2021 SOCIETY FOR FEATURES JOURNALISM EXCELLENCE-IN-FEATURES AWARDS

Featured

DIVISION 1 | Circulation up to 90,000

FINEST IN FEATURES SWEEPSTAKES AWARDS
These awards recognize the three publications that garner the most honors in the contest’s other 20 categories.

First place: The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
Ten awards, including six firsts (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Food Feature, Features Series or Project, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Integrated Storytelling and Diversity in Digital Features), two seconds (Food Criticism and Food Writing Portfolio) and two honorable mentions (General Feature and Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio)

Second place: The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Nine awards, including three firsts (Best Section, Sports Feature and Best Special Section), three seconds (Best Features Digital Presence, Food Feature and Video Storytelling), two thirds (General Commentary Portfolio and Diversity in Digital Features) and one honorable mention (Video Storytelling)

Third place: Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Eight awards, including four firsts (Best Features Digital Presence, Short Feature, Food Criticism and Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio), three seconds (Best Section, Diversity in Digital Features and Best Special Section) and one honorable mention (Features Series or Project)

Fourth place: The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal
Four awards, including one first (Food Writing Portfolio), one second (General Commentary Portfolio), one third (General Feature) and one honorable mention (Sports Feature)


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

First place: The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Judge’s comments:
These sections feature a number of fresh, local packages that showcase great writing and compelling imagery. The design and photography are outstanding. The layout for Weekend Six Pack, the photo of the artist C.H. Rockey and the food photography are magazine-quality. Likewise, the photo essay on the Colorado Rockies captures a range of destinations in images and pithy captions. The profile of photographer John Fielder is a well-written, behind-the-scenes take on a local beloved figure. The Life in 2020 thought piece by Amanda Hancock is a lovely meditation on boredom.

Second place: Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Judge’s comments:
This publication excelled in its coverage of the twin challenges of 2020 – the pandemic and the reckoning after George Floyd’s killing. Though these topics can be tough fare for an arts and entertainment section, Austin360 rose to the occasion with well-reported packages on the experience of being a Black musician in Austin and a deeply reported piece on the struggles restaurateurs and club owners faced after the lockdown. The annual Austin Food Guide was another standout, focusing on grocery stores and how we procured food in 2020, with special attention to the city’s signature and lesser-known food products. The “Are You Happy” feature was a clever person-on-the-street piece in the vein of the Humans of New York photoblog. Overall, this was an engaging and inventive collection of features in a challenging year for feature writers.

Third place: (Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record
Judge’s comments:
These sections demonstrated admirable creativity and adaptability during the pandemic. The “Nutcracker” story shows how local companies worked to take the holiday classic online. Other sections feature online activities to weather the pandemic and profiles of local musicians in the “Meet a Musician” feature. The highlight is the story about a pick-your-own strawberry farm that reinvented its business and partnered with a shelter to sell $30,000 worth of fruit that would have died on the vine because pickers fell ill with COVID-19. “Farmers are an adaptable bunch because it’s always something,” the story notes. The same might be said of newspapers.


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

First place: “Austin360,” Sharon Chapman, Eric Webb and Amanda O’Donnell, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Judge’s comments: Whether you’re going out on the town – in one of America’s most vibrant cities – or staying home, Austin360 is the perfect guide. The website is easy to navigate, and it, the Facebook page and Twitter feed are filled with entertaining and information info. The Food & Drink section is particularly engaging. If you want to have a good time in Austin, this is your ticket.

Second place: “OutThere Colorado,” Staff, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Judge’s comments: This was a close second. The site is gorgeous and a joy to spend time with. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast in Colorado, we can’t imagine a better place to get all the information you need. We loved the feature on the road trip that teaches you about the state’s history. You’ll find features, breaking news, a detailed calendar, an informative podcast and even a store (and, yes, we’d love to have the “Campfires, Coffee & Colorado” long-sleeved T-shirt).


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

First place: April Capochino Myers, Benjamin Leger and Jennifer Tormo, 225 Magazine, “In the Gray Area”
Judge’s comments: Unexpected. Unprecedented. Those words describe both the subject matter and the writing of this quietly compelling story about an organization in Baton Rouge, La., that helps juvenile offenders return to society. Organization stories – no matter how noble – are rarely this forceful. But this surprising feature manages to question the universal tenets of forgiveness and grace.

Second place: Joseph Capozzi, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “Hit by a Boat in the Ocean, He Watched His Arm Fall Off. Now Carter Viss Tells His Tale of Survival.”
Judge’s comments: This is the kind of story that sticks with you – for weeks, if not months. Extremely well-reported, it tells the tale of a life-threatening accident from many points of view. While tragic, the piece doesn’t take the all-too-easy route of a tearjerker. The clean but compassionate writing states the facts and points no fingers while celebrating a physical and spiritual redemption and its lasting ripple effects.

Third place: Tessa Duvall, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, “Breonna Taylor’s Mother Endures National Spotlight To Make Sure Black Women’s Lives Matter”
Judge’s comments: This gut-wrencher captures the voice of a bereft mother’s relentless campaign to clear her daughter’s name. Almost against her own will, the mother is driven to become a leader in the fight for racial equality. Wisely, the writing is quiet but compelling, allowing a powerful woman’s voice to be heard.

Honorable mention: Tony Bartelme, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Ghost Bird: Few Will Ever See S.C.’s Elusive Black Rail. Will Climate Change Make It Vanish Forever?”


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “No Plays. No Prom. No In-Person Classes. From a Pandemic Come New Ways To Live Senior Year.”
Judge’s comments: This story never loses sight of the interiority of the teenagers trying to get through the last months of their senior year at a public magnet school in South Carolina. The perspective rarely shifts away from the teens, who have to navigate what already would have been an emotional time for them but now must do so during a pandemic. The details are rich, even when the students in the story feel
stagnant. The pangs of disappointment – canceled performances, canceled prom – land harder because of the writing. And, in the absence of an in-person crowd, a poetry reading over Zoom becomes an intense moment, even for readers.

Second place: Rachel Gallaher, Gray, “Boundless Possibility”
Judge’s comments:
A thoroughly enjoyable read about an architect who imagines spaces that strengthen the communities that occupy them. It’s the type of story that, we imagine, would compel readers to think more critically about the spaces they live and work in as well. And the selected quotes from the architect tend to linger after you’ve finished the story.

Third place: Kiran Misra, Zora, “South Asian Girls Are the Stars – Not the Sidekicks – in Desi Chick Lit”
Judge’s comments: This is a story about an emerging genre, “Desi chick lit,” and its impact on South Asian girls and women. Those tales are interwoven with the writer’s personal experience. More broadly, it’s a story that expands and complicates the conversations around representation.

Honorable mention: Erin Negley, (Lancaster, Pa.) LNP | LancasterOnline, “Visuals Made Verbal: Audio Describers Use Words To Explain Art for a Blind Audience”


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

First place: Bronte Wittpenn, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “ ‘Just Ask for the Magic Man’: Jessie Thibideaux Shines Shoes on Congress Avenue”
Judge’s comments: A beautiful example of bright and tight writing. In only 600 words, Bronte creates a wonderful profile of a man often ignored – the shoeshine guy. The key to her story is the judicious use of details and quotes. Our favorite? “I would compare shoe shining to an artist painting a painting,” Jessie Thibideaux says. “He’s taking his time, he’s making sure the colors are right, the patterns are right, the balance is right. I see an empty canvas I’m about to turn into a masterpiece.”

Second place: Kate Stevens, inRegister, “Hang Time: LSU Architecture Grad Elyse Marks Scales Manhattan’s Tallest Buildings”
Judge’s comments: If you’re afraid of heights, this piece might not be for you. Kate takes readers to the top of New York’s tallest buildings, exploring what would compel a young woman to hang off the side of them. The descriptions are spot-on and, in just a few words, tell an irresistible story about someone with an unusual occupation.

Third place: Ryan Lenora Brown, The Christian Science Monitor, “The National Archives Built From a Crumpled Napkin”
Judge’s comments: Ryan takes us to Africa for a feature about the national archives of Somaliland. The writer tells a story that almost didn’t happen – the seeds of the museum could have as easily been thrown away as used as the basis for the archives and library.

Honorable mention: Emma Schkloven, Houstonia, “Bug-Eye Beauty: The Tricky Craft of Insect Taxidermy”


FOOD FEATURE
A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic.

First place: Hanna Raskin, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “SC Victims of COVID Won’t Be Here To Make Favorite Holiday Dishes, But Left Recipes Behind”
Judge’s comments: Everyone has that dish, made by that person. Hanna stoically memorializes victims of COVID-19 through stories about their signature recipes. It’s a powerful feature because of its quiet starkness, made all the more immortal with the accompanying original recipe cards, often in the person’s own careful handwriting.

Second place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “‘We’re Not Gonna Let You Shut Down’: On the Plains East of Colorado Springs, Signs of Hope and Resilience”
Judge’s comments:
Seth brings unthinkable moments to life in his feature about what happens when a guy named Rush lands in a small town called Rush and sets up a cafe that’s soon serving as a literal lifeline for food and supplies during the pandemic.

Third place: Laura Hayes, Washington City Paper, “Delivering Food in D.C. Has Always Been a Tough Job. Then Came a Pandemic.”
Judge’s comments: Laura tells the story of pandemic-weary food-service-delivery drivers in a halting series of anecdotes that both entertain and enrage.

Honorable mention: Kim O’Donnel, (Lancaster, Pa.) LNP | LancasterOnline, “Pickle Primer: Water Bath Canning a Great Way To Try Pickling Cucumbers, Green Beans, Peppers”


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

First place: Matthew Odam, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “Surf and Mirth: Deckhand Oyster Bar Swims to its Own Beat”
Judge’s comments: The characters resonate as memorably as the food in Matthew’s vivid take on this restaurant. The review is filled with sharp observations and descriptions, which are detailed enough to paint a picture – surely readers who venture to this restaurant will take note of whether the owner is donning those “loudly checkered golf pants.”

Second place: Hanna Raskin, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Our Critic Dined in a Downtown Charleston Restaurant To See If It’s Worth It for the Wary”
Judge’s comments: To review a restaurant is one thing, to review yourself – awkwardly, tepidly dining at a restaurant amid the pandemic – is quite another. But Hanna deftly balances both, and the work shines. A favorite moment from her review: “Steamed clams and sweet corn, served over brawny strands of spaghetti, bulged with the same vibrant energy that was animating the happy-to-be-back staff.”


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

First place: Tony Bartelme, Chloe Johnson and Glenn Smith, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Rising Waters”
Judge’s comments: We learned so much reading this stellar series, and we’re sure readers felt the same way. The insurance story is enlightening, and the installments are readable. The extras, especially the video and the comic book, are exceptional. It’s an exquisite piece of service journalism told in an entertaining and arresting manner.

