ESPN’s Kelley Carter to kick off Society for Features Journalism’s 2019 conference
VENUE UPDATE FOR THURSDAY: We will now meet at St. Andrews, a decommissioned church on Wayne State’s campus, right next to the Communications building, Manoogian Hall. (Not to be confused with St. Andrews Hall on E. Congress, which is a downtown music venue.) If you’re staying at the hotel, the shuttle driver will drop you at Manoogian Hall, and you will see the church just next door.
If you’re coming on your own, we’re at the corner of Warren Ave. and the Lodge service drive. If you’re driving, Garage #2 is just behind the church on W. Kirby and the Lodge service drive. It’s a public, pay parking garage.
ORIGINAL POST: The Society for Features Journalism announces its 2019 conference schedule, starting with its keynote speaker, a Detroit native who’s reporting on the national stage for ESPN’s The Undefeated. Check out the full schedule of sessions below, plus everything you need to know to plan your visit:
When: Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 18-21, 2019 (Register now!) in Detroit
Tour Downtown Detroit | 2 to 4 p.m. Pick-up and drop-off, Element Detroit at the Metropolitan Never been to Detroit before? Jump on this tour bus, provided by The Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. A seasoned guide will show off some of the city’s most beautiful architecture, from Art Deco masterpieces to mid-century modern standards. Register here for the free tour.
Opening reception and registration | 7 to 9 p.m. Pendant Room, Element Detroit at the Metropolitan Meet your fellow features creatures, register for the conference and relax. Enjoy a glass—or two—of wine, some hors d’oeuvres and good conversation. SFJ President Margaret Myers and other officers will welcome guests and introduce some special folks, such as our Diversity fellows and panelists in attendance.
THURSDAY | 09.19.19
9-9:30 a.m.| Coffee and registration, St. Andrews, Wayne State The Element hotel provides free breakfast for guests. We will provide a shuttle from the Element to Wayne State.
9:30 a.m.| Keynote with Kelley Carter from ESPN’s The Undefeated We are thrilled to feature Detroit’s very own Kelley L. Carter! Kelley is an Emmy-winning journalist and the Senior Entertainment reporter for ESPN’s The Undefeated. She got her start at the Detroit Free Press, and since then has written for some of the most recognized news outlets in the business, including USA Today, Vibe, BuzzFeed, Ebony, Essence, ESPN.com, MTV News, and the Chicago Tribune. At The Undefeated, Kelley’s developed a beat that draws from the intersection of entertainment, pop culture, and race.
10:30-11:30 a.m. | The future of Detroit (and who gets to write it)
Reporters—and headline writers—like Detroit. There are news stories: “Five years after bankruptcy, Detroit’s comeback still has a long way to go.” There are stories that use Detroit as a metaphor: “Russia’s Detroit falls on hard times.” And there are stories that target potential visitors: “Detroit: The most exciting city in America?”
But how can we get a real sense of Detroit and its future? For starters, you can listen to the experts—people who live or have lived here and have made time for thoughtful observation. We have four of them on our panel: Nicole Avery Nichols, Urban Affairs Editor at the Detroit Free Press; Candice Fortman of Outlier Media; Martina Guzman, a local features reporter; and Ron Fournier, the former publisher and editor of Crain’s Detroit Business.
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.| Parenting coverage: What works, what falls flat, and why?
Some parenting stories resonate with readers so profoundly that they break traffic records for their publications and spark meaningful, important discussions. Other parenting stories garner almost no traffic at all. Why the disparity? What works and what doesn’t? Is there a magic sauce?
This panel can help you decide whether your publication should have a parenting beat and, if so, how that beat might work best in your part of the country. With Rebecca Dube, head of TODAY Parents Digital for the TODAY show; Ron Fournier, author of “Love That Boy,” a book about his relationship with his son with autism; and Amy Joyce, On Parenting editor for The Washington Post.
12:30- 2 p.m.| Lunch and Show & Steal part I
Back by popular demand! Just as writer’s block is real, so is editor’s block. Get inspiration from some of the best work by SFJ members from around the country. Laura Coffey of TODAY.com and Sharon Chapman of the Austin American-Statesman will guide this highly visual ideas bonanza.
2-3 p.m. | Freelancer AMA
Editors, how strong—and how diverse—is your freelance roster? With shrinking staffs and audiences’ demand for authenticity, now is the perfect opportunity to cultivate your bench and uncover deeper levels of storytelling. And writers, do you know how to develop your niche and do you even need one? How do you manage the business side of things while staying focused on the creative work?
In this frank discussion, we will hear from veteran freelancers who are all in different stages in their careers, with different backgrounds and goals for the future. They will share advice with the editors and the writers in the room on everything from pitching to pricing. With Daniel Hernandez of the New York Times, Janelle Harris of AARP’s Sisters, and Evan F. Moore of Chicago Sun-Times.
3-4 p.m. | Innovation and on-demand audio Why the podcast and on-demand audio space is so ripe for innovation. But first, what even is innovation? And how do you know if you’re doing it? A look at The Washington Post’s approach to podcasting, with a focus on smart approaches to innovation in any medium. With Jessica Stahl, the head of audio for The Washington Post.
4-5 p.m. | How to Cover the Arts on Any Beat For years, local news organizations under financial strain have cut back on arts coverage or eliminated their arts staff altogether. Features writers and beat reporters are asked to pick up the coverage in newsrooms, while writers dedicated to covering the arts are left to navigate the freelance world.
Our panel will give resource-strapped reporters and editors creative and sustainable approaches to incorporating arts coverage in business, features and breaking news stories. With Christopher Wynn, arts and entertainment editor of The Dallas Morning News; and Joshua Barajas, deputy online editor at PBS NewsHour.
5:15-5:45 p.m. | Features 911
We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Jim Haag and Sharon Chapman will lead this quick and lively session.
8:30 a.m. | Coffee, African Room, Department of Communication, Wayne State University We will provide a shuttle from the Element to Wayne State.
9-10 a.m. | Soul for the Food
Telling the stories of a community by writing about its food. Regional cuisines are a product of the area’s history, native ingredients, colonial influences and more. So writing about Tex-Mex, Frogmore Stew, scrapple or other regional dishes gives us opportunities to write about the communities themselves.
This panel will explore how to mine an area’s food scene for the community stories that lie just beyond. With Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News; Daniel Hernandez formerly of LA Taco; Jamila Robinson of the James Beard Awards Journalism Committee; and Paul Stephen, food writer San Antonio Express-News.
10-11:30 a.m. | Are features stories endangered species? At a time when the industry is focused on investigative, project and data journalism, we ignore—at our own peril—the kinds of feature stories that resonate with our readers. Tom Hallman Jr. will lead a workshop drawn from the real world of storytelling, discussing what’s needed to find, report and write feature stories with impact. More than a class on theory, Hallman will examine his stories, and the stories of other writers, to break down what is required to bring stories to life.
Participants will learn skills they can use immediately. While Hallman has written series and stores as long as 6,000 words, he believes a story does not have to be long, nor does it require months of reporting and writing. Hallman, a senior reporter at The Oregonian, won the 2001 Pulitzer in Feature Writing.
12-1:30 p.m. | SFJ award winners luncheon, Italian Room
We laud the winners of the 2019 Excellence-in-Features Awards.
2-3 p.m. | A new beat for an old magazine
Why on earth would someone spend $50 on a water bottle? What does it say about you if you do? “If you can understand why so many people would spend 50 bucks on a water bottle, you can understand a lot about America in 2019,” writes Amanda Mull, a staff writer at The Atlantic. From why we obsess over fancy S’well bottles to the reason that young Americans are so sick of booze, Mull is carving out a fresh approach to examining contemporary culture, while developing a brand new audience for a 163-year-old publication.
3-4 p.m. |Write the Power: Community stories as told through music writing Music culture coverage isn’t just cool, bringing dismissive hipsters to the fold or sending Boomers into nostalgic overloads. This arts beats is an essential part of journalism because it often tells us the stories of the overlooked and ignored. Whether it’s using a feature on a hip-hop group to showcase how people are powering pride in a crumbling part of town or examining cultural ties by explaining how K-Pop connects a second generation of Americans to their ancestral homeland, these stories unite us through art while bringing different faces and stories to news sites. In a time of representative reporting and diversity course correcting, the music beat can look on point. But the truth is music writers have been reporting on diversity and representation for years by simply finding the best stories about the best art.
We talk with a panel of veteran music and culture writers to explain how music coverage is more than snide album reviews or fawning Q&As; it’s a highly effective way to get diverse people on the front page and timely issues into the news sites. With Mesfin Fekadu, AP Music writer; Imani Mixon, freelance culture writer in Detroit; and Jim DeRogatis, author and former Chicago Sun-Times music critic; and Robert Morast, Senior Arts & Entertainment Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.
4-5 p.m. |Breaking down R. Kelly In 2000, The Chicago Sun-Times was the first news outlet to publish a report that alleged R. Kelly had engaged in sex with minors. Veteran music reporter Jim DeRogatis has been reporting on this tragic story from Day 1. Now, as the pop singer awaits arraignment on federal sex crimes, we have this special opportunity to sit with DeRogatis and discuss this 20-some-year tragedy.
5:15-5:45 p.m. | Features 911
We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Jim Haag and Sharon Chapman will lead this quick and lively session.
7-9 p.m. | The SFJ Foundation Auction, The Detroit Writing Room
Meet us two blocks from the hotel at Detroit’s only co-working space for writers! And it was co-founded by a former features reporter for the Detroit News. We’ll have an open bar and apps. We hope you will bid big to help support the SFJ Foundation’s Diversity Fellowship program. Emily Spicer and Jim Haag will lead the craziness, with able assistance from those in the crowd.
SATURDAY | 09.21.19
Stevie Wonder Room, michigan.com
9 a.m. | Coffee and doughnuts
9:30-10:30 p.m. | Digital storytelling—10 things digital editors wished you knew
Barbara Allen and Kristen Hare from Poynter will lead this session. Come with questions!
10:30-11:30 a.m. | Show & Steal part II Laura Coffey of TODAY.com and Sue Campbell of Star Tribune Magazine showcase more great feature ideas from SFJ members.
11:30 a.m.-noon | Changing of the guard It’s a time-honored tradition: The current SFJ president, Margaret Myers turns over the gavel – and few surprising pieces of clothing – to the incoming president, Sharon Chapman of the Austin American-Statesman. Then, sadly, it’s time to wrap it up.
Editor’s note: We have updated this post to reflect a few changes from the original. Namely, Detroit’s Aaron Foley will not be joining us due to a scheduling conflict. We will miss him! Also, Sue Campbell from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune will be joining Show & Steal this year.
