video is a fine mix of scholarship and man-on-the street opinion. Love how the guy explains that he talks the way he does so he can communicate with his
family and friends and to belong.
Second place (tie): Denise Watson and Vicki Cronis-Nohe, The Virginian-Pilot, “They May Not Have Homes, but Members of this Norfolk Choir Have Voices. And They Want You To Listen.”
Judge’s comments: If this story about a homeless choir doesn’t move you, you’re made of stone. This is a deceptively simple package that nails it. Well-written story and moving photos married with a video that pulled us in and hooked us until the end.
Third place: Lauren Caruba and Carolyn Van Houten, San Antonio Express-News, “Life in Transition”
Judge’s comments: The opening to this piece about San Antonians who are transitioning to another gender, is nearly perfect. It quickly captures these individuals’ stories, and the photography is wonderful.

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, The Kansas City Star, “Secrecy Inside Child Welfare System Can Kill: ‘God Help the Children of Kansas’”
Judge’s comments: This series – about problems faced by those dealing with the Kansas Department for Children and Families – was expertly presented and leaves readers wondering what can be done to protect children.
Second place: Staff, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “The Talk”
Judge’s comments: A powerful subject – a look at “the talk” that black parents have with their children about how to survive encounters with police – that is presented expertly. The writers put much thought into the digital presentation – video front and center, then stories below – because it was important to showcase the reason for the talk. Throughout the storytelling, there lies a beacon of hope – for justice, for
change, for understanding.
Third place: Peter Smith, Nate Guidry and Laura Malt Schneiderman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Unsettled in America: Pittsburgh’s Latino Community is Small, Diverse, Growing – and Anxious”
Judge’s comments: Exceptional journalism that captures the long, drawn-out legal fights and the stories of survival of the city’s Latino population.
Honorable mention: Jamesetta Walker, The Virginian-Pilot, “Sickle Cell Aside, Chesapeake Woman Making Her Way in NYC Modeling Scene”

BEST SPECIAL SECTION
The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Staff, “Women to Watch,” The Baltimore Sun
Judge’s comments: This magazine-style special section featured a clean, consistent design and carried a great mix of stories.
Second place: Jill Silva and Tammy Ljungblad, “Fish to Table,” The Kansas City Star
Judge’s comments: It was a close call between second and third places in this category. The Star gained the edge with more consistent writing. And we actually learned much about fresh seafood in the Midwest through these thoroughly interesting stories.
Third place: Sam Hundley, Deborah Armstrong, David Simpson and Staff, “Lighten Up, Pilgrim. Maybe It’s Time to Ditch the Turkey,” The Virginian-Pilot
Judge’s comments: The story planning provided nice variety – not just standard-fare food writing – for this Thanksgiving special section. The mashed potato challenge was particularly enjoyable compared with most holiday recipe pieces.
Honorable mention: Staff, “Dining Guide,” The Baltimore Sun

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: Clay Barbour and Staff, Distinction, The Virginian-Pilot
Judge’s comments: This one has it all – stunning photography, crisp design and engaging writing. Loved the cover story about dogs who thrive in urban environments. This is a magazine you want to curl up with in a cozy chair and linger for hours.
Second place: Mark Gauert, Anderson Greene and Staff, Prime, Sun-Sentinel
Judge’s comments: Stunning covers – of Deborah Harry and Bruce Springsteen – invite readers in. The mix of short takes and longer pieces keeps them there. Loved the piece on five places to escape to before the summer fades away. Overall, a strong effort.
Third place: Staff, Arkansas Life, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Judge’s comments: The impressive covers lure readers in, and they find much to enjoy inside. Well-thought-out stories offer information as well as inspiration. Beautiful job.
Honorable mention: Gabe Hartwig and Staff, Go!, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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 20 categories.
First place: The Washington Post
Seventeen awards, including five firsts (Best Digital Features Presence, General Feature, Food Feature, Sports Feature and Digital Innovation), seven seconds (A&E Feature, Short Feature, Narrative Storytelling, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Video Storytelling, Best Niche Product and Headline Writing Portfolio), three thirds (Best Section, Narrative Storytelling and A&E Commentary Portfolio) and two honorable mentions (A&E Commentary Portfolio and Best Niche Product).
Second place: Los Angeles Times
Seven awards, including three firsts (Best Section, A&E Feature and Features Series or Project), three seconds (A&E Commentary Portfolio, Integrated Storytelling and Podcast) and one third (General Commentary Portfolio).
Third place: The Dallas Morning News
Five awards, including two firsts (General Commentary Portfolio and Podcast), two seconds (Best Features Digital Presence and Food Feature) and one third (Diversity in Digital Features).

