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Cincinnati, Des Moines, Reno, Staunton and York lead third-quarter Awards of Excellence

Domestic Publishing News Department 


McLEAN, Va., Nov. 3, 2015 — Domestic Publishing today announced winners of its quarterly Awards of Excellence, which recognize the group's best journalism for July through September 2015.

The Des Moines Register, The Desert Sun at Palm Springs and The Daily Tribune at Wisconsin Rapids won top prizes for public service journalism. In the watchdog category, the combined local efforts of the USA TODAY Media Network, the Poughkeepsie Journal and The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La., set the standard.

The highest-performing news organizations, as measured by award citations, were:

Division I

The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Des Moines Register had the most citations, with four each. Des Moines won first place in three categories. 

Division II

The Reno Gazette-Journal led the way with four citations; The Coloradoan at Fort Collins and the Argus Leader at Sioux Falls had three each. Reno won first place in a pair of categories.

Division III

The News Leader at Staunton and the York Daily Record each earned four citations; The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La, won first place in two categories.

Design Studios

The Asbury Park, Des Moines and Nashville design studios earned three citations each. Des Moines and Nashville both won two of the categories. 


Judges for the third quarter were:

  • Casey Ardoin, audience analyst, Lafayette, La.

  • Kristin Askelson, news director/content strategist, Lafayette, La.

  • Neill Borowski, executive editor, Binghamton

  • Jennie Coughlin, audience analyst/content strategist, Binghamton

  • Bob Gabordi, executive editor, Brevard

  • Kayla Golliher, designer, Louisville

  • Spencer Holladay, designer, Louisville

  • Dan Horn, reporter, Cincinnati

  • John Kelly, data/joint investigations editor, USA TODAY Media Network

  • Kevin Lenihan, content strategist, Poughkeepsie

  • Steve Reilly, investigative reporter/data specialist, USA TODAY Media Network

  • Nina Schutzman, watchdog and education reporter, Poughkeepsie

  • Rachael Thomas, producer, Brevard

  • Mark Treinen, news director, Wausau

  • Pete Wasson, content coach/watchdog, Wausau

  • Amy Wilson, storytelling coach, Cincinnati

If you'd like to nominate a judge for future quarters, call Mackenzie Warren (, who administers the awards programs.

Prize Money

First Place winners receive the following prizes: For a First Place award where the newsroom is cited, the newsroom gets $250, through intra-company deposit. If an individual is named in the First Place award, that individual gets $250 through a payroll deposit. Up to four individuals may be cited and they will split the $250 prize. For winning entries that cite five or more staffers, the $250 will go to the newsroom.


This category recognizes work that contributes to the community's greater good. It may be done by an individual, a small team, the full newsroom staff or by the news organization as an institution — including contributions from beyond the newsroom. 

The work could consist of journalism that addresses a community concern and prompts the community to act on that concern. The effort could begin with journalism and then be furthered by a community leadership project in which your news organization champions a campaign or leads a conversation that identifies and weighs possible community action. Investigative and explanatory reporting may be elements of an entry, as may editorials or other opinion pieces. Print, digital and social media will often be used to help move the community forward. Efforts might include a public forum or an event, or a continuing campaign organized by or conducted under the auspices of the news organization that is based on the newsroom's journalism.

Division I

The Des Moines Register three(Winner)


For the Register's sweeping and deeply engaging dive into the experience of black Iowans.

Judges said: The Des Moines Register didn't wait for a tragic, touchstone event within Iowa to open up a statewide discussion about the experiences and issues facing black Iowans and how that experience differs from - and impacts - all Iowans. Notable about this ongoing project is its deep engagement with black Iowans in the conception of the project, the story lines pursued and the goals to be reached, but also that one of the early parts of the package involved a revelatory investigative look at racial profiling that proved and highlighted one of the concerns raised by black Iowans. A true public service to foster this discussion and examine these issues, together with the community.

To see the work:


Gannett Florida Media (Finalist)

Staffs of  FLORIDA TODAY, Tallahassee Democrat, Fort Myers News-Press and Pensacola News Journal

For reporting and editorial push statewide, as a four-newsroom coalition, to reveal the state's "corruption tax" and get legislation drafted and sponsored in the Florida Legislature to end it

Judges said: This is smart, creative and innovative journalistic engagement and leadership by the editors of four Gannett newsrooms across Florida, spearheaded by Matt Reed, Engagement/Public Interest Editor at FLORIDA TODAY, with broad support and contributions from all four newsrooms. They worked together to explain to readers the cost to taxpayers of bid-rigging and other public corruption — a long-talked-about "corruption tax" in the Sunshine State. Then, they worked to get an actual bill written and sponsored in the Legislature, which has since won the support of prosecutors across the state and other key stakeholders. The news organizations have engaged readers and thought-leaders throughout the process and are working together to follow the bill's progress at the Statehouse, achieving a growing consensus toward action that lawmakers in the state haven't for decades.

To see the work: 


The Journal News  (Finalist)


For The Journal News' exhaustive look at how Yonkers schools were failing families and the community, and what could be done about it.

Judges said: The Journal News dug beyond superficially expressed concerns in the community about what was happening at the schools in Yonkers. They investigated to get beyond the symptoms to the real causes of the problem, with documents, data and sound reporting. What's more, this newsroom's leaders made a decision to move past simply showing the problems to also shining light on possible solutions to those problems and pressing for accountability and action.

To see the work:


Division II

The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Winner)

Brett Kelman and Barrett Newkirk, reporters

For The Desert Sun exposing how the state system to protect children failed miserably in the case of an outrageous child pornography ring and child molestation case.


Judges said: Dogged document-driven and on-the-street effort by Kelman to answer the "how could this happen question" about a very disturbing child molestation case and pornography ring. The reporter and his editors show how the system failed the children, and shine a brighter light on how little oversight exists over California's child protection system. A compelling, deeply-reported must-read that is applauded not just by us but also by The Desert Sun's readers.


To see the work:





Argus Leader (Finalist)

Jonathan Ellis, reporter


For the Argus Leader's records-driven push to complete the tangled history of one of South Dakota's most prominent figures, George McGovern.


Judges said: A high-profile topic, a street-smart records request and a deeply motivated journalist who really wanted to fill in some gaping blanks in the historical record of George McGovern, his place in South Dakota's and the nation's history and some of the troubling practices of our nation's law enforcement community. Ellis adds substantially to the historical understanding of McGovern and the FBI in a way that is still relevant today as the nation continues to debate issues of intelligence-gathering and privacy.


To see the work:


Reno Gazette-Journal (Finalist)

Mark Robison, engagement editor and Chanelle Bessette, reporter


For the RGJ not sitting idly by and letting a city government conceal what are clearly public records — and backing up its stand with legal action.