These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 20 categories. First place: NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune Ten awards, including six firsts (Short Feature, Food Criticism, Food Writing Portfolio, General Commentary Portfolio, Best Niche Product and Best Podcast), two seconds (Best Features Digital Presence and General Feature), one third (Diversity in Digital Features) and one honorable mention (Food Feature) Second place: Austin American-Statesman Six awards, including three firsts (Best Section, Best Features Digital Presence and Arts and Entertainment Feature), one second (Video Storytelling) and two thirds (Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio and Video Storytelling) Third place: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post Five awards, including two firsts (Food Feature and Food Specialty Writing Portfolio), one second (General Commentary Portfolio) and two thirds (Narrative Storytelling and Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio)
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: What’s impressive about the Austin American-Statesman is that the paper continues to be an authority when it comes to two major aspects that define its city’s culture – food and entertainment. The extremely comprehensive SXSW guide and the dining guide are fine examples. Throughout the features sections, the stories – whether about a new restaurant, a new singer or a wine-tasting journey – are well-written, reported and edited. Longer reads – like the one about the rapper-barber who’s observing gentrification taking hold of his city or the one about the woman who finds love from a father figure later in her life – prove that the paper’s lifestyle coverage isn’t a one- or two-trick pony. Ultimately, the coverage makes you want to visit Austin – with an empty stomach, of course – and have an adventure you’ll talk about for years to come. Second place: (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union Judge’s comments: These features sections are amazing! (And we use exclamation points sparingly.) In addition to having strong writing and reporting by staff writers – bravo, Steve Barnes – as well as freelance contributors, what stands out is the creativity in the design and the wonderful story ideas. It’s obvious from reading these sections – including the food coverage (such as the story about the actual cost of burgers or the one about olives), the various restaurant reviews (real gems) and the theater and arts coverage – that readers are in for something special when they pick up this paper. The sections have a clear understanding about the entertainment, cultural and dining scenes in the Albany area. As a bonus, readers likely will get a chuckle or two from the quick-witted and colorful writing. Third place: (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record Judge’s comments: The News & Record captures the goings-on in its vibrant community through its intriguing features and arts-and-entertainment pieces – whether a lifestyle story about a chorus performing “Messiah” for the last time or a Halloween writing contest for students. It’s easy to see why these stories would appeal to a diverse group of readers. Honorable mention: The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call
Best features digital presence
The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. First place: Austin360.com, Sharon Chapman, Eric Webb + Staff, Austin American-Statesman Judge’s comments: As the cultural oasis of Texas and home to SXSW, Austin demands a media organization that rises to the challenge in presenting everything the city has to offer – and to it with personality. The features staff at the Austin American-Statesman has met this challenge with a slick, comprehensive presentation that conveys a playful and lively approach to the information people need to have. Second place: Where NOLA Eats, Todd Price, Ann Maloney + Brett Anderson, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune Judge’s comments: Where NOLA Eats represents an amazing effort by its three-member food staff, hitting every angle and update that residents and visitors alike would need to know to find their way through this food mecca. Third place: Out There Colorado, Staff, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette Judge’s comments: Out There Colorado presents a picture-perfect guide to the outdoor adventures the state has to offer. A job well done in a tough category. Honorable mention: Equal Voice News, Staff, Equal Voice News
Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic.
First place: Amy Silverman, Phoenix New Times, “John McCain: Man of Illusion” Judge’s comments: Silverman’s sharp, authoritative memoriam of John McCain transcends the category of political obituary. With a warm embrace and a gut punch, she delivers a nuanced – and distinctly Arizonan – perspective on parts of the McCain legacy that often are overlooked by national voices who knew the senator as only the “Maverick.” Second place: Katherine Sayre, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Fighting for Kevin: A Father Struggles to Keep His Son Alive in Louisiana’s Mental Health Care System” Judge’s comments: Sayre showcases a sharp eye for detail in a story that takes a novel approach to explaining the problems with the state mental health system. It’s a topic that has been taken on before, and Sayre tackles it with ambition. Reggie Seay is an empathetic protagonist whose determination in the face of a byzantine system is as humbling as it is powerful. Third place: Stephanie Earls, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Joshua’s Journey: Gazette Chronicles a Year in a Young Boy’s Battle with Cancer” Judge’s comments: The intimate and everyday struggle of a family facing the unimaginable comes alive through Earls’ precise and beautiful writing. Joshua is only 4 years old, but his personality jumps off the page, as does his parents’ devotion during his treatment. Honorable mention: Anna Claire Vollers, The Birmingham (Ala.) News/AL.com, “Alabama’s Dinosaur Adventure Land Teaches That Evolution is ‘Dumbest Religion in the History of the World’ “
Arts & Entertainment feature
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic. First place (tie): Steve Bornfeld, LasVegasNewswire.com, “This is a Shtick-Up!: At 92, Vegas Legend Shecky Greene Still a Comedy Tornado” Judge’s comments: Bornfeld captures the frenetic energy and stream-of-consciousness style of Shecky Greene, and readers feel as though they’re in the room with the comic. Bornfeld’s instincts for mirroring Greene’s style results in an entertaining snapshot. A line early in the story captures the approach: “Chitchats with Shecky Greene demand massive stockpiles of those percussive flourishes (BA-RUMP-BUMP!) that could punctuate Shecky punch lines whooshing toward you in tsunami waves.” First place (tie): Wes Eichenwald, Austin American-Statesman, “Where Life is Still a Cabaret in Manhattan” Judge’s comments: Eichenwald’s portraits and reminiscences about those who moonlight as entertainers in New York’s piano bars and cabarets convey an intimacy borne from personal experience and the memories of subjects who have a thousand stories to tell. A wonderfully observed slice of disappearing life. Second place: Chad Huculak, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “Fringe Survival Guide: The Illustrated Edition” Judge’s comments: The cartoon treatment of this survival guide is a clever and entertaining way to advance an event. It’s a fresh take on what likely is an annual ritual, and it’s nice that the writer tapped into various segments of the people involved, including performers and critics. Third place: Robrt L. Pela, Phoenix New Times, “Battle of the Ladmo Bag Boys” Judge’s comments: This story takes readers deep into the cult of a faded kids TV show “beloved by all Phoenicians” and a legal flap that threatens a happy ending. We appreciated the energy and the devotion to detail in the story, and Pela does a good job explaining the significance of the show and telling people who might not have watched why they should care.
Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words. First place: Todd Price, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “One Man Makes All of Arnaud’s Souffle Potatoes” Judge’s comments: Oh, the things we take for granted when we step into a fancy restaurant. We make a reservation and show up with a long list of expectations. If those expectations are met, we leave happy – and we probably don’t give meal preparation a second thought. But Price is here to remind us that behind every delicious bite is dedication, experience and pride of craft in his piece about the man who creates all of the soufflé potatoes for a New Orleans institution. Read this piece, and you’ll understand the pursuit of perfection. Second place: Fish Griwkowsky, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “Barbarian Art: The Secret Conan Lurking Inside Edmonton’s Outdoor Murals” Judge’s comments: Two words: “Fish Griwkowsky.” This isn’t the first time this writer has delighted us, so it’s not surprising that he’s done it again. Three more words: “Conan the Barbarian.” Perhaps there is no one else in the world who could make a story on a muralist who likes to include Conan in his works read like a work of art: “… the puncher of camels is reliably in nearly every Friesen mural — in effect the Where’s Waldo of Edmonton.” Third place: Andrea Brown, The (Everett, Wash.) Daily Herald, “Alexa Does It All (Except Curse)” Judge’s comments: The future is already here, and for anyone who proudly resists it – or who proudly calls herself a Luddite – get over it. You cannot resist! This is a glimpse – through Brown’s precise prose – of how many of us (most of us?) will be ordering our lives until the next improvement comes along. Honorable mention: Elise Stolte, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “Hidden Strengths: These Edmonton Shopkeepers Are Gems in the Fight Against Homelessness”
A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personalityprofile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic. First place: Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “A Sliver of Haiti in Boca Raton” Judge’s comments: Balmaseda writes with ease and elegance as she introduces readers to Chef Greg Romulus and his restaurant. At each step of the way, the flavors of Haitian food come through with her beautiful descriptions. This is a great example of how a story can be written tightly and yet effective. Second place: Chris Malloy, Phoenix New Times, “Eating Arizona” Judge’s comments: This is a compelling narrative with detailed descriptions. Readers get an in-depth taste of the Sonoran Desert and the ingredients it offers when Malloy takes a trip with chefs to forage, hike and harvest. The writing is engaging and educational. Third place: Ian McNulty, The New Orleans Advocate, “Now Fewer Than Ever, New Orleans Po-Boy Bread Bakers Have a Lot Riding on Their Loaves” Judge’s comments: McNulty achieves what he sets out to do by making readers understand why good bread matters for po-boys. The story has a smooth and easy flow as he works his way through the different bakeries that create the bread and seamlessly captures the voices of the bakers.
Honorable mention: Ann Maloney, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Father and Son Keep Roman Candy Rolling Through New Orleans”
A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry. First place: Todd Price, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Jack Rose Shakes Off the Past With a Playful Attitude, Satisfying Fare” Judge’s comments: This is how a critic should write, describing the moment, the atmosphere and the scene, as well as the subject at hand – in this case, food. Price gives readers a global view on a myopic moment, and we’re richer for it. Second place: Susie Davidson Powell, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Pebbles Asian Fusion Serves Food True to Roots of Chef’s Native Taiwan” Judge’s comments: Davidson displays fine writing and descriptive ability in her work.
Features series or project
Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts. First place: Jennifer Berry Hawes and Deanna Pan, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “An Undying Mystery” Judge’s comments: A fascinating, horrifying and mesmerizing look at two unsolved 1944 murders. The research and writing are impeccable in this fantastic piece of storytelling. Second place: Staff, Deseret News, “Generation Vexed: Teens and Anxiety” Judge’s comments: A useful series that might not have been done at all if not for reporters simply following up on something they observed. One of the more interesting aspects of it was hyper-local: how stress affects missionaries in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fascinating. Third place: Janet French, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “Missing the Mark: An Investigation into Alberta’s Class Sizes” Judge’s comments: Superb work with data analysis, and this piece does something we do far too little as journalists: follow up. This series looks at classroom conditions 15 years after a highly touted study, and this reporting shows little, if any, progress after $2 billion was poured into making attempted corrections. Honorable mention: Britt Kennerly, Florida Today, “The Long Goodbye”
A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme. First place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “The Stolen Daughter” Judge’s comments: A wonderful and well-crafted piece with elegant, simple prose, and the chapter approach segments a long story into digestible chunks that provide drama – the good kind. As much as anything else, it’s a story that exemplifies how patience can amplify intrigue – through character development, a smart outline and nonlinear storytelling that stays on path. This is top-notch work – the type of story you don’t want to stop reading, but you also want to rush to the end to find out what’s coming. Second place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “In a Blinding Flash” Judge’s comments: Another strong piece by Hawes. This one has great pacing and language, and the story moves like a lulling rhythm that pulls you in and sets you to time. Third place: Joe Capozzi, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “The Strange Tale of Wolfie and the Addicts” Judge’s comments: This story features wonderful voice and style in the opening section, and it’s smart and effective, without becoming a burdensome trick. Honorable mention: Steve Barnes, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Waiter Matthew Kirschner Tells His Opioid Tale, in His Own Arrogant Way”
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: Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post Judge’s comments: Balmaseda deftly connects people, food and culture in an engaging, sophisticated style. Her passion for food, people and writing comes through in each piece and, in the end, you feel as though you know these people and you know this place. Second place: Keith Spera, The New Orleans Advocate Judge’s comments: Spera oozes cool with great storytelling and a clever way with words. Third place: Larry Aydlette, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post Judge’s comments: Readers surely love this series of historical and celebrity stories. Aydlette combines history, clips, the present and the past in a style that seems effortless. Honorable mention: Kelli Bozeman, inRegister
Food writing portfolio
Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic. First place: Brett Anderson, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune Judge’s comments: Anderson seamlessly merges in-depth reporting with engaging writing. Each piece is smooth and pulls you in, with effortless description and character development. There are moments of fun and levity, but you’re never unclear about how well Anderson scratches beneath the surface. Second place: Liane Faulder, Edmonton (Canada) Journal Judge’s comments: Faulder clearly cares deeply about the community she covers. She has a wide range of reporting skills and knowledge about her city’s business, food policy and the culture. She knows how to put a human face on trends that demonstrate the power of food. Third place: Steve Barnes, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union Judge’s comments: Barnes’ stories about the business side of food show impressive off-the-news analysis. He clearly follows his community closely and knows when news events will have an effect on people. Honorable mention: Ian McNulty, The New Orleans Advocate
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: Haley Correll, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune Judge’s comments: Correll takes a particular instance or event and puts it in universal context. The columns about school are well-reported and illuminate a larger issue affecting the community. Second place: Leslie Gray Streeter, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post Judge’s comments: Streeter takes personal thoughts and raises them from the individual to the universal. Her writing is sophisticated with a distinctive voice. Third place: Bill Knight, Pekin (Ill.) Daily Times Judge’s comments: Knight displays clever wordplay and has a recognizable voice and point of view.