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: The three special themed sections in this entry – on the Oscars, “Hamilton” and road trips – are stunning examples of what a features section can do. The topics are explored from a wide variety of angles with wonderful photography and writing. Most of all, these sections are well-planned, organized and executed. The other sections entered here are equally delightful to read and feel like L.A. –
trendy, smart, eclectic.
Second place: (Minneapolis) Star Tribune
Judge’s comments: The Star Tribune impresses with its ability to take on big subjects – such as the immigrants section – as well as with its great storytelling about everyday people – the vacuum cleaner kid. These sections are well-organized and well-written, and they capture that certain edginess of the Twin Cities. Overall, thorough and thoughtful.
Third place: The Washington Post
Judge’s comments: What a joy to get lost in these sections. The sheer size and scope of these sections is impressive, and the execution is beyond reproach.
Honorable mention: Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times

BEST FEATURES DIGITAL PRESENCE
The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Staff, The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com
Judge’s comments: A lively website, with exceptional writing, good photography and just enough attitude.
Second place: Staff, The Dallas Morning News, GuideLive.com
Judge’s comments: Exciting and informative site.
Third place: Staff, CNN, CNN.com/longform
Judge’s comments: Some of the best long-form journalism around.

GENERAL FEATURE
Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.
First place: Dan Zak, The Washington Post, “After the Blast”
Judge’s comments: A stunning story – about a fire and explosion in the Texas town of West – that received the reporting and writing it deserved. It was particularly impressive how the writer wove together so many threads while keeping the reader’s interest engaged. Beautifully written.
Second place: Christopher Spata, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Want to be Santa? Be Ready for Tough Questions and Heartbreaking Requests”
Judge’s comments: It takes a writer of true talent to approach this story about the things that department-store Santas hear with a delicate and graceful touch. A lovely feature.
Third place: Thelma Glover, The (Portland) Oregonian, “City Police Cost 98-Year-Old Black Woman Her Home. Here’s Why She Won’t Get it Back.”
Judge’s comments: Writer Glover did a fine job of explaining and personalizing a complex history in this story about a woman who lost her home. An excellent example of why a features approach is often the most effective way to make readers feel the historic injustices of a complex situation.
Honorable mention: Monte Reel, Bloomberg, “How to Rebuild Puerto Rico”

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.
First place: Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times, “Artist John Wullbrandt Lost Vital Paintings in the Thomas Fire, But Found Renewal in Fighting the Flames”
Judge’s comments: Vivid writing, incredible details and a narrative structure combined to make this story feel like a dramatic piece of short fiction – in a good way. The headline foreshadows some of the events, but readers still can get swept up in the story and wonder, “What will happen next?” We didn’t want it to end.
Second place: Peter Marks, The Washington Post, “Places, Please! A Behind-the-Scenes Look at How ‘The Front Page’s’ Cast and Crew Get into their Groove”
Judge’s comments: A great use of immersive storytelling. The video and audio clips were well placed as part of the online narrative, not online extras. Warm, funny and educational. It’s fun to see celebrities in their work element in a different way as well.
Third place: Chris Riemenschneider, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, “Prince Inc.”
Judge’s comments: Not all stories have a beginning, middle and an end – we won’t know for years what will happen with Prince’s estate. Great details and engaging writing throughout, with complicated issues explained plainly.
Honorable mention: Michael Kaplan, New York Post, “This Artist is Making Mega-Millions Stealing People’s Work”

