Announcing the winners of the 2016 news writing contest, community division (updated)

The Arizona Press Club is proud to announce the winners in the Community category of the 2016 Writing and Design Competition.

Community investigative reporting

Judge Andy Hall is the executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and was a judge for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

First: Hank Stephenson, Arizona Capitol Times

Comments: “This investigation made great use of public records, including calendars and mileage reimbursements along with Internet searches to show the high-spending ways of Arizona’s House speaker David Gowan. It brought about real change, including new policies at the Capitol and thousands in reimbursements from Gowan, whom the Capitol Times showed clearly misused taxpayer-funded vehicles, staff and his own position to enrich himself and to support his run for Congress. No doubt the digging by the Arizona Capitol Times contributed to the candidate’s low favorability among voters, which forced him to abandon his campaign.”

Second: Joshua Bowling, Cronkite News

Comments: “This investigation showed what happens when regulators and private water operators ignore their core responsibilities. The people of Parker, Arizona are stuck with expensive water that is unfit to drink. And when a major problem arose — a multi-day loss of water during an intense heat wave — the owner and his Costa Rican call center were unreachable. This investigation should prompt further inquiry into the quality of Arizona’s private water systems.”

Third: Evan Wyloge, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

Comments: “This story was an interesting, behind-the-scenes peek at the bare knuckles strategies employed by Arizona Public Service as it seeks to keep the solar industry from expanding in one of the states best suited for this renewable energy source.”

Community public service journalism

Judge Jennifer Berry Hawes is a projects writer for The Post and Courier who worked on a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. She also has won a George Polk Award,

National Headliner Award and an ASNE Award for Local Accountability Reporting and is a past South Carolina Journalist of the Year.

First: Evan Wyloge, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

“It’s hard to beat this entry for sheer ingenuity. Great idea and fantastic execution on Twitter. And who could resist something called a Dark Money Bot?”

Second: Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times

“These stories help readers understand the complexities of solar energy and their utility rate increases, no easy feat.”

Third: Hank Stephenson, Arizona Capitol Times

“Only a reporter who knows this beat well could spot this story. Excellent spotting of a story right in front you that would be easy to miss.”

Honorable Mention: Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times

“This story provides an interesting look at TANF limitations with an especially nice example of how it affected an abused woman and her children.”

Community breaking news

Judge Jack Leonard is editor for police, courts and crime at the Los Angeles Times.

First: Luige del Puerto and Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times; “Miscalculations quickly became apparent as voters lined up at the polls.”

Comments: “Del Puerto and Leingang ably captured the chaos and frustration that marked voting in the presidential primary in Maricopa County. Their story used a wealth of statistics to simply explain how the problems were the result of confusion among independent voters who didn’t realize they were not allowed to vote and miscalculations by election officials who severely underestimated how many voters would show up at the polls.”

Second: Adam Gaub, Pinal Central; “Pair of local men spring into action during massive SR 347 wreck.”

Comments: “Gaub showed what can be done when a reporter gets to the scene of the news quickly enough. He scored interviews with two heroic Good Samaritans to produce a compelling deadline account of a horrific freeway accident that went beyond a regular accident story by showing how the event underscores the need to improve highways in Maricopa to meet the needs of a growing city.”

Third: Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times; “Catherine Miranda defeats stepdaughter in LD27 Senate race.”

Comments: “Rachel’s lede said it all: ‘The family reunion might be a little awkward this year.’ From that funny and inviting start, this short-but-sweet piece ably charts the result of the intra-family election battle, providing important context about campaign finance and the candidates’ family history.”

Community public safety reporting

Judge Shoshana Walter covers human trafficking and public safety for Reveal, part of the Center for Investigative Reporting. She won the 2015 Livingston Award for Young Journalists for national reporting and a John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim fellow in criminal justice journalism.

First: Justin Price, Brandon Quester and Evan Wyloge, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

Comments: “A chilling story about a horrific murder case. The reporters made great use of public records, sources and interviews and composed a vivid narrative that was hard to put down.”