Second place: Staff, The (Syracuse University) NewsHouse, “COVID on Campus”
Judge’s comments:
Even though this series was inspired by a New York Times feature, it’s still an extremely innovative piece of journalism. The stories offer a sense of community, and the vignettes are perfect, allowing strong voices to shine. The subjects are diverse and have interesting tales to tell. And we love, love, love the illustrations by Samantha Currier. This series will help students remember what they – and all of us – lived through in 2020.

Third place: Sara Israelsen-Hartley, Deseret News, “Radon: The Radioactive Killer”
Judge’s comments: The numbers in this exceptional series are staggering: One in three Utah homes has dangerous levels of radon, and the state’s leading kind of cancer is lung cancer, even though 90 percent of Utahns don’t smoke. The stories are well-researched, informative, easy to understand – and so important to the people of the state. The series was produced with the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s National Fellowship, and the partnership paid off. The accompanying extras are first-rate. Our favorite is the staffers writing about getting the results of their home radon tests. Ending the project with what homeowners and residents can do is a great example of service journalism.

Honorable mention: Staff, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “COVID-19 Hits the Austin Music Scene”


NARRATIVE STORYTELLING
A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme.

First place: Evan F. Moore, Chicago Reader, “This Land Is My Land”
Judge’s comments: This story is an impressive and moving account of one man’s journey to reclaim a part of his family’s land and history. Though told as a personal narrative, the scope of the story is wide – Evan deftly uncovers America’s forgotten and ugly history in the Tulsa Massacre and violence against Black Americans, while simultaneously celebrating Black communities and entrepreneurship. A moving narrative arc paired with one of the most impactful issues of our time make this feature a winner.

Second place: Devon Heinen, New Statesman America, “Nobody To Call: The Plight of Indigenous Suicide in Alaska”
Judge’s comments:
This feature explores a tough topic with sensitivity and care. The family at the center of the story immediately draws readers in, and Devon keeps them invested through deft character development and scene building. The personal stories are balanced with clear information about the availability of mental health professionals in Alaska as the high rates of suicide trend. The article highlights an issue that’s pressing without trying to find easy answers.

Third place: Joseph Capozzi, The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, “Hit by a Boat in the Ocean, He Watched His Arm Fall Off. Now Carter Viss Tells His Tale of Survival”
Judge’s comments: This feature is well-written, the quotes are well-chosen, and strength of the
storytelling makes the piece feel short even though it is long. Joseph takes what could be a small accident and makes it feel big by following the people whose lives it changed. The sense of place, scene building and narrative arc are excellent and turn this story into a cinematic-like experience.

Honorable mention: Maggie Galehouse, TMC News, “Making Muscles with the Most Expensive Drug in the World”


FEATURE SPECIALTY WRITING PORTFOLIO
Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, food, health, religion, technology or travel.

First place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
Judge’s comments: These are powerful stories of people, masterfully told. Even when writing about personalities who lived centuries ago – as she did in a deeply reported, deftly constructed project about long-neglected Black landmarks – Jennifer manages to summon their humanity. As finely crafted as that ambitious piece is, the two contemporary tales are even better – one about a sheriff’s fall from grace after a traumatic sniper incident and the other about the healing process that drew people and a dog together after a bicyclist’s fatal accident. In each case, Jennifer works the story tirelessly, winning the trust of her subjects and staying with the tale through its natural denouement. This is superb work that subtly commands the reader’s empathy without any false notes of sentimentality or lazy writing.

Second place: Lois M. Collins, Deseret News
Judge’s comments:
Covering the most important health story of a generation, Lois goes deep into one family’s trials and finds surprising angles in stories about how contact tracing works and the importance of human touch. These stories are smart and skillfully done.

Third place: Matthew Leimkuehler, The (Nashville) Tennessean
Judge’s comments:
There are – and we’re estimating here – about 8 million stories in the fabled “Music City” of Nashville, but Matthew goes beneath the surface and reaches deeper to plumb the human dimension in these nicely rounded tales.

Honorable mention: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier


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

First place: Dahlia Ghabour, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal
Judge’s comments: These stories display top-shelf writing and deep reporting. The story on Black barbecue and Black restaurant culture is a reminder that you can find great things in neighborhood joints that often are overlooked. The story on haunted bars and restaurants is exceptionally well done. That story is, we’re sure, a big hit with readers. (That said, non-alcoholic bourbon is an affront to mankind and a sign of a civilization in decline, but nevertheless the story is excellent.)

Second place: Hanna Raskin, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
Judge’s comments:
This is a solid package of food-related COVID-19 stories, but the feature about comfort-food recipes left behind by virus victims stands out. It’s a brilliant way to tell a difficult story. It’s not easy to find unique feature angles for COVID coverage, and this is a triumph in that regard.

Third place: Ian McNulty, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments:
Ian’s writing takes us to various eating spots and does so without wasting words. He does a stellar job of humanizing the COVID crisis. These stories make us want to plan a New Orleans trip, and we’re sure local readers saw familiar names and faces in the coverage.

Honorable mention: Sierra McClain, (Salem, Ore.) Capital Press


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: Tracey O’Shaughnessy, (Waterbury, Conn.) Republican-American
Judge’s comments:
We all know what’s been going on the past 18 months. We’ve read about the pandemic, about hospital beds, about death. In the meantime, we continue to think and write about many of the rituals of daily life: family discords, rituals turned upside down. And it is often difficult to tell these stories in a way that doesn’t seem like something you’ve written or read dozens of times before. Enter Tracey O’Shaughnessy, who has an amazing ability to draw us into stories we thought we knew and a gift to write about the everyday and make it sound beautiful. Here is some of what she has to say about “virtual” grieving: “Now even grief is delivered virtually. Death, always gussied up and prettified, now seems less real than ever. It is delivered on the same platter that amuses, entertains and distracts us. ‘I still can’t believe it,’ we say, only this time, doubt seems more justified than ever.” In a column about someone who is ill but does not die, she notes: “For me, miracles are less external than internal, less someone else’s life spared and more your own reset.” And there’s this, in a piece about our great pandemic failure: “… we blew it. We blew it because our restlessness exceeded our rationality. The feverish need to exit from the pandemic as if it were a too long ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl sent us spinning out of control.” These are, now, common situations, but Tracey writes about them with language that draws us in and with ideas that make us stop to examine our own frame of thought. And that’s amazing.

Second place: Maggie Menderski, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal
Judge’s comments:
Maggie’s work allows us to accompany her on her journeys – looking for wild horses, searching for a town called Love, spending time at the First Unitarian Church in Louisville, Ky., which had opened its doors as a “resting place for protesters” after it was announced that no charges would be filed in the killing of Breonna Taylor. Maggie’s work lets us follow her planning, her expectations and, sometimes, the details of how she goes about her job. But at no point does she make the story merely about herself. She is our guide through poignant, dramatic moments, and her storytelling makes us equal partners in the process. That’s a gift.

Third place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Judge’s comments:
Anyone who can compel us to take a great interest in, well, miller moths is a writer who has something going on – something good. Seth writes about everyday moments that might make assignment editors ask, “Are you sure that is column fare?” But Seth knows better. He knows that there is poetry in small moments of life – like killing miller moths. “I have killed by backhand,” he writes. “I have killed by shoe. By unimportant mail. Many magazines have been sacrificed.” Seth, you speak for us all, and we thank you.

Honorable mention: Doug MacCash, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com


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: Eric Webb, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Judge’s comments: Eric, you had us at “feminine power.” Or maybe it was “Georgia O’Keefe.” (In truth, it was the word “gynecological,” but we were raised in a Victorian household, and we find there are some words we still cannot say out loud.) We loved the piece on “Saint Cloud” for a jillion reasons. It’s a review. It’s a (brief) chronicle of the plague year(s). It has some great sentences: “We had to cut spring off at the stem and stick it in a vase, and then summer came and dried the petals all up, so now we’re sitting in the dying days of a Texas summer waiting to see how fall and winter will express their own distinct stillness and sorrow.” We wish we could write like that. We wish we could think like that. For now, we will have to rely on you, Eric. Keep it coming.

Second place: Tracey O’Shaughnessy, (Waterbury, Conn.) Republican-American
Judge’s comments:
Somewhere deep down inside of us, we harbor a certain snobbery about urban areas that are not: 1) Los Angeles, 2) New York, 3) San Francisco, 4) Chicago, or 5) Washington, D.C. Is there art anywhere else? Are there critics anywhere else? Do we need to go to re-education camp to rid ourselves of these absurdist notions? Um, yeah. Tracey, after reading about the “Victorian Radicals,” we wanted to jump into a time machine to see this exhibition – with you as our guide. (At least we have your words to cling to.) Consider this line: “What Rossetti and his besotted band of backward-looking aesthetes loathed was the thrum of industry that blackened the land, de-fenestrated craftsmen and turned art into consumerist kitsch.” True for that era and true of this moment in time.

Third place: Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments:
We’re showing our age, and we don’t care. Eddie Van Halen was a guitar god. Forget his lifestyle or his politics (did he have any politics?), he has a place in the pantheon of insane shredders. And then there’s this: “For all his pyrotechnic talent, Eddie respected the first rule of rock star guitar: Solos should be subservient to the song. The whole was what mattered. Guitar riffs and solos were critical, but melody was just as important.” Keith, you have mastered the art of the tribute.

Honorable mention: Herb Scribner, Deseret News


SPORTS FEATURE
Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “The Mighty Penguins: In Dead of Winter, Hockey Club Awakens Sleepy Town West of Colorado Springs”
Judge’s comments:
Seth tackles an interesting topic with masterful writing. The piece also features beautiful photography and design.

Second place: Madeleine Davison, The (Syracuse University) 61% Project, “Faces: How Sports Culture Undermines Athletes Long After They Graduate”
Judge’s comments: This story showcases solid reporting, clean writing and great design.

Third place: Jerry DiPaola, Trib Total Media, “Surrounded by Family, Clint Hurdle Goes Back to School While Embracing New Life”
Judge’s comments: This piece about Clint Hurdle, a former major league baseball player and
manager, features fine, confident writing.

Honorable mention: Hayes Gardner, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, “Reclaimed Worth: A Standout Baseball Player’s Journey from Desperation to Recovery”


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

First place: Sean Stipp and Chris Benson, Trib Total Media, “The Riverkeeper”
Judge’s comments:
This is an excellent video, with the main subject, a public servant, breaking the fourth wall and connecting directly with the public he serves. The B-roll is beautifully shot, and the interview is well-framed. This is an excellent way to introduce readers to the public servants who make their communities better.