SHORT FEATURE
Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words.
First place: Mike Hixenbaugh, Houston Chronicle, “Conjoined Twins Head Home But Face Challenges Ahead”
Judge’s comments: A well-done piece that left us wanting more. The story features excellent, simple sentence structures, and the writer places readers alongside a young couple dealing with conjoined twins. A great, great poignant story.
Second place: Dan Zak, The Washington Post, “R.I.P. Gchat: You Let Us Pretend We Were Working – and That We Were Really Connecting.”
Judge’s comments: This clever and humorous piece was a pleasure to read. The story was enjoyable – and chuckle-inducing.
Third place: Laura Reiley, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Publix No Longer Offers You That Free Slice of Meat at the Deli Counter”
Judge’s comments: Well-told story on a potentially dry topic – the delicatessen that no longer offers free samples of its products. The writer used fun phrasing and colorful, detailed writing.
Honorable mention: Mike Fisher, Toronto (Canada) Star, “Find the Beating Heart of the Blues in Memphis”

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.
First place: Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post, “Chefs Say a Dishwasher Can Make or Break a Restaurant. So I Signed Up for a Shift.”
Judge’s comments: Excellent sources, topic and execution in this interesting look at the job of dishwashers in the restaurant business. The story was educational and entertaining, and we hope the piece got passed around to many of the people doing this crucial job in restaurants.
Second place: Leslie Brenner, The Dallas Morning News, “Dallas’ New Wave of Chinese Regional Dining is Sizzling Hot”
Judge’s comments: Excellent look at a trend – the emergence of more Chinese dining options in the Dallas area – that are making a mark on the culinary scene. Backed up by population statistics that show why this trend is a growing one in the Texas city.
Third place: Brett Anderson, The New York Times, “At 91, Ella Brennan Still Feeds (and Leads) New Orleans”
Judge’s comments: Delightful profile of this important restaurant family matriarch, including the fact that she probably can’t cook but sure knows how to run a restaurant empire.
Honorable mention: Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle, “Fired Up Chefs Embrace Open Flames”

FEATURES SERIES OR PROJECT
Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts.
First place: Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times, “Dirty John”
Judge’s comments: A phenomenal story told in riveting words, with exhaustive research and interviewing. This might make online dating difficult for a while, because who really knows what’s lurking on the other end of that profile? Just exceptional.
Second place: Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Wisconsin Trails on the Road”
Judge’s comments: The most personal and lovely travel story we’ve seen in a long time. Loved the pride that was taken in showing off one’s state and in doing so in such amazing detail.
Third place: John Blake and Tawanda Scott Sambou, CNN.com, “This Could Be Awkward”
Judge’s comments: This one is hard to read and listen to because it’s so real. This is what journalism is supposed to do – make us uncomfortable and affect us. So well done.
Honorable mention: Staff, The (Portland) Oregonian, “The Loneliest Polar Bear”

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: Patricia Callahan, Chicago Tribune, “Doomed by Delay”
Judge’s comments: Masterful storytelling of a mother and child’s journey when the personal intersects with bureaucratic failures. There’s strong reporting here, as well as an expert balance of scenes and detail with more explanatory passages. Callahan’s writing forces readers to put themselves in the shoes of Natasha Spencer – and it’s excruciating.
Second place: David Montgomery, The Washington Post, “The Collision”
Judge’s comments: This exceptional story – about an incident and a Confederate monument – could easily have been reduced to outrage fodder but instead is given a humane, nuanced treatment. The citizens of Demopolis are fully realized. This treatment offers a complex understanding of our nation’s history of and current grappling with Confederate monuments.
Third place: Monica Hesse, The Washington Post, “Lending a Hand at the End of a Pregnancy”
Judge’s comments: Writer Hesse sensitively explores a role unknown to most readers – the abortion doula. The story looks at how controversial abortion remains in our society while reflecting the incredible intimacy of the doulas’ work.
Honorable mention: Craig R. McCoy, Philadelphia Media Network, “Horror on the Mountain: 11 Boys, 1 Ice Ax, and Unforeseen Heroism”

