Best of Scripps 2012 winners

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Updated 2/5/13: Correction - Evansville Courier & Press Sean McDevitt's story, “Soldier’s death leads to life of sacrifice”, was published in 2011 (and won the award that year). It is disqualified for the 2012 awards. The 2012 award went to runner-up, Denny Simmons, for his visuals from the Dubois County soldier's funeral. See winning photograph below.

Journalists in 14 Scripps newspaper/digital markets and related operations are being recognized for outstanding reporting, editing, multimedia, photojournalism and presentation for their work in 2012.

The “Best of Scripps” competition recognizes outstanding journalism on a quarterly basis in each news operation. These annual winners were selected from quarterly winners at each news operation. Winners will receive and/or share a $1,000 cash prize.

“Our focus is on producing unique and exclusive local journalism on multiple platforms,” said Mizell Stewart III, VP/content, newspapers for The E.W. Scripps Company. “These awards recognize the outstanding work being done on behalf of readers in local markets and set an example for the kind of local storytelling our communities and readers deserve. Congratulations to the 2012 winners.”

Here are the 2012 winners along with comments from the contest judges, the top editors of Scripps newsrooms:

Abilene Reporter-News

Heroes of MundayEvan Ren
Heroes of Munday: Tiny farm town is home to 10 aging veterans of World War II.”

This work is a classic example of unique, local content. It shows a deep understanding of what many Texas readers hold dear - love of country. Evan Ren turned a chance meeting in a football press box into a wonderful story about 10 special men in the tiny community of Munday. His work provided a treat to readers by revealing a hidden historical treasure.

Here is an example of the reporting that made the package special: “To me, I’m the luckiest man who ever lived. ... There were 96 men in my unit, and 22 of them didn’t come back alive. But I’m sitting here today with 11 great-grandkids, and I still get to go to Munday ballgames three times a week.”

This is a gem that illustrates the value of having reporters focused on storytelling that makes a strong connection with Big Country readers.

AlexJoy Lewis
Parents of autistic 5-year-old hope service dog helps son

Joy Lewis' photography and video work provides an engaging look into the life of 5-year-old Alex Wood as he searches for his way with severe autism. A photo of Alex looking into a fish tank provides a quiet glimpse into the two worlds Alex is navigating as he grows up. Other photos show the deep, loving relationship Alex shares with his mother. Lewis' work demonstrates her ability to gain meaningful access to her subjects, which leads to strong images. Her work on the newspaper's WWII package was wonderful and it showed that Joy was a part of the newsroom's biggest efforts throughout the year. Congratulations on a big year.

Anderson Independent-Mail

Shuttered MillsJennifer Crossley Howard
Shuttered Mills"

"Shuttered Mills" explores what happened to the textile industry in and around Anderson and is a well-researched, well-written story about a vital time in South Carolina's history.

The writer deftly wove together facts and historical references about the textile industry as part of the life story of 90-year-old J.L Gaillard, who spent most of his life working in and around the mills. The result was a colorful, informative story.


Kerry Capps, Mark Crammer, Brandon Rick and Ken Ruinard

The Clemson-Maryland game was a biggie in 2012 and the Web site gave Tiger fans a rich, deep and timely experience built around the game. The digital coverage led into a print publication that shows just how digital can lead and print can complete the cycle. The team of Kerry Capps, Brandon Rick, Mark Crammer, and Ken Ruinard show journalism's future - how a newsroom can own an important content niche in print and digital.

Scripps Central Desk

Octavio Caballero
Design portfolio

Octavio’s designs show that print newspapers can be attractive and vibrant in today's 3D, animated, digital world. Extra elements and attention to detail makes his pages come alive. He tackles a variety of assignments with creativity and skill -- from hard news A1 pages to feature fronts to in-depth double-truck explainer graphics. His entertainment section covers have a high-quality magazine feel that pulls readers into the content. Using a variety of styles that successfully play off the content is a rare design skill.

Jessica Hamilton
Headline portfolio

Jessica has the rare ability to use a headline as the element that pulls a package together. Some of her headlines smartly play off the lead photo: "Fast and flurry-ous" over a snowstorm photo and "Taste of victory" over a photo of a football player holding his championship medal in his mouth. She also can skillfully play the headline off the story's content: "Sum of hard work at root of team wins" on a story about a school math team and "Dental facility to fill parking cavity" on a parking lot plan. And she just has fun with some headlines: "Bin there, done that" on a story about recycling and "Gobbling up miles" about a Thanksgiving morning community run. Her headlines help bring the reader into the story.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times

PremontRhiannon Meyers and Michael Zamora
Premont School District gets a second chance." 