Judges said: Sometimes, you have to go court to make the point about public records. The Reno Gazette-Journal does not shy away from the fight when a city denies access to clearly public records, provided by other government agencies, that shed important light on the nascent marijuana industry in the state, an industry with great potential for both private and public abuse if able to conduct itself in secret. The RGJ not only backed up its push to open the records by pursuing legal action. It also staunchly, but respectfully, engages skeptical readers, including many who did not fully understand why it mattered and why this bold editor and publisher were taking the course they chose."


To see the work:



Division III


Daily Tribune at Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point Journal (Winner)

Karen Madden, Sari Lesk, Chris Mueller, reporters; Megan McCormick, photographer/videographer


For these two newsrooms' thorough examination of the public safety threat posed by idling railcars blocking access to residential areas, prompting reaction from community members and federal lawmakers.


Judges said: Reporters in Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point identified a real public safety concern in their communities and produced a body of work that forced an immediate response from federal lawmakers. Anecdotes about the problem of idling railcars in roadways were backed up with adroit use of data. The complex policies issues underlying the problem were outlined in easy-to-digest interactives. The newsrooms gave residents a voice by hosting a community forum, and three federal lawmakers immediately began taking moving toward a resolution. This project had all the ingredients of great public service journalism, and a safety issue in the communities served by these newspapers is being addressed as a result.


To see the work:

Original longform watchdog report:

Promo video:

Coverage of our town hall-style forum:  

Congressman applies pressure on the railroads:


The News Leader at Staunton (Finalist)

Deona Houff, opinion & engagement editor; Roger Watson, publisher; Brad Zinn, reporter; 

Mike Tripp, photojournalist


For The News Leader's continuing coverage of funds missing from the county sheriff's office.


Judges said: After an investigation by The News Leader discovered almost $4,000 in drug money went missing from the local sheriff's office, its coverage didn't stop there. The  drumbeat of accountability reporting found that officials failed to disclose the problem to auditors, showed the sheriff's office was forced to withdraw from an accreditation program and guided readers through the paper trail behind the debacle.


To see the work:

original INVESTIGATION:   


York Daily Record (Finalist)

Ed Mahon, reporter


For the YDR's examination of the records of vehicle inspectors in the region, prompting the state officials to consider making the sanction records more readily available to the public.


Judges said: The York Daily Record turned the tables on Pennsylvania's vehicle inspectors, obtaining a set of documents which allowed readers to review state sanctions against inspection stations in the area. Readers gleaned new insight into the inspection process and could access the inspection records posted online for the first time. The YDR's work not only served readers through great consumer watchdog reporting, but also prompted state officials to begin considering proactively disclosing inspection records to the public.


To see the work:




This category recognizes investigative journalism that uncovers wrongdoing or malfeasance by individuals, businesses, charities, public officials, public agencies, institutions that serve the public, or by those that do business with the government or public. The work holds individuals, businesses, agencies and institutions accountable for their action or inaction. The work may protect the safety and welfare of individuals, groups or the entire community. 

A broad range of reporting techniques and resources is used to produce watchdog journalism, including database and records analysis in addition to comprehensive reporting and interviewing. Watchdog work uses both print and digital storytelling approaches and engages audience members.


Division I


USA TODAY Media Network (Winner)


Steve Reilly, investigative reporter and data specialist


For uncovering a national travesty in which tens of thousands of rape kits were untested, allowing rapists to go unpunished for years and leaving victims and potential victims at risk. The investigation led to immediate reforms and police agencies vowin


Judges said: From the start, it was clear: The failure of local enforcement and the impact on the lives of real people. This groundbreaking watchdog investigation brought to light the disorganization of law enforcement to effective utilize a key tool in catching sexual predators. The collaboration Gannett-wide, led by USA TODAY, raised questions that resulted in immediate change across the nation. Even before publication, agencies began testing rape kits that sat on shelves for years. The victims' voices brought home the real-world impact of this issue, raising a strong investigation piece to the level of great journalism that affects the lives of many. This is a perfect example of the power of watchdog reporting to enacting meaningful change. 


To see the work:


The Cincinnati Enquirer (Finalist)

James Pilcher


For The Cincinnati Enquirer taking a complex issue – the reason for the rise in violent crime – and examining the layered causes for one of the bloodiest years in Cincinnati, part of a series of investigative crime reports. The articles ranged from exam


Judges said: Investigative reporter James Pilcher's work took a hard look at range of crime and law enforcement issues. The best example of this was his deep dive into the rise in shootings in Cincinnati. There were no easy answers, but he dissected some of the specific causes and found emerging trends. He incorporated online interactives that engaged and informed readers. Through the stories of real people, he gave voice to the voiceless and put a human face on cold, hard crime statistics.  


To see the work:


Long form on guns and violence story:


The News Journal at Wilmington (Finalist)

Cris Barrish, senior investigative reporter; Brittany Horn, reporter


For Barrish and Horn's comprehensive look at the longstanding and troubling culture of male prison personnel sexually abusing the female prisoners they are charged with guarding. The story looked back at the origins and history of the abuse and prompted


Judges said: Senior investigative reporter Cris Barrish and reporter Brittany Horn traced the origins and impact of the pattern of sexual abuse of female inmates by male prison personnel. What they found went beyond the guards abusing their positions and power to a pervasive culture that reached up to the highest levels of prison leadership. Using court records, federal reports, a consultant study and prison insiders, Barrish and Horn gave voice to the powerless prisoners.


To see the work:


Division II


Poughkeepsie Journal (Winner)

Mary Beth Pfeiffer, Amanda Fries and Amanda Purcell, reporters 


For the Poughkeepsie Journal's investigation of the alleged brutal abuses of inmates in local prisons by guards, the cost to taxpayers and the lack of accountability for those accused, even after the state settled dozen of recent lawsuits. One article l


Judges said: Prisons are a major economic player in the mid-Hudson Valley and this series looked at what goes on behind those high walls, following the high-profile escape of two prisoners in Northern New York and the death of an inmate at a local prison. Investigative reporters Mary Beth Pfeiffer and Amanda Fries dug through 1,400 pages of court settlements, unearthing horrific details of alleged abuses by corrections officers. Even more startling was the fact that despite settling a dozen excessive-force lawsuits involving local prisons in recent years, New York state has refused to admit culpability and most of the guards accused have faced little, if any, disciplinary actions. Trends reporter Amanda Purcell's examination of overtime records found rising levels at local prisons that were among the highest in the state. These watchdog reports showed the damage allegedly inflicted on those powerless prisoners and the mounting fiscal cost to taxpayers.