Second: Paulina Pineda, Nogales International

Comments: “Great local watchdog reporting. Pineda raised important questions about alleged racial profiling of Mexican drivers — traffic stops that have led to gigantic leaps in revenue.”

Third: Terri Jo Neff, Cochise County Record

Comments: “Neff’s reporting shed light on abuses of power in the Cochise county criminal justice system. Neff shows a good command of complicated court filings and proceedings.”

Community political reporting

Judge Allison Wisk is the California politics editor for the Los Angeles Times.

First: Evan Wyloge, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

Comments: “Wyloge’s work tracking the flow of dark money in Arizona campaigns is an invaluable service to voters in the state. With the Dark Money bot and its accompanying stories, he showed how central data reporting is to journalism by cracking open and simplifying access to campaign finance information for readers.”

Second: Evan Wyloge, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

Comments: “Wyloge’s use of data reporting to explain how voters removed firebrand Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio from office turns any assumption about the election on its head. Through precinct-level voting data, Wyloge provides a cogent analysis of out how Arpaio — whose long time in the post helped him cultivate a national profile thought to have made him bulletproof among conservatives — had lost the race thanks to an erosion of support in Republican-leaning areas.”

Third: Cindy Yurth, Navajo Times

Comments: Yurth’s coverage of redistricting and voter access issues in San Juan County sharply brings into focus allegations of Diné voter disenfranchisement due to redistricting and a host of poll access issues that often confront tribal members. Her thoughtful reporting provides crucial information to people living in the Four Corners area.”

Community government reporting

Judge Chris Megerian covers Gov. Jerry Brown, the budget, climate change legislation and state government for the Los Angeles Times.

First: Erica L. Lang, Cronkite News

Comments: “This was a comprehensive examination of a serious problem that had gone unaddressed by government officials. It fulfills an important watchdog role with a solid mix of anecdote and data.”

Second: Evan Wyloge, Sarah Jarvis, Justin Price Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

Comments: “The investigation included an impressive use of new data tools to analyze legislation. It’s a good reminder that lawmakers aren’t always making the laws they’re passing.”

Third: Colleen Keane, Navajo Times

Comments: “This was a good example of ground-level community journalism, shining a light on problems that aren’t being addressed by political leaders.”

Community health reporting

Judge Jordan Rau, a senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, was honored for beat reporting by the Association of Healthcare Journalists. His stories have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA TODAY, Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, and on and, among other media outlets.

First: Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times

Comments: “Leingang produced a strong profile of a less heralded group of pot smokers: people in their 50s and older. Her look at this demographic slice of medical marijuana users was refreshing and well told.”

Second: Kendal Blust, Nogales International

Comments: “Blust went beyond the typical medical tourism story to show how Mexican dentists were siphoning off American patients and how the loss was affecting Arizona dentists. Both sides of the border were portrayed fairly.”

Third: Ben Giles, Arizona Capitol Times

Comments: “Giles provided balanced coverage of statehouse issues. His look at how a fight over the regulation of municipal employee benefits hinged on the interpretation of one word was particularly sharp.”

Community environmental reporting

Judge Josephine Marcotty, environmental reporter for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, was honored for beat reporting in 2016 by the Society of Environmental Journalists.

First: Debbie Weingarten,  edible Baja Arizona.

Comments: “It’s a counterintuitive story about the hidden  power of women farmers, and the crucial role they are playing in Arizona’s  sustainable agriculture.  And it’s beautifully written, telling the stories of  strong characters in a strong landscape.”

Second: Murphy Woodhouse, Nogales International.

Comments: “Does an excellent job of describing the scope and cost of a serious environmental problem in one county.”

Third: Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times.

Comments: “An unexpected piece about the complexity and promise of a novel conservation solution.”

Community science reporting

Judge Colin Woodard of Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for a compelling account of dramatic ecological changes occurring in the warming ocean region from Nova Scotia to Cape Cod.

First: Miquel Otarola, Cronkite News

Comments: “A solid, on-the-scene profile of a local research project with global implications.”

Second: Terry Bowman, Navajo Times

Comments: “Bowman went out in the field, captured the scene, and filed a local follow-up to a breaking national science story on a tight deadline.”