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: Jason Nark, Philadelphia Media Network
Judge’s comments: Nark finds beautiful stories in everyday existences and brings them to life. Even when writing about something as seemingly absurd as deer urine, he spins a fascinating tale that could easily have devolved into potty humor.
Second place: Geoff Edgers, The Washington Post
Judge’s comments: This portfolio is strong on storytelling. Edgers’ writing is elegant and precise. He lets stories unfold without getting in the way.
Third place: Laura Reiley, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times
Judge’s comments: Reiley proves that food writing is more than covering restaurants and publishing recipes. She weaves history, personalities and delicious moments into her stories.
Honorable mention: Bob Tedeschi, Stat

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: Cassandra Jaramillo, The Dallas Morning News
Judge’s comments: These are deeply thoughtful pieces about the struggle to balance assimilation and cultural pride in the writer’s immigrant family. The way she thinks through her identity and examines the way others in her family do helps illuminate the seminal American immigrant experience for a new generation.
Second place: Will Bunch, Philadelphia Media Network
Judge’s comments: How lucky are Bunch’s readers because they get to view the upheavals of American society and politics through the compassionate, clear eyes of this masterful writer.
Third place: Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments: With a population drawn from all corners of the world, a global entertainment industry and extremes of wealth and climate, L.A. is presented here as a snapshot of world and national trends.
Honorable mention: Wei Chen, Houston Chronicle

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: Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Media Network
Judge’s comments: Through these columns, Saffron shows why publications need to pay attention to their community’s architecture and infrastructure. It’s important for diversity, for a city’s health and for its residents’ mental health. And Saffron’s writing gives a vitality to these stories, with such great phrasing as “parking your bottom,” “gritty around the edges,” and the sense of having to “pry” union membership numbers from the group’s secretive hands.
Second place: Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments: Chang’s movie reviews are more than reviews; they put the films in context of life experiences. Such reviews often are mere recitations of a film’s plot, and it’s wonderful that Chang elevates his work above that, with thoughts such as “Is there anything scarier than being a black man in America today?” and how “while mediocrities are a dime a dozen, a genuine, off-the-charts fiasco is something to cherish.”
Third place: Hank Stuever, The Washington Post
Judge’s comments: Television criticism at its best. Stuever is a storyteller with a message.
Honorable mention: Tom Sietsema, The Washington Post

SPORTS FEATURE
Feature treatment of any sports topic.
First place: Kent Babb, The Washington Post, “There’s Nowhere to Run”
Judge’s comments: “What would it be like,” asks former NFL star Larry Johnson, “for this to be the day for people to find out you’re not here?” It’s a stunning question, and it’s answered by this stunning story. We learn that it’s a miracle that Johnson is still here. He battles demons that he says are symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disorder linked to more than 100 former
football players. It’s heart-wrenching storytelling, with perfect pacing and wording. It’s raw, and it’s real.
Second place: Howie Kussoy, New York Post, “Pop Stars, Athletes, Actors and Strippers: A Night Out with Floyd Mayweather”
Judge’s comments: Crude, rude, colorful, energetic and thoroughly entertaining. That describes this award-worthy piece and its subject, boxer Floyd Mayweather. At times, you’ll want to look away, but it’s hard to tear yourself from a story this engrossing. A funny, funky and fabulously descriptive feature, down to that mouthwash in a Hennessy bottle.
Third place: Max Blau, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Knockout: The Fast Rise and Slow Fade of Boxer O’Neil ‘Supernova’ Bell”
Judge’s comments: The writing, in places, hits as hard as boxer O’Neil Bell must have in his glory days. The result is a story that is unflinching, direct, emotional and subtly detailed.
Honorable mention: Dave McKenna, Deadspin, “The Kid Who Didn’t Die at Riverfront Stadium”