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: Tracey O’Shaughnessy, (Waterbury, Conn.) Republican-American Judge’s comments: In muscular, descriptive writing that’s authoritative yet accessible, O’Shaughnessy gives her readers a master class in art appreciation. In a column about a hitherto-unknown Leonardo da Vinci painting, she says: Who else, given “the way the light reflected off the interior caramel trim of the saint’s cloak … [and] the almost microscopic speck of light that bled on the saint’s left thumb.” No pandering here; the writer respects her readers’ intelligence. Second place: Simi Horwitz, Film Journal International Judge’s comments: Horwitz is a consistent winner, and she’s back again this year. Marginalized youth is thriving in movie land, she argues in a masterful piece that displays her command of cinema history. Third place: Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman Judge’s comments: Vivid details help convey the flavor of Austin’s food scene in Odam’s work.
Feature treatment of any sports topic. First place: Jesse Hyde, Deseret News, “The Lonely Master: From March Madness to Shangai, the Unlikely Journey of Jimmer Fredette” Judge’s comments: Poignant look at former NBA journeyman Jimmer Fredette, who finds himself playing basketball in China. Hyde chooses the perfect details to show what happens when life doesn’t turn out exactly like you had planned. The lede is wonderful – Fredette building a nativity set from Legos in Shangai while his family celebrates Christmas in the States – and the ending resonates. Second place: Emily Wolfe, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, “Ski. Climb. Write.” Judge’s comments: Wolfe chronicles the path of Dick Dorworth, a champion skier, whose life journey takes him from on the top of the world to an extremely dark place before finding Zen Buddhism. The writing is lively, and the pacing is perfect. Third place: Stephanie Earls, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Run With the Burros” Judge’s comments: It’s easy to love a story that starts this way: “About 4 miles into the Victor Gold Rush Challenge, my ass went bankrupt.” Earls gives us a first-hand account of her attempt at burro racing, and we’re pretty sure that the “ass” she mentions in the opening line is the donkey – and not her derriere. It’s a fun piece that kept us laughing. Honorable mention: Nathan Van Dyne, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Kindness Elevated: Six Strangers Turn Mountain Mishap into Mountain Rescue”
The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length. First place: Hannah Tran, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Discarded Beauty” Judge’s comments: A beautifully shot and tightly edited piece, “Discarded Beauty” expertly carries out the recycling metaphor without slipping into cliched territory. Heartfelt, honest and an important reminder that art is a critical piece of one’s humanity – and that it shouldn’t be forgone when someone is incarcerated. Second place: Reshma Kirpalani, Austin American-Statesman, “Bad Birds” Judge’s comments: A funny, charming look at an unexpected subject matter. Seeing how these birds – for better or worse – unite a community makes for a quirky and delightful video. Well-shot and edited with a breadth of characters and a healthy but fun dose of education. Third place: Ana Ramirez, Austin American-Statesman, “Swimming for a Dream” Judge’s comments: A touching story that is visually compelling and emotionally moving. The video is focused and features excellent sound editing. Plus, cool underwater shots capture the energy and vibrancy. Honorable mention: Staff, Equal Voice News, “The Future Builders: A Native Community and Family Homes”
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. No awards given.
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: Emily Wolfe, Montana Outlaw, “Fuel, Oxygen and Heat” Judge’s comments: Wolfe takes readers into the heat of the action, and she shows what it feels like to be at the scene of a fire – and to be a female firefighter dealing with unwanted advances. Second place: Mike Fisher, U Magazine, “International Call for Freedom Leads to UCalgary” Judge’s comments: Fisher shares a poignant story of survival and hope. Third place: Ann Maloney and Todd Price, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Race and Diversity Through Food in New Orleans” Judge’s comments: Maloney’s story shows how the common denominator of food can break down economic barriers. Honorable mention: Paula Simons, Edmonton (Canada) Journal, “Pride Over Prejudice: How the Vriend Case Made Legal History at the Supreme Court Two Decades Ago and Established LGBTQ Rights in Alberta – and Across Canada”
Best special section
The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. First place: Staff, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Colorful Colorado” Judge’s comments: The writing is captivating, and the photos are gorgeous in this special section. If the idea is to entice visitors to see these places, then this section does its job. Second place: Staff, The Villages (Fla.) Daily Sun, “Gridiron 2018” Judge’s comments: This section gets high marks for being highly useful. Just about every angle is covered for fans of this high school team. The design is clean and consistent, and the photo portraits are fun. Third place (tie): Staff, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union, “Vow” Judge’s comments: Third place ends in a tie between two different types of publications, both well-done. “Vow” has a beautiful slick cover and provides a nice variety of articles. Third place (tie): Staff, The Villages (Fla.) Daily Sun, “Paradise in Pictures” Judge’s comments: Third place ends in a tie between two different types of publications, both well-done. “Paradise in Pictures” must surely be popular with readers, and the caption writers do a nice job keeping it lively. Honorable mention: Ian McNulty, The New Orleans Advocate, “Essential 100: New Orleans Advocate Dining Guide”
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: Dining Guides, Todd Price, Ann Maloney and Brett Anderson, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune Judge’s comments: These guides to New Orleans’ food and drinking scene are must-haves for anyone wanting to partake in the city’s glorious culinary tradition. The writing is authoritative, and the fried chicken guide is simply mouth-watering. Second place: 1808, Cindy Loman and Staff, (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record Judge’s comments: A well-done magazine with striking covers and a nice mix of shorter and longer pieces. Love the idea of looking at today’s tourism throughout the eyes of a Revolutionary War hero. Third place: Adore, Katy Danos and Emily Sucherman, The New Orleans Advocate Judge’s comments: We – dare we say it? – adore the covers on these guides to fashion, home design and decor, and we’re sure readers love the helpful tips and advice they receive from the content. Honorable mention: Discover Central Virginia, Carrie Sidener and Jon Ness, The (Lynchburg, Va.) News & Advance Honorable mention: Upstate, Staff, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union
DIVISION 2 | Circulation 90,000 to 199,999
Finest in features sweepstakes awards
These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 20 categories. First place: The Virginian-Pilot Eleven awards, including four firsts (Narrative Storytelling, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Best Special Section and Best Niche Product), one second (Best Special Section), five thirds (Best Section, Food Feature, Food Criticism, Sports Feature and Integrated Storytelling) and one honorable mention (Video Storytelling) Second place: San Antonio Express-News Twelve awards, including two firsts (Best Digital Features Presence and Food Criticism), three seconds (Food Feature, Food Criticism and Best Podcast), three thirds (Narrative Storytelling, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Food Writing Portfolio) and four honorable mentions (Features Series or Project, Best Section, General Feature and Best Special Section) Third place: The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com Nine awards, including four firsts (General Feature, General Commentary Portfolio, Video Storytelling and Integrated Storytelling), four seconds (General Feature, Features Series or Project), General Commentary Portfolio and Sports Feature) and one third (Short Feature)
The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage. First place: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Judge’s comments: This section is impressive in breadth and local knowledge. The weekend section is easy to scan and contains loads of service material. Cover subjects include creative explorations of breakfast, a great “Mix and Match” Easter foods section and a summer guide to Pittsburgh. But the most impressive is the section on Mister Rogers. For this paper, his life was hometown story, so a 50th anniversary section would seem a given. But the Post-Gazette went all out and, surprisingly, the stories never felt repetitive. The section’s design is lovely, and each page holds something special. Second place: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Judge’s comments: This section is full of inspired and creative content. For subscribers and frequent readers, there are regular columns, but there also are strong stories to pull in casual readers. For example, the “Fallen Arches” article is easy to scan, funny and irreverent. At the same time, it is informative in a way that could turn outsiders into insiders. We also loved “Women Shaping Our Arts Scene,” which profiles not just the normal arts folks but also a librarian and beverage director. The section covers a wide array of subjects – theater, books, parenting, society, pets, travel – giving readers much to choose from. Third place: The Virginian-Pilot Judge’s comments: The section covers a wide variety of ideas and is generally strong. The staff tackles the serious subject of race but also takes on traditional features content – food (the writing, by the way, is top-notch), theater and goings-on about town. We liked the “Out and About” page, which has content that lets people know where to be and what to do. Honorable mention: San Antonio Express-News
Best features digital presence
The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. First place: MySAFood, The Taste Team, San Antonio Express-News Judge’s comments: MySAFood has a deep online presence, with diverse topics, strong social media, effective multimedia efforts and great photos. It’s easily the most well-rounded, user-friendly, interesting and polished of the lot. Second place: baltimoresun.com/entertainment, Staff, The Baltimore Sun Judge’s comments: This is a strong site with nice social media feeds. Third place: sunsentinel.com/goingout, Gretchen Day-Bryant + Staff, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel Judge’s comments: Strong social media feeds enhance this site.
Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic. First place: Tom Hallman Jr., The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com, “Dear Della” Judge’s comments: Wow. This story sets Hallman apart from the rest. He saw potential and acted upon it. He did not know where it might lead, most likely a dead end, but he embarked on the journey and discovered a hidden gem. The fragrance of determination wafts through this story. Hallman employs many devices to deliver a compelling tale. The fundamentals of great stories include conceiving a great idea, collecting valuable information and constructing a compelling tale, and Hallman masters each step in that process. Second place: Bethany Barnes, The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com, “Targeted” Judge’s comments: Barnes did an amazing amount of reporting and homework. She spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand the tremendous stress and strain this process created for this family. The depth of her reporting is unmatched in this way. Barnes writes with authority, especially at the beginning of the story, because of all the work she did to understand the topic. This is the kind of story that causes readers to think about an issue that they had likely never considered. It’s both troubling and complex without easy answers. Third place: Michael Mayo and Megan O’Matz, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel, “For Families of Parkland Shooting Victims, Awful Truth Came After Hours of Waiting” Judge’s comments: Superb work. The story captures the frustration of grieving parents hungry for information about their children amid the mass tragedies. We felt the frustration, just reading the story. Honorable mention: Richard Marini, San Antonio Express-News, “Still Not Too Old to Bump and Grind”
Arts & entertainment feature
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic. First place: Rod Stafford Hagwood, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel, “For Marjory Stoneman Douglas Drama Students, a ‘Spring Awakening’ Like No Other” Judge’s comments: This engaging look at those involved in a South Florida production of “Spring Awakening” – which features several Parkland shooting survivors – gets behind the headlines to offer a glimpse at how trauma can affect the making of art. Second place: Cristina Bolling, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, “They Never Expected His Gift. Now They Must Help Him Make the Biggest Choice of His Young Life.” Judge’s comments: Bolling’s profile of the phenomenally talented 17-year-old cellist Drew Dansby doesn’t solely focus on him, as intriguing as he is. It also delves into what it’s like being a parent of someone labeled “brilliant” and the burden of making parental decisions in such a situation. Third place: Bobby Olivier, NJ Advance Media, “Good … For a Girl” Judge’s comments: Sexual harassment is an issue in the music business, and this can be especially true on the local level where, as Olivier reports in his engrossing conversation with several female musicians on the New Jersey club scene, such behavior is being “swept under the stage, gig after gig, weekend after weekend.”
Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words. First place: Carlos Frias, Miami Herald, “It Has Vanilla, Nutella Filling — and 100 Croquetas. Behold Miami’s ‘Croqueta Cake.’” Judge’s comments: When you read these words – “This moment will be remembered like the day Sir Alexander Fleming left a petri dish uncovered and accidentally discovered penicillin. Because this was the day the croqueta cake was born” – you know you are in the hands of a master. This story is at once solid, informative, compelling, informative and playful – which is exactly what food writing should be. We’re pretty sure we all need to fly to Miami and insist that Carlos treat us to a croqueta cake. Second place: Cristina Bolling, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, “Hen Hangs Out at Harris Teeter, Becomes a Summer Celebrity” Judge’s comments: Let us be clear: We like animals. In fact, we love animals, but most of the animal stories we encounter are over-the-top or silly or way too sweet. This gem of a story is simply a lovely read – a story about a phenomenon that has captivated a community. The captivator just happens to be a chicken and, in this instance, that is pretty wonderful. Third place: Eder Campuzano, The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com, “Can I Finally Call Myself an American?” Judge’s comments: This entry is moving, thoughtful and relevant to the current culture. If anyone ever contemplates what it means to call oneself an American – if anyone wants to NOT take that adjective for granted – this is the article they should read. Honorable mention: Mark Gauert, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel, “The Question I Asked Marjory Stoneman Douglas”
A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personalityprofile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic. First place: Carlos Frias, Miami Herald, “His Pizza is so ‘Extraordinary,’ the Government Granted Him a U.S. Visa” Judge’s comments: An extraordinary slice-of-life story with a localized news peg. It’s a long piece, but we stayed with it and kept thinking, “This would make a great movie!” All because of the way Frias framed the story, developed his characters and put a face on a controversial issue Second place: Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News, “For the Best Tamales, Love is the Secret Ingredient” Judge’s comments: This story features good sourcing and good transitions and is a good length. And it’s a shoe-in for Show & Steal. Third place: Matthew Korfhage, The Virginian-Pilot, “For the First Time in Decades, Virginia Beach Schools Will Be Making Scratch Food” Judge’s comments: Scratch cooking in schools? Shut the door! We bet this story was a talker. Korfhage folds in much information but never lets it muddle the narrative. Lots of spinoff story potential in the chef’s plans: culinary classes for kids, scratch recipes for moms, tips and tricks to get kids to eat their vegetables. We love the ongoing news value of this one – and the strong visuals to help drive clicks. Honorable mention: Kelly Brant and Thomas Metthe, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Well-Read Feast”
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, “Carnitas Lonja Puts Pork on a Pedestal” Judge’s comments: Sharp, lively writing with phrases that take you by surprise. A joy to read. Second place: Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, “3 Stars for Clementine in Castle Hills” Judge’s comments: Another strong effort from Sutter, this one features lovely writing and a smart structure. Third place: Matthew Korfhage, The Virginian-Pilot, “Virginia Beach Now Has a Restaurant With Glorious Hand-Pulled Chinese Noodles” Judge’s comments: It’s easy to admire the depth of knowledge in this piece and the clarity with which it is presented. Honorable mention: Ian Froeb, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “At Savage, Logan Ely Turns Humble Ingredients into One of the Year’s Best New Restaurants”
Features series or project
Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts. First place: Mike Stocker, Doreen Christensen, Yiran Zhu, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel, “Voices of Change” Judge’s comments: Beautiful, compelling, thoughtful and engaging. Top-notch writing, photography and design. Second place: Noelle Crombie, Dave Killen, Beth Nakamura, The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com, “Ghosts of Highway 20” Judge’s comments: A rich collection of media; each element is finely crafted and presented. Any other year, this would win. Third place: David Frese, The Kansas City Star, “When Polio Struck” Judge’s comments: An important topic, intelligently researched and reported, presented with lively writing, lovely photography and strong design. Honorable mention:Melissa Fletcher Stoeljte, San Antonio Express-News, “Sold for Sex”
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: Joanne Kimberlin, The Virginian-Pilot, “On America’s Founding River, Two Men Battle Each Other for Progress and History” Judge’s comments: This excellent piece illustrates the tension in a fight over a massive power-line project through the eyes of two men on opposite sides of the issue. The pair have never met, yet Kimberlin seamlessly stitches their stories together with details that bring the characters, the landscape and the project to life. A long-simmering infrastructure dispute doesn’t automatically come with inherent drama, but the writer crafts a compelling narrative that hooks the reader from the get-go, even if they’ve never set foot near the James River. Second place: Chabeli Herrera, Miami Herald, “A Split-Second Decision Saved His Life in the Parkland Shooting. The Trauma Haunts Him.” Judge’s comments: The horror of a shooter menacing the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the agonizing aftermath for its survivors vividly come to life in this feature. Told through the eyes of a wounded student, the story does a deft job of placing readers in the moment that thrust Parkland students, teachers and families into the spotlight. But the piece does just as good a job telling the stories of the bonds that form afterward – exploring both existing relationships (such as those between parents and son) and new connections (like the friendship between a 15-year-old and an off-duty officer who came to his aid as he fled the school with a gunshot wound). Third place: Martin Kuz, San Antonio Express-News, “Returning to War to Find Peace of Mind” Judge’s comments: A walk down a hilltop trail in Afghanistan changed Luke Cifka’s life when an explosion cost the soldier his legs. This feature, tied to his return to the country years later through Operation Proper Exit, delivers a clear-eyed, well-paced story of the soldier’s life before and after the catastrophic blast. Honorable mention: Matthew Stanmyre, NJ Advance Media, “In N.J.’s Underground Arm Wrestling Scene, Grunts, Groans, Grimaces Rule and Only the Strong Survive”
Features specialty writing portfolio
Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, food, health, religion, technology or travel. First place: Elizabeth Simpson, The Virginian-Pilot Judge’s comments: Simpson’s smooth storytelling and style bring her subjects to life. For example: “The arms of the 4-year-old sisters move gracefully through the air, reminiscent of babies waving their arms in cribs.” The writing immediately draws in readers and keeps them engaged. This collection of health stories covers a range of thought-provoking issues: A teen with an unusual growth spurt caused by a brain tumor. A dentist who notifies the CDC about a rare pulmonary disease. And parents dealing with genetic mutations in two of their three triplets. Each is well-researched and reported, but ultimately, this first-place win comes down to the writing. Second place: Jeremy Reynolds, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Judge’s comments: Reynolds’ collection of stories highlight surprising aspects to coverage of classical music. Issues such as age discrimination among symphony orchestras bring an interesting comparison to peak athletes and the challenge for musicians to remain on top of their game. Hearing loss in classical musicians because of acoustic shock brings another aspect. And the trend across the country of musicians with mental illness forming symphonies – and what that can mean for their therapy – offers additional insight. Each piece goes deep in its reporting, giving readers an appreciation for the subject. Third place: Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, San Antonio Express-News Judge’s comments: Fletcher Stoeltje doesn’t shy away from difficult issues. Her piece on the opioid crisis takes a look at how doctors who misinterpret CDC guidelines are harming patients. A look at diabetes-related amputations among diabetes sufferers relates to the disproportional number of cases among the local Hispanic population. Another story examines the moral issues involved in heart surgery for opioid addicts. Each piece is well-researched and thoughtfully written, presenting the science in understandable language and the compelling stories of the real people at the center of the topic. Honorable mention: Spencer Kent, NJ Advance Media
Food writing portfolio
Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic. First place: Jessica Remo, NJ Advance Media Judge’s comments: Remo’s writing is arresting and personable, with just the right touch of sass. It has a compelling sense of immediacy that declares, “You must read this story – now!” And while the topics might seem simple, they are deceptively so. On close examination, it’s clear that there is a great deal of solid reporting in each story. Remo’s fresh voice puts her on the leading edge of the new crop of excellent, accessible food writers. Second place: Carlos Frias, Miami Herald Judge’s comments: Frias consistently turns out arresting, must-read ledes. To that, he adds vivid imagery and inspired similes – all of which make his writing vibrant. His keen grasp and playful use of language helps bring his stories to life, and his sense of place telegraphs that he knows the communities he covers extremely well. Third place: Chuck Blount, San Antonio Express-News Judge’s comments: The pacing of these stories helps makes them eminently readable, and the lively quotes make them fun, accessible and compelling. The use of smart topics, a hyper-local approach and accessible packing (with tips bars, boxes and multiple entry points) makes this entry a winner. Honorable mention: Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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: Samantha Swindler, The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com Judge’s comments: Swindler’s pieces begin with ordinary events and lead to deeply felt truths: the sense that the dead should be left to rest in peace, the heart connection we desire to our own flesh and blood, the ominous swell of a mob mentality. These are fine stories with shimmering revelations. Second place: Tom Hallman Jr., The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com Judge’s comments: A long-lost letter. An intriguing obit. In these luminous and sometimes mystical pieces, dogged journalistic sleuthing meets great writing to uncover real-life mysteries, illuminating the importance of time, remembrance and human connection. Third place: Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Judge’s comments: Martin is a thought-provoking writer whose topics include urban myth, Russian classic literature and The Rolling Stones. The story about the second-hand football made momentarily presentable with shoe polish almost brought us to tears.