Third: Jim Nintzel, Tucson Weekly

Comments: “A readable in-depth profile on a locally-sourced deep space research project.”

Community social issues reporting

Judge Halle Stockton, managing editor of PublicSource, was a 2016 finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists for a series on psychotropic drugs prescribed to juvenile offenders. She also won a 2015 Sigma Delta Chi award for a story about a couple who both have cerebral palsy.

First: Arielle Zionts, Nogales International

Comments: “This is an engaging piece and succeeds at educating the reader about the issues faced by people with a language and disability barrier. I also appreciate the barriers the reporter must have had to get this
story, and it’s important for journalists not to let that hold us back from telling these stories.”

Second: Katie Campbell, PinalCentral/Casa Grande Dispatch

Comments: “This reporter has a knack for taking timely issues and elevating her coverage of them to include powerful narrative, information from data and records and, even in the face of topics that can cause despair, she offers what stakeholders and the community can do in response in a responsible, professional way.”

Third: John Washington, Edible Baja Arizona
Comments: “John Washington’s Sweat Vinaigrette piece not only paints a picture with vivid writing but touches on extremely pertinent issues of agriculture, labor, automation and immigration in a way that never gets wonky. I love that it takes readers to a place where they would never normally get to go either.”

Community education reporting

Judge Cara Fitzpatrick, a reporter with the Tampa Bay Times, was part of a team that won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for exposing a local school board’s culpability in turning some county schools into failure factories, with tragic consequences for the community.

First: Megan Kimble, Edible Baja Arizona

Comments: “It was an interesting window into the world of getting ‘Farm-to-School’ food into school cafeterias.”

No second or third place awarded.

Community immigration reporting

Judge Mark Fazlollah, immigration reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has won national awards including a George Polk Award and the National Association of Black Journalists’ award for investigative reporting. He has been a reporter in Mexico for United Press International and a Latin America correspondent for the Daily Telegraph of London.

First: Staff, Cronkite News

Comments: “The Cronkite News staff articles hit all the bases, providing video interview in both English and Spanish, attractive graphics and well written stories about the polling of 1,427 people on both sides of the border.”

Second: Paulina Pineda, Nogales International
Comments: “Paulina Pineda gave an important voice to Central American women searching for missing relatives.”

Third: Kendal Blust, Nogales International
Comments: “Kendal Blust’s stories on Haitian migrants stuck on the border was well-written, giving a real sense of the difficulties their faced. The articles clearly described their travels from the Caribbean and through Latin American, only to be stalled in Nogales, Sonora. “

Community business reporting

Judge Kimi Yoshino is the business editor of the Los Angeles Times. At the Times, she helped to report on the Bell corruption scandal, which won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service.

First: Megan Kimble, Edible Baja Arizona

Comments First person is difficult to pull off, but Megan Kimble nails it in this Edible Baja Arizona piece that actually tells two stories. It’s both an explainer on equity crowdfunding and a profile of a local brewery. This was an effective way to get people interested in equity crowdfunding – as a potential investor and as a business owner. There’s a lot of reporting and detail packed into this story, but the lively writing had me about ready to whip out my checkbook.

 Second: Steve Totten, Phoenix Business Journal 

Comments: Steven Totten reports that a movie about the deadly Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona is actually being filmed in New Mexico. Totten leaves no angle unexplored in this package of  Phoenix Business Journal stories about film tax credits. As someone who has read (and edited) a number of stories about film tax credits, I appreciated the depth of reporting, the myriad examples and the rich history of filming in Arizona.”

Community sports beat reporting

Judge Angel Rodriguez is the sports editor of the Los Angeles Times.

First: Ezra Amacher, Arizona Daily Wildcat

Comments: “Well-crafted and vivid coverage of the University of Arizona’s baseball team. Highlight was feature on their trip to Omaha. Crips writing throughout.”

Second: Brad Allis, Marana News

No comments submitted.

Third:  Christopher Boan, The Sahuarita Sun

No comments submitted.

