The Albuquerque Journal won 13 first-place awards, including top honors for general excellence, public service, investigative reporting and series or continuing coverage in the 2018-2019 Better Newspaper Contest.
In awarding the Journal general excellence honors, a judge noted its “superior design, great photography” and “excellent” writing, particularly its use of “simple prose to explain complex issues.” The judge also took note of its “especially informative” headlines that give the reader a “good reason to read on.”
Reporter Ryan Boetel and the Journal Editorial Board, meanwhile, won the Sunshine Award for a series of stories and an editorial about the University of New Mexico withholding certain accreditation records. UNM eventually turned over the documents, but only after Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office determined that UNM had violated state open records laws by withholding them.
“This is a clear-cut winner in this category,” the judge wrote. “Congratulations to the Journal for upholding Sunshine, not only on its news pages but on its editorial page.”
The awards, sponsored by the New Mexico Press Association and the New Mexico Associated Press Managing Editors, were announced Saturday at the NMPA’s yearly convention at the Albuquerque Marriott. Two dozen New Mexico newspapers and one news agency took part in the contest, submitting more than1,200 entries.
The Journal competed in the Daily Class 1 category for large newspapers. The Oklahoma Press Association judged the contest.
In the coveted public service category, the Journal won both first- and second-place awards.
Las Cruces bureau reporter Angela Kocherga and Journal staff won first-place honors in the category for coverage of border issues, including a four-part series dubbed “8 hours on the border,” which explored what Border Patrol agents were dealing with as a record number of migrant families sought asylum in the U.S.
“Great reporting and writing, powerful photos, effective graphics,” judges wrote. “… Presents a clear-eyed view of the problem from many points of view. Should be required reading for anyone who thinks they have a handle on the immigration crisis.”
Education reporter Shelby Perea won second-place in public service for her series of articles on lead in the water at elementary schools in Albuquerque.
The Journal also won first- and second-place honors for series or continuing coverage.
Reporter Rick Nathanson took first place in the category for his series on the homeless crisis in Albuquerque. Staff writers Matthew Reisen, Katy Barnitz, Celia Raney and Pilar Martinez won second place in that same category for their continuing coverage of the slayings of a mother and daughter in their Albuquerque home in June.
Staff writer Colleen Heild, meanwhile, won first place in investigative reporting for her “Feeling the Pain” series, which examined the severe lack of timely access to health care in New Mexico.
“I appreciated this investigative project as it wasn’t just armchair — or keyboard research — retrieving documents,” one judge wrote. “The staff interacted with people experiencing real life problems with the system and put flesh on the story — then explained everything in an easy-to-read style, giving readers a full understanding of the problem.”
Photographer Roberto E. Rosales, digital editor Robert Browman and Kocherga also won first-place honors in the online photo gallery category for the border series. “Powerful images tell the story of 8 hours on the border,” the judge wrote. “Extremely compelling. Fantastic photography.”
The Journal’s design staff won first place in the design and typography category. “The design was clean, used just the right amount of white space between stories, and fonts are diverse and eye-catching,” the judge wrote.
Other Journal staffers winning first-place awards were: Greg Sorber for general news photo; Geoff Grammer for sports columns; Scott Turner for environmental and agricultural writing; and Nathanson for obituary news.
Sarai Cajiao won first place for advertising campaign – digital while Doug Brown won both first- and second-place awards for web advertisement.
Journal staffers also won more than a dozen second-place awards:
Browman, Donn Friedman and Tyler Green won for best website; Lloyd Jojola and Reisen for headline writing; and Ollie Reed in the business writing category. Sharon Hendrix and Gabrielle Porter each won second-place awards for editorials, while Joline Gutierrez Krueger won for columns and Nathanson in feature writing. Journal staff won second place for news coverage.
Brown won a second-place award for print advertising campaign; Wayne Barnard for classified advertising section; and Nancy Chavez in the house advertisement category.