This was an exceptionally well developed and sustained look at a tiny school district that was ordered to close by state education officials. Sourced from state bureaucrats all the way to students, parents and townspeople, the impact of the district’s imminent closing was examined from all angles, and that impact, of course, was to be felt most personally by the people who lived there. The series became a call to action, and the state relented and granted the school system one more year to shape up. The work from the writer-photojournalist duo certainly struck a chord with many Texans, especially those in hundreds of other crossroad communities and rural settings.

Corpus Christi RoadsJessica Savage
An Almost Insurmountable Problem: Corpus Christi's Roads."

The writer dove deeply into an issue that must jolt every resident of and visitor to Corpus Christi: The horrible condition of its roadways. The longstanding and worsening problem was approached from all angles, including a history of underfunding road maintenance and very costly proposals to catch up. The package featured many excellent maps and graphics. Using city's own rating scale, a searchable online database let readers find out where their street fell in the disrepair data. Every Corpus Christi motorist had to appreciate this effort. The broad impact of this story and great execution make it a winner.

Evansville Courier & Press

Mark Wilson, John Martin and Thomas B. Langhorne
SWAT raid a bust.”

The way the writers had to battle egregious dismissal of the spirit of the Indiana Open Records laws to explain why the police broke into an innocent family’s home is why it’s so important we do what we do. At any point, the reporters could have gotten frustrated and just let it go, but they didn’t and they told an important story while pointing out flaws in open records enforcement. Readers finally got to know what really happened in the mistaken raid and why. The story was also told in a way where readers could clearly understand the police department’s point of view. Good, objective, solid reporting and writing. Very well done.

Denny Simmons
"Soldier Funeral"

Soldier FuneralLance Cpl. Alec Terwiske’s mother, Sandy Terwiske of Dubois, Ind., is consoled by Pat Moriarty, right, a member of the Southern Indiana Leathernecks, after Terwiske’s flag-draped casket was returned to Dubois County, Ind., at the Huntingburg Airport Wednesday afternoon. Lance Cpl. Nathan Merkley, left, was a longtime friend to Terwiske. A procession for the Marine who was killed in Afghanistan September 3, 2012, wound its way through Dubois County as thousands paid their respects with signs, American flags and salutes.

“Making a picture like this is difficult to say the least,” said Simmons. “Not because of the technical or environmental challenges, but just releasing the shutter during such an intimate – and some might (and did) say "private" moment – is tough. But, as my editors and teachers over the years have always told me, it is important to make these pictures. Losing a son or daughter to war is a tragedy. It happens a lot these days. It is in making pictures like these that I hope people are able to feel or empathize with another person's loss. And hopefully not take their sacrifices for granted.”

 The (Henderson) Gleaner

Beth Smith
Family offers heart-wrenching look at suicide

Beth Smith's two-part series answered an uptick in the number of suicides, especially among young individuals, and didn't just stop at the number crunching. Smith was able to sit down with a grieving family that allowed Henderson put a face on the pain.

Kevin Patton
Sports writing / multimedia sports coverage portfolio

Kevin does it all -- covering all major events, writes weekly column, writing a sports blog for the web site, performs on his own radio show that promotes The Gleaner, all while establishing a respected presence in the local sports community.

The Kitsap Sun

Kitsap Staff

Third grader shot at Elementary School

Great example of using news alerts, quick posts, and depth in reporting. The Sun rose to the occasion with a great example of blending new media with old. They were the first to be online with the breaking alerts, made sure to not issue any false reports while other media failed at that, and their use of strong visuals of students and parents reacting to the event carried plenty of weight in print. the newspaper followed through with multiple angles on a subject that became even hotter with Sandy Hook.


Kitsap ChieftanJosh Farley, Rachel Pritchett and Larry Steagall
Chieftan, known for complaints and crime, also shelters a community.”

The Sun journalists took readers into the lives of folks who are trying but generally not succeeding while living in a rundown motel, and the Sun team did so with dignity.


Knoxville News-Sentinel

Court of secrecyJamie Satterfield
Court of secrecy: Drug-addled judge stayed on bench despite warnings

In 2011, the best known and most respected judge in Knoxville, Richard Baumgartner, abruptly resigned and pleaded guilty to misconduct. The founder of Knox County’s successful Drug Court had, himself, become addicted to pain medication and had been obtaining pills through doctor-shopping and on the black market, including buying from defendants in his own court.  This is an exemplary piece of narrative journalism, representing the confluence of great story-telling, reporting expertise and contextual explanation that is what newspapers can provide their audiences on the very best of days. Jamie organized the piece beautifully, then wrote it crisply so that it unfolded like a True Crime yarn. It takes a real story for a reader to go five full pages without once breaking the string of thought -- particularly if the reader has no investment in the situation or the players -- but that was my experience reading this piece of work.  This was a top-professional performance, compact and succinct in its implications and dynamic in its flow.