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: Philip Martin, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Judge’s comments: This commentary is rich in common sense. Plain-spoken with an intelligence that doesn’t draw undue attention to itself, Martin’s unfussy vernacular style puts the focus squarely on the topic at hand, bringing out the underlying ideas in an almost casual but utterly clear fashion. At his best, he spins laconic music that connects in a special way, much like one of his subjects here, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell: “You walk out night after night and worry about the worn places on your guitar’s neck and find the words you can’t say any other way standing up before a crowd of strangers who also can’t be anywhere else right now.” Second place: David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun Judge’s comments: Fierce and relentless, Zurawik is no mere TV reviewer. He is a social critic who takes TV itself to task. In a “Z on TV” column about the once-almighty, now-impotent broadcast networks, he argues that their abdication of public-service programming and capitulation to junk-food entertainment is a danger to democracy. Third place: Sadie Dingfelder, The Washington Post Express Judge’s comments: Chatty, pointed and wonderfully witty, these “Staycationer” columns invite readers to ride shotgun as Dingfelder explores D.C. This isn’t rocket science to be sure, but the work is smart and on the money. Honorable mention: Jeremy Reynolds, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Feature treatment of any sports topic. First place: Joseph Atmonavage, NJ Advance Media, “The Making of Doris Burke” Judge’s comments: This is an excellent example of a story about a woman succeeding in a male-dominated area of sports that is actually about the woman, not the fact that she is a woman. Great depth in the interviews and research, and great use of quotes about the subject rather than quotes from the subject. Second place: Andrew Greif, The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com, “The Power of Asking for Help: Former Oregon Ducks Lineman Zach Okun on his Battle with Mental Health” Judge’s comments: These are two critical issues in sports: concussions and mental health, and this story puts a likable human face on both. It’s rare to hear about an athlete who had to choose not to pursue sports and be hailed for doing that. Great job telling a different side of the story of an athlete overcoming obstacles. Third place: Harry Minium, The Virginian-Pilot, “ODU Legend Ronnie Valentine Disappeared Among the Homeless in Miami for Decades. We Set Out to Find Him.” Judge’s comments: This is an ambitious project, and it’s well-worth the investment of time and other resources. The depth of human connections forged through sports is intense, and Minium captures that well. Honorable mention: Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star, “Good and Lucky: How Patrick Mahomes Wound Up in Kansas City, Quarterbacking the Chiefs”
The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length. First place: Samantha Swindler, The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com, “DNA Test Reunites Korean Adoptees 34 Years Later” Judge’s comments: Such a touching story told in 3.5 minutes. The writing is tight and effective; the music is appropriate; and the story is fascinating. The result is one of those, “Who’s crying? I’m not crying” moments. But, yes, we were crying. Second place: Carlos Frias, Amy Reyes and Matias Ocner, Miami Herald, “We Went on a Croqueta Tour of Miami. Five Stops in One Day — the Most-Miami Adventure.” Judge’s comments: We absolutely loved this, from the two on-screen folks to the animation. Great way to make food reviews ultra-accessible. Third place: Jessica Remo and Andre Malok, NJ Advance Media, “Crazy Cranford Cowboy Rides a Homemade Battery-Powered Horse” Judge’s comments: This one made us laugh. The video features a great on-screen presence and quite a weird story to tell. Honorable mention: Shelly Yang, The Kansas City Star, “Who Is Dr. MooMoo?” Honorable mention: Kristen Zeis, The Virginian-Pilot, “No Turning Back: A Transgender Sailor’s Journey”
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: Noelle Crombie, Dave Killen and Beth Nakamura, The (Portland) Oregonian/OregonLive.com, “Ghosts of Highway 20” Judge’s comments: We were totally glued to this entry. Terrific storytelling and outstanding research about an unbelievable topic. It is incredible that these heinous crimes went on for so long. The woman who escaped is on this Earth for a reason. The story brings out emotions – and that makes an excellent feature. Second place: Yvonne Wenger and Diana K. Sugg, The Baltimore Sun, “The Wait” Judge’s comments: This story tugs at our emotions. Terrific lede, and nice use of visual and auditory cues – kids playing, quiet house. The story stayed with us long after we finished it. Third place: Kaitlin McKeown and Matthew Korfhage, The Virginian-Pilot, “Hampton Roads’ Only Lesbian Bar Under Threat” Judge’s comments: This story made us want to know these women and their community. The balanced piece showed both their side and the city’s side, but it seems clear that discrimination is present. Stories like these need to be told. Honorable mention: Mike Stocker, Doreen Christensen, Yiran Zhu, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel, “Voices of Change”
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: Mike Stocker, Doreen Christensen, Yiran Zhu, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel, “Voices of Change” Judge’s comments: This excellent digital project focuses on the intersection between race and guns in America. Its creators use the online medium for maximum impact. The video testimonies, coming one after another, are extremely powerful. The feature, rooted in the aftermath of the murders of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gives voice to the stories of survivors focusing on black and Latino students, teachers and community members. The work honors those speaking up about how gun violence in the U.S. is not experienced equally and their efforts to address that. Second place: Molly Solomon, Oregon Public Broadcasting, “Longstanding Equity Issues At Clark College Alienate Staff, Students” Judge’s comments: It’s clear that a tremendous amount of work went into this feature on long-standing equity issues on the staff of a Washington state college. The piece includes many voices from staff members and students talking about a serious concern – that the diversity of the staff doesn’t come close to reflecting a student body that is 40 percent students of color. Good use of audio and written elements in the digital presentation. Third place: Francisco Vara-Orta, Holly Peele and Maya Riser-Kositsky, Education Week, “Hate in Schools” Judge’s comments: This feature, rooted in research that is national in scope, does a fine job backing up the data with details and voices. It demonstrates how hundreds of examples of hate-fuelled acts – tied to religion, ethnicity and race – have crept into schools and the effect it has on the students confronted with that hate and bias. The piece is well-presented online with digital elements that help push the conversation forward. Honorable mention: Brittany Britto, The Baltimore Sun, “How a Baltimore Resident is Taking the City’s Dirt Bike Culture and Turning It into STEM Education for Youths”
Best special section
The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. First place: Staff, The Virginian-Pilot, Food Issue of Distinction Judge’s comments: The thick cover and heavy paper pay off in making this special section a keeper. But that’s just the surface. The publication covers a variety of topics written to keep readers interested, and the photography is consistently beautiful. Second place: Staff, The Virginian-Pilot, “Holiday Food Guide: A Taste of Virginia” Judge’s comments: This section features well-written, informative feature stories. Third place: Rachel Mull, The Baltimore Sun, “Fall Arts Guide” Judge’s comments: This special section is well-organized and highly useful. Honorable mention: Emily Spicer, Paul Stephen and Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, “Top 100 Dining & Drinks”
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: Distinction, Staff, The Virginian-Pilot Judge’s comments: This perennial powerhouse shines again – with its stellar covers, great mix of stories, excellent writing and crisp design. “The Guide to Virginia Bourbon” is comprehensive, well-crafted and fun. Love the Hit List. Second place: Prime, Mark Gauert, Anderson Greene and Staff, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel Judge’s comments: A strong effort throughout, with stunning covers and a breadth of coverage inside. Impressive. Third place (tie): Howard, Rachel Mull and Staff, The Baltimore Sun Judge’s comments: This publication, which focuses on Howard University, features solid writing and design. Third place (tie): VA Growler, Staff, The Virginian-Pilot Judge’s comments: A well-written and well-designed guide to the craft beer and liquor offerings in southeast Virginia. Informative and fun. Honorable mention: Special Editions of Go!, Gabe Hartwig, Amy Bertrand and Staff, St. Louis Post- Dispatch
DIVISION 3 | Circulation 200,000 and up
Finest in features sweepstakes awards
These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 20 categories. First place: The Washington Post Seventeen awards, including five firsts (Best Section, Food Writing Portfolio, Sports Feature, Video Storytelling and Diversity in Digital Features), five seconds (Narrative Storytelling, Food Writing Portfolio, General Commentary Portfolio, Video Storytelling and Best Niche Product), six thirds (Best Features Digital Presence, Food Criticism, Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, Video Storytelling, Best Special Section and Headline Writing Portfolio) and one honorable mention (Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio) Second place: Los Angeles Times Nine awards, including three firsts (Food Feature, General Commentary Portfolio and Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio), four seconds (Best Section, General Feature, Food Criticism and Features Series or Project) and two thirds (General Feature and General Commentary Portfolio) Third place: Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times Six awards, including one first (Narrative Storytelling), three seconds (Food Feature, Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio and Intregrated Storytelling) and two honorable mentions (Features Series or Project and Best Niche Product)
The best regularly occurring printed features sections that focus on A&E, lifestyles or other features coverage. First place: The Washington Post Judge’s comments: The section is the right blend of short, bright features for skimmers and deeper dives for engaged readers. The photos are played big and bold, enticing readers to dig into longer features on culture, arts and celebrity. The food section, in particular, reflects the diversity of the community with drop-dead gorgeous design and well-written features and recipes. The weekend entertainment and home and garden sections are well-organized with expert guidance, as well as fun and engaging reads. The weekend tab serves locals and visitors, and that’s not always easy to do. Second place: Los Angeles Times Judge’s comments: The L.A. Times delivers on the expected glitz and glamour while also serving up expert guidance for eating and going out. Culture stories provide context for understanding the business of entertainment as well as the effect that the arts have on our psyche. Surprising illustrations — even poster pages! — put a smile on readers’ faces Third place: The Dallas Morning News Judge’s comments: The section is well-designed, with engagingly composed stories that demonstrate seasoned reporting chops. These pages also boast some of the best headlines around, like: “Opera Star Maria Callas and Dallas critic John Ardoin were close friends – until suddenly they weren’t.” If that doesn’t make you flip to Page 8E, nothing will. Honorable mention: (Minneapolis) Star Tribune
Best features digital presence
The best your publication has to offer in digital A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. First place: FeedMe, Staff, Newsday Judge’s comments: FeedMe excels on all platforms, especially FeedMe TV, which spotlights individual restaurants, communities and dining trends with beautiful cinematography, use of graphics and in-depth info on history, business strategies and, of course, food. The hosts are knowledgeable and engaging. The FeedMe website is comprehensive and easy to navigate. Second place: Datebook, Staff, San Francisco Chronicle Judge’s comments: When we saw this new San Francisco Chronicle site, we immediately sent it to our newspaper’s web editor to see if we could do this, too. It’s a one-stop shop of all information anyone interested in the cultural arts would need – especially at a time when so many papers are cutting back on this coverage. It’s well-presented and easy to navigate. Third place: Style, Staff, The Washington Post Judge’s comments: This one is clean and extensive, with stellar writing, photography and design.
Feature treatment of any A&E, lifestyles or news topic. First place: David Gambacorta and Helen Ubiñas, The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Shot and Forgotten” Judge’s comments: Heartbreaking and eye-opening, this story is an excellent example of hard news reporting and human storytelling. It reveals a national shame – how victims of gun violence are not getting help – without coming down on either side of the gun-control debate. It feels like a call to action, too – it’s hard to imagine someone reading this and not wanting to advocate for change. Second place (tie): Corina Knoll, Los Angeles Times, “As Deadly Flames Approached, a Mother Called Her Daughters to Say Goodbye” Judge’s comments: What an emotional journey Knoll tells a dramatic story without melodrama and with much urgency. It’s a specific catastrophe – trapped in a fire and believing you’re not going to survive – in which universal truths about love, life and family emerge. You can guess from the beginning that the subject did, in fact, survive, but still you can’t stop reading and wondering, “Will she make it? What happens next?” A great example of a less traditional approach to storytelling from a news event, done with authority and confidence. Second place (tie): George Johnson and Rajul Punjabi, Tonic.com, “When Racism Anchors Your Health” Judge’s comments: A personal story that illustrates much larger issues – the legacy of slavery and racism that permeates our culture and which has created disparities that continue. Not every writer has the talent to use their own life to illustrate a larger issue. Here, the writing, shared details and reported parts all work together seamlessly. Third place: Esmeralda Bermudez, Los Angeles Times, “‘I’m Here. I’m Here.’ Father Reunited With Son Amid Tears, Relief and Fear of What’s Next” Judge’s comments: The writing in this story is plain and straightforward, but the images that Bermudez chooses to focus on tell a truly moving story. Small details – like what the father cooked in preparation for his son’s return, or notes on his physical state – tell a story independent of the political climate at hand (at one point, the father mentions how little he knows of President Donald Trump).
