2003 Judges Comments

2003 ASNE Awards Judges’ Comments
Posted 2/28/2003 12:00:00 AM
The Jesse Laventhol Prizes for Deadline News Reporting



The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post: Elizabeth Clarke, Joel Engelhardt, Gary Kane, Christine Stapleton

JUDGES COMMENT: The Catholic priest pedophile scandal has been written about in every newspaper in the country. But the Post on the day of a bishop’s resigning in disgrace showed the humanity of both priest and victim. The pieces caught the drama of the day’s events, adding context, motivation and compassion.


The New York Times: James Bennet, Joel Brinkley, Serge Schmemann

JUDGES COMMENT: The stories in the Times entry on one terrible day in the Mideast operated on three levels - reporting on diplomacy, war and human lives. The enduring struggle for peace between Israel and the Palestinian people was elevated to world diplomacy and came down to broken glass and shattered lives. In particular, Serge Schmemann’s story about "the devastation from Bethlehem to Jenin" was heartbreakingly human in its protrayal of human misery.

The Commercial Appeal: Mickie Anderson, Yolanda Jones, Amos Maki, Stephen Price

JUDGES COMMENT: The reporters turned a police shooting story into a compelling narrative, telling the story of a child’s death in the sparest language of violence and tragedy. It was impossible not to be emotionally moved. It captured the lunacy of an innocent child’s death at the hands of an assailant bound for revenge.



Dan Barry, The New York Times

JUDGES COMMENT: Classic job of strong, evocative deadline writing, with style, voice and narrative drive.


Deanna Boyd, Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram

JUDGES COMMENT: A strong piece of deadline reporting that involved a fascinating tale of a driver from hell and her victim. It reflected great reporting and fine writing.

ASNE Distinguished Writing and Photojournalism Awards


Jonathan Tilove, Newhouse News Service, Washington

JUDGES COMMENT: Many great stories start with a great idea, and Newhouse had one. Reporter Jonathan Tilove, noting that there are more than 500 Martin Luther King Avenues in communities across America, set out to visit many of them to explore the challenges and triumphs of the people who live and work there. As he noted, these were “streets united by struggle and circumstance, by history and happenstance. One leads to the next and next and back again.” His writing had great depth and energy, and it reflected a deep understanding of racial complexities in America.

Kelley Bouchard, Maine Sunday Telegram, Portland

JUDGES COMMENT: In a series of stories spread over many months, reporter Kelley Bouchard dissected the history and impact of immigrant groups that eventually became a part of Lewiston, Maine. The scope of reporting was ambitious. And the depth of reporting was impressive. Of special note was her writing about the arrival of large numbers of Somalis, many of whom migrated from Georgia to what would seem like a cold wintry climate too inhospitable for them. The story had tremendous local impact, explaining to Sunday Telegram readers why the Somalis came, how they were integrating themselves into Lewiston, the challenges they faced, the strains they put on local financial resources and, ultimately, the contributions they made to the community

Stu Whitney, Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.

JUDGES COMMENT: The Argus Leader detailed the struggles of local Native American high school star athletes as they sought to compete in new college communities far from their homes, their families and their customs. Most failed. The Argus Leader used their stories to explain the tremendous pressures put on Native Americans as they try to adapt to non-Native American settings. It was a perfect vehicle for the newspaper to explain the broader challenges faced by Native Americans when they venture into new cultural settings.


Michael Kelly, Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald

JUDGES COMMENT: Courageously wrote about a horrific crime – the abduction and rape of his daughter with style, compassion, and even restraint. In doing so, provided real value in the debate over whether to name rape victims, while providing insight into other issues such as crime and race.

Kate Nelson, The Albuquerque (N.M.) Tribune

JUDGES COMMENT: Produced well-written, engaging columns that reflected an eye for detail that produce wonderful prose. Struck by her ability to inform and surprise readers. The writing reflected unusual polish, spirit, and energy.

Robert Jamieson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

JUDGES COMMENT: Offered a fresh, engaging and even surprising voice on issues of race and urban America, in a balanced and forceful manner. Goes beyond the obvious in his thinking and writing, which reflects force and vigor.


Amy Ellis Nutt, The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.