To see the work:


Lansing State Journal (Finalist)

Steven R. Reed , reporter


For the LSJ's dissection the myriad issues and potential threats that loom with the largely unregulated development of a massive oil transfer station. The article balanced the personal stories of farmers with public records to show the huge economic sco


Judges said: Lead investigative reporter Steven R. Reed followed a trail of questions about lawsuits against an energy company and found the massive expansion of an oil transfer station that had largely been obscured. He told the stories of farmers who sold land to the company without knowing about the plans, others who didn't but felt powerless against the goliath and a town that wasn't able to enforce its own laws. Using court records and in-depth interviews, he traced the development of the transfer station and brought into focus the tremendous potential environmental impact from a facility that will hold nearly 100 million gallons of oil. He took a complicated issue and through compelling narrative storytelling rich in details and evocative of the place, he made it engaging and understandable. The layered reporting included a map, breakouts on the company, oil spills and the project and links to supporting documents.


To see the work:


Argus Leader at Sioux Falls (Finalist)

Jonathan Ellis, reporter


For the Argus Leader bringing to light the disparity in how roads in Sioux Falls are assessed and repaired and the apparent preferential attention to wealthier, newer neighborhoods. Thousands of records going back years were reviewed to form the foundat


Judges said: Watchdog reporter Jonathan Ellis took a deep look at something we all take for granted and yet has a big impact on our daily lives – road conditions. Analyzing multiple years of reports and tens of thousands of records, Ellis answered the question of why some roads are left to crumble and others are fixed. What he found were disparities in how the data is used to make decisions that benefitted newer, wealthier neighborhoods and ignored older, less affluent communities. The investigation included a clear, easy-to-use interactive that shows a history of scores for streets. This watchdog analysis came at a time when the city was cutting spending for road repairs, making scarce resources even more valuable.


To see the work:


Division III


The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, La. (Winner)

Megan Wyatt, reporter


For exposing disturbing health violations that were not cited because of a lack of oversight by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The investigation found a department website made it nearly impossible for consumers to find inspection res


Judges said: Megan Wyatt's investigation in the public health restaurant inspections uncovered a lack of accountability by a key state agency and little coordination among government units. The article blends rich narrative details with strong research and insightful interviews resulting in a compelling piece that shone a bright light on a dark, dank corner of public health. Her in-depth and engaging article resulted in Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals launching an investigation.


To see the work:


Stevens Point Journal (Finalist)

Sari Lesk and Lauren French, reporting


For revealing the trend of Wisconsin's largest cities in effectively decriminalizing marijuana possession, despite state law. The article showed how local governments could flout state law, amidst changing cultural values. The story came together quickl


Judges said: Reporter Sari Lesk and intern Lauren French took a broader look at how a decision in Stevens Point to essentially decriminalize small-time marijuana possession compared to major cities around Wisconsin. With a strong understanding of local audience and a focus on millennial interests, they gathered data on the 10 largest cities in the state and uncovered a trend that matched the recent Stevens Point decision.


To see the work:


Main story:

Sidebar on cancer patient who persuaded the city to change its rules:

Reader feedback:

Follow-up editorial:   


Home News Tribuneat East Brunswick (Finalist)

Sergio Bichao and Suzanne Russell, reporters


For uncovering how the New Jersey criminal justice system handling of domestic violence cases can allow offenders back on the street with little or no punishment. The article showed how flaws in the system leave victims again vulnerable to threats, viol


Judges said: Watchdog reporter Sergio Bichao and Breaking News Reporter Suzanne Russell's heartbreaking story of the murder of Giorgina Nigro highlighted troubling trends in the criminal justice system. They dug deep into the series of events, going back a year, that led to her death. They found her story was emblematic of a state-wide problem that allows abusers to plead to lesser charges and avoid serious punishment.


To see the work:





This category recognizes outstanding writing from any coverage area. The category honors powerful and tightly written news and feature stories as well as columns, blogs, profiles, longer narratives and any examples of evocative writing regardless of platform. 

The work will exhibit strong subject knowledge and be based upon complete and sometimes analytical reporting. Key components will typically be clarity, a sense of place, context and detail. Where appropriate, characters will be well-developed and pacing will lead readers through longer pieces. The writing may move readers emotionally, prompt them to think or drive them to act.


Division I


The Arizona Republic (Winner)

Michael Kieffer, reporter


For this comprehensive profile of Joe Arapiao, the nationally recognized sheriff of Maricopa County. The profile covers all aspects of the man, his work ethic and his unquestioned public appeal.


Judges said: There is nothing so appealing as a writer who knows his topic, understands all facets of its context and can make that make sense in a cogent and readable and, ultimately, highly telling way. In mutliple parts, the story of a man and his mission unfolds and it's riveting, even to those of who do not know a thing about the county. Exemplary. This is what all reporting should aspire to: truth.


To see the work:


The News Journal at Wilmington (Finalist)

Cris Barrish and Brittany Horn , reporter s


For an in-depth look at the death — and the complicated life — of a young and promising patent attorney found dead in the parking lot of a nice nursing home, with 30 pounds of marijuana on him.


Judges said: This is what readers love. A smart telling of a baffling event, the inside look, the meaning — if there is one — behind a tragedy. Well-written, the story moves along rapidly and asks readers to accept the ambiguity inherent to this life. It never oversteps. It never leads. It reveals.


To see the work:   


The Indianapolis Star (Finalist)

Tim Evans, reporter


For a deep dive into a long-ago crime that had stopped Indiana cold 40 years ago and now newly-freshened up by a bizarre, if plausible, theory. Great storytelling about the heiress and her oddness, and the stickiness of money.


Judges said: Evans' retelling of this odd case, made odder by new ideas, then the artful weaving of the past into those ideas is just fun to read. It's best to let the whole thing wash over you, as he gives flesh to what people have probably only vaguely been told all their lives. Then he adds improbability, with the proper amount of respect and scrutiny any good reporter will admire.


To see the work: 



Division II


St. Cloud Times (Winner)

Dave DeLand, columnist; Kimm Anderson, photojournalist


For the story of a St. Cloud woman who searches for her Greek birth mother and discovers she was adopted at an orphanage known for fraud.


Judges said: DeLand's tale of a long-ago adoption is both a riveting detective drama and a haunting personal story. He expertly weaves together letters, documents and memories to create a narrative that keeps readers hooked from the opening line to the last.


To see the work:

Sept. 10: Baby in a box promo video: 

Sept. 10/13-14: The baby in a box digs for her Greek roots. 

Sept. 13/14 Life: Kim's wrenching story is also filled with hope: 


Journal and Courier at Lafayette, Ind. (Finalist)

Nathan Baird, reporter 


For the story of a wrestler's journey to turn his life around after a chaotic childhood, battle with addiction and role in two burglaries nearly cost him everything.


Judges said: Baird takes us inside the life and mind of an athlete whose demons almost destroyed him. His eye for detail and description is excellent, and his narrative voice pulls the reader along. This shows why good reporting is crucial to every good narrative.


To see the work:  


Fort Collins Coloradoan (Finalist)

Matt Stephens, columnist


For the story of a Colorado State football player whose past colors everything he does today.