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: Jessica Greif, The (Portland) Oregonian, “About a Boy”
Judge’s comments: A compelling story well told, elevated by the time put in – we see the subject over several years – and the details shared by him, his mom and doctors and advocates. One decision about his life offered a window into his larger journey, and we were left wanting to hear what his next chapter would be.
Second place: Ashleigh Joplin and Katherine Frey, The Washington Post, “Meet Ella Murray: The 9-Year-Old with Skin as Delicate as a Butterfly’s Wing”
Judge’s comments: The video did a nice job of highlighting the problems of a family in a difficult situation. The narrative is well-paced, and we wanted to spend more time with the family and find out what happens next.
Third place: Staff, Fusion, “Young Viejo”
Judge’s comments: “I feel good,” says a guy who loves being on the diamond. “That’s why I come here.” We felt great watching this story of older men playing baseball. It’s not just the high-production values, which are impressive. We don’t always acknowledge that older people still have all the same interest and passions they’ve always had. This story does.

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: Nathan Eagle and Alana Eagle, Honolulu Civil Beat, “The Last Wild Place”
Judge’s comments: A gorgeous, lively, engaging, well-written, thorough and utterly fascinating look at a place most of us will never be able to go: the Northwestern Hawaii Islands. This multipart series uses every digital tool in the book – maps, video, music – to immerse readers and listeners in a remote and beautiful world.
Second place: Christopher Goffard and Andrea Roberson, Los Angeles Times, “Dirty John”
Judge’s comments: The story and accompanying podcasts present a riveting mystery about a con man with a shocking ending. Well-done graphics, fine photojournalism and engrossing writing. The Facebook chat was a great way to engage readers. An amazing package that uses digital media to full advantage.
Third place: Staff, The (Portland) Oregonian, “The Loneliest Polar Bear”
Judge’s comments: Quick videos that surprise viewers with polar bear sounds. Longer video interviews with tearful or determined vets and zookeepers. All that, plus interactive graphics, a well-told story and beautiful photojournalism distinguish this six-part series that took a year to research and create. It ends with ways to get readers engaged in fighting climate change and saving polar bears. Every aspect of
digital media is employed.
Honorable mention: Staff, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “50-Year Ache”

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: Panama Jackson, The Root, “How Trump Ruined My Relationship With My White Mother”
Judge’s comments: Wow. Just wow. This narrative had us shaking our heads and dropping our jaws. We could picture the scenes the writer described. We could hear the conversations the writer had with his mom. We could empathize with his feelings, torn and frustrated – and slightly guilty. A powerful column with a headline that doesn’t sensationalize – rather, it accurately nails the story in a few words and invites readers to find out why.
Second place: James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “What Happened to Us?”
Judge’s comments: An incredible project with outstanding interactives. Tracking down everyone in your third-grade class and writing about it is no easy task. This is the anti “where are they now?” feature piece, a serious look at a tough time in history and how it’s affected the people in writer Causey’s class. Beautiful execution.
Third place: Dawn Burkes and Tiney Ricciardi, The Dallas Morning News, “Women of Color on Television”
Judge’s comments: The entries in this delicious subject – women of color in leading roles on TV – were hard to put down and thought-provoking.
Honorable mention: Ileana Najarro, Monica Rhor and Jenny Deam, Houston Chronicle, “Deeper Underground”

BEST SPECIAL SECTION
The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage.
First place: Tim Campbell and Christy DeSmith, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, “Fall Arts”
Judge’s comments: This special section’s variety of well-written stories and clean design set it above the competition even without the slick-magazine format used by the other entries. Particularly impressive are the feature stories and beautiful black-and-white portraits that anchor each of the major arts categories.
Second place: Staff, San Francisco Chronicle, “Summer of Love”
Judge’s comments: This is an enjoyable commemorative magazine for those who remember the hazy, crazy days of 1967.
Third place: Staff, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Fa La La La Love”
Judge’s comments: This holiday magazine captures the “Wow!” factor with its Vogue-like cover and elegant photo reproduction.
Honorable mention: Craig LaBan, Philadelphia Media Network, “Craig LaBan’s Ultimate Dining”