Knox NewsMatt Lakin, Amanda Martin and Paul Efird
News Sentinel – 125 years

This celebration of the news organization’s 125th anniversary could easily have become a marketing department project or a fluffy presentation of old photos with no real context. Instead, Matt and his colleagues wrote an outstanding historical project. The photos Paul rounded up, and the presentation by Amanda, did exactly what they were supposed to do: add value to the entire package by enriching the reader experience. Matt's writing, with hardly a hiccup in pace through a thicket of events and years, clearly demonstrated the perspective of a knowledgeable historian who finds our past rich and forever meaningful to our now. This series was a treat to read, both online and in print, and is one of those rare but wonderful instances in which readers will be saving pages of the newspaper to pass on to later generations.


Memphis Commercial Appeal

Faith and FearDavid Waters
Faith and Fear

Faith and Fear is an extraordinary example of explanatory journalism and enterprise. David waded into waters few have been able to negotiate. He profiled Memphis-area Muslims, who cherish their religious freedom in America, as well as conservative Christians who have organized in fear of Islam. The piece provided a great public service for readers in deftly profiling the various viewpoints and the tenants of Sharia Law.

Poverty Inc.Ted Evanoff
Memphis Poverty: Poverty Inc.”

As part of the Commercial Appeals' year-long series on poverty in Memphis, reporter Ted Evanoff explained how the local economy is fueled by federal dollars, philanthropy and the enterprise of the working poor. The business of poverty, Evanoff reported, exceeds $5 billion annually, more than five times the impact of Federal Express, which pumps a billion dollars into the economy each year. Evanoff broke down the numbers provided by a joint Commercial Appeal -University of Memphis study to detail how it all works and what federal spending cuts might mean in the future. An important, enterprising piece of journalism.

Metro Pulse (Knoxville, Tenn.)

Travis Gray
Our 3rd Annual Awesome Issue of Mighty Lists

Brilliant idea. Fun execution. The package is meaty, quotable, lively. The printed version is a great example of something a reader would keep on his or her desk or coffee table and refer to it often. It’s easy to imagine a reader pulling it out for visitors and waving it around to solve a trivia dispute. The List Issue itself, I’ll wager, is an annual undertaking that the journalist-compiler/presenter looks forward to, as well as the community. This year’s take on the list is clever, especially, for an unremarkable birthday year for the city: 226. That makes it even more refreshing and welcome.

Young and SickCari Wade Gervin
Young and sick

The writer’s style here is blunt, concise, accessible, informed by voices other than her own. Yet her personal voice is effective. She elicits an emotional response without over dramatization. She has the facts and additional sources to keep the story from being self-indulgent. If Cari also wrote the online headline (“Young and sick”), additional kudos for an entry point disturbing and intriguing enough to get a reader’s attention, and, after the story, leaves one with a haunting, memorable snapshot of her family tree, recent history and hopeful future.

Naples Daily News

Jacob Carpenter
St. Matthew’s House

Carpenter elevates government coverage to community service with a story that goes well beyond fact-checking. Using a vivid example and clear explanatory writing, he undermines the partisans on both sides of the issue. In place of their unsupported claims, he presents facts that can form the basis of a good community decision. The result is expert, authoritative watchdog journalism.

Lost SonsJessica Lipscomb and Corey Perrine
Lost sons of Ft. Myers.”

This is what crime reporting should be. The story is told with great understanding, context and compassion in both the written word and photographs. It is authoritative, but the narrative moves swiftly. A haunting and human story told with great care and skill.


Redding Record Searchlight

Jenny Espino
Public employee compensation database

This examination of public employee salaries is a fine example of using data to serve the public and attract readership. Jenny coordinated the staff's examination of what officials are paid by several government bodies in the Redding area, including non-cash compensation and perks. The resulting story was a readable, balanced and thorough examination if trends, and the database presentation include graphics and search features that were sure to keep citizens engrossed. This is a fine job of the kind of watchdog work that builds the community's faith in and reliance on the local newspaper.