Judges said: This could have been just another story of a hard-luck kid making a go of it in college. But Stephens' writing is top-notch and his voice is pitch-perfect. He captures his subject's personality and makes his struggles feel real to readers who might otherwise have trouble relating to his life.


To see the work:



Division III


Media Network of Central Ohio (Winner)

Jessie Balmert and Spenser Hickey, reporters


For illuminating the story of how a human trafficking ring near Marion, Ohio — where young Guatemalans were smuggled into the country to work at an egg farm — was broken up by law enforcement.  


Judges said: From the get-go, readers go along with law enforcement as they raid the egg farm where immigrants have been virtually enslaved. The writing is evocative. The workers are given the depth and dignity due them. It reminds why we do what we do.


To see the work:

Part 1:

Part 2:

The News Leader at Staunton (Finalist)

Patricia Borns, reporter


For a profile of a town — namedly interestingly enough Basic City —  that was, then wasn't, and is again.


Judges said: The beauty of this story is its unexpectedness. The way the writer tells a story that is, at once, very local and very specific and yet truly the story of American industry is masterful. The descriptions are vivid and immediately recognizable; the people equally so. We felt the writer liked the town and its chances. So do we.


To see the work:


The Jackson Sun (Finalist)

Dan Morris, reporter


For the story of a homeless man who was a fixture in downtown Jackson, who died in a vacant building.


Judges said: How very startling to go inside the world of Cadillac McCalister, a middle-aged homeless man who died alone, and before that to hear him say to a pal that this is no way to live. He was well-liked but badly understood. This is the epitome of show-not-tell — vivid, heart-wrenching and all around us.


To see the work:




Photos can illustrate all subject areas covered by the newsroom. Particular weight is given to coverage that ties directly to passion topics or the needs of target audiences. Photos tell the news at a glance, convey emotion, drama and personality, and give audience members a sense of place. Photo galleries may contain music or dialogue.


Division I


The Arizona Republic (Winner)

 Michael Chow, photographer


For a collection of photos from a mudslide on the Arizona-Utah border on the far side of the Grand Canyon. 


Judges said: The photos from the scene showed the details of the mudslide, the resulting search and the emotional impact on the community and searchers, including a window into a reclusive community. Michael Chow allowed Republic readers to see the impact of the tragedy up close, even though it was in a remote part of the state.


To see the work:


The Tennessean at Nashville (Finalist)

John Partipilo, visual journalist


For photos of a teenager with severe disabilities and her parents who happily care for her, yet worry about what will happen as they grow too old to continue.  


Judges said: John Partipilo used the access the Hickmans gave him to show in great detail both the joy Shelby brings her parents and the challenges they will face as they age in a way that words alone could not.


To see the work:  


The News Journal at Wilmington (Finalist)

Suchat Pederson, William Bretzger, Kyle Grantham, Daniel Sato, photographers/videographers


For a collection of images from Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia.


Judges said: The team of photographers captured all aspects of the Pope's visit in their backyard — right down to a group of nuns reviewing the selfie they had just taken before the Pope said Mass.


To see the work:

Complete coverage:   


Division II


The Greenville News (Winner)

Bart Boatwright, Heidi Heilbrunn and Mykal McEldowney, photographers


For coverage of the debate over removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol and its subsequent removal. 


Judges said: The images were striking, both the major events when the flag came down and and quieter moments, such as black children playing next to a white woman with a sign supporting the Confederate flag. At a moment of historical significance in the state, the team of photographers provided readers and the history books with a compelling visual record of the events. 


To see the work:



Argus Leader at Sioux Falls (Finalist)

Jay Pickthorn, photographer/videographer


For coverage of the funeral of four children killed in a house fire that was the result of a murder-suicide. 


Judges said: The first image in the gallery of six teen football players carrying the coffin of their teammate, grief evident on their faces, set the tone for the photos that followed. Jay Pickthorn balanced respect for the mourners with thorough coverage of an event that clearly impacted the community.


To see the work:


The Clarion-Ledger at Jackson, Miss. (Finalist)

Joe Ellis, Greg Jenson, Rick Guy, photographers


For visual coverage of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding since the storm.


Judges said: The aerial gallery showing the rebuilding that's taken place since the storm was especially effective.


To see the work:  


Division III


The Ithaca Journal (Winner-TIE)

Simon Wheeler, photographer/reporter


For coverage of a variety of events, including a dramatic rescue of two teens from a rock wall. 


Judges said: Simon Wheeler's images of the rescue of two teens stuck on the Ithaca Falls from the moment he arrived until the rescue crews had reached them and brought them safely down to where parents waited were compelling and showed the magnitude of the challenge of rescuing them from the sheer wall. 


To see the work:


The Advocate at Newark (Winner-TIE)                                  

Jessica Phelps, photographer/videographer


For a series of photos illustrating an ongoing series chronicling one woman's battle with breast cancer. 


Judges said: The complete access Jessica Phelps received allowed her to show, as Stacey Heath said, that cancer is ugly. Phelps' images capture the reality of Heath's situation in all its aspects , from the emotional impact on her and her family to the details of surgery and treatment. 


To see the work:


The Daily Advertiserat Lafayette, La. (Finalist)

Paul Kieu, photographer/videographer


For coverage of candlelight vigils and a funeral after the Grand Theater shootings. 


Judges said: Paul Kieu captured the emotions of the community as they mourned after the shootings. 


To see the work:   



This category recognizes great storytelling, which could range from breaking news to features to mini-documentaries. Also weighed are technical aspects of the video, including sound, lighting and editing choices. This category is not just the province of video specialists with high-end gear; reporters could produce videos on their iPhones can create compelling video storytelling too.


Division I


The Cincinnati Enquirer (Winner) 

Carrie Cochran, photographer


For amazing access, excellent technique and sensitive execution, Carrie Cochran's videos were gripping from beginning to end. Carrie follows a middle-aged man with terminal cancer through his last two years — yes, years — of life. She also gave her audi


Judges said: What leapt from the screen was how Cochran's video storytelling clearly portrayed the personalities of the dying man and both the mother and father in the adoption video. She did the ultimate and made her audience feel they actually knew these individuals.


To see the work:

Eli comes to America, a.k.a. 'Hannah gets a new big brother':

My way to die: 'Yes, I'm dying. But so are you.':


The Des Moines Register (Finalist)

Kelsey Kremer, photographer/videographer


For a very personal but also resonating tale for many former campers, Kelsey Kremer tells us about Camp Tahigwa, a Girl Scout Camp she has summered at for most of her life. Add to this the drama of the potential permanent shutdown of the camp. Her audie


Judges said: Beautiful summer camp shots highlight this video, bringing back fond memories of those who have been campers and entertaining those who never had the opportunity. Watching these young girls at camp makes one think there are no worries in the world — and that's a good thing.


