ASNE Awards 2000

2000 winners of the ASNE Writing Awards announced
Posted 3/29/2000 2:31:00 PM

RESTON, Va. — The American Society of Newspaper Editors has selected six winners in the 2000 Distinguished Writing Awards and Jesse Laventhol Prize competition:

  • Leonora Bohen LaPeter, Savannah (Ga.) Morning News, Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by an Individual
  • St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by a Team (Steve Huettel, Linda Gibson, Kathryn Wexler, Leanora Minai and David Karp)
  • Cynthia Tucker, The Atlanta Constitution, for commentary/column writing
  • Dianne Donovan, Chicago Tribune, for editorial writing
  • Mitchell Zuckoff, The Boston Globe, for non-deadline writing
  • Michael Dobie, Newsday, Melville, N.Y., for diversity writing
The Laventhol prizes each carry a $10,000 cash award.

The ASNE Writing Award winners will receive $2,500 prizes. The awards will be made April 14, during the Society’s convention in Washington. The winning entries and interviews with the winners and finalists will be published in “Best Newspaper Writing 2000,” by The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, St. Petersburg, Fla.

A look at the winners:

LaPeter won the Laventhol Prize for her series of stories on the trial of a regionally notorious killer. Despite a change of venue that took her to an unknown area, her unfamiliarity with the case (covering the trial was her first exposure to it) and late nights mandated by the judge to move the case along, she wrote powerful and flowing stories on deadline. “She delivered a riveting and human picture, in a very humane and conversational tone, that was based on horrific testimony,” the judges said.

Reporters and editors from the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times won the Laventhol Prize for their reporting on the killing of four people at a Tampa hotel. The story was put together with these handicaps: it happened late in the day; the police didn’t release the suspect’s name until 11 p.m.; the police shut down access to witnesses at the hotel; initial scanner reports gave contradictory information, making chasing the story difficult; it happened on Dec. 30, a time of many vacations in the newsroom. “In merely eight hours, the newspaper staff unraveled a myriad of detail about a horrific shooting that left five dead, used database reporting to profile a suspect that police didn’t charge until minutes before presstime and delivered all of the information to the next morning’s readers in a rich, authoritative and balanced style.”

Tucker, editorial page editor of The Atlanta Constitution, won the award for columns that included tough commentary on Jesse Jackson visiting Belgrade, the family of Martin Luther King Jr. allying itself with a politician of questionable honesty, and the minority set-aside programs of Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell. Other topics she addressed included an examination of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s legacy and a call on Jefferson descendants — all of them — to break bread together and mend fences. “Tucker’s writing is a wonderful blend of tough and thoughtful,” the judges said. “She takes on difficult issues with direct, even spare, word choices that are powerful and effective.”

Donovan won the award for editorials about the blue moon; Ralph Ellison, author of “Invisible Man”; the closing of Houston’s Astrodome; and the absurdity of criminally trying a 9-year-old. “Her writing is elegant and graceful, even on tough and complex issues,” the judges said.

Zuckoff series, “Choosing Naia: A Family’s Journey,” won for non-deadline writing. The series documented one family’s emotional, medical and moral journey with genetic testing, and the birth, and first birthday of a Down syndrome child. “Zuckoff used reporting precision and a compelling writing style to take readers on a journey that included some of the most difficult issues and sub-themes of life. Still, while exuding humanity, he did not let emotional arguments interrupt the path of effective narrative story-telling.”

Dobie won the diversity writing award for his series, “Race and Sports in High School.” It examined how sports — some of which are still identified as “black” or “white” — can help ethnically and racially diverse players form close friendships, yet can’t keep them from wondering how long these relationships will last once the games end. “Michael’s work goes very deep because of what he accomplished in a very difficult year of reporting at Glen Cove High School on Long Island: getting high school students to speak candidly on a tough subject. Then, with remarkably clear style, he crafted a revealing story about the way race permeates life.”

The ASNE judges also recognized the work of other newspaper writers as finalists:

Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline Reporting by an Individual

  • David Finkel, The Washington Post
  • Hugo Kugiya, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline Reporting by a Team

  • Chicago Sun-Times (Mark Skertic, Bryan Smith, Scott Forner, Carlos Sadovi, John Carpenter)
  • Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk (Diane Tennant, Earl Swift and Lane DeGregory)

Commentary/column writing:

  • Gail Collins, The New York Times
  • Colbert I. King, The Washington Post
  • Mike Littwin, The Denver Rocky Mountain News

Editorial writing:

  • Verlyn Klinkenborg, The New York Times
  • Kate Stanley, Star-Tribune, Minneapolis

Non-deadline writing:

  • Anne Hull, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times
  • Robert L. Kaiser, Chicago Tribune
  • Jenni Laidman, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio


  • Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

This year’s contest attracted nearly 500 entries from news organizations throughout the United States and Canada; the largest contest was for the non-deadline writing award, which garnered 123 entries.

The Jesse Laventhol Prizes are named in honor of a longtime Philadelphia newspaperman. They are endowed by his son, David A. Laventhol, a former editor and executive for Times Mirror, who is now publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review. Laventhol has been a member of ASNE for many years and has chaired and served as a member of the Writing Awards Board. He said he wanted to encourage excellence in a key aspect of newspaper reporting — “to recognize the best deadline work and to encourage more of it.”

The ASNE Foundation — which is supported by gifts from ASNE members, newspaper companies and foundations — funds the Writing Award prizes. The Poynter Institute administers the competition. “Best Newspaper Writing 2000” will be edited by Christopher Scanlan, director of writing programs at Poynter.

The awards were made for work completed in 1999. Daily newspapers and wire services in the United States or Canada are eligible to enter. Also eligible are other newspapers in the Americas, wire services, and other organizations that gather and publish information for daily newspapers that are headed by an active member of ASNE. The work must be in English.

Sandra Mims Rowe, editor of The Oregonian, Portland, chaired the Writing Awards Board. The other members involved in the judging were: Joann Byrd, editor of the editorial page at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Washington Post; Michael R. Fancher, executive editor of The Seattle Times; Robert H. Giles, executive director of the Media Studies Center, New York; Karla Garrett Harshaw, editor of the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun; Clark Hoyt, Washington editor for Knight Ridder; Carolyn Lee, assistant managing editor of The New York Times; Gregory L. Moore, managing editor of The Boston Globe; Michael Parks, editor of the Los Angeles Times; Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News; Edward L. Seaton, editor-in-chief of The Manhattan (Kan.) Mercury; Paul C. Tash, executive editor of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times; Cynthia A. Tucker, editorial page editor of The Atlanta Constitution and Howard A. Tyner, editor of the Chicago Tribune.

With nearly 900 members, ASNE is the principal organization of American newspaper editors. It is active in a number of areas, including open government, freedom of the press, journalism credibility and ethics, newsroom management, diversity and readership.