Second place: Skyler Ballard and Katie Klann, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “Love Land: Elevation, 12,050 Feet”
Judge’s comments: This is a fun, charming and whimsical video full of character, action, compelling B-roll footage and human emotion. A piece like this demonstrates that the subject matter need not be heavy nor melodramatic to engross the audience.

Third place: Sean Stipp and Chris Benson, Trib Total Media, “The Return of the Clark Bar”
Judge’s comments:
This is a compelling and well-reported example of community history told
through video and animation. Most impressive is the deft use of motion graphics and the retouching of old photographs. The documentary style is well-executed and helps connect viewers with the history of their community.

Honorable mention: Skyler Ballard and Katie Klann, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “The Violin Maker”


INTEGRATED STORYTELLING
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, online, social media, video and any other platform.

First place: Tony Bartelme, Chloe Johnson and Stephen Hobbs, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Rising Waters”
Judge’s comments: These journalists took a big topic – climate change – and made it not only extremely local but also extremely understandable. For example, what’s more understandable than a comic book? Through the use of excellent reporting, graphics, video and photos, we get a picture of the struggles that Charleston, S.C., is facing. This package is everything integrated storytelling should be and a service to readers.

Second place: Staff, (Lehigh Valley, Pa.) LehighValleyLive.com, “Blue to Red in 30 Miles: What 1 Pa. County Road Tells Us About the American Electorate”
Judge’s comments: This package has it all – stellar photos, engaging videos, solid reporting, good storytelling and informative graphics that get to the heart of what’s going on.

Third place: Staff, The (Syracuse University) NewsHouse, “High Stakes: The Risks and Rewards of Legalizing Marijuana”
Judge’s comments: The reporting encapsulates the topic as a whole, and the social-media elements are especially fascinating. So much so that we bet many readers found the stories through social media. This is an all-around success.


DIVERSITY IN DIGITAL FEATURES
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic that highlights the diversity within a publication’s audience.

First place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, “Forsaken History: In Charleston’s 350th Year, Key Places and Stories in City’s Racial Past Long Neglected”
Judge’s comments: These discovery-of-forgotten-history stories not only feature rich, detailed, descriptive writing but also are the result of painstaking and sometimes painful research. The presentation, timelines, photos and maps are all superb, and the addition of newsletters is a great way to engage the community and keep the conversation going.

Second place: Deborah Sengupta Stith, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, “Monday Music Mashup”
Judge’s comments: This is a cool idea and a great way to encourage important conversations during the pandemic. The discussions, sometimes frank and brutal, are a refreshing change from what we normally expect from newspapers.

Third place: Seth Boster, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “A Colorado Transgender Man’s Journey to Father’s Day: Lessons of Silas”
Judge’s comments: A terrific piece that provides a touching and human insight into the rarely seen world of a transgender family. After reading this, there is no doubt that Silas is anything but a man, father and husband and is so deserving of an extremely cool Father’s Day gift.

Honorable mention: Olivia Zimmerman, The (Syracuse University) 61% Project, “My Dorm Room Was a Place That Gave Me Anxiety”


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

First place: “OutThere Colorado Winter Guide,” Staff, The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Judge’s comments: This user-friendly – and fun to read – guide to winter recreation in Colorado meets the pandemic head-on, with tips on how to stay safe and ideas on what to do when the temperatures are dipping, the flakes are falling and the virus is threatening. The beautiful design makes it a pleasure to look at, too.

Second place: “Austin Food Guide: A Look at Where We Get Our Groceries These Days,” Addie Broyles, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
Judge’s comments: News publications do a great job of providing guides to local restaurants, but what do we do when the eateries are shut down? The American-Statesman has a creative answer: a look at where we get our food, from local markets to farmers markets. The idea is brilliant, and we’re hoping it catches on – even after restaurants are up and running again.

Third place: “The Stay-Put Cookbook,” Kim O’Donnel, Chris Emlet and Jenelle Janci, LNP | LancasterOnline
Judge’s comments:
Readers stuck in their homes must have loved this cookbook, with recipes for simple dishes like beans and pizza dough and instructions for more fancy fare like spatchcock chicken. The gorgeous photos are mouth-watering. And we loved the pro tips, especially this one for a galette: “Let the dough know who’s boss.”


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: “InsideOut,” Karen Taylor and Andrea Daniel, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments: This is a well-done section featuring tips on home decor and gardening. Love the Cool Stuff page, with its spotlight on locally found home-accent items. And the Real Estate transfers – which list recent home sales, including the price – are surely a hit with readers. In a year when we were all quarantining in our homes, this section gives ideas on how to make your spaces – both interior and exterior – brighter.

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: NJ Advance Media
Fourteen awards, including four firsts (Features Series or Project, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Sports Feature and Best Special Section), seven seconds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Narrative Storytelling, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio, Integrated Storytelling, Diversity in Digital Features and Best Special Section), one third (Integrated Storytelling) and two honorable mentions (Narrative Storytelling and Digital Innovation)

Second place: The Virginian-Pilot
Eleven awards, including four firsts (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Food Feature, Diversity in Digital Features and Best Niche Product), two seconds (Best Section and Food Feature), four thirds (Food Criticism, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Diversity in Digital Features and Headline Writing Portfolio) and one honorable mention (Food Writing Portfolio)

Third place: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ten awards, including two firsts (Best Features Digital Presence and General Commentary Portfolio), two seconds (Sports Feature and Video Storytelling), four thirds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Features Series or Project, Best Special Section and Best Niche Product) and two honorable mentions (Best Section and Diversity in Digital Features)

Fourth place: South Florida Sun Sentinel
Six awards, including four seconds (Short Feature, Food Feature, Food Writing Portfolio and Best Niche Product), one third (General Commentary Portfolio) and one honorable mention (Best Niche Product)


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

First place: The San Diego Union-Tribune
Judge’s comments:
The “Faces of the Arts Shutdown” series shows what it means when the local paper has your back. This ambitious project is a case study in how human-centered storytelling, intimate and vibrant portraiture, and dynamic and intentional design work together to capture the heart of a community living and leaning on one another during extraordinary times. Each of the staff members who contributed to this monthslong survey lives up to the promise of what it means to be a hometown features journalist.

Second place: The Virginian-Pilot
Judge’s comments:
The breadth and depth of the stories covered on these pages are a testament to The Pilot’s commitment to its community – its history, its culture and its identity. The features staff members push themselves and their readers with stories that examine past sins (an 18th-century church’s participation in the slave trade) and that give voice to a new generation of activists. They also delight us with the sounds and colors and tastes of their community in their arts and food coverage. These writers and editors skillfully build upon a legacy of journalism excellence we’ve come to know from this
southeast Virginia paper.

Third place: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Judge’s comments:
The Post-Dispatch capitalizes on a key feature that distinguishes it from any other media in town or nationally – the voice of its journalists. The features staff members are clear and present on its pages, and they have cultivated a dynamic conversation with readers. It’s apparent everywhere: from the inside of the entertainment tabloid, where staffers get to be their authentic selves, to the cover stories they curate, which showcase the diversity of creativity alive in their community. It’s a special bond that’s strengthened through this work.

Honorable mention: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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

First place: Staff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judge’s comments:
This is a lovely presentation, with a great use of still photos and videos, and the writing is tight.


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

First place: Tom Hallman Jr., The (Portland) Oregonian | OregonLive, “Redemption, Love and Acceptance Come 45 Years After Two Brothers Graduate From High School”
Judge’s comments: This story of two brothers from the wrong side of the tracks who were picked on in high school manages to have both a happy and a sad ending. Packing emotional punch, the piece shows how bullying works, how humans redeem themselves and how kindness eventually might overcome meanness.

Second place: Maureen O’Donnell, Chicago Sun-Times, “‘A Faithful Caretaker of the ‘Faithful Departed’”
Judge’s comments: This entry tells why Sandra Bartusiak has become a caretaker of graves, branching out from her husband’s and her family’s resting places to those of near-strangers. It takes what could be creepy subject matter and, by showing her motivation, instead makes what she does understandable and even relatable.

Third place: Richard Marini, San Antonio Express-News, “Thanks to Social Media and Good Samaritans, Reba the Costco Hen Went From Instacart Stowaway To Facebook Celebrity”
Judge’s comments: This brite exemplifies the best of quick-hit feature writing. It’s a rollicking yarn with a happy, feel-good ending. This kind of story looks simple to execute but takes a certain skill. Bonus points for integrating video into the story.

Honorable mention: Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “How Did Mary Engelbreit Get So Woke? St. Louis Artist Known for Cute Drawings Isn’t Holding Back”


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Denise Watson, The Virginian-Pilot, “Moving a Masterpiece: How Museums Move Rare, Large, Fragile Art from One Museum to the Next”
Judge’s comments: A simple thing, like moving art around the world, is brought to life in this extremely well-written, highly engaging piece. A great read for all audiences.

Second place: Bobby Olivier and Aristide Economopoulos, NJ Advance Media, “Silent Stages: After Seven Months, New Jersey’s Most Iconic Venues Are Still Closed and Fighting for Their Lives. See Inside the Devastation.”
Judge’s comments: This feature captures the mood and essence of 2020 – through the lens of music venues and their struggle to stay in business. The photos bring the words to new heights.

Third place: Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “ ‘Four Dead in Ohio’: How the Kent State Shooting Changed Music History”
Judge’s comments: This is a wonderfully crafted piece that connects the dots of top musical acts and the tragic 1970 Kent State shooting.


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

First place: Maureen O’Donnell, Chicago Sun-Times, “Pound Cake Another Pandemic Loss, Long the Queen Dessert at Many Funeral Repasts”
Judge’s comments: With many funeral services on hold during the pandemic, a Chicago funeral home operator craved his favorite dessert. The resulting story is funny and sweet. Maureen’s descriptions of the repast food are mouth-watering, the gentle humor is much-needed, and the care that these community members show one another is touching.

Second place: Phillip Valys, South Florida Sun Sentinel, “Gator Bites and Bikinis: Jay’s Sandbar BBQ Feeds Hungry Boaters Aboard Fort Lauderdale’s Only Floating Restaurant”
Judge’s comments: What a charming story about an offbeat family that peddles food on the water from a boat. The piece seems to embody the freedom we all long for, especially during the pandemic, and features great quotes and color.

Third place: Ken Goe, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian | OregonLive, “Coronavirus Rules Don’t Keep Woman From Dying Wish to Stand on Oregon Beach”
Judge’s comments: A mysterious dying woman has a last wish: to see the ocean. The story is a sad, lovely, elegantly told tale of kindness and the meaning of life.

Honorable mention: Stefano Esposito, Chicago Sun-Times, “Failure to Launch”


FOOD FEATURE
A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic.