The Indianapolis Star (Finalist)

Stephen Beard, producer


For having the vision to see a great story that's under everyone's nose but apparent to few, Stephen Beard showed what's goes into the painting of the Indiana Pacers' schedule on the side of their fieldhouse in downtown Indy. His well-edited video story


Judges said: Besides knowing how to spot a good story, Beard's appreciation for detail and description was apparent. For example, telling his audience how the mural artist (who has been doing this since 1999) paints all game dates in white and then paints a second coat of gold on the home games.


To see the work:  

Division II


The Burlington Free Press (Winner)

Ryan Mercer, visuals coach; April Burbank and Joel Banner Baird, reporters; Michael Garris, advertising representative


For a varied and engaging collection of "local-local" videos speaking to the Burlington-area audience. The standout video was on a gentrified neighborhood conducting a renewed marriage ceremony for all neighbors. The video of the ceremony, intentionally


Judges said: The Burlington collection of videos demonstrate the newsroom's Picasso-like connection to its audience.


To see the work:


'You are all heroes," Vigil for slain DCF worker Lara Sobel (Ryan Mercer):

Flyboarding takes off on Vermont (Ryan Mercer):

A street gets married in Burlington (April Burbank):

Free Press ad staff busts break in (Michael Garris)  :

Summer on Lake = cyanobacteria blooms (Ryan and Joel, new social approach):   


Great Falls Tribune (Finalist)

Kristen Inbody, reporter


For an entertaining and engaging video on the farming of chickpeas, recognizing the newsroom's core audience of the agricultural community. This was solidly produced and edited with added fun from a local song about being a chickpea farmer.


Judges said: Yes, we did laugh out loud because of the great song. Music can add so much to a video. This local song was a great find and 'made' this video. Inbody's video production also was excellent. Nice work.


To see the work:


Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore. (Finalist)

Anna Reed, photographer


For two very different videos, one on the 150th anniversary of the Oregon State Fair and another on the quest to get much-needed glasses for a homeless man. The two videos nicely show the range of photographer/videographer Anna Reed.


Judges said: As the fair video noted, not a lot of things can celebrate 150 years in the West. The video showed the fair over time and a big 'plus' was the addition of the man in his 80s who has attended every fair since he was 3 years old.


To see the work:


Division III


Times Recorder at Zanesville (Winner)

Shane Flanigan, photographer


For a chilling video that so successfully told the universal story of distracted driving and near death. Great access to the family by photographer/videographer Shane Flanigan. 


Judges said: Any of our Gannett sites could link to this video to supplement our reporting on distracted driving or texting accidents. In fact, several sites in New York did link to it from a local story. Thanks to Flanigan for the fine work.


To see the work:


The News Leader at Staunton (Finalist)

Griffin Moores, photojournalist


For a solid and well-produced collection of "sense of place" videos in Staunton's region. Videographer Griffin Moores ' "tour" of the abandoned Swanannoa mansion was striking in its lighting.


Judges said: These videos show how connected this newsroom is to its community. The video on those who live in a trailer park put the viewer there as people described their lives .


To see the work:  


York Daily Record (Finalist)

Kate Penn, videographer


For an engaging and nicely-produced shark-fishing video that demonstrates the York newsroom is able to define its "community" beyond the state borders. Many in York, PA visit Delaware and Maryland beaches each summer and this piece shows this connection


Judges said: Anyone, anywhere would enjoy this work by videographer Kate Penn — especially the part where the guy sits on the back of the rather large shark he just caught.


To see the work:




This category recognizes work done in our Design Studios. Work should convey information and subject understanding through design. Work should be bold and eye-catching as well as clear and easy to navigate. The tone of the design should be appropriate for the subject and the context of the work being showcased.



...a sub-category of Design


Nashville Design Studio (Winner)

Bill Campling, designer


For the Nashville Design Studio's Music City Food and Wine Festival preview in The Tennessean.


Judges said: This entry epitomizes bold 1A design. The pairing of beautifully simple typography, an extremely clever illustration and excellent use of color draws the reader into the page and refuses to let go.


Louisville Design Studio (Finalist)

Kayla Golliher, designer


For the Louisville Design Studio's work on behalf of Ohio properties, particularly the Cincinnati Enquirer, covering the renaming of America's highest peak, dropping the name of Ohioan William McKinley.


Judges said: This entry shows that even stories that do not have an obvious visual angle can still be illustrated in a compelling and interesting way. The clever headline and bold treament really drive this page. 


Louisville Design Studio (Finalist)

Jeff Ruble, team leader


For the Louisville Design Studio's work with The Greenville News, covering the controversy that led to the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds.


Judges said: This was obviously a big story to local readership and the magnitude of the story is shown by the design of its front page. This bold page let the concept of the centerpiece drive the page without cluttering it with frivolous elements. 




...a sub-category of Design


Nashville Design Studio ( Winner)

Merry Eccles, designer


For an Independence Day design highlighting lawmakers who did not respond to the Clarion-Ledger's request for their stance on removing the Confederate emblem from the Mississippi flag.


Judges said: The designer had a difficult task of displaying 106 mug shots, but was successful in creating an interesting, bold page. Peeling back the 'pages' to expose the Confederate flag was very eye-catching and really brought the entire package together.  A simple headline treatment was the right way to go to keep the focus on the art. 


Nashville Design Studio (Finalist)

Merry Eccles, designer

For illustrating a story about sasquatch in Shenandoah Valley.


Judges said: A really fun, exciting way to illustrate a creature that has never been seen. Going big with the illustration made a very impactful page. The placement of the pho to inside the creature was well thought out and successful. Great use of white space and clean execution.


Des Moines Design Studio (Finalist)

David Lafata, designer


For illustrating a story about the hashtag #blacklivesmatter.


Judges said: Nice job illustrating the mood of the story and getting inspiration from the writer. The subtle headline allows the hashtag illustration to be the obvious focal point of the page. Way to go big but still leave plenty white space around the package.


Phoenix Design Studio (Finalist)

Audrey Tate, designer


For 'Trainwreck' movie preview page.


Judges said: We really enjoyed the Amy Schumer illustration. The designer took stock photos and made a fun, interesting display. The colors work well and are continuous throughout the package. 



...a sub-category of Design


The Des Moines Register (Winner)

Liv Anderson and David Kallemyn, designers


For designing an alternative story about Iowa wildlife.


Judges said: Using hand-drawn illustrations were a great, unique way to illustrate what could have easily been file photos of animals. The coloring of the drawings is very warm and inviting. The simple, clean arrangement of the descriptions and use of white space allows the illustrations to shine. Having short blurbs for each animal makes the story easy to read.


Asbury Park Press (Finalist)

James Warren, designer/illustrator


For illustrating high school sexual education facts. 


Judges said: The designer did a great job illustrating a tough subject. The numbers are well distributed throughout the page, creating nice balance. The color pal ette and illustrations are youthful which pairs well with the topic. 