Community sports feature reporting

Judge Angel Rodriguez is the sports editor of the Los Angeles Times.

First:  Christoper Boan, The Sahuarita Sun

Comments: “Deeply reported feature that brought to life the protagonist. The story never dragged and was compelling throughout. Well done. “

Second:  Brad Allis, Marana News

Coaching legend inspired kids, grandkids and many others

Third: Nick Krueger,  Cronkite News

Comments: “Despite grandfather’s CTE, Stabler’s grandsons carry on family’s football legacy”

Community sports investigative reporting

No awards.

Community sports column writing

Judge Geoff Calkins writes columns and opinion for Memphis and the Mid-South for The Commercial Appeal.

First: Brad Allis, Marana News

No comments submitted.

Second: Adam Gaub,  PinalCentral

No comments submitted.

Third: Justin Spears,  Arizona Daily Wildcat

No comments submitted.

Community column writing

Judge David Cook, metro columnist with the Chattanooga Times, won the 2016 ASNE Mike Royko Award for Commentary Writing.


First: Bill Coates, Casa Grande Dispatch

Comments: “Bill Coates’s columns are powerfully rooted in the pains and joys of everyday life. From a roadside tragedy – and the one survivor who somehow lived – to the eternal bond of brothers to the politics of smoking, Coates writes with wisdom and precision about the sweetness, suffering and impermanence of ordinary life. Not the rich and famous, but the rest of us.”

Second: Cindy Yurth, Navajo Times

No comments submitted.

Third: Bill Donovan, Navajo Times

No comments submitted.

Community editorial writing

Judge Andrew Green is part of the Baltimore Sun team that was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in editorial writing.

First: Jonathan Clark, Nogales International

Comments:  The editorial argues an essential point – the need for diligence and transparency in the investigation of police-involved shootings – and marshals as evidence both some well known cases from around the country but also a detailed examination of several in Arizona. Particularly commendable is the author’s use of the NI’s original reporting on the topic but also that of other newspapers in the region to make his points.”

No second place or third place awards were given.

Community personality profile

Judge Carrie Seidman is a 2016 winner of the Society for Features Journalism Award for Features Series or Project Award and took second place in Feature Writing Specialty Portfolio. She is a reporter for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and just wrapped up a Carter Center fellowship focusing on mental illness.

First: Brian Smith, Tucson Weekly

Comments: “Full of arresting details, colorful language and nuance. A fascinating subject, intricately revealed.”

Second: Megan Kimble, Edible Baja Arizona

Comments: “The goal of a good profile is to make the person in question come alive in a way that leaves readers longing to meet or hate the subject. After reading this I was ready to show up at Suzana Davila’s restaurant and put myself entirely in her hands.”

Third: Debbie Weingarten, Edible Baja Arizona

Comments: “The connection of a young boy’s early memories in the kitchen with his mother to his life’s passion, told via well-connected and revealing stages.”

Community human interest writing

Judge Staci Sturrock is a senior content editor and copywriter for the ad agency Ideabar. She previously worked as a reporter for the Palm Beach Post and won first place in the Society for Feature Journalism Awards 2016 for Feature Specialty Writing Portfolio and third place in Short Feature.

First: Megan Kimble, Edible Baja Arizona

Comments: “Right out of the gate, this lovingly tended story is a winner. The first several paragraphs read like the opening of a good novel. The reporter writes with an impressive authority. And while the story is packed with facts of how these women are changing the face of farming, it’s the personal stories of the farmers that sing. Great storytelling.”

Second: Rebecca Brisley, State Press

Comments: “This is a well-researched, wide-ranging and nicely balanced takeout on a herd of horses that everyone seems to have an opinion on. The sourcing is thorough, and I enjoyed how the writer described both the horses and her visits to the Coon Bluff area with the people she was interviewing. Anything you want to know about the Salt River Horses is in this article.”

Third: Kendal Blust, Nogales International

Comments: “I’m still thinking about the young man sitting at the back of the migrant center after breakfast. Really nice job of using his situation to discuss such a multifaceted issue. The story is nicely contained (it doesn’t try to do too much) but also includes just the right touch of state and national statistics to put things in perspective locally. Kudos on extracting so many details about Carlos’ flight and plight during your interview with him.”