Arts & entertainment feature
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic. First place: Brendan Meyer, The Dallas Morning News, “Almost Famous: ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ Dad Faces Reality of Turning Viral Fame into Lasting Legacy” Judge’s comments: If you’re the only person who missed this viral sensation, relax. Just read this story, and you’ll be caught up. This is a compelling look at the aftermath of so many dreams sparked in the social-media age. We were hooked from beginning to end. Second place: Chris Hewitt, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, “The Secret Life of Seats” Judge’s comments: This made us so happy! A clever look at something ordinary – yet important – with actionable, useful information to boot. A home run. Third place: Chris Ip, Engadget, “On the Nose” Judge’s comments: Great profile of an unconventional artist.
Tight, bright writing of fewer than 1,000 words. First place: Jason Nark, The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Can Being Nice to Cows Save the World? A Hindu Man in the Poconos Would Like to Believe So.” Judge’s comments: This story looks at a novel concept – the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary. The piece features a nice lede and points out the contrast in lifestyles and cultures. The ending packs a punch: “They accept the way of life,” he said in the barn as cows downstairs mooed. “We are called human beings, you know, but we just don’t be. We are always becoming. ‘I want to become a doctor. I want to become rich.’ We just don’t be. Cows, they just be, no matter what it is.” Second place: Terri Peters, Today.com, “‘God Heard My Prayers’: Mom Who Fosters Sick Kids Adopts Son Before His Death” Judge’s comments: A telling, touching story about a generous family, whose members live their religion and values and who are willing to carry the pain their mission entails. Not sweet, not sorrowful – just real. Third place: Mike Fisher, Toronto (Canada) Star, “Rustic Boating is Mainly for the Birds in La Tovara National Park” Judge’s comments: Nice, descriptive writing, such as this gem, “It’s a boat-billed heron peering down peevishly at us, a small ruff of orange feathers tucked like a dinner napkin above its ample belly.” And the piece offers a great sketch of that rare breed – birders – and their strange habits.
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: Amy Scattergood, Los Angeles Times, “At 95, Mexican Food Expert Diana Kennedy Is Growing Her Own Coffee and Making Her Own Tortillas” Judge’s comments: A delightful read. Scattergood’s vivid descriptions transport readers to Diana Kennedy’s home, and we felt as though we were sitting in on the conversation. We could see Kennedy’s expressive face, hear her forceful voice and taste her corn tortillas. Second place (tie): India Mandelkern, Munchies.Vice.com, “The Weird Science Behind Chain Restaurant Menus” Judge’s comments: Spectacularly written, Mandelkern’s story follows a solid narrative structure. Keeping a keenly observant tone, her tale about chain restaurant menus has substance, panache and humor. And, along the way, we learn about the weird science that is involved. Second place (tie): Laura Reiley and Eve Edelheit, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Shell Game” Judge’s comments: One does not have to live in Apalachicola to understand the tough times facing its oyster business. This work explains the situation exhaustively and eloquently by taking readers inside the life of an oysterman. Third place: Tan Vinh, The Seattle Times, “The Wonder of the Fresh Hop: How Washington’s Special Autumn Beer Gets Made” Judge’s comments: Vinh’s reporting is deep and is the heart of this story, which is filled with engaging details such as a timeline of text messages exchanged between two brewers. An illustration, bar graph and two sidebars offer supplemental information and are just as engaging as the main story. Honorable mention: Brett Anderson, The New York Times, “Tokyo in Texas: Distinctive Japanese Food is Thriving in Austin”
A single story, such as a restaurant review, that offers opinions about a topic or restaurant in the food industry. First place: Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register, “At Journeyman’s in Fullerton, an Idealistic Young Chef Reaches for the Stars” Judge’s comments: There’s so much to love about this piece. We laughed out loud at the description of a server trying to open a wine bottle. Then, there’s this wonderful description: “Geerson’s food is not simple. It is scientific and cerebral but also artistic and fleeting, like edible philosophy.” Second place: Jonathan Gold, Los Angeles Times, “At Middle Eastern Restaurants, It All Starts With Hummus. Jonathan Gold Says Bavel’s is Magnificent.” Judge’s comments: A great critic sits you down at the table and lets you taste, smell and see the food. Gold had us at hummus: “But the great kitchens, the ones that inspire hour-long drives and dinnertime haiku, tend to labor over their fragrant goo as assiduously as a French baker might over her baguettes. Great hummus must never be taken for granted.” Third place: Tim Carman, The Washington Post, “A Wawa Sub Makes Sense on the Highway. In the City, It Tastes Like a Mistake.” Judge’s comments: We love that Carman wasn’t afraid to review a Wawa sub and that he wasn’t afraid to not love it: “My reaction to each sandwich was wholly dependent on its location: In the parking lot off a remote highway, the hoagie was a handmade comfort, warm, toasty and satisfying. In downtown Washington, it was a confession: I was too lazy to go somewhere better. Context is a prime ingredient in the Wawa experience.” Honorable mention: Alison Cook, Houston Chronicle, “Chef Paul Qui Faces Trial; Houston Diners Face a Choice”
Features series or project
Feature treatment of any lifestyle, A&E or news topic that has multiple parts. First place: James E. Causey and Angela Peterson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Cultivating a Community” Judge’s comments: Beautifully written and meticulously reported, this series offers a heartbreaking account of one man’s struggle to make life bloom where it otherwise seems doomed. It’s eye-opening and gut-wrenching; readers continue to think about the people they meet over the course of the series – long after the last sentence has ended. Second place: Molly Hennessy-Fisk and Robert Gauthier, Los Angeles Times, “Patrolling a Land of Secret Signals and Signs on the Texas-Mexico Border” Judge’s comments: This series was excellent, a product of staffers taking up temporary residence in Roma, Texas, instead of just stopping in for a story, but the section that truly stood out was “In Roma, Texas, Residents Must Choose: Help Border Patrol, or Border Crossers?” An excellent look at the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by residents for whom smuggling and illegal immigration are an all-day, everyday part of life. Third place: Patty Cox, Greg Gilderman, Kevin Hayes and Exodus Reporting and Production Teams, The Weather Channel Digital and collaborations with Food & Environment Reporting Network, InsideClimate News and The Marshall Project, “Exodus: The Climate Migration Crisis” Judge’s comments: The Weather Channel’s focus on how climate change is affecting human migration is both global and hyper-local. A mix of video and written narratives captures part of the effect of a story still unfolding, as we travel from New Orleans to Bangladesh to Mexico City and beyond. Videos from Bangladesh and with a reporter embedded with a migrant caravan are particularly powerful, touching on issues such as gentrification and the treatment of girls around the world, along with environmental changes. Honorable mention: Lane DeGregory, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Lincoln’s Shot”
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: Lisa Gartner, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “She’s Taught at the Parkland High School for 14 Years. Can She Go Back?” Judge’s comments: A bittersweet tale of a Parkland teacher who worries that she won’t be able to return to her classroom after the horrific events at her school. So she goes ahead of time, and the entire story takes place in that visit. Telling details and a hopeful ending make this the clear winner. Second place: Ben Terris, The Washington Post, “She Works for Trump. He Can’t Stand Him. This is Life with Kellyanne and George Conway.” Judge’s comments: Life in the Conway home is never boring, and Terris takes us there with an up-close look at Trump aide Kellyanne and Trump critic George. It’s a telling piece that is, at times, humorous, and you can’t help but love the ending, with Kellyanne belting out, “That’s the story of, that’s the glory of love.” Third place (tie): Hannah Dreier, ProPublica and Newsday, “The Disappeared” Judge’s comments: This was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning entry, and it’s an amazing piece of work that displays many elements of narrative writing. Third place (tie): Doug Clark, GQ, “The Untold Story of Otto Warmbier, American Hostage” Judge’s comments: You might think you know the story of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was taken prisoner by North Korea, but Clark’s amazing tale will astound you. Meticulous research went into this important piece of work. Honorable mention: Peter Nickeas and E. Jason Wambsgans, Chicago Tribune, “Jalen’s Journey”
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: Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times Judge’s comments: This entry is in a class of its own – original, ambitious, novel. The gist: an occasional series on beloved music venues because “digital sound through earbuds is no substitute for being in the room where it happens.” Reynolds’ series, “Sites and Sounds,” incorporates everything a reader could want: colorful narrative, soul, jazzy commentary, playlists, beautiful photography. Folks, this one gets a prolonged standing ovation. Second place: Monica Rohr, USA Today Judge’s comments: These strong entries offer insight into the dynamics feeding the spread of racism and right-wing extremism. Rhor pours her soul into earning her sources’ trust for insightful narratives on the plight of the “Sugar Land 95,” the fighting spirit of the ragtag reVision Football Club, and the unlikely conversion of a former KKK member and neo-Nazi. Third place: Molly Glentzer, Houston Chronicle Judge’s comments: One story begins with this great lede: “Oh, the buff buttocks. And backs, thighs and calves, sigh, with their peaks and valleys of light and shadow. And the sensitive, downturned face of an ancient man in what looks like a wrestler’s helmet. Such is the larger-than-life-size eye candy of one of the monumental drawings enticing viewers to ‘Michelangelo and the Vatican’ this spring at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.” We are there! This story imparts the kind of info that can spark intelligent cocktail party talk with a stranger who shares your appreciation for the visual arts. Great work. Honorable mention: Anna Kuchment, The Dallas Morning News
Food writing portfolio
Three stories, columns or reviews by the same writer on any food topic. First place: Maura Judkis, The Washington Post Judge’s comments: This portfolio shows a great breadth of coverage, from the humorous riff on Doritos for women to serious, in-depth reporting on #MeToo in restaurants. We loved this paragraph: ”How often do I eat chips? Well, I only eat them when I am alone, laugh-crying while wearing fuzzy slippers and watching ‘The Bachelor,’ and there are no men nearby to see my shame. I sure wish I could eat chips more often, but it’s so difficult to avoid the embarrassment of being a Lady who eats chips. I know I’m only supposed to eat salad, but the Doritos tempt me so. Now you know my terrible secret.” Second place: Tim Carman, The Washington Post Judge’s comments: We love that Carman covers the fun of food as well as the science of it. He’s not afraid to write about a Wawa sub, and he treats Southern barbecue as seriously as high-end dining. This graph is a jewel: “But it’s hot enough that the pit crew’s faces and necks shimmer in the light that pours through the screen windows. It’s hot enough that one new cook lost 15 pounds during his first three days on the job. It’s hot enough that the workers will, every once in a while, seek the shade of an oak tree in back of the smokehouse.” Third place: Michalene Busico, The Dallas Morning News Judge’s comments: Busico has a nice writing style. It’s engaging without sounding preachy, which so often happens with food criticism. Honorable mention: Brad A. Johnson, Orange County Register
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: Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times Judge’s comments: Stunning work and range. Abcarian finds the humanity in the big events and the larger implications of the smaller, more personal stories. Second place: Monica Hesse, The Washington Post Judge’s comments: In each relatively brief column, Hesse provokes deep reflection in readers. The combination of the concision and focus of the writing with the broadness of the ideas makes her work powerful and effective. Third place: Chris Erskine, Los Angeles Times Judge’s comments: Erskine, without sentimentality, allows readers to understand and possibly learn from his personal tragedies.