...a sub-category of Design


Asbury Park Design Studio (Winner)

Dana Stewart, Hannah Burkett, Eddie Alvarez, designers; Joanne Walsh, team leader


For the Asbury Park Design Studio's eight-page commemorative section previewing the 2015 William Hill Haskell Invitational and honoring Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. 


Judges said: This entry is a sports special section at its finest. The section looks like its was designed by horse racing fans for horsing racing fans. The cover illustration is exciting, dynamic and full of energy. While the section contains a lot of information, the pacing is extremely well done making it easily readable and digestible.


Phoenix Design Studio (Finalist)

Courtney Kan, designer


For the Phoenix Design Studio's work with The Arizona Republic on a major enterprise series on water use.


Judges said: This entry is the gold standard of design for long-form storytelling. The typography is subtle and elegant, fitting in superbly to the story's tone and voice. Additionally, the selection and presentation of photos are near perfect. The design of this entry enhances and supports an excellent story with fantastic photography.



This category recognizes the many ways in which we engage directly with our customers, breaking down the walls that have led over time to distrust, mistrust and alienation. The category contains new forms of storytelling, especially through unique and valuable experiences we create that lead to more loyal, paying subscribers/members. It recognizes both digital and in-real-life engagement — or combinations thereof — especially with clearly stated target audiences. What experiences are we creating that our readers value? What is attracting new audiences to us? Branding and marketing techniques, creativity, focus on key audiences and measurable results are part of this category.


Division I


The Des Moines Register (Winner)

Amalie Nash, executive editor; Annah Backstrom, politics strategist; Brian Smith, engagement editor


For "Give a Damn, Des Moines," a partnership with theDes Moines Social Club designed to increase civic engagement and discussion about important issues, aimed at millennials.


Judges said: The Register has had the audacity to demonstrate that the political process and civic engagement can be fun and worth millennials' time. Using funding from the Knight Foundation, The Register and its partner — which is respected by millennials — are presenting a series of events, including a voter-registration drive that included food trucks, political sketches and commissioned artwork and a mock caucus to find Iowans' favorite brewery. Not only is the concept novel and edgy, so too is the writing: The Register used its popular columnist and opinion writers — not straight news reporting — to tell this story and provide coverage. Best of all, it's not just about engaging in fun and novel ways. It's really about helping to involve younger people in the political process and in so doing making sure the Des Moines Register brand is front and center in their minds.


To see the work:


The Arizona Republic (Finalist)

Domnic Armato, restaurant critic


For invigorating Republic Media's food and dining content by introducing a new food writer as a unique brand and making him approachable and accessible to key audience groups by creating events at which readers could interact face-to-face. 


Judges said: The Arizona Republic turned the potentially difficult task of replacing a well-liked food writer into an opportunity by introducing a fresh, well-known local food blogger and presenting him as a new brand meant to appeal to their target audience. Armato's casual writing style and personable tone make him accessible to younger audiences. The Republic was able to connect with their audience in a meaningful way by bonding over love of good local food at special events. Attendee and reader feedback shows the beginnings of a positive relationship between the newspaper and this audience. Well done.


To see the work:

Aug 13:  FAQ with our new dining critic   

Aug 17: How I became a big time restaurant critic accidentally on purpose

Sept 1: Five ways to meet our new dining critic  


The Cincinnati Enquirer (Finalist)

Jordan Kellogg, consumer experience director and Justin Duke, audience analyst


For sucessfully combining tech, gaming and Bengal fandom to create a product that is highly appealing to members of a well-defined target audience.


Judges said: Innovative thinking lead the way in this endeavor. The Madden 2016 broadcasts show how broad and local appeal can be combined into something that is a unique and engaging experience for a specific audience. The creative use of tech to inform and entertain makes this entry a standout in the category.


To see the work:

'Madden 2016' video home:

Story on outcome of a Bengals game on 'Madden:'

Story comparing real-life outcome to 'Madden' outcome:


Division II


Fort Collins Coloradoan (Winner)

Eric Larsen, content strategist; James Ku, consumer experience director; Gannett Digital, video editing


For creating a virtual reality experience at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, a multi-stage cycling race throughout the state of Colorado. The Coloradoan set up a "race the pro" 360-photo experience at the finishline.


Judges said: This is a unique engagement experience for The Coloradoan and an opportunity to recast its brand as a next-generation media company in a way the target market got to experience. You could feel the excitement from staff and the audience as staffers took the time to explain the future of journalism, as well as engage the audience on a very hands-on way. For this group of readers, this approach to audience engagment changes a lot of old perceptions.


To see the work:

Preview column:  

Trailer (preview video):    

2D experience:   

Interview w/Georgia:

Oculus gallery:


Reno Gazette-Journal (Finalist)

Mark Robison, engagement editor and staff


For partnering with the Girl Scouts and others to create the RGJ Water Savers Club, a group dedicated to saving water and educating the public in the midst of a four-year drought.


Judges said: The Gazette-Journal tapped into not only an interesting topic that readers cared about, they found unique ways to engage audiences across all platforms, including young parents of second- and third-grade Girl Scouts through hands-on demonstrations and social media. Importantly, staff members rolled up their sleeves to show how audience members could be effective in saving water. For older demographics, they offered a bus tour. They also carefully monitored metrics to see what was working, what needed a boost and adjusted content to reflect that. People will remember that the RGJ cared and helped them deal with a crisis.


To see the work:

Moana Nursery event:   

Bus tour event: 

Battle Born drought event:

Girl Scout event:

Note: No stories appear online for the Peppermill tour because it sold out so fast.


St. Cloud Times (Finalist)

Stephanie Dickrell, Kevin Allenspach, reporters; Randy Krebs, engagement editor; Lisa Schwarz, content strategist/audience analyst



For creation of the Living Greater brand and related engagement to offer advice — but not lectures — aimed at young women. This ongoing series is a partnership with marketing and advertising.


Judges said: Much of the coverage in this quarter centers around yoga in the park and efforts to address bullying. This is a total team effort in which health, stress management and raising healthy kids are key topics, but this is not simply about coverage. It's about changing attitudes about the St. Cloud Times, getting people involved — physically and virtually — and building a cadre of believers that the Times really cares about them and their families. Yoga in the park, Be Better than Bullying T-shirts and social interaction set this apart.


To see the work:

June 27 story about yoga:

July 1 Yoga in the Park tickets:  

July 6 Editor's column on July 14 yoga event:

July 14 live blog from Yoga in the Park:

Sept. 5 Schools try to get tough on bullying:  


Division III


Home News Tribune at East Brunswick (Winner)

Greg Tufaro, Harry Frezza, and Lauren Knego, sports writers


For organizing a unique media day event to showcase local high school football players and coaches and for providing ongoing, quality coverage of preps football.


Judges said: It is evident that a huge amount of work that went into the Home News Tribune's media day event. The story, video content and photos from the event are high quality and highly engaging and the ongoing coverage of the weekly games is authoritative. The focus on digital and mobile content shows the newsroom is aggressively pursuing a younger audience and the content they're providing clearly satisfies that need as well.


