As wildfires ravaged Ruidoso and northern New Mexico earlier this year – claiming lives, destroying hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee – Journal reporters and photographers scrambled to chronicle the battle firefighters were waging to save communities.
The disaster unfolded over several months, during which Journal staffers captured the stories of the people whose lives were turned upside down by what would end up being one of New Mexico’s worst wildfire seasons.
The New Mexico Press Association honored that work on Saturday night with its top award for best ongoing/continuing coverage.
“Absolutely impressive breadth of coverage, touching on nearly every aspect of the fire itself and the lives affected by it. It’s obvious that considerable resources went into this coverage, and it’s an excellent mix of what people needed to know in the moment, the realities of fighting a fire and the human element that would almost certainly keep readers interested,” the judge wrote.
“The unique angles of some of these stories – the hotshot crew and the education story in particular – helped this entry stand out. Fires like this are (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime events, and this coverage reflects that.”
In all, Journal staffers won 26 awards in the 2022 NMPA Better Newspaper Contest. The awards were handed out Saturday during the NMPA’s annual convention in Santa Fe, at which the association also inducted Journal editor Karen Moses into its Hall of Fame.
The Journal received 15 first-place awards:
Reporter Rick Nathanson and Journal staff won first in public service for an ongoing project the newspaper undertook in 2021 to highlight New Mexico’s low literacy rates and explore possible solutions. The Journal is working with media partners KOAT-TV and KKOB radio on the project. “What a great effort by the newspaper…” the judge wrote. “I applaud your willingness to invite other media to participate, and especially like that media leads and government follows on this project.”
Staff writer Elise Kaplan won first place in investigative reporting for “Dangerously low staffing plagues Metropolitan Detention Center,” and her continuing coverage of problems at the jail. “This series of stories was an excellent example of effective, community-level investigative reporting,” the judge wrote. “Kaplan explains the intricacies of the issues plaguing MDC in an easy-to-read way for folks.”
Staff writer Matthew Reisen earned first place in the best series category for a package of stories about fentanyl use exploding on Albuquerque streets. “How can I summarize a series of work like this? It is absolutely incredible. Not only is it affecting, but it is excellently reported and written, with great photographic elements to accompany it,” the judge wrote.
Arts, entertainment and features editor Adrian Gomez took second place in the category for his Cocina Connection series featuring local chefs.
Journal staff won first place for best news coverage. “The Journal does, in fact, end up dominating the News Coverage category,” the judge wrote. “In both submissions, the staff displays a fantastic ability to compile a paper that not only reports the most pressing news to the reader, but do so with style. … Talk about having your finger on the pulse.”
Journal sports staff also took top honors for best sports coverage, with the judge praising the layout, “great focus on local content first” and “good variety.”
Business editor Gabrielle Porter, reporter Kevin Robinson-Avila and former reporters Pilar Martinez and Stephen Hamway took first in business writing for their package on the impact inflation is having on New Mexico businesses. “A fascinating, in-depth and very well-sourced look at the impact of inflation on New Mexico,” the judge wrote.
Jeff Tucker won first place for his editorial “ABQ’s Downtown police OT scheme like TV mob plot.”
Elizabeth Trujillo took first in headline writing for “The Joints are Jumping” – a story about the first day of recreational cannabis sales in New Mexico.
Richard Dargan received a first-place award for best review, with the judge writing that he “was the best at reviewing something without coming off as pretentious.”
The Journal also won first in the best special section category for its commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “The storytelling and Journal staff photos are excellent,” the judge wrote.
Former assistant sports editor Steve Virgen won a second-place award in sports columns for his piece on the University of New Mexico’s football program working with kids with disabilities. Photographer Roberto E. Rosales won second-place awards in general news photo and sports photo. And photographer Eddie Moore won second in the feature photo category. The Journal’s design staff also took second place in the design and typography category.
In the advertising categories:
Wanda Moeller, vice president of advertising, and Doug Brown won first for advertising campaign. “Very well thought out campaign utilizing every advertising option available,” the judge wrote.
Moeller, the Journal retail team and creative advertising services won first for best use of advertising in a special section. “Excellent use of photos and typography in the special section ads,” the judge wrote. “Very clean and informative entry.” Wayne Barnard, Moeller, Lois Trujillo, Nick Aragon and Mark Morales won second in the category.
Barnard and Nancy Chavez took first in the shared/signature page category. “Striking! I love the colors, and the food pics made me hungry,” the judge wrote. “I enjoyed each of the ads here, and how their colors played off each other and the header.”
Barnard and Delilah Guzman won first in the obituary page category. “Very classy yet modern take on the old standby … the obituary,” the judge wrote.
Moeller and Brown won second-place in the self promotion or house ad category. Robert Gutierrez and Brown took second in advertising campaign-digital.
Barnard, Trujillo, Morales, Aragon, JJ Collins, Christian White and David Montoya won second place in the classified advertising section category. Barnard and Chavez won second for house advertisement. Moeller, Barnard and Steve Gall won second place in the best rate card or marketing kit category.
The Wyoming Press Association judged this year’s contest.
With Journal editor Moses’ induction into the NMPA Hall of Fame, she joins a group of people selected for their exemplary record of accomplishment in the newspaper industry and those who have made a significant contribution to it.
A self-described Army brat, Moses attended 11 schools growing up. But her father was a multi-generational New Mexican, so no matter where the family was stationed – from D.C. to Alaska to Panama – she always considered New Mexico her home.
She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1977. It was as managing editor of the Daily Lobo that she fell in love with journalism.
After graduation, Moses spent a year reporting for a weekly newspaper near Chicago before returning to New Mexico. She worked for three years at the Gallup Independent, first as a reporter then as regional editor, before joining the Journal in 1981.
She served in various positions in the Journal newsroom: copy editor, assistant city editor, city editor, assistant managing editor and managing editor. She was named editor in 2017, and now serves as editor and senior vice president.
Among her community roles, Moses is vice president of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, a member of the United Way of Central New Mexico board, a Leadership New Mexico Graduate and a former board member of the University of New Mexico Alumni Board.