The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Combined divisions

Featured

All circulation categories compete together.

Headline writing portfolio

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

Features podcast

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

Digital innovation

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

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

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division III

Featured

DIVISION III | Circulation 200,000 and up

Finest in Features Sweepstakes awards

This award honors three publications in each circulation category that garner the most awards in the other 22 categories.
First place: The Washington Post
Eighteen awards, including four firsts (Narrative Storytelling, Sports Feature, Headline Writing Portfolio and Special Section), eight seconds (Best Section, Features Digital Presence, Food Writing Portfolio, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, Headline Writing Portfolio, Video Storytelling, Integrated Storytelling and Special Section), four thirds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Food Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Niche Product) one honorable mention (Food Criticism).
Second place: Los Angeles Times
Nine awards, including four firsts (Best Section, Food Criticism, Integrated Storytelling and Diversity in Digital Features), one second (Features Series or Project) and four thirds (Features Series or Project, General Commentary Portfolio, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio and Sports Feature).
Third place: Newsday
Four awards, including two firsts (Features Digital Presence and Niche Product), one second (Food Criticism) and one third (Special Section).

Best section

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

Best features digital presence

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

General feature

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

Arts & Entertainment feature

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

Short feature

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

Food feature

A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic.
First place: Chris Ip—Engadget, “Impossible Foods’ rising empire of almost-meat”
Judge’s comments:
Painstakingly researched, broadly sourced and deeply engaging look at the way our food landscape is rapidly changing in an era of disruption.
Second place: Debra Utacia Krol—High Country News, Roads & Kingdoms, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, “California’s Forage Wars”
Judge’s comments: A perfect examination of how food, history, politics and sustainability collide in a single community.
Third place: Tim Carman, Shelly Tan—The Washington Post, “Made in America”
Judge’s comments:
The salve for our fractious time. This virtual hug of comfort food for all Americans is beautifully supported with superb photography, video and web design.
Honorable mention: Craig LaBan—The Philadelphia Inquirer, “George Washington’s enslaved chef, who cooked in Philadelphia, disappears from painting, but may have reappeared in New York”

Food criticism

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

Features series or project

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

Narrative storytelling

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

Feature specialty writing portfolio

Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, food, health, religion, technology or travel.
First place: Sam Kestenbaum—The New York Times
Judge’s comments:
Deeply reported and well-written profiles of fascinating religious figures. As a collection, they reveal as much about American spirituality as the individuals.
Second place: Jason Nark—The Philadelphia Inquirer
Judge’s comments:
Three stories that paint a vivid picture of a place, and the quirky characters within. These are memorable stories, rich in detail and dialogue.
Third place: Andrea Sachs—The Washington Post
Judge’s comments:
A range of travel stories that are informative and entertaining.

Food writing portfolio

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

General commentary portfolio

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

Arts & entertainment commentary portfolio

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

Sports feature

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

Video storytelling

The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length.
First place: Staff—Today.com, “‘Like a dream’: Mom with metastatic breast cancer on outliving her prognosis”
Judge’s comments:
Lushly shot, incredibly intimate portrait of a woman with terminal breast cancer who specializes in nipple tattoos for women with breast reconstructions. Heartbreaking and hopeful – like the best stories always are.
Second place: Allie Caren, Jon Gerberg, Nicki DeMarco—The Washington Post, “One year later: Three generations rooted in Tree of Life”
Judge’s comments: An engaging and fascinating look at three generations of a family impacted by the synagogue shooting. Great sourcing and clip selection.
Third place: Niki Budnick, Danielle Banks, William Jauregui—The Weather Channel Digital, “When Memory Fails”
Judge’s comments: Incredible sourcing on this story – both the experts and the family in the center – make this a jaw-dropping look at the phenomenon of children accidentally left to die in hot cars.
Honorable mention: Staff—Today.com, “Modern Motherhood”

Integrated storytelling

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

Diversity in digital features

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

Best special section

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

Best niche product

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

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

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

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division II

Featured

DIVISION II | Circulation 90,000 to 199,999

Finest in Features Sweepstakes awards

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

Best section

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

Best features digital presence

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

General feature

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

Arts & Entertainment feature

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

Short feature

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

Food feature

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

Food criticism

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

Features series or project

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

Narrative storytelling

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

Feature specialty writing portfolio

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

Food writing portfolio

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

General commentary portfolio

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

Arts & entertainment commentary portfolio

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

Sports feature

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

Video storytelling

The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length.
First place: Brooke Herbert—The Oregonian, “Darcelle”
Judge’s comments:
This is features storytelling at its finest. The filmmaker masters the art of the classic narrative and the science of captivating audio and stunning visuals. The rhythm and pacing of this story is virtuosic. The filmmaker unfurls Darcelle’s story with as much confidence, compassion and wry wit as the drag queen herself. The crescendo leading to Madam Darcelle’s grand emergence on stage—from the music to the way the filmmaker captures the intimate backstage rituals—quite frankly slays.
Second place: Meg Vogel—The Cincinnati Enquirer, “Fort Hood soldier and the father who is still fighting his war”
Judge’s comments: The filmmaker treats his subject with the reverence, honesty, and compassion this topic deserves. The narrator’s interview is masterfully produced—the shallow focus and the mix of ambient and natural lighting saturates the screen. Paired with the archival b-roll and family photos, it creates an intimate portrait of grief.
Third place: Samantha Swindler—The Oregonian, “Mel’s Last Mission”
Judge’s comments: This delightful feature unfolds at the perfect pace, as smooth and breezy as a ride with Mel himself. The filmmaker’s savvy use of camera angles and perspective add a dynamic layer to this already lovely and heartwarming story.
Honorable mention: Elizabeth Rich, Erin Irwin, Maya Riser-Kositsky—Education Week, “From the Pueblo to College: The Journey of Two Rural Students, Chapter 1: ‘Not giving up on school’”

Integrated storytelling

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

Diversity in digital features

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

Best special section

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

Best niche product

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

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

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division I

Featured

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.

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

Featured

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.