JUDGES COMMENT: What a novel (some might say daunting) idea for a newspaper -- to explore five of the biggest unanswered questions of science. Do it in a way that is easy to grasp, educational and thought-provoking. Do it with top-notch sourcing, vivid writing and mastery of the complex subject matter. Star-Ledger reporter Amy Ellis Nutt pulls it off. She succeeds not only because of superb topic selection, but because of her ability to weave literary devices into simple, explanatory prose. Such as her description of a science professor: "When he speaks, his sentences often spill out into one another like excited children on the cafeteria line." And she understands the value of the simile in describing matter: "Instead of matter being spread out evenly through space like butter on bread, it looked like a bowl of clumpy oatmeal someone forgot to stir." Amy Nutt knows how to reward her readers - both with a learning experience, and an occasional smile.

Barry Horn, The Dallas Morning News

JUDGES COMMENT: Barry Horn’s focus is on youth sports and the ways in which adults distort them. His writing reflects meticulous reporting and a thorough understanding of his subjects. He makes points less with poetic language than with direct, blunt declarative sentences that, at their best, jolt like a blow from a sledgehammer.

Elizabeth Leland, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

JUDGES COMMENT: In a few deft strokes, Elizabeth Leland sketches her subjects by describing them in motion -- a young Vietnamese store clerk putting down his broom to help a customer reach a rice steamer, bowing slightly, then resuming his task; a convicted felon turned student council president, "small-boned, soft-spoken," preaching the gospel to his fellow students. She has the storyteller’s gift of knowing when to get out of the way, to let her subjects speak and to reveal themselves. No telling detail escapes her -- the boy glancing furtively at a clock, impatient to leave the room; a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease being kissed by her husband but unable to move her lips in response. Her writing style is spare and strongly visual. She takes the reader into each scene with her. Before we know it, her narrative carries us along. Her work is a classic embodiment of the writer’s rule to show, not tell.


WINNERS as the result of a tie:
David Barham, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock

JUDGES COMMENT: Breaking the usual rules of editorial writing, David Barham wrote long, used big quotes and seemed to totally enjoy what he was doing. It worked: His editorials were compelling, had personality, impact, character. They were in a word: pungent. They made you want to read them.

Andrew Malcolm, Los Angeles Times

JUDGES COMMENT: Andrew Malcolm’s writing set a different tone from all the other entries. It was graceful, clever, evocative, humorous. He played language like a musical instrument.. His piece on the death of the editor of Roget’s Thesaurus was "dazzling..." or perhaps astonishing, fascinating, impressive, exciting.

Mark Mahoney, The Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.

JUDGES COMMENT: You got to love Mark Mahoney for elevating fall leaf collection to fist-shaking rage. And he derided a reapportionment plan by commenting that it looked like it had been done by a drunk monkey with a paint brush and wondered why we complain about young people not voting when their voting booth was removed from a nearby college. He shows that a small paper’s editorials can have great skill and impact.


James Smith, Record-Journal, Meriden, Conn.

JUDGES COMMENT: Presented an impressive example of a classic small town editor facing numerous challenges from powers unappreciative of the role of journalism in their community. Met those challenges head on and with courage, while finding the time to explain to readers his thinking.

James Strang, The Plain-Dealer, Cleveland

JUDGES COMMENT: Wrote strong editorials that raised issues about potential civil liberty abuses and curbs on press freedom.

Don Wycliff, Chicago Tribune

JUDGES COMMENT: Offered timely and insightful writings on some the key issues facing journalists today. Especially effective as a writer who is informative but not preachy. One special column of note dealt with how his paper handled the sticky internal matter involving Bob Greene.


Ted Jackson, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, La.

JUDGES COMMENT: Jackson’s caring work put an intimate face on the humanity of school testing introduced to meet federal mandates, The uncertainty for students and their families was palpable as the photographer won the trust of his subjects and told the story of a challenging year in a series that clearly showed the stakes and the complexity of school reform.

Rodolfo Gonzalez, Austin (Texas) American-Statesman

JUDGES COMMENT: "Chasing Hope" is an exquisite story of the heart and determination of a young woman who lost life as she knew it when a drunken driver crossed the yellow line, killing two two passengers and severely burning her over 60 percent of body. From a poignant photo of Jacqueline Saburido and her father as they prepared the trial of the accused driver, Rodolfo Gonzalez launched on an odyssey of photojournalism that led to a compelling 16-page section that became the focal point of state campaign against drunken driving.

Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times

JUDGES COMMENT: The photographer is invisible but the gripping photos that document the journey -- on the tops of freight trains, walking, hitchhiking -- of a boy in search of his mother make you take notice. Bartletti dares you not to understand the peril of the 48,000 immigrant children who come to the United States along each year, many of them from Central America and Mexico. It is awesome professional documentary photography.

2003 ASNE Awards judges' comments