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: Howard Fishman, The New Yorker Judge’s comments: Stage critic Fishman examines the effect of Eugene O’Neill as a lifelong fan and obsessive researcher; questions the state of regional theater during a visit to a small, seemingly indifferent town; and writes about the optimism of a play about the Constitution in troubled times. With a thorough and polished style, he’s good at pinpointing the emotional reaction we have to theater that makes it so different from other art forms and such a powerful distillation of culture. Second place: Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times Judge’s comments: Gorgeous writing that reflects timely concerns in criticism of literature, whether it’s a hard-boiled detective seen through the eyes of the #MeToo movement or the environmental crisis mapped out in short stories about Florida. Writer Bancroft combines deep literary knowledge with a keen eye for the pressing modern problem and a luminous style. Third place: Ron Charles, The Washington Post Judge’s comments: Beautifully written commentary that illuminates nonfiction themes through the personal lens of a sensitive and thoughtful critic. Honorable mention: Hank Stuever, The Washington Post
Feature treatment of any sports topic. First place: Kent Babb, The Washington Post, “Kobe Bryant, Revising His Own History” Judge’s comments: With excellent details and an honest look at the past and present, this story lets readers explore the various facets of Kobe Bryant’s life. Compelling reading. Second place: Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “They Love Fishing, So They Set Cabins Afloat: Wolf River Rafts Are ‘Home’ to Some Anglers” Judge’s comments: This is a true slice of Americana, well told through rich detail derived from interviewing many sources and being on the scene. Excellent reporting and writing. Third place: David Gambacorta, The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Curt Schilling Doesn’t Care What You Think as Hall of Fame Vote Looms” Judge’s comments: Curt Schilling – with all his mastery and faults – is a tough subject to tackle, and this story takes an unflinching look while remaining fair and balanced. Gambacorta deftly captures the dichotomy of a divisive figure. Honorable mention: Bob Wojnowski, The Detroit News, “Parkinson’s is Kirk Gibson’s Biggest Battle”
The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length. First place: Sarah Hashemi, Daron Taylor and DeNeen L. Brown, The Washington Post, “How ‘Respect,’ Aretha Franklin’s Iconic Song, Came To Be” Judge’s comments: We all know the song, but do we all know the whole backstory behind “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”? Here, we learn it under four minutes, with a great mix of audio, graphics, live performances and reported script. Important, energetic and engaging. Second place: Ashleigh Joplin, Malcolm Cook, Daniel Mich, The Washington Post, “‘Black Panther’ Is More Than a Trip to the Movies. It’s a Celebration of Black Excellence” Judge’s comments: A thoughtful and fun look at a superhero movie that is more than a superhero movie. An important cultural moment is captured through a variety of engaging personal stories. Third place: Ashleigh Joplin, The Washington Post, “‘We Shall Overcome’: How Joan Baez Still Fuels the Resistance” Judge’s comments: Threads of nostalgia and a modern sense of urgency run through this video, a hard combination to do well. Joan Baez’s legacy gets its due, but she also gets her say as a still engaged and vital voice. A good mix of older footage and a new interview and performance from Baez. Honorable mention: Shako Liu, NBC News, “African-Americans and Home Schooling: ‘A Way of Freedom’”
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: Peter Hartlaub, Heather Knight and Staff, San Francisco Chronicle, “Total Muni” Judge’s comments: What an amazing adventure that started with an innocent tweet and turned into a journey of epic proportions. This entry involved readers from the start, and it showed. The videos, live tweeting and behind-the-scenes stories were all fun and riveting. And it’s great that readers showed up on Muni Day to meet the reporters – and then did their own versions of the project afterward. Proof that local always wins. Second place: Tara McCarty, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Look What Taylor Swift Made Me Do” Judge’s comments: The adage to follow your passions applies to stories, too, as this entry shows. Only a true Taylor Swift fan can turn out an OCD print package like this, plus a Twitter thread and graphics. And it’s only apropos that Taylor herself saw the story – in print! Third place: Staff, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Lessons Lost” Judge’s comments: An important look at how, even with the best of programs and intentions, there are roadblocks to helping schools. We appreciated the dynamic presentation and the fascinating graphics. Honorable mention: Staff, Honolulu Civil Beat, “Black Market Babies”
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: Rhonda Colvin, Ashleigh Joplin and Jorge Ribas, The Washington Post, “Traveling While Black: Some Americans Are Afraid to Explore Their Own Country, Concerns that Evoke the Jim Crow-Era Green Book” Judge’s comments: The graphics are enlightening – and frightening – and the stories heartbreaking. We appreciated the time the team spent gathering these stories to show how racism exists, past and present. The illustrated videos were a nice touch. Second place: Zachary Drucker and Staff, Broadly, “Trans Legends” Judge’s comments: This oral history project has assembled an incredible archive about the lives and spirits of transgender icons. Through the personal experiences of Drucker, the light of these subjects – many likely unknown to the general population – shine through. Third place: James E. Causey and Angela Peterson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Cultivating a Community” Judge’s comments: There are many striking things about this series, one of which is how it shows the trauma and frightening regularity of violence and its effects on children. The other is the power of hope. And, finally, the fact that the writer grew up in the neighborhood gives it an extra specialness that not many stories like this could have. We were struck by this line from a journal entry after a fatal shooting: “This was on the streets of Milwaukee – not some dangerous road in Afghanistan, but it didn’t seem like enough people were talking about this.” Honorable mention: Jane Gerster, Global News, “A Man was Ignored to Death in an ER 10 YearsAgo. It Could Happen Again.”
Best special section
The best your publication has to offer in printed A&E, features and lifestyle coverage. First place: Tim Campbell and Christy DeSmith, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, “Fall Arts: A Season of Showstoppers” Judge’s comments: This section is well-organized and easy to read. The stories are delightful, and the top 10 picks are useful. This section demonstrates consistent quality from front to back. Second place: Alison Cook, Houston Chronicle, “Alison Cook’s Top 100 Restaurants 2018” Judge’s comments: This is the best dining guide in any category in this year’s contest. Others should take note of the small size, which can be tucked into a coat pocket or stored in a vehicle’s glove compartment. The writing is enticing and thorough but concise, and the photos are delectable. The book is well-organized and useful. Third place: Staff, The Washington Post, “1968: The D.C. Riots” Judge’s comments: This section is an important journalistic product. The stories are well-written, and the historical photos well-chosen.
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: FeedMe, Staff, Newsday Judge’s comments: A stellar publication that is chock full of tips, information and trivia about Long Island’s culinary scene. Beautiful covers, clean design and sparkling writing. Oh, and “Oyster Love” made us want to slurp some bivalves! Second place: The Luxury Issues of The Washington Post Magazine, Staff, The Washington Post Judge’s comments: Striking covers, a great mix of stories and stellar writing combine to make this interesting and informative. Third place: Star Tribune Magazine, Sue Campbell and Staff, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune Judge’s comments: This magazine is fun and informative, with gorgeous photography and lively writing. Honorable mention: Bay, Pegie Stark, Katherine Snow Smith and Staff, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times
Headline writing portfolio
A collection of three headlines and accompanying decks by the same writer for feature stories or columns. First place: Wendy McManamon, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer Judge’s comments: In a category loaded with high-quality entries, McManamon demonstrated a consistent level of creativity and fun. Second place: Thomas Floyd, The Washington Post Express Judge’s comments: Engaging headlines that quickly lure readers into the stories. Third place: Doug Norwood, The Washington Post Judge’s comments: These headlines are clever in so many ways. “Mission: Impeachable” stood out. Honorable mention: Joseph Stalvey, (Albany, N.Y.) Times Union
New or improved online ventures, including websites, apps, social-media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world. First place: Michael Mayo, Gretchen Day-Bryant and David Schutz, (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun Sentinel, Let’s Eat, South Florida Facebook Group Judge’s comments: Audience engagement is the goal with this Facebook group, and it’s easy to see just how engaged South Florida is with the food crew at the Sun Sentinel. This effort undoubtedly increases relevance and brand, not to mention provides a wealth of story ideas and contacts. Well done. Second place: Staff, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, iPad Initiative Judge’s comments: This initiative takes customer service to a new level. It’s an innovative way to maintain readers and profit. Third place: Staff, Newsday, Long Island Brewery Map Judge’s comments: The functionality on mobile and desktop is simple and effective. While it serves its purpose with the brewery scene, this map could provide value in numerous ways.
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through a podcast. First place: Emma Scott and Michael Scott, NOLA.com/The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, “Voodoo City, Season 1” Judge’s comments: A marvelous idea for a podcast – focused in topic but almost endless in the possibilities from episode to episode. The installments of “Voodoo City” have a great sense of place. You can tell the hosts love their city. Mike Scott is a knowledgeable, personable presence, giving the listener the experience of a local showing you around beloved haunts. Good editing and fascinating tidbits are sprinkled throughout. This is the kind of journalism that only a strong local newsroom can produce. Second place: Emily Spicer, Mike Sutter and Chuck Blount, San Antonio Express-News, “52 Weeks of BBQ” Judge’s comments: A fun idea that is told in an authoritative way with a strong sense of focus. Each episode of painted a picture – you could taste bark on the brisket and marbled fat just by listening to these folks talk. The hosts have a good rapport and energy, but Spicer in particular was one of the most engaging personalities in all the podcast entries. Third place: Staff, Broadly, “Queerly Beloved” Judge’s comments: This podcast casts a vital spotlight on often-marginalized voices. “Queerly Beloved” is smart to let those voices do most of the talking. Each episode feels like a warm, empathetic hug. Honorable mention: Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, “The Big Event”
Best collegiate features journalist
The top collegiate features journalists, based on an entry of up to three stories First place: Claire Miller, Syracuse University Judge’s comments: Now, here we have a writer. Clever turns of phrase, great attention to details, regular use of the present tense and active voice, and knowledge of appropriate story structure are all present in Miller’s work. It’s a pleasure reading her two very different pieces, one of which is an excellent examination of the stereotypical American Dream vs. immigrants’ actual experiences in upstate New York. A clear standout among the entrants – and the clear winner. Second place: Haley Kim, Syracuse University Judge’s comments: Kim’s Lockerbie cycling story stands out, thanks to great interviews and details, and it holds the reader’s attention throughout. The Bay Area housing piece is well-researched and thorough. Third place: Kit Fitzgerald, The University of Iowa Judge’s comments: Well-written, with an engaging style, good structure and a nice feel for the subject. Honorable mention:Marissa Payne, The University of Iowa
Diversity Fellows will learn what’s happening in features and news departments nationwide while networking with outstanding journalists specializing in lifestyle, culture, food, arts and entertainment coverage.