First place: Matthew Korfhage, The Virginian-Pilot, “The Cutty Sark, Maybe the Last Great Ocean View Waterfront Dive, Closes This Week After 60 Years”
Judge’s comments:
This engaging writing is full of great details – a gray horseshoe mustache,
mysteriously wet shoes – that pull readers along. Matthew wisely lets the bar’s fans and owners tell this story in their own words. It’s tightly written and well-structured, and the piece puts us inside the bar.

Second place (tie): Matthew Korfhage, The Virginian-Pilot, “How a Child of Virginia Slaves Became the Oyster King of New York and a Favorite of the Queen of England”
Judge’s comments:
This tightly told tale packs a ton of history into the story of one man’s double life, which led him to earn his fortune in one world and to live in another. The feature is fascinating and well-structured.

Second place (tie): Phillip Valys, South Florida Sun Sentinel, “In Quarantine, a Fort Lauderdale Mother and Son Find Solace and Instagram Success in Dumplings”
Judge’s comments: Ostensibly about a viral social media account, this story is actually about family in all of its complicated glory. The piece features tragic surprises and also a bit of humor.

Third place: Jeremy Repanich, Robb Report, “Waste Not, Want Not”
Judge’s comments:
The details in this story make it a winner. The writing is spare, and there’s a fascinating explanation of how the chef turns what would go to waste into, of all things, ice cream.


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

First place: Ian Froeb, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Fear, Grace and Vegan Poutine: Notes on the End of the Restaurant Beat as I Know It”
Judge’s comments: This is an elegant meditation about the strangeness at the start of the pandemic and the importance of restaurants in our lives.

Second place: Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, “In Shutting Down Restaurants, Coronavirus Stole from San Antonians Our Rituals, Our Comfort Zones”
Judge’s comments: This is criticism of the highest order and reminds us of the cultural importance of restaurants.

Third place: Matthew Korfhage, The Virginian-Pilot, “Richmond’s Adarra, Named Among the Best New Restaurants in America, Can Briefly Make You Forget the Pandemic”
Judge’s comments: This review vividly paints a vivid portrait of a restaurant and the weirdness of life during COVID.

Honorable mention: Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, “Review: The Magpie Restaurant Aims Small, Scores Big with Korean-Inspired Food on San Antonio’s East Side”


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

First place: Staff, NJ Advance Media, “24 Hours in Crisis: The Battle Against the Coronavirus Is Testing New Jersey in Every Imaginable Way”
Judge’s comments: There was a point in the pandemic when all the days began to glaze together. This is a show-stopping staff effort to create a time capsule of a single day – April 21, 2020 – as told through dozens of well-reported vignettes, which are both poignant and arresting. Drone footage, powerful portraits and an evocative digital presentation unite to deliver an immersive experience. This is how history should be documented.

Second place: Josh Dulaney, Paige Dillard and Nate Billings, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman, “Life After Death”
Judge’s comments: Lest we forget there are people left behind after a loved one’s sudden death, this series brings their experience to the front, as told sometimes decades after the fact. This is engaging storytelling, and each chapter in the series has companion video and audio elements that elevate the project.

Third place: Steve Mellon and Nate Guidry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Jazz in the Age of COVID-19”
Judge’s comments: This lively series captures the reality of the shutdown for jazz musicians who are missing their craft. Candid interviews mesh with have-to-hear-it-yourself videos in a project that is a virtual performance.

Honorable mention: Chuck Blount and Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, “52 Weeks of Pizza”


NARRATIVE STORYTELLING
A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme.

First place: Mark Patinkin, The Providence (R.I.) Journal, “On Ventilators in NYC, Their Odds Bleak, Two Patients Saved by an R.I. Doctor and Nurse”
Judge’s comments: Mark artfully pulls off a difficult storytelling trick – juggling two narratives at once. Thanks to expert use of dialogue, description and pacing, we become invested in the characters and cheer the rare triumphs. More than a few moments induce tears.

Second place: Matthew Stanmyre, NJ Advance Media, “My Friend Jay. He Went From Class President to Drug Dealer – Then Dead at 16. My Desperate, Personal Search for Answers.”
Judge’s comments: This is a heartfelt and thoughtful exploration of race, identity and friendship. It could have been just a collection of memories, but Matthew offers up a thoroughly reported and deeply moving piece.

Third place: Lauren Caruba, San Antonio Express-News, “Night Shift on the COVID Unit”
Judge’s comments:
Lauren skillfully uses dialogue again and again to plunge us into scenes. She also captures key details, like a wife saying goodbye to her dying husband: “His wife placed one hand, then the other, on the glass. She put her head against her hands and sobbed.”

Honorable mention: Spencer Kent, NJ Advance Media, “Crossroads of a Pandemic: The Worst Pandemic in a Century Has Ravaged Newark and its Black Community. It Was a Tragedy Decades in the Making.”


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: Spencer Kent, NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments:
This outstanding portfolio contains three gripping narratives about the early stages of the pandemic, and the stories provide an in-depth look at the unfolding tragedy. The dialogue and scene setting are strong. The first focuses on a single patient and the long struggle to keep him alive; the second tells of the mental-health effect on nurses, doctors and other health-care providers; and the third chronicles a woman trapped in Wuhan, China, and her eventual journey back to the United States.

Second place: Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments:
In-depth reporting gives insights into both the struggle of students during remote learning and the suicide epidemic among young people during the pandemic.

Third place: Denise Watson, The Virginian-Pilot
Judge’s comments:
These are fascinating slices of history tied to today’s racial justice movement. One story we found unforgettable was the search for relatives of enslaved people based on the original bill of sale.


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

First place: Carlos Frias, The Miami Herald
Judge’s comments:
These stories highlight the range of Miami’s food culture. Carlos demonstrates extensive reporting and a keen eye for the details that immerse readers in a story. You can smell the coffee; you can feel the mosquitos biting your skin. Each piece is a lovely read.

Second place: Phillip Valys, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Judge’s comments:
Finding something new to report during the pandemic – especially on the food scene – was sometimes difficult. These stories shine because they go beyond the obvious and reveal people you might not have known about. And, in a welcome change from so much of what we saw this past year, Phillip is even able to have some fun.

Third place: John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun
Judge’s comments:
This is strong mix of news and features about the intersection of food and the city’s Black community.

Honorable mention: Matthew Korfhage, The Virginian-Pilot


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: Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judge’s comments:
The thing we love most about these columns is that they’re built from passion but informed by reporting. And while the reporting is essential, it’s never really noticeable – in a good way. The details are sprinkled into the stories at the right moments, never sacrificing the personality or the emotion that makes these pieces so readable. And there’s purpose here, not only in relating to topical matters but also in trying to help us all better understand the world.

Second place: Mark Patinkin, The Providence (R.I.) Journal
Judge’s comments:
There’s mastery in this work. The writing is stark but powerful – it transports us to places we’ve only wondered about. The reporting that goes into these pieces isn’t easy, but it never reads as though it was an effort. There’s a wonderful flow and pace to the writing, but the hallmark is that it takes us somewhere we haven’t been and leaves us feeling as though we’ve been there. (Note to the writer: The margin between first and second place was razor-thin.)

Third place: Mark Gauert, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Judge’s comments:
In the time of COVID and social protest, there’s comfort in reading these pieces about mundane things. Mark gives us columns that are pleasant. But beyond that, he understands how to bring us into something simple and to skillfully show us the magic in these everyday moments.

Honorable mention: Aisha Sultan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO
A collection of three columns, essays or reviews by the same writer on any arts and entertainment topic, including dining reviews but excluding editorials.

First place: Théoden Janes, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
Judge’s comments:
These are smartly observed, self-aware stories with the perfect balance of context and narrative. Théoden knows his community as well as he knows the acts that come to perform for it. He also has proven willing to tangle honestly and critically with last year’s efforts at live music – both its reliefs and its foibles.

Second place: Bobby Olivier, NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments:
This is evocative, well-informed criticism. Bobby’s knowledge and entertaining style make these pieces a joy to read.


SPORTS FEATURE
Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media, “The Hero We Deserve: How Gritty Emerged From Darkness To Show Us The Way”
Judge’s comments: We thought Gritty, the beloved mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team, was a passing fad – a social media moment – but we devoured every word of this story and are now a convert. We love the cheeky tone; we love the presentation – those eyes will haunt us forever.

Second place: Jason Mackey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Why Pittsburgh Is Remembered as the ‘Mecca of Negro League Baseball’”
Judge’s comments: This story does a great job of taking the news of the day and turning it into a thoughtful feature that explains the historical importance to the community.

Third place: Joe Freeman, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian | OregonLive, “‘We Can’: How Mitch Canham Has Quickly Brought Oregon State Baseball ‘Family’ Closer Together”
Judge’s comments: We love how this feel-good feature unabashedly shows the emotional side of the players and coaches and how they were able to come together by being willing to be vulnerable.

Honorable mention: Théoden Janes, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, “Can He Be the Hornets’ Head Coach and the Dad He Always Wanted To Be – at the Same Time?”


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

First place: Brooke Herbert, The (Portland) , Ore.) | OregonLivelcom, “A Parking Lot Prom and Backyard Graduation: Tigard Senior Reimagines Milestones During a Pandemic”
Judge’s comments:
It is clear from this entry and others in this category that The Oregonian is truly embedded in its community. It’s a testament to the role of local features reporting. In this video, Brooke stuns with a touching portrait of a young woman on the precipice of her independent life. Brooke flexes her artistry in the way she marries gorgeous angles and cinematography with solid narrative architecture. She allows her subjects to shine in all their prom-dress and school-spirit glory. She reminds us that even the simplest stories – such as one revolving around a singular moment in a young person’s life – can be powerful and should be told.

Second place: Andrew Rush, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Kids Talk About 2020”
Judge’s comments: This is a smart, well-executed video. This diverse cross-section of young voices was able to translate a brutal year with the honesty and utter lack of bullshit that can come only from a kid. The journalists behind this video and the kids and their parents should be proud.

Third place: Samantha Swindler, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian | OregonLive.com, “Out-of-Work Strippers Are Delivering Food Through Boober Eats”
Judge’s comments: This video stands out for capturing such a bawdy topic with both sincerity and compassion – the business owner, staff and adult dancers-turned-food delivery babes deserve nothing less.

Honorable mention: Samantha Swindler, The (Portland, Ore.) Oregonian | OregonLive.com, “The Searchers: Idaho Couple Finds Drowning Victims for Families in Oregon”


INTEGRATED STORYTELLING
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, online, social media, video and any other platform.