To see the work:







Marshfield News-Herald (Finalist)

Jamie Rokus, community content and engagement editor


For creating a pet supply drive and inviting the community to contribute to real and positive change following the newspaper's coverage of a heartbreaking case of animal neglect.

Judges said: The staff at the Marshfield News-Herald saw an opportunity to create positive change in their community by inviting outraged readers to do something real to help neglected animals. The News-Herald was able to associate their brand with a constructive and compassionate project that satisfied a need to act among members of a well-defined target audience.


To see the work:


Story introducing the supply drive:

Jamie's column about the collection and delivery:


Stevens Point Journal (Finalist)

Jamie Rokus, engagement editor and Lauren French, reporting intern


For taking advantage of the engagement tools available in the newsroom to bring together a community and identify an anonymous hero. 


Judges said: The journalists at the Stevens Point Journal showed innovative spirit and unprecedented compassion when they turned a letter to the editor into a call to action that ultimately reunited a family with the man who rescued their drowning daughter. They showed a strong sense of purpose and willingness to expand beyond the traditional roles in news reporting. The focus on engaging parents, a target audience segment, is evident throughout.


To see the work:

Who's the hero in the white boat?  

Hero identified:

Rescuer and girl reunited by Journal:



This category is a combination of two categories: breaking news and planned content. It recognizes smart, effective choices that made our journalism shine on various platforms. How was the content reported with different platforms in mind? What elements were added, adapted or withheld in order to create the best experience on each platform? What knowledge of user behaviors did we use when making those choices? What promotion did we do? What were the readership results? How did we think about adapting the content for the use of various target audiences?


Division I


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (Winner)



For outstanding use of various platforms to break and then cover the news of a mass shooting outside a local Boys & Girls Club community center.


Judges said: Rochester's entry stood out from a field of very strong candidates in the category because of its exceptional match of both tone and substance to each platform. Facebook video snippets provided quick, highly sharable updates especially attractive on mobile; the "we're with you, Rochester" feel of the content was genuine and pervasive; an effort to boost the Facebook posts to target minority millennials was both smart and effective, reaching 17,000 people in that demographic; and the print presentation made the best use of compelling imagery to reach traditional and nontraditional readers alike. The audience responded with more than 390,000 minutes of engaged time on the first day of coverage — the fourth highest total ever recorded by Chartbeat.


To see the work:



Column and video:  

Reaction on social media:  

Facebook post:  

Facebook post:


USA TODAY (Finalist)

Mitchell Thorson, developer; Mary Bowerman, multimedia journalist; Jessica Durando, news editor


For a video-social media project that allowed members of the transgender community to tell their own stories in their own words.


Judges said: It could have been tempting to shoehorn this project into other platforms — with a print narrative, or interview videos, or something else that put a journalist between the source and the reader. The team responsible for this project rejected that temptation and created a very user-friendly avenue for readers to navigate in-their-own-words videos of transgender folks telling moving stories, a topic that resonated with millennials. The USA TODAY team promoted its project with Facebook videos that drove interest by touching on cultural flashpoints. What emerged was a series of moving videos tailored perfectly for the intended audience and platform.


To see the work:

Project link:  

Social videos:


The Journal News at Westchester (Finalist)

Josh Thomson, sports reporter; Peter Carr, visual journalist; Lief Skodnick, producer


For a new and platform-smart approach to an annual recognition of the region's 11 top high school football players.


Judges said: Westchester overhauled its annual Super 11 project that recognizes the region's top high school football players, revealing one player each hour digitally rather than all in a single story, crowdsourcing to draw nominees, using Snapchat selfies, Facebook video promos and other social methods to tease the reveal and engage the audience, and then following with a bold presentation in print. The results speak for themselves: a 37 percent increase in uniques YOY, along with big boosts in Facebook referrals and Snapchat followers.


To see the work:


Division II


Reno Gazette-Journal (Winner)

Jenny Kane, reporter; Andy Barron, photographer


For audience- and platform-customized coverage of the annual Burning Man festival that led to impressive metrics growth.


Judges said: Reporter Jenny Kane owned coverage of Burning Man, from fun features to investigative reports. She developed content before, during and after the event for specific audiences from non-Burner locals to new Burners to Burning Man veterans, and the wisdom of that decision was borne out in numbers: a 964 percent increase in mobile views of pre-burn coverage, as well as substantial year-over-year increases in audience traffic during and after the event. She also is creating a local group called Burners for Good to encourage local fans to volunteer in her market — a very Picassoesque solution in branding herself and serving as a community connector.


To see the work:

Topic page:  

Here's a list of URLs broken down by audience/programming: 


Update: Burning Man bug problem dying down: 37585/

Burning Man: What's your playa name?

Fashion do's and don't-you-dares at Burning Man:

Check out photos from our Burning Man scavenger hunt:


Poughkeepsie Journal (Finalist)



For breaking and follow-up coverage of the death of an important and beloved community leader that reflected readers' connections with the man. 


Judges said: The reporting team focused its breaking coverage on mobile readers, giving them push alerts and multiple small chunks of information as it became available, and then gave desktop and mobile viewers the full coverage of photo galleries, videos and narratives that they expected, making strategic use of SEO to drive readers to that coverage. They then followed with print editions that will serve as keepsakes for readers.


To see the work:


The Greenville News (Finalist)

Bob Castello, reporter; Dave Hennigan, strategist/analyst; Steve Bruss, engagement editor; Bill Fox, news director


For a cross-platform approach to high school football coverage, optimized for mobile, that generated a major growth in audience and views from the previous fall.


Judges said : The Greenville News developed a smart, mobile-first approach to high school football coverage during the week and on game nights. Content was planned and presented based on devices, from scoreboards and team pages easy to read on a smartphone, to deeper stories and galleries tailored for tablets. Live video shows and Athlete of the Week awards, highly active Twitter and Snapchat engagement and wise use of social tagging helped Greenville more than double its mobile views on football coverage and high school writer Bob Castello nearly triple his overall page views year-over-year in September.


To see the work:


section front:

a Sideline Live show:

Athlete of the Week page:

example mobile scoreboard:

example mobile team page:


Division III


York Daily Record (Winner)

Joel Shannon, innovation editor and Brad Jennings, assistant managing editor of presentation and digital


For two very simple but very effective videos created for Facebook, intended to drive readers to deep content about the Little League World Series.


Judges said: Putting together the layered content about the Little League World Series and the local team competing in it involved an extraordinary effort. But what really caught judges' attention were these videos — both less than 1 minute long and designed just for social media. One used a photo, text and graphics to capture just how rare the local team's run was, and the other was a community-spirited message wishing the team well. Using a very specific, narrow approach to making best use of the social media platform paid off with a 50 percent jump in traffic from social media.