Fellowships cover SFJ conference registration, airfare within the U.S. and hotel. Fellows also will be reimbursed for expenses toward baggage and transportation.
RESUME + ESSAY: A resume and single-page essay explaining what you love about your job and how you have distinguished yourself in arts and/or features coverage.
PHOTO: A photo of yourself for the conference program and SFJ website.
LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION: One letter from someone who can talk about your work.
WORK SAMPLES: › For writers, three storytelling examples. › For editors, three samples of pieces you edited with comments on how your involvement helped the story succeed. › For copy editors, three headlines with attached stories, plus two stories with editing comments. › For designers, three samples of layouts. › For journalists with online-only work, list website links in your application letter.
Selections will be announced by June 21. Email applications, with attached PDFs or links, to Kathy Lu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us Sept. 18-21 in the Motor City for our annual conference as we network, share knowledge, and celebrate our craft.
As always, we have invited some of the best in the business to share their wisdom with us. This year we will feature Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Hallman of The Oregonian, and we are planning to have frank conversations about culture and identity and how it shapes our coverage. We are also excited to feature a panel on innovations in podcasting and how audience research can inform your storytelling. See the full list of speakers and panels here!
Oh, it doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there!
We will be staying at the Element Detroit at the Metropolitan, a newly opened Marriott in a refurbished 100-year- old building in the heart of the Downtown’s vibrant city center, within walking distance to several “best of” bars and restaurants.
There’ll be swinging and swaying and records playing …
We’ll gather Wednesday evening, Sept. 18, at the hotel for a welcome reception! And later, who knows, we may sample some of the nearby delights, from the speakeasy-inspired cocktail joint tucked into the alley across the street, to the velvet-drenched old Hollywood lounge around the corner.
They’ll be dancing, dancing in the street.
To register for the conference, click here. To get the $100 early bird discount, please register by Aug. 21!
We will be updating the website with more details. Follow us on Facebook for updates, and don’t forget to renew your 2019 membership!
For questions, pitches and ideas, email me, your dance captain for this party: Margaret Myers, email@example.com.
Now here are a few stories to whet your Detroit appetite:
Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 12-15, 2018 New Orleans Theme: Renewal Hotel: Ace Hotel Sessions location: Loyola University New Orleans Auction location: The New Orleans Advocate
WEDNESDAY | 09.12.18
Opening reception and registration | 6 to 9 p.m. Barnett Dining Room and Courtyard at Ace Hotel
Meet your fellow features creatures, register for the conference and relax. Enjoy a glass – or two – of wine, some hors d’oeuvres and good conversation. SFJ President Jim Haag and other officers will welcome guests and introduce some special folks, such as our Diversity Fellows and any panelists in attendance.
THURSDAY | 09.13.18
Communications/Music Complex, Loyola Unversity New Orleans
Those attending will take the streetcar from Ace Hotel to Loyola. The streetcar runs every 15 minutes. The trip takes about 30 minutes. We’ll provide streetcar passes for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
8:30-9:15 a.m.| Breakfast and registration at Loyola
9:15-9:50 a.m.| The conference opening
Let the renewal – of your skills and your spirit – begin. SFJ President Jim Haag, retired features editor at The Virginian-Pilot, welcomes attendees, and Mark Lorando, editor of The Times-Picayune, delivers the keynote address.
9:50-10 a.m. | Break
10-11 a.m. | Finding story ideas: 20 tips your editor won’t tell you
Lane DeGregory, enterprise reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, talks about stories that came from a variety of sources and discusses how a general assignment reporter comes up with fascinating people and topics to write about.
11 a.m.-noon| Get the most out of online tools
Samantha Sunne, a trainer with the Society for Professional Journalists, will offer tips on using YouTube, Public Data Explorer and Trends. Samantha is well-versed in many technology tools involving Google and other online sites.
Noon-1:15 p.m.| SFJ Hall of Fame luncheon and induction
It’s been too long – eight years – since SFJ inducted anyone into our Hall of Fame. So, we’ll rectify that this year by introducing our newest members – two former SFJ presidents who continue to inspire and teach us: Ann Maloney of NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, and Alice Short, retired from the Los Angeles Times.
1:30-2:25 p.m. | Navigating the new world order – online and in print
More reporters – and even news sites – are injecting opinion in their posts on Twitter and Facebook in the wake of #metoo, school shootings and the current political climate. How is that greeted, and legally can reporters get fired for these kinds of posts? We’ll share some social-media policies from around the country, and try to shed some light on this issue. We’ll also look at the state of presenting the ”other side” in stories when you know that the source is not being honest. Does balanced coverage mean accurate coverage? Where do we draw the line? A panel discussion led by Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News, with Jamie Stockwell, deputy national editor at The New York Times; Eva Saketkoo, a media attorney with the Hearst Corp.; and others.
2:25-2:30 p.m. | Break
2:30-3:30 p.m. | The perfect recipe for creating a food community on social media Hear how publications are using social media to create a food community that shares stories and can be mined for ideas. Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News, leads a panel discussion that includes Ann Maloney, a food writer at NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, who will talk about her publications vibrant food following and how it came to be. Liz Seymour, features editor at The Washington Post, discusses The Post’s new stream of food coverage called Voraciously that is aiming for a young digital reader.
3:30-4:20 p.m. | Reporters and editors: teaming up to tell stories Reporters want attention, support and confidence. Editors need focus, patience and conviction. Success means working well together. Lane DeGregory, enterprise reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, and Maria Carrillo, assistant managing editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times, will talk about what editors and reporters can do to build that relationship.
4:20-4:30 p.m. | Break
4:30-5 p.m. | Show + Steal, Part 1
Laura T. Coffey, a writer and editor at Today.com, moderates one of our most popular sessions, where editors share their best ideas from the past year for anyone to steal. A warning: Laura’s enthusiasm can be infectious, so we might get a little carried away here. The streetcar will take us back to Ace Hotel.
6:30-9:30 p.m. | The SFJ Foundation Auction at The New Orleans Advocate (about three blocks from Ace.)
We’ll offer appetizers and drinks as we sell, both silently and aloud, the goodies we’ve gathered from across the country to help support the SFJ Foundation’s Diversity Fellowship program. Emily Spicer and Jim Haag will lead the craziness, with able assistance from those in the crowd. Dan Shea, president and publisher of our hosts, The New Orleans Advocate, will welcome guests, and Diversity Committee Chairwoman Jeneé Osterheldt will talk about the importance of the Diversity Fellowship program and will introduce our three Fellows for 2018. Expect an evening of chaos and be prepared to sing, just in case.
FRIDAY | 09.14.18
Communications/Music Complex, Loyola University New Orleans Those attending will take the streetcar from Ace Hotel to Loyola. The streetcar runs every 15 minutes. The trip takes about 20 minutes. We’ll provide streetcar passes for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
8:30-9:15 a.m. | Breakfast at Loyola
9:15-10:15 a.m. | Hello, digital! Goodbye, print?
Liz Seymour, features editor at The Washington Post, talks about the process of transforming from print to digital and what that really means in 2018. The Post has been a leader in the field, but even the biggest papers are finding a slow road as we cut our ties with paper and fully embrace the digital future.
10:15-10:30 a.m. | Break
10:30-11:30 p.m. | The #metoo movement: Where are we now?
The news of 2017 and 2018 was frequently dominated by stories about sexual harassment and assault. A trickle turned into a torrent of headlines, accusations, denials and apologies. Companies and institutions and individuals resolved to look inward to change toxic cultures. Many women found reasons to feel optimistic – or, at the very least, they found outlets for their rage. Now it’s September 2018, and the big question is: Where are we as a country and a culture? Institutional change takes years, but are there examples of documentable change or plans in place that might offer hope that the issue won’t fade from prominence? Who continues to kick ass and take names? Alice Short, retired assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, will lead a panel discussion with L.A. Times columnist Robin Abcarian; Brett Anderson, food critic at NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune; and Jeneé Osterheldt, a writer at The Boston Globe.
11:30 a.m.-noon | Search and slice: being your own best editor
Learn how to edit – yourself and others – when you’re racing against a deadline. Maria Carrillo, assistant managing editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times, offers pointers that will help you get your stories online quickly and accurately but also will serve you well when you’re doing long-form work.
12:15-1:15 p.m. | SFJ award winners luncheon
We laud the winners of the 2018 Excellence-in-Features Awards.
1:30-2:25 p.m. | Show + Steal, Part 2
Laura T. Coffey, a writer and editor at Today.com, is back with more great ideas to share.
2:25-2:30 p.m. | Break
2:30-3:30 p.m. |Cooking up profits on social media Learn how publications are making money – money! – from food events. Emily Spicer, features editor at the San Antonio Express-News, leads a panel discussion that includes Ann Maloney, a food writer at NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, who will talk about ways her publication has mined food for gold.
3:30-3:40 p.m. | Break
3:40-4:30 p.m. | Short takes: reporting and framing narratives in a day Follow a veteran reporter – Lane DeGregory, enterprise reporter at the Tampa Bay Times – and a longtime editor – Maria Carrillo, assistant managing editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times – as they talk about taking small bites off the news and writing short narrative stories and doing it all in one day.
The streetcar will take us back to Ace Hotel.
SATURDAY | 09.15.18
Communications/Music Complex, Loyola Unversity New Orleans
Those attending will take the streetcar from Ace Hotel to Loyola.
8:30-9:15 a.m. | Breakfast at Loyola
9:15-10:25 p.m. | What should we do with kids today? Train ’em? Teach ’em? Or – maybe listen to them? We all need cheap labor, right? How about hooking up with a local college? But then what? Laura Jayne, a former professional journalist and now the director of student services at Loyola University New Orleans, talks about a program she started at Loyola that lets students in her class partner with NOLA.com and The New Orleans Advocate and write for them as freelancers for the exposure. She’ll offer tips on how to do this at your own paper. Barbara Allen, the managing editor of the Poynter Institute’s website and the former director of student media at Oklahoma State University, will offer
advice for mentoring college students, whether they’re interning or freelancing or the newest members of your staff. And a college student will tell us what journalism students want from professional journalists.
10:25-10:30 a.m. | Break
10:30-11:30 a.m. | Features 911
We’re bringing back an old favorite. Annette Sisco, features editor at The New Orleans Advocate, leads a discussion where we answer questions posed by conference attendees. We’ll have a 911 box available throughout the conference, and we’ll ask conference attendees to ask questions, both big and small. Sharon Chapman of the Austin American-Statesman already has the first question for the group: How does everyone handle movie listings these days?
11:30 a.m.-noon | Changing of the guard
It’s a time-honored tradition: The current SFJ president, Jim Haag, turns over the gavel – and few surprising pieces of clothing – to the incoming president, Margaret Myers of Atlantic Media. Then, sadly, it’s time to wrap it up.
12:30-2 p.m. | SFJ BOARD MEETING at Loyola
Margaret Myers will lead her first meeting at SFJ president, and the SFJ gang starts to look ahead to 2019.