First place: Staff, The Cincinnati Enquirer, “Holding On: How the Pandemic Hit Home”
Judge’s comments:
Bravo to The Cincinnati Enquirer for crafting such an enduring and unforgettable record of 2020. This ambitious effort to chronicle the unsettling year includes beautifully written profiles of ordinary people and a masterfully produced 50-minute documentary film. The package resonates far beyond the state of Ohio and speaks to Americans everywhere.

Second place: Staff, NJ Advance Media, “24 Hours in Crisis: The Battle Against the Coronavirus Is Testing New Jersey in Every Imaginable Way”
Judge’s comments:
Talk about ambitious! This collaboration by more than three dozen journalists chronicles a “typical” Tuesday in New Jersey in April 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. The breadth of reporting captured on this single day is both intimate and expansive, and the fact that this multifaceted special report was published just a week later is awe-inspiring.

Third place: Adam Clark, NJ Advance Media, “The Hero We Deserve: How Gritty Emerged From Darkness To Show Us The Way”
Judge’s comments: This deep-dive profile about Gritty, the enigmatic mascot for the Philadelphia Flyers ice hockey team, is masterful. Adam packs in comedy and nuance at every turn, and the end result is perfection. Every aspect of the story’s design is perfect as well, including the huge, unblinking eyes at the outset, the black background, the orange subheads and flourishes, the flawless photo and tweet choices – and the hilarious photo captions.


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: Joanne Kimberlin, The Virginian-Pilot, “Afghan Activist in Newport News Caught Between Heart and Homeland as Peace Talks Begin With Taliban”
Judge’s comments: This is a superbly constructed story about Sarina Faizy, an Afghan activist living in Virginia. We were hooked from the opening sentences: “From a house in Newport News, Sarina Faizy watches events on the other side of the globe. A foot in both worlds. A knot in her stomach.” In the piece, Joanne paints a picture of Faizy in her American home (yes, sometimes she breaks taboo and goes swimming!) and interweaves her current life with her role as a teenage, female member of Kandahar’s provincial council. The tone is upbeat but honest about the brutalities that await women such as Faizy if the Taliban regain power.

Second place: Robin Wilson-Glover and Tennyson Donyea, NJ Advance Media, “Making Black Lives Matter”
Judge’s comments: Amid historic protests calling for racial justice across the nation, these two NJ Advance Media staffers talked to 50 New Jerseyans and asked them what should be done about systemic racism in police forces. The resulting answers are hopeful and as diverse as the people giving them.

Third place: Denise Watson, The Virginian-Pilot, “‘I Guess That Was Our Little Protest’: Hampton Roads Natives and Residents Remember the 1960 Sit-Movement.”
Judge’s comments:
These are engaging first-person accounts by activists who took part in the 1960 sit-in movement across the South to protest racial injustice.

Honorable mention: Steve Mellon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “How Come No One Remembers 46 Black People Kidnapped in 1933?”


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

First place (tie): “Another Day in Crisis,” Staff, NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments:
Our two first-place winners take different approaches, but each is equally powerful. For this section, NJ Advance Media sent out more than 35 journalists to document one historic day during a historic pandemic. The photos and stories are riveting, and the breadth of the subjects is impressive. There is strong writing throughout – how can you stop reading with a lede like this? “The dead man’s skull is visible through the open door of the crematorium furnace. And that, somehow, is not the most jarring part of this scene.” Then there’s this: “The burnt orange light sneaks over the horizon. Normally, this would be another splendid sunrise at the Jersey Shore, a Springsteen song yet to be written. But today, barely anyone has come to greet it.” With this section, the staff created a compassionate record of the painful, confusing and strange time that still hasn’t ended.

First place (tie): “My Friend Jay. He Went From Class President to Drug Dealer – Then Dead at 16. My Desperate, Personal Search for Answers,” Matthew Stanmyre and Staff, NJ Advance Media
Judge’s comments:
Matthew goes back to his childhood to tell a personal story of a best friend who died. In the most recent chapters, he still is trying to make sense of the death and checks in to see how his friend’s family is doing. It’s compelling writing that is both personal and relatable. Here is how he describes their friendship: “How do you explain why two grade school boys become best friends, other than a mysterious combination of personality, temperament and ridiculous good fortune? For Jay and me, we just clicked. We were similar, easygoing kids who liked sports; we both had mom and dad at home; and we both toed a line of being mostly well-behaved, but with enough mischievousness to keep life interesting.”

Second place: “25 Women to Watch 2020,” Staff, The Baltimore Sun
Judge’s comments:
This section is engaging, both in print and online. The women are, of course, talented and compelling. The profiles are short but packed with tons of detail, and the photography pulls readers in. It’s refreshing to see a group that is not divided by age or other criteria. The accompanying stories – about topics such as how the pandemic has affected women disproportionately, day care and turning pain into protest – provide a wider look at the world women navigate.

Third place: “Top Workplaces: Stranger Things. Much Stranger. Working in the Upside Down,” Staff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judge’s comments: How do you rank top workplaces when a lot of people are suddenly working from home – and all of this happens right in the middle of the survey that will be used to create this annual list? The Post-Gazette used a “Stranger Things” theme and composed stories about what was happening as the pandemic erupted. The pieces capture a strange moment in time and manage to also look forward.


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. We love the sense of place and the variety of stories, which cover topics such as dining, furniture making, river snorkeling and how to lower the temperature in conversations during these high-adrenaline times. But there’s more: hog farming, pinot noir makers, folk art and kayaking. There is much going on in Virginia, and it’s told in these pages in engaging stories, lovely photographs and beautiful design.

Second place: “Explore Florida & The Caribbean,” Mark Gauert, Anderson Greene and Cassie Armstrong, South Florida Sun Sentinel
Judge’s comments: These sections are beautiful and filled with great information. You’ll find lively writing and – did we mention? – gorgeous photography. The magazine addresses the pandemic head-on, and the result is a publication that is great for both armchair travel and thoughtful planning. Just one question: When can we go?

Third place: “The Business of Pittsburgh,” The Business Department, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Judge’s comments:
A monthly report on the business of a city is a smart way to cover a scene. The Post-Gazette’s staff finds plenty of personal stories and trend pieces about the entertainment economy and investing during a time when most businesses are shut down and no one knows what will happen next. The news often was not good, but this publication also offered stories of innovation and hope.

Honorable mention: “City & Shore Prime,” Mark Gauert and Anderson Greene, South Florida Sun Sentinel

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: Los Angeles Times
Fifteen awards, including two firsts (Best Section and Features Series or Project), six seconds (General Feature, Arts & Entertainment Feature, Food Feature, General Commentary Portfolio, Sports Feature and Best Special Section), four thirds (General Feature, Food Criticism, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Best Special Section) and three honorable mentions (General Feature, Video Storytelling, Best Podcast)

Second place: Boston Globe
Eleven awards, including five firsts (General Feature, Narrative Storytelling, General Commentary Portfolio, Diversity in Digital Features and Best Special Section), three seconds (Food Criticism, Narrative Storytelling and Food Writing Portfolio), one third (Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio) and two honorable mentions (Arts & Entertainment Commentary Portfolio and Integrated Storytelling)

Third place: San Francisco Chronicle
Six awards, including two firsts (Best Features Digital Presence and Integrated Storytelling) and four seconds (Best Section, Features Series or Project, Arts & Entertainment Portfolio and Digital Innovation)

Fourth place: Star Tribune News
Six awards, including three firsts (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Best Niche Product and Digital Innovation) and three honorable mentions (Best Section, Short Feature and Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio)


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

First place: Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments:
Attention-grabbing illustrations, classy color palettes, fine photography and pristine design abound in these sections. The feature department treats readers to smart writing, insightful commentary and timely glimpses into the lives of everyday Angelinos. One section highlights 42 Black-owned businesses and contains a compelling essay about being Black in LA and a well-crafted profile of a Black father and son who own a plant nursery. The stories in the Food section – including a fantastic and easy crepe recipe – are delicious. The Image section features a well-done portrait of the founders of the clothing brand Kids of Immigrants. And, this being LA, the Calendar section offers up sharp movie-related features.

Second place: San Francisco Chronicle
Judge’s comments:
These feature sections are visually stunning and full of content to help readers better navigate the city. An excellent dining guide offers advice on how to eat “ethically, safely, deliciously” during the pandemic. A compelling section called The Throughline offers perspectives on the city’s post-pandemic future – transportation, urban design and sustainability. Smart book and film reviews accompany a calendar of artistic events for readers in the Datebook section.

Third place: Houston Chronicle
Judge’s comments:
It is fitting that this newspaper, which serves perhaps the most diverse big city in the nation, does a fine job of highlighting diverse voices throughout its feature sections. There is a compelling mix of story forms: reviews, commentary, Q&As and profiles, in addition to fantastic photography. We love the Zest section, which offers portraits of Houstonians working to maintain a sense of normalcy while hunkering down during COVID-19, and the Renew section, which provides readers with tips on how to reduce stress amid the pandemic.

Honorable mention: (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune News


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

First place: Michael Gray, San Francisco Chronicle
Judge’s comments:
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by media sites these days. These digital offerings are different – they’re easy to navigate, with gorgeous photography, and smart and useful content. We hope the city of San Francisco points visitors to the offerings on this website and the publication’s Instagram accounts. There’s so much information that you could plan five trips and still have more to do – and eat.

Second place: Staff, Newsday, “FeedMe”
Judge’s comments:
The only problem with these offerings – and it’s not a bad problem at all – is how hungry you’ll be after consuming both the website “FeedMe” and the accompanying Instagram account. Smart, necessary pivots caused by the pandemic make for a beautiful and useful guide filled with expert information.


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

First place: Evan Allen, Bob Hohler and Neil Swidey, Boston Globe, “The Virus’s Tale”
Judge’s comments:
When future generations try to figure out how we let the pandemic get so out of control, they need look no further than this outstanding piece that chronicles the beginnings of the COVID-19 spread in Massachusetts. The story is a tour de force in terms of both reporting and writing. It’s a tragic tale of health-care officials who were initially stymied by inaction and a lack of testing and then, despite their best intentions, were forced to play catch-up with a virus that already was raging by the time they figured out that it was here. The story covers the mess from all angles – health providers, politicians, patients and the clergy. The stellar writing is tight. We especially loved this passage that describes how Dr. Clarisse Kilayko began to see similarities in the symptoms many of her patients were experiencing: “Kilayko had been thinking of each of her patients as unconnected, stars scattered across the sky. Suddenly, she saw the constellation.” As we read the story and as the constellation became clear, we were shocked, angry, saddened, horrified – and proud that such outstanding journalism is still being done.