To see the work:


Home News Tribune at East Brunswick (Finalist)

Greg Tufaro, Harry Frezza and Lauren Knego, staff writers


For innovative, multi-platform coverage of the annual charity football game between graduates of rival schools. 


Judges said: Coverage of the game itself and events leading up to it was comprehensive and hit on all platforms. But what really stood out was the innovative way in which the HNT sparked interest in the game: with a mascot challenge and a music parody written by a staff member and then performed by cheer squads from the rival counties. That helped drive a specific audience — young readers — to other content and to generate a record $50,000 in donations at the game.


To see the work:







The News Leader at Staunton (Finalist)

Patricia Borns, multi-media journalist; Jeff Schwaner, storytelling coach; Griffin Moores and  Mike Tripp, photojournalists


For a weeklong series, designed for digital, about the pride and revitalization of a gritty neighborhood that had long been neglected.


Judges said: Staunton took what might have been one longform "Sunday" enterprise story and developed it first into a digital series mixing bites of text with videos and other visuals, as well as longer pieces beautifully crafted by writer Patricia Borns. The content gave readers the effect of visiting Basic City — partly gritty, partly resurgent, a sense of pride and optimism. Nice work.


To see the work:




This category is designed to isolate strategies that lead to objectively measurable successes in readership. These successes can be demonstrated through Adobe Analytics (AKA Omniture or SiteCatalyst) and/or Chartbeat.


Division I


The Des Moines Register (Winner)



For employing a metrics-based planning approach to shape its evolving coverage of the Iowa State Fair, which resulted in a diverse array of storytelling on every available platform. 


Judges said: From stem to stern, this team found new ways to engage audiences around the Iowa State Fair. Importantly, the obsession with audience began with the brainstorming. The staff used long-term m etrics to shape coverage and establish benchmarks. They used real-time metrics to move swiftly to maximize content that was performing. There was something for everyone on every platform, from niche Facebook pages to Instagram selfie contests to podcasts to beautiful longforms. 


To see the work:

The overall topic page can be found Here are some specific content mentioned below:Kyle Munson's "Rare Fair": Fair Facebook page:

Ornery Old Boar Twitter account :"How Iowa State Fair Are You?" quiz: Fair Food Generator: 


The Cincinnati Enquirer (Finalist)

Justin Duke, audience analyst and Carrie Blackmore Smith, outdoors reporter


For recognizing an opportunity to build excitement and grow audience in advance of a big announcement. 


Judges said: This is a common-sense approach to those "news is coming" situations so many newsrooms face. It's a good example of being audience-obsessed rather than being hung up on the way we've always done things. They recognized there's a difference between print and digital audiences, and expectations have changed. They leveraged what they've learned about a key segment of their audience. And they maximized social media as a tool to promote and distribute content. This should be in every newsroom's playbook.


To see the work:

Story on new attraction:

Day-before story that announcement was coming (link from because we wrote over this one on our site): 


Asbury Park Press (Finalist)



For reimagining its prep football coverage, including weekly videos that spotlight local schools, in a way that increases audience engagement and grows the sports team's digital footprint.


Judges said: This approach to prep football really captures the "Friday Night Lights" spirit.  The staff understand who the audience is and what they want. They put local schools in the spotlight in a format that is mobile- and social-friendly and in turn the audience is engaging and sharing like crazy. For print, give their older audience content that includes a nod to the area's rich high school football history. In addition to being a metrics home run, this new approach is engaging and promotes audience buy-in.


To see the work:



Division II


Reno Gazette-Journal (Winner)

Brian Duggan, watchdog content coach; Brett McGinness, community content editor; Kelly Scott, executive editor; James Ku, consumer engagement director; Caren Roblin, audience analyst


For the Reno Memo newsletter, which grew its audience by more than 140 percent, boasted open and click-thru rates way above industry averages and secured monthly sponsorships and subscribers who had never before interacted with the RGJ. 


Judges said: Getting people to actually open newsletter emails and click the links often seems impossible. The Reno Memo team recognized the need to stand out in inboxes and did so by writing short, funny blurbs and building an entire brand around that humorous voice — something Millennials and Gen-Xers crave.More importantly, followup analysis of data trends helped identify the newsletter's top performing stories, enabling the team to adjust content selection to better cater to their budding audience.But what really stands out in this entry is a commitment to collaborate and experiment. The Reno Memo team's variety of members — from a watchdog coach to engagement eds and analysts — challenges the entirenewsroom to rethink the way they deliver and tailor content to particular audiences.


To see the work:


The Desert Sun at Palm Springs (Finalist)

Ashley Breeding, Desert magazine editor


For the strategic use of Instagram to promote the relaunch of Desert magazine. 


Judges said: It makes perfect sense to pair an Instagram campaign with a visually aesthetic lifestyle magazine. Breeding smartly curated photos from followers and the magazine's key contributors— who came with pre-built large social media followings — instead of relying solely on staff creations, helped the account grow exponentially over a short period. Particularly inspiring is collaboration with the content strategist to use @desert_magazine to drive participation in IRL events inspired by stories in the magazine. It's giving new audiences a 360 experience.


To see the work:


Fort Collins Coloradoan (Finalist)

Holly Engelman, newsletter strategist


For improved marketing of several newsletters, resulting in a boost in subscribers, above average open rates and new revenue streams.


Judges said: In response to the newsletter renaissance, The Coloradoan created a part-time strategist position focused on revamping their offerings. That commitment paid off — existing newsletters have grown and a fresh offering, FoCo5, is attracting new audiences. Engleman clearly owns her role, and her leadership in getting sales and marketing involved early and often is a prime example of how alignment among departments can expedite goals.


To see the work:


Division III


The Daily Advertiser at Lafayette, Ind. (Winner)

Kevin Foote, sports engagement editor and Trey Labat, prep sports editor


For a new approach to prep sports previews, including dropping a labor-intensive and low-yield legacy print publication in favor of high-peforming digital content optimized for mobile audiences. 


Judges said: Daily Advertiser editors took on the big and the bold by ditching a clunky print section that had little digital presence. The risk paid off — the sports team used targeted social campaigns, school-specific smart pages and "everything you need to know" compilations to drive up unique visitors, particularly on mobile, by 80 percent. The news team's collaboration with advertising to secure yearlong sponsorships of preps coverage, not just a one-time print publication also is commendable and indiciative of a digital-first newsroom.


To see the work:


York Daily Record (Finalist)

Kate Harmon, day metro editor; Joel Shannon, innovation editor; Brenda Hake, image technician


For strategically reorganizing coverage of the York Fair.


Judges said: Instead of just following the same coverage plan of years past, York editors used metrics analysis to determine their audiences' favorite content, then delivered big. Strategic planning freed up resources — despite publishing 40 percent fewer stories, York Fair page views more than doubled year-over-year and audiences praised the quality engaging content.


To see the work:




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