Bruce Ross
Endorsement editorials: November general election

Bruce's recognition is for his persuasive commentary supporting the newspaper's endorsements in the 2012 election. Bruce exhibited a wonderful ability to build a case with solid arguments and drive it home with vivid prose. His writing and logic were exceptionally clear, and he never hesitated to a sham a sham. One was left with a sense not only of the newspaper's authority, but of its dedication to the community's wellbeing. Endorsement interviews could hardly do any more.

San Angelo Standard-Times

Faith, freedom and a kidneyJustin Zamudio and Patrick Dove
Faith, freedom and a kidney.”

This is a highly readable, informative and gripping multimedia narrative of this young woman’s kidney transplant and the young man who donated the kidney. By treating it as a special section, it allowed the writer the option of telling the main story in a compelling narrative, and creating sidebars on each of the important angles that readers sought: the process, the doctors, the family, the decision. It also allowed the great use of photos. The reporter and photographer had great access to the family, the surgery and the medical community. But they made the most of their access in a package that you couldn’t put down once you started.

Blitz – West Texas high school football 

This new treatment of Friday Night Football combines high-level design and execution with deep, interesting and timely information, all on deadline. The section is fun to read. And it gives me what I want as a reader of Texas high school football. There is great execution; each element is designed with the reader in mind to offer more information.

Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

Death RowMelissa Holsman , Zaimarie De Guzman, Deborah Silver
Death Row: $1m per inmate

Watchdog The special investigation into Florida’s spending on death row prosecution, appeals and incarceration had impact and was well told from a number of angles. Though admittedly impossible to calculate accurately, the reporting team detailed costs that highlight a great debate over continued appeals in death row cases. The story uses a few concrete examples to show those costs and cites the $1 million per inmate average figure, but in doing so uses the numbers for more than shock value: The statistic brings up a debate over the role of public defenders for death row inmates, the tactics some anti-death penalty lawyers are accused of, and the experience of death row itself. This package is precisely the type of reporting that should raise a conversation in Florida and perhaps the nation about how we deal with the death penalty. Excellent reporting, complete and responsible analysis, and really smart writing.

Abandoned by the system

Eve Samples
Abandoned by the system

The writing of the story of Maj. James Pollock is crisp and illustrative; the writer wastes no time in putting us close to him through his years as a military stalwart and then a broken man. But her analysis of the system that repeatedly fails military veterans  is just as valuable. She tells a story of bureaucracy at its best without bogging down in jargon or ambiguity, and in the second story she correctly calls out the Wounded Warrior Project for failures in its mission to spend considerable donations on the veterans who need help. I'm also struck by her thoroughness in reporting on Pollock's life up to present. She doesn't leave him as simply an example of a broken system: he's still a person and moved on in life to find some success and rehabilitation. It is the kind of reporting that should draw national attention as we hear more cases about how veterans are treated, and should be a cautionary tale to watch for more often as more veterans return.


Wichita Falls Times Record News

Nick Gholson
2012 Summer Olympics

With hundreds of millions, maybe even billions, of people around the world watching and thousands upon thousands of journalists recording the events for history, Times Record News Sports Editor Nick Gholson returned to the Olympics in 2012 to put his personal take on the worldwide spectacle. Gholson put you and me in the front-row at the stadium, by the pool, in the press conference. He's having a conversation with us. Sipping his coffee and telling us about those most-talked about events of the Summer Games.

TeachersAnn Work
Some teachers at odds with new school curriculum

Parents should know what educators are teaching their children. Ann Work dug deep and produced a five-day series on a curriculum known as CSCOPE. It may sound harmless, but some of its teachings are highly controversial, and there is a mandatory cloak of secrecy enveloping the entire program. Teachers are required to sign a nondisclosure form before teaching the supplements. Work exposed some of the concepts of which parents weren't aware, such as Christianity being described as a cult and the Boston Tea Party as a terrorist act.

The tax-paid entity supervising the curriculum does not post meeting times nor would supply minutes of its meetings, saying it would expose them to their competitors. In Texas, there aren't any substantial competitors. The Times Record News is continuing to pursue the story. It is an important watchdog effort not just for the the families in and around Wichita Falls, but for all students and their parents throughout the state.


Ventura County Star

AutismKathleen Wilson
Autism: Children in disorder"

In a series that explores what became of children who were part of a growing number diagnosed with autism in 2000, The Star goes beyond the data and enables the reader to know and care about the people in this series. This journalistic effort is the best blend of sharp writing, strong reporting and high-quality visuals.


VenturaTimm Herdt and Stephanie Snyder
Giant investment firm plans to convert scores of county homes to rentals"

Well-reported and well-written, this also is a model of best-in-class data sorting. An outstanding example of explanatory journalism and how business decisions are changing the quality of life in a region.