Second place: Maria La Ganga, Los Angeles Times, “A Family Wonders If They Should Hope a Loved One With COVID-19 Lives or Help Him Die”
Judge’s comments: While the first-place story takes the coronavirus pandemic and looks at it in a big way, this feature does the opposite. It focuses on the members of one family in the Mission Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles that is trying to make a decision that is being played out over and over across the country: Do they hope the patriarch lives or do they help him die? We get to know the health providers who are trying to comfort the man and the family that ultimately must decide his fate. The piece is filled with humor and sadness, and the beautifully paced ending made us weep.

Third place (tie): Claire McNeill, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “Life While Black, As Told by One St. Petersburg Couple”
Judge’s comments: Much of what makes this story a winner happened long before the writer began putting words to paper: The brilliance stems from the idea to focus on one Black couple and have them detail some of the racist incidents they’ve experienced over a lifetime. We get to know Tori and Khyre Edwards, a St. Petersburg, Fla., couple, and we get to know some of the injustices they’ve faced. The structure is simple: We see Khyre at age 7, when on the playground he’s castigated and told: “This is the stuff you guys always do.” We see Tori at age 8, when she learned that her last name meant “white hair” and then realized that the name probably belonged to the white slave masters who’d owned her family. We continue to see the couple at different ages, faced with more racist acts, and it’s this cumulative effect that gives the piece its power. 

Third place (tie): Talya Zax, The Forward, “Philip Roth Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: A Writer, a Stonemason, an American Friendship”
Judge’s comments: This story is intimate – the unusual friendship between Philip Roth, the liberal Jewish author, and the caretaker of his New England house, Russ Murdock, a conservative Christian stonemason. Russ is left to dispose of Roth’s home and contents after the writer’s death. The details are chosen carefully, and each illuminates one of the story’s two main characters. We see Roth’s brown clogs still resting by the door weeks after his death; Russ doesn’t have the heart to move them. When Russ realizes that no one sees the value in the author’s shoes, he takes them home. The story also is universal – we all have experienced the death of someone close and had to watch the gradually fading away of that person’s earthly possessions.

Honorable mention: Molly Hennessy-Fisk, Los Angeles Times, “ ‘So Many Bodies … I Lost Count’: The Grim Business Moving Latino Coronavirus Victims as Death Toll Spikes”
Honorable mention:
Ben Fox Rubin, Suruchi Kapur-Gomes and James Martin, CNET, “In India, an Indestructible Toilet May Be the Key to Saving Lives”

Honorable mention: Christopher Spata, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “What Does a Raised Fist Mean in 2020?”


ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE
Feature treatment of an arts and entertainment topic.

First place: Krithika Varagur, 1843, “The Fight to Save A 44,000-Year-Old Painting”
Judge’s comments:
This standout piece features an awe-inspiring subject (the earliest known figurative paintings), immersive reporting (we would not have climbed that ladder) and a deep knowledge of the subject. And it’s all presented in an approachable style.

Second place: Ashley Lee, Los Angeles Times, “40 Black Playwrights on the Theater Industry’s Insidious Racism”
Judge’s comments: We can’t stop thinking about this story. The feature is a feat of reporting, although the writer’s voice is almost absent. Five – or even 10 – black playwrights talking about their experience with racism in the theater world would have made a powerful story. Forty is something else. Which leads to an inescapable conclusion: This has happened to everyone.

Third place: Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “‘Believe in the Pencil’: At the Florida
Orchestra, the Music’s in the Margins’”

Judge’s comments: Well-sourced and fascinating, this feature reveals something that is invisible to classical music audiences but crucial to the players onstage.

Honorable mention: Verne Gay, Newsday, “Lending Her Voice: Radio’s Ana Maria Caraballo Has Become a Lifeline for LI’s Latinos During Pandemic”


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

First place: Lane DeGregory, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “When Vivian Was 6, She Met a Cute Boy Named Ray. 86 Years Later, This Is Their Story.”
Judge’s comments: Great storytelling is not dependent on having unlimited space, even in this online world. This writer, a well-known master of long-form journalism, shines here in the short form. Why? The structure. Lane’s choice to focus on specific years allows her to efficiently tell this story and to do so with emotion. She picks out key moments and key voices to let the reader feel the journey. Could she have made this a 3,000-word story? Of course. Would it have made it any better? No. Great job.

Second place: Thomas Floyd, The Washington Post, “A Retired Engineer’s Latest Sculpture Is a Bicycle, Back-Scratcher and Cookie Dispenser – All in One”
Judge’s comments: In this world of enterprise, data-driven stories and investigative series, we sometimes need to be reminded that readers also want to be surprised. This tale does just that. Anyone reading this story will tell someone else “you gotta read this” because it’s an unexpected tale in a sea of hard news. Thomas perfectly captures his subject and his project.

Third place: Rheana Murray, Today.com, “Changing the Narrative of Black Fatherhood”
Judge’s comments:
Why does this story linger in our soul? It’s a story about photographs and the photos themselves. And it stays with us because it’s thoughtful without going over the top.

Honorable mention: Jenna Ross, (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune News, “Shall We Dance? A Minnesota Arts Center Finds Ways To Gather People in the Pandemic — With Drive-Ins, Boat-Ins and ‘Polka Pods.’”


FOOD FEATURE
A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic.

First place: Lisa Gray, Houston Chronicle, “What’s Eating Monica Pope”
Judge’s comments: This is an incredibly detailed and compassionate profile that beautifully illustrates the complexities of life on the other side of the plate.

Second place: Daniel Miller, Los Angeles Times, “The Hottest Free Agent in L.A. is a 69-Year-Old Waitress From Now-Closed Nate ’n Al’s”
Judge’s comments: This well-sourced, tightly written profile is a perfect example of a feature story created during the pandemic that remains touching, personal and engaging without becoming a hard news piece driven by news of the coronavirus.

Third place: Jackie Varriano, The Seattle Times, “Meet the Mystery Woman Who Co-Founded Krusteaz in Seattle … and Whose Story Has Been Lost to History”
Judge’s comments: This deeply researched read shines a bright and overdue spotlight on an unsung innovator and her contributions to a historic American brand.

Honorable mention: Marc Ramirez, The Dallas Morning News, “In DFW, the Improbable Rise of Malort, the Liqueur People Love to Loathe”


FOOD CRITICISM
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, “OC’s Best Places to Eat 2020: And the Restaurant of the Year Is … Thai Avenue”
Judge’s comments: We love the straightforward, conversational tone of this piece by one of the best food writers in the business. Brad doesn’t overwrite. Reading one of his reviews is like talking to a friend. We especially love this sentence: “Thai Avenue is every family-run restaurant in 2020. Their story and struggles are interchangeable with countless others.”

Second place: Devra First, Boston Globe, “Once We Ate Together in Restaurants. That Feels Like Another Era.”
Judge’s comments: This is a heart-breaking, poignant time capsule of the restaurant world in 2020. Devra puts into words the feelings many of us have about our favorite places: “They provide joy and nourishment. They bring us together. They give us spaces to celebrate the happy occasions, and when we are lonely, they are oases, offering companionship and a little bit of care.”

Third place: Lucas Kwan Peterson, Los Angeles Times, “When It Comes to Restaurants, Whose Dish Is It Anyway?”
Judge’s comments: This is a fascinating topic explained in a compelling way.
Honorable mention: Tan Vinh and Bethany Clement, The Seattle Times, “Love Wings or Hate
Wings? Our Two Restaurant Critics Debate While Taste-Testing Some of Seattle’s Best”


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

First place: Staff, Los Angeles Times, “The Chicano Moratorium: 50 Years Later”
Judge’s comments:
This is an exceptionally well-done and eye-opening series about the 1970 protest against the Vietnam War, and the presentation is gorgeous. The writing, especially the “Loss of Innocence” story by Daniel Hernandez, is evocative and clear.

Second place: Robert Morast, Sarah Feldberg and Alex Fong, San Francisco Chronicle, “The Throughline”
Judge’s comments: This is an incredibly ambitious project that asks: What kind of world do we want to live in? It includes an interesting assortment of topics and suggestions, as well as a great presentation in print.

Third place: Matthew Sedacca, New York Magazine, “Biography of a Building”
Judge’s comments:
This project is informative, deliciously gossipy and a delightful read. It’s a fun way to tell the history of New York – by uncovering the stories of the city’s buildings. And the photos are gorgeous.

Honorable mention: Staff, Bloomberg Businessweek, “Cruising, Covid-19 and Catastrophe”


NARRATIVE STORYTELLING
A single story told in a narrative style, using techniques such as character development, use of dialogue, sense of place, scene building, narrative arc and adherence to theme.

First place: Evan Allen, Bob Hohler and Neil Swidey, Boston Globe, “The Virus’s Tale”
Judge’s comments:
This story is a remarkable accomplishment for a newsroom. Reporters convinced the story’s most critical characters to cooperate, understood the context of a pandemic still unfolding and crafted a skilled narrative under time pressure. The resulting piece provides readers with an important broader view of what happened when COVID-19 arrived in Massachusetts and how officials failed to curb the spread.

Second place: Neil Swidey, Boston Globe, “‘You Don’t Understand, Captain. He Has a Gun’: The Hijacking of Flight 1320”
Judge’s comments:
Highly skilled use of detail, foreshadowing and pacing put readers into the cockpit for this re-creation of a 1970 hijacking that changed how we experience flight security. Be sure to read to the end.

Third place: Joshua Sharpe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The Imperfect Alibi: The Forgotten Suspect, the DNA and the Church Murders That Haunted a Detective”
Judge’s comments: Much true-crime reporting is out there, but rarely does the reporter play such an important role as in this piece. This investigation into the 35-year-old killing of two Black worshippers in their church leads police to a suspect they’d long overlooked.


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: Jenna Ross, (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune News
Judge’s comments
: Wow – these stories are packed with emotion. Jenna has a wonderful way of capturing her subjects’ personalities and passions.

Second place: Margo Vansynghel, Crosscut
Judge’s comments:
These are well-written, engaging and fascinating projects, from a piece on drive-by dances to one on selfie walls. This is a skillful look at how to cover the arts outside of traditional institutions.

Third place: Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments:
Brittny gives us good, interesting reads with loads of humanity and empathy. The look at postal workers and grocery clerks was refreshingly different COVID coverage.

Honorable mention: Laurie Hertzel, (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune News


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

First place: Tan Vinh, The Seattle Times
Judge’s comments:
This is exactly what a portfolio winner should demonstrate: a broad, skilled and engaging command of the subject. The bánh mi deep dive shows an appreciation and knowledge of the subject and finds a broad vocabulary to describe it. We love the line “I bleed Team Seattle Deli.” The sardine piece shows a well-rounded food writer who’s comfortable making something unusual seem relatable. The pandemic reopening is an example of on-the-ground reporting that unearths details and personalities you could never get by simply calling around.