Community short-form writing

First: Katie Bieri, Cronkite News

Comments: “Bieri’s story is light and off-beat, traits too often overlooked by reporters hell-bent on finding the next #scandal that will expose an elected official. To be sure, big, front-page, inverted pyramid stories are the lifeblood of print journalism. But we’re not living in an apocalypse — at least, we aren’t as I write this. Fingers crossed! Anyway, back to Bieri’s story. She found a fun topic and avoided the common trap for an off-beat story: slacking on the reporting end. Here, she shows up to the office and talks to Rep. Schweikert and his staff as if this were any other news story. She was alert to find out when and why Schweikert started bringing dogs to work. Plus, extra points for getting the names of the dogs.”

Second: Christopher S. Pineo, Navajo Times 

Comments: “Editors, professor and salty old reporters will give you plenty of tips as a budding journalist: know what you talk about BEFORE you get to an interview, adjectives are worse than swear words, get the name of the dog. (I know; I know; see above.) But the most important part of journalism is finding access to the right people. This part is hard to teach. It requires a sense of empathy, understanding which people are most affected by an issue. Here, Pineo nails it. He finds Jessie Carabajal the day after the worst day of her life. Pineo allows her to tell her story. Importantly, he doesn’t get in her way. He gives her room to talk through what happened, what she saw, how she felt. And she gives us, the readers, room to feel with Carabajal.”

Community arts criticism

Judge Amy Biancolli is the arts writer and columnist for The Times Union in Albany, NY. She won first place in the Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio category in the 2016 Society for Features Journalism awards and has published two books.

First: Margaret Regan, Tucson Weekly

Comments: “Authoritative and terrifically written with lively, sexy cheek. She praises the artists for portraying the nude in a manner ‘clear-eyed and without apology,’ and she does the same.” 

Second: Sherilyn Forrester, Tucson Weekly

Comments:I enjoyed this for its nuance and balance (a mixed review is, I think, the hardest to write by far) and for its insights into the nature of playwriting. A great read, and an interesting one.” 

Third: Cindy Yurth, Navajo Times

Comments: “I admired the light touch in this one. It paints a portrait of a Navajo classical pianist — his background and his music — with concision, color and humor.”

Community arts reporting

Judge Rashod Ollison is a reporter for The Virginian-Pilot, covering entertainment, music, pop culture and other features. He won first place in the Arts and Entertainment Feature category in the 2015 Society for Features Journalism awards and third place in Arts and Entertainment Commentary Portfolio.

First: Becky Bartkowski, Phoenix News Times

Comments: “Informative and lively coverage of the art scene. “The 100 Creatives You Should Know …” piece was smart and essential.”

No second place or third place awards were given.

Community food and beverage reporting

Judge Hanna Raskin is the food editor and chief critic for The Post & Courier in South Carolina.

First: John Washington, Edible Baja Arizona
Comments: “Well-researched and comprehensive survey of state’s craft beer scene, with enough specific details and humanity to engage readers.”

No second place or third place awards were given.

Community headline writing

Judge Sara Ziegler is the treasurer of the American Copy Editors Society and deputy features editor for the Omaha World-Herald

FirstLee Shappell, Scottsdale Airpark News 

Comments: “This entry uses wordplay in a clever way that ultimately serves the story. These aren’t puns for puns’ sake. “Hundred-buck ground chuck” is the kind of headline that doesn’t just make you want to read the story — it makes you feel like you’ll be missing out if you don’t.”

Second: Phyllis Braun, Arizona Jewish Post

Comments: “These headlines are straightforward and evocative. “Lebanese, Christian, gay — and fully Israeli” paints a full picture of a complicated person in just six words, and it tells readers of the Arizona Jewish Post exactly why they should care.”

3: Michael Rinker (#1) — The star of this entry is “A fungi you can take a lichen to.” I actually laughed out loud. No matter how you feel about puns, when you have the opportunity to use a lichen pun, you have to take it.

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