BEST NICHE PRODUCT
The best examples of a niche product – such as a magazine or special section – published at least two times a year.
First place: Melissa Aguilar, Jody Schmal and Staff, LuxeLife, Houston Chronicle
Judge’s comments: A stellar magazine, with stunning covers, engaging writing and gorgeous photography. It’s chock full of short reads – loved the look at unique earrings – and well-written narratives. The design is exquisite. Kudos to food writer Alison Cook for her yeoman’s effort on her top 100 restaurants in the city. She even tells you what to order! LuxeLife is lively, informative, interesting and fun to read.
Second place: Tom Sietsema and Staff, Spring and Fall Dining Guides, The Washington Post
Judge’s comments: Food writer Tom Sietsema is a treasure, and his takes on the best dining spots in the D.C. metro area are must-reads. The crisp writing and stunning photography are literally mouth-watering.
Third place: Staff, Bay, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times
Judge’s comments: A strong local magazine with a great voice. Well-written and well-edited, thispublication is executed perfectly.
Honorable mention: Staff, The Luxury Issues of The Washington Post Magazine, The Washington Post
Honorable mention: Sue Campbell and Staff, Star Tribune Magazine, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

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: Deeper context on the “Mother!” movie review – “O, ‘Mother’: What Art Thou?” – elevates the clever word play. “Sesame seed fun” is just fun. And the Dear Abby headline – “So, Your Fiance? I’m Married To Him.” – shows that everything we do to engage audience matters, especially when you can generate new attention for an old-school feature.
Second place: Panfilo Garcia, The Washington Post
Judge’s comments: Clever, engaging headlines without being cliche or punny for the sake of being punny.
Third place: Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, CNET.com
Judge’s comments: There’s a next-level commitment to a theme in all three headlines.

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 Washington Post, “The Lily”
Judge’s comments: This is whole new publication – aimed at bringing The Post’s stories to a wider audience and at focusing on stories important to women – that meets its intended audience where they are. Blown away by this initiative, from its content and platforms to its focused, well-defined personality.
Second place: William Houp, The Virginian-Pilot, “The Newest Way to Get the Latest Stories: Message Us on Facebook”
Judge’s comments: A clever way to get readers to look at your stories through Facebook.

BEST PODCAST
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast.
First place: Staff, The Dallas Morning News, “My Aryan Princess”
Judge’s comments: This addicting podcast tells the story of Carol, the troubled informant who descends into the world of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, and her role in bringing down the gang. The podcast warned listeners that it would be a wild ride, and it truly is.
Second place: Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times, “Dirty John”
Judge’s comments: The storytelling in this series has a soap opera-thriller feel to it, and the podcasters do a great job of hooking listeners. A captivating story where listeners root for all those involved and hope justice is served to Debra’s “Mr. Right/Mr. Wrong.”
Third place: Joanne Kimberlin, Gary Harki and Randall Greenwell, The Virginian-Pilot, “The Shot”
Judge’s comments: Given the whodunit feel in this podcast – mixed with the voices of those still looking for Officer Victor Decker’s killer – we can see why this podcast received a five-star rating on iTunes. Listeners want to know what happened to Decker, even as they learn about his dark side.
Honorable mention: Ian Coss, Heidi Shin and Qainat Khan, The GroundTruth Project, “The New American Songbook”

STUDENT DIVISION

BEST COLLEGE FEATURES JOURNALIST
The top collegiate features journalists, based on an entry of up to three stories
First place: Sam Fortier, Syracuse University 
Judge’s comments: Fortier writes with an authoritative voice, weaving compelling narratives. We especially liked the human element in his stories, the many voices he corrals and the depth of reporting in the “St. Anthony’s Unanswered Prayer” piece.
Second place: Natalie Schwartz, University of Maryland
Judge’s comments: Schwartz shares voices that her readers might otherwise not hear – Trump supporters on a liberal campus, a DACA student struggling with uncertainty about the future and transgender people learning to change their voices. She captures their stories well, propelling her narratives with well-chosen quotes.
Third place: Hannah Neumann, Baylor University
Judge’s comments: Neumann has a nice voice, and the tale of post-traumatic stress disorder is informative and poignant. The story is nicely structured and makes good use of quotes and various voices.