Second place: Kara Baskin, Boston Globe
Judge’s comments:
These stories examine the real-world engines of restaurant life in America, including a simple, family-run eatery in the mill city of Lowell, Mass., that thrives thanks to exceptional customer service; the pandemic’s toll on the mental health of vulnerable restaurant workers who often cannot access therapy or medication; and the shame and stigma that often stops guests from visiting food pantries – and the people who are trying to change that.

Third place: Len Berk, The Forward
Judge’s comments:
Len is the Anthony Bourdain of lox – a keen observer of humanity, a shrewd insider and a compassionate storyteller. This is hardly conventional food writing, but it connects, informs and entertains.


GENERAL COMMENTARY PORTFOLIO
A collection of three columns or essays by the same writer on any human interest or specialty topic, excluding editorials.

First place: Jeneé Osterheldt, Boston Globe
Judge’s comments:
If there were a 2020 time capsule, we would add these three columns to help people in the future understand what was happening in our country that year. Through her columns about an America burning after George Floyd was murdered and her own mother’s words, Jeneé helps us understand how our country has barely come to terms with its racist ways. In the column about the best friends who find time to be together in the middle of a pandemic, we see hope and resilience – when death could be just a virus away. Emotional, raw and honest, Jeneé hits all the right notes.

Second place: Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments:
Through Gustavo’s columns, we learn about varied Latino perspectives. We learn about responsibility. We learn about celebrating family. These columns are insightful and wonderful reads.

Third place: Joy Sewing, Houston Chronicle
Judge’s comments
: These are touching works about humanity – the ode to The Third Ward is lovely, and the column about fostering and adopting children is revealing and honest.

Honorable mention: Stephanie Hayes, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times


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: Sophie Haigney, The New Yorker and The Nation
Judge’s comments:
Sophie’s portfolio demonstrates a command of language and ideas, and her work feels at once scholarly and accessible – and that’s not easy to pull off. Her essay on the landline as it is depicted in works of fiction is the best kind of cultural analysis; it takes the prosaic and elevates it to something spiritual.

Second place: Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle
Judge’s comments:
Lily’s love of her local theater arts community pulses through the pieces in this portfolio. Descriptive and funny, her reviews are stellar examples of writing that encourages readers to seek out the art in question. Special recognition goes to her piece about the “nicest guy in SF theater” – a vulnerable piece of work deployed to celebrate an everyday member of the community and interrogate the author’s very work. These pieces are void of ego and full of heart.

Third place: Ty Burr, Boston Globe
Judge’s comments:
Ty’s portfolio of film criticism is a joy to read, both fun and thoughtful. The final line of his “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” review is phenomenal and sticks with readers. Each piece demonstrates a deep expertise in and passion for the world of film.

Honorable mention: Jeneé Osterheldt, Boston Globe


SPORTS FEATURE
Feature treatment of any sports topic.

First place: David Gambacorta and Mike Sielski, The Philadelphia Inquirer, “The Sensei and the Lawsuit”
Judge’s comments: An unflaggingly direct and emotional read powered by a history- and detail-rich path that shows us former Phillie Gus Hoefling from childhood to cancer treatments. Cutting this story by even one line would have seemed almost impossible – it’s such superb storytelling. As a bonus, the piece illuminates and hammers home such a startling, maddening reality: that if a man so into pushing the limits of mind and body can fall victim to the insidious and continued lure of tobacco products and advertising, anyone can.

Second place: David Wharton, Los Angeles Times, “At Age 60 and Paralyzed, She Tried To Row Across The Pacific”
Judge’s comments:
How sadly appropriate, reading and judging this tragic yet beautiful story during an Olympics summer. We get a complete yet succinct look at Angela Madsen’s life story. It’s one of incredible strength, as she powers through the worst of times to gain fame and find love – all making the details of her death on this ill-fated journey even more bittersweet. The piece paints a hard-to-look-at but impossible-to-put-down portrait of a woman whose grit and goals drove her until the end..

Third place: Ileana Najarro, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, “In Tampa, the Pigeon Men Flock to a Beloved Sport”
Judge’s comments: It’s a good day for readers when they learn something they didn’t know about another culture, and this story delivers a colorful, heartfelt education about “the pigeon men” and los palomas ladronas. As detailed so beautifully here, there are layers of history, family and cultural pride with every flight, and the nod to simpler days strikes a chord in troubled times. How could you not want to dig in after this graf: “They are the palomeros of Tampa, the pigeon men. Their birds – las palomas ladronas (the thieving pigeons) – steal the hearts of impressionable birds and capture the love of the men who raise them.”
Honorable mention: Lindsay Dodgson, Insider, “Female College Athletes From Across the US Say They’ve Been Bullied, Manipulated, and Psychologically Abused by Their Coaches”


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

First place: Drea Cornejo, The Washington Post, “After Years of Living in Motels, a Family Finally Got Their Own RV. Then COVID-19 Came.”
Judge’s comments: This is a well-done story that looks at an Orlando, Fla., family who lost its RV amid the coronavirus economic shutdown and was forced to live in hotels and, at times, its car. Listening to the mom will break your heart; hearing from the two kids will make you break down.

Second place: Hannah Tran, Colorado Voices: Rocky Mountain PBS, “A Dream Deferred”
Judge’s comments:
This is an emotional piece about Mija Peak, a Korean immigrant who reconnects with her youthful passion of performing a traditional Korean dance. It’s been more than 45 years since she last danced, and her performance on stage is both beautiful and heartwarming.

Third place: Izabela Cardoso, Fernando Teixeira and Meg Teckman-Fullard, Insider, “An 86-Year-Old Is One of the Last Greek Bakers Who Makes Phyllo Dough by Hand. He Turned His Kitchen into a Tourist Attraction.”
Judge’s comments: A fascinating look at one of the few people in Greece who still makes his own phyllo dough by hand. The most amazing part: The dough is rolled and pulled until it is wafer thin – in fact, you can read words on a piece of paper lying beneath it.

Honorable mention: Claire Collins, Makada Easter and Erik Himmeslbach-Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, “How Black Culture Made Roller Skating Popular”


INTEGRATED STORYTELLING
The coverage of any A&E, features or lifestyle topic told through the integrated use of print, online, social media, video and any other platform.

First place: Robert Morast, Sarah Feldberg and Alex Fong, San Francisco Chronicle, “The Throughline”
Judge’s comments: This wildly ambitious project looks at how the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement will influence San Francisco’s future – its bike paths and city layout, its artists and artists, its education, its search for racial justice. Using print and online resources, the result is a vibrant, thought-provoking and entertaining piece of stellar work that looks at what the city could be. We often say that journalists write the first draft of history; with this glorious project, The Chronicle is writing the first draft of the future.

Second place: Project Team, Center for Public Integrity, Grist and The World, “Growing Food, Sowing Trouble”
Judge’s comments: Farmers have made amazing gains in production with the use of fertilizers, but this series looks at the toll that takes on humanity and the environment. The writing is stellar, and the photography is engaging. The project is exquisitely done, with thoughtful stories, radio segments and a video. And what a video! If you think this topic sounds dry, we challenge you to watch the video and not laugh – at least once – while you’re also worrying about what we’re doing to our world. This is public service journalism of the highest order.

Third place: Joshua Barajas, Courtney Vinopal and Molly Finnegan, PBS NewsHour, “Mementos: The Things That Helped Us Survive 2020”
Judge’s comments: An antique brass menorah, Legos, empty toothpaste tubes. What do those things have in common? They – and many other interesting items – were all part of an innovative project to mark the craziness that was 2020. PBS NewsHour asked artists and writers to share a memento that encapsulated the time, and the result is an online time capsule that is inspiring, funny and touching. In videos, some folks shared their time-capsule memento, and we especially loved seeing Gloria Estefan laughingly talk about buying a Hazmat suit so she could hug her grandson on his birthday.

Honorable mention: Jeneé Osterheldt, Boston Globe, “A Beautiful Resistance”

Honorable mention: Staff, Newsday, “Pandemic Self-Care – At Home”

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: Jeneé Osterheldt, Boston Globe, “A Beautiful Resistance”
Judge’s comments:
A beautiful online presentation of this series accompanies lovely, evocative essays, videos and photography on Black culture and history in the United States. The project is well-packaged and easy to navigate. While so much of the media’s coverage has focused – and rightly so – on the longstanding historical injustices visited upon Black Americans, this project explores a little-addressed corner of what it means to be Black in America: The joy, resilience and history as told by the Black Americans living it.

Second place: Molly Solomon and Erin Baldassari, KQED, “Sold Out: Rethinking Housing in America”
Judge’s comments: These reporters take a current issue – the U.S housing crisis – and place it in the context of the history of housing, homeownership and inequality. The result is a fascinating, eye-opening look at the history of single-family zoning. We, as a country, know too little of the story of racism in public policy regarding home ownership, and this project does an excellent job of providing context in a format that is easily and widely accessible.

Third place: Michael Cavna and David Betancourt, The Washington Post, “Creative Trailblazers in a Year of Reckoning”
Judge’s comments: These essays do an excellent job of highlighting the creativity and passion behind Black creators in comics – especially during a year that saw the losses of both Rep. John Lewis and actor Chadwick Boseman. Comics and graphic novels may be growing in popularity and as legitimate storytelling media, but these essays make it clear they would not have gotten to that point without the input, dogged determination and vision of Black creative types who were trailblazers in that aspect of pop culture.

Honorable mention: Staff, The Hechinger Report, The Washington Post and NBC News, “Gifted Education’s Race Problem”


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

First place: “Dispatches from the Edge,” Globe Magazine Staff, Boston Globe
Judge’s comments:
If the date of publication wasn’t on this section, you might guess that it was produced several months into the pandemic. Nope. The staff at the Boston Globe quickly identified some of the major themes from these strange times – that would end up lasting for months – and produced a smart, well-reported special section in a week, all while dealing with the personal effects of the virus and lockdown.

Second place (tie): “Let’s Eat, Philly!” Staff, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Judge’s comments:
This was such a strong category. You expect a beautiful, mouth-watering dining guide when you look to the Los Angeles Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Both deliver that. They also both capture, chronicle and celebrate the struggles and resilience of the people and restaurants in their city’s storied food scenes. It’s incredible work by both staffs.

Second place (tie): “101 Restaurants, Dishes, People and Ideas 2020,” Bill Addison, Patricia Escárcega and Martina Ibañez-Baldor, Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments: This was such a strong category. You expect a beautiful, mouth-watering dining guide when you look to the Los Angeles Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Both deliver that. They also both capture, chronicle and celebrate the struggles and resilience of the people and restaurants in their city’s storied food scenes. It’s incredible work by both staffs.

Third place: “Women in Sports: Game Changers,” Alice Short and Sammy Jo Hester, Los Angeles Times
Judge’s comments: What an inspiring section! We loved the breadth of the women profiled – from trailblazers to the next generation. This section features compelling writing, gorgeous photography and beautiful design. We love that the idea started with sports photo editor Sammy Jo Hester, an athlete, along with many from the Times staff who produced the section. What a way to celebrate International Women’s Day – this section is one to revisit year-round.
Honorable mention: “The Page,” Staff, Houston Chronicle


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: Star Tribune Magazine, Sue Campbell, (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star Tribune News
Judge’s comments:
Compelling themes and local stories, both serious and light-hearted, grace each issue. You get a sense of place with these magazines, which are beautifully designed and feel good to hold, thanks to plenty of heft. We enjoyed the mix of looking forward, looking back and being of the moment, all at the same time.

Second place: FeedMe, Staff, Newsday
Judge’s comments:
What a treat for Long Island food lovers – the magazine is packed with gorgeous photography and well-written and curated stories. We would keep this in our car and use it to eat our way through the area, starting with those 26 pizza places and maybe alternating with the seafood shacks – but, of course, leaving enough room for the ice cream sandwiches. The foldouts in each issue are a surprising and satisfying addition.

Third place: Inspired, Staff, The Dallas Morning News
Judge’s comments: Launching a section dedicated to feel-good stories in March 2020 is either the worst or the best timing ever – but we’re going to say that it’s both. We always hear that readers want good or uplifting stories, and this section delivers, without ignoring what else was happening during those strange times. Many of the stories, as you might expect, have a pandemic tie-in. The sections feature a nice variety of people and efforts in the community, both in stories about people helping others and in pieces about those processing a tough year.

COMBINED DIVISIONS

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

First place: Felicia Murray, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman
Judge’s comments:
These headlines speak for themselves: “Reassigned Seats: Bethany Church Raises Funds Through Former Sanctuary Chairs Transformed into Art,” “Dad Spares No Effort: Oklahoma Man Builds Backyard Bowling Alley So Son Can Practice” and “Soothing Slideshow: OKC’s Trombone Man Brings Joy with Strolling Concerts.” They’re clever while working on more than one level. All three marry with the visuals and make us want to devour the stories.

Second place: Robert Fouch, Newsday
Judge’s comments:
These headlines are a close second: “Firm Commitment: 5 Reasons Why Some LIers Have Shed Pounds During Quarantine,” “Creepy, Kooky and Cool: Long Island Halloween Houses Decorated for a Drive-by” and “In Our Time of Knead: LIers Share Their Daily Bread as Homemade Loaves Trend.” The heads on the two stories related to the pandemic are particularly strong – clever and appealing.

Third place: Nadia Hussein and Anisa Rawhani, The Virginian-Pilot
Judge’s comments:
These headlines work well both with the art and in tight spaces: “DaBaby Not So Lil’: He’s One of the Few ‘Baby’ Rappers Proving to be More than a Radar Blip,” “These Milkshakes Will Bring You to the Yard” and “A Nutty Idea: A Suffolk Farmer Has Invented a New Kind of Coffee Made from Peanuts, and We Tasted It.”


DIGITAL INNOVATION
New or improved online ventures, including websites, apps, social-media experiments or other ways to share information in the digital world.

First place: Sue Campbell, Tim Campbell and Connie Nelson, Star Tribune News, “Virtual State Fair”
Judge’s comments: So what do you do when the pandemic closes down your state fair? The Star Tribune News decided to stage their own fair online, and it’s brilliant and it’s a blast. For 11 days, the staff hosted online chats, concerts, food demos and other fun stuff. There’s even a butter-carving DIY video! And we couldn’t resist the amateur talent contest. We hope this becomes an annual event, even when the real-life fair reopens.

Second place: Nicole Fruge and Daymond Gascon, San Francisco Chronicle, “Class of 2020 – A Senior Year Like No Other”
Judge’s comments: This is a brilliant idea that any publication could do, though it would be tough to pull it off as gracefully as The Chronicle has. It’s like an online yearbook for high school seniors. The staff followed seven teens in their last year of high school and captured those tumultuous months through videos, photography and stories. It’s masterfully done.

Third place: Staff, Newsday, “The Gratitude Game”
Judge’s comments: This is wildly creative. The staff created an online Gratitude Game to be played during our locked-down Thanksgiving, although it could be used at any time of the year. It’s a fun way for family and friends to share memories and stories, and we hope this one catches on around the country. Newsday, we are grateful to you.

Honorable mention: Joshua Barajas, Anne Davenport and Vanessa Dennis, PBS NewsHour, “CANVAS”

Honorable mention: Staff, NJ Advance Media, “NJ Is Open”

Honorable mention: Anthony Del Col, Josh Adams and Walt Hickey, Insider, “News Comics”


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

First place: Max Kutner, Audible, “Radicalized”
Judge’s comments:
This podcast keeps us on the edge of our seats – it’s thrilling, entertaining and informative. What can we say? It really packs a punch!

Second place: Alexander Adams, Lisa Bartfi and Pamela Kirkland, LWC Studios – Lantigua Williams & Co., “70 Million: Season 3”
Judge’s comments: This is a well-researched podcast – numerous facts and complicated issues are explained – but it’s done in such a way that manages to be both informative and entertaining.

Third place: Molly Solomon and Erin Baldassari, KQED, “Sold Out: Rethinking Housing in America”
Judge’s comments: Affordable housing isn’t the most exciting topic to write or talk about, but this podcast goes beyond the expected. It’s informative while also being entertaining.

Honorable mention: Frank Shyong and Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times, “Asian Enough”

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Combined divisions

Featured

All circulation categories compete together.

Headline writing portfolio

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

Features podcast

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

Digital innovation

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

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

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division III

Featured

DIVISION III | Circulation 200,000 and up

Finest in Features Sweepstakes awards

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

Best section

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

Best features digital presence

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

General feature

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

Arts & Entertainment feature

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

Short feature

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

Food feature

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

Food criticism

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

Features series or project

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

Narrative storytelling

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

Feature specialty writing portfolio

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

Food writing portfolio

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

General commentary portfolio

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

Arts & entertainment commentary portfolio

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

Sports feature

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

Video storytelling

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

Integrated storytelling

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

Diversity in digital features

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

Best special section

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

Best niche product

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

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

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

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division II

Featured

DIVISION II | Circulation 90,000 to 199,999

Finest in Features Sweepstakes awards

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

Best section

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

Best features digital presence

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

General feature

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

Arts & Entertainment feature

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

Short feature

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

Food feature

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

Food criticism

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

Features series or project

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

Narrative storytelling

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

Feature specialty writing portfolio

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

Food writing portfolio

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

General commentary portfolio

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

Arts & entertainment commentary portfolio

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

Sports feature

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

Video storytelling

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

Integrated storytelling

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

Diversity in digital features

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

Best special section

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

Best niche product

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

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

The 2020 Excellence in Features award winners—Division I

Featured

DIVISION 1 | Circulation up to 90,000

Finest in Features Sweepstakes awards

This award honors three publications in each circulation category that garner the most awards in the other 22 categories.
First place: The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
Five awards, including five firsts (General Feature, Food Criticism, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio, Food Writing Portfolio and Integrated Storytelling).
Second place: The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate/NOLA.com
Six awards, including one first (Niche Product), three seconds (Arts & Entertainment Feature, Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Sports Feature) and two thirds (Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and Food Writing Portfolio).
Third place: The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette
Five awards, including one first (Diversity in Digital Features) and four seconds (Best Section, Features Digital Presence, Video Storytelling and Special Section).

Best section

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

Best features digital presence

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

General feature

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

Arts & Entertainment feature

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

Short feature

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

Food feature

A single story focusing on food, not including reviews or commentary. Can be a trend story, personality profile, narrative piece, how-to or other feature treatment of a food topic.
First place: Chris Malloy—Phoenix New Times, “Lightning in the Hand: An Apache Leader Hunts for the Past to Nourish the Future”
Judge’s comments:
Chris Malloy’s writing is compelling and storytelling at its best, from a wonderful lede to vivid descriptions of what it takes to hunt and kill woodrats to skillfully capturing the voice of life on an Indian reservation.
Second place: Micah Castelo—Rooted, “An Inside Look at Home Canners Who Preserve by their Own Rules”
Judge’s comments: Micah Castelo offers an interesting and well-researched perspective of what it is to be in the shoes of rebel canners. The narrative is smooth and weaves in facts and figures without missing a beat.
Third place: Katelyn Weisbrod—The Daily Iowan, “2 years ago, she was pre-med at the UI. Now she’s running her own farm.”
Judge’s comments:
In a clean and efficient way, Katelyn Weisbrod conveys the challenges that first-generation farmers face in Iowa. The graphic adds an informative layer to the story.
Honorable mention: Emily Wolfe—Mountain Outlaw, “Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard Thinks Food Could Save the Planet”

Food criticism

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

Features series or project

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

Narrative storytelling

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

Feature specialty writing portfolio

Three stories by the same writer on one features specialty topic, such as arts and entertainment, fashion, food, health, religion, technology or travel.
First place: Jennifer Berry Hawes—The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
Judge’s comments:
Beautiful writing and moving, well-researched storytelling. Telling stories of our community that make a difference is what the best of features journalism does, and this writer does it extremely well. The assisted suicide saga had me literally weeping.
Second place: Doug MacCash—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments:
With great ledes that hook you right away and interesting bits tucked in throughout the stories, you come away feeling like you know these people, their way of life and the city they live in.
Third place: Keith Spera—The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com
Judge’s comments:
Music writer Keith Spera examines the life and legacy of three giants of the New Orleans music scene who died in 2019. The writer moved well beyond the basic obit to tell the story of someone’s life. We liked the three different approaches.

Food writing portfolio

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

General commentary portfolio

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

Arts & entertainment commentary portfolio

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

Sports feature

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

Video storytelling

The coverage of any A&E, lifestyle or specialty topic using a single video of not more than 8 minutes in length.
First place: Madeline Powell, Kayla Thomas—The Fall Workshop 2019 | Syracuse University, “Beyond My Reflection”
Judge’s comments:
Visually this video was a stunner. And the filmmaker weaved all the components–including gorgeous b-roll–into a tight feature package. As viewers, we are treated to the awesome dance moves of the soloist, who doubles as a creative way to move the narrative along. Very well done!
Second place: Katie Klann—The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette, “The Time We Shared”
Judge’s comments: The filmmaker is a talented storyteller. This lovely vignette is well-paced and weaves nicely the dual themes of an artist’s passion and love and loss.

Integrated storytelling

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

Diversity in digital features

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

Best special section

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

Best niche product

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

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