Arizona Capitol Times reporters won 13 honors in this year’s Arizona Press Club journalism contest, including three first-place awards.
In addition to the awards for individual stories, reporter Hank Stephenson was named first runner-up for the Arizona Community Journalist of the Year award for his coverage of the Arizona House of Representatives. Judge Laura Sellers, the managing editor of The Daily Astorian in Oregon and 2016 president of the Associated Press Media Editors, called Stephenson “an exceptional watchdog who explains complex issues in a clear, organized manner with punch.”
It’s the first time a Capitol Times reporter has been considered for the prestigious award.
The winners of the Press Club’s annual contest were announced April 30. The contest is judged by top journalists from across the country, including more than a dozen who have won Pulitzer Prizes and nearly as many who have been Pulitzer finalists.
Stephenson and reporter Rachel Leingang won a first-place award for community public service journalism for their reporting on how the state’s public records laws and policies apply to new kinds of communications, including text messages and things like SnapChat. The resulting story showed how the Legislature denied and restricted access to communications about state business made in those mediums.
That story was also awarded a third-place award in the statewide public service journalism category.
Judge Fred Schulte, a senior reporter for the Center for Public Integrity and a four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for investigative projects, called the reporting “a smart look at how lawmakers are using smartphones to conduct public business in secret.”
Stephenson was also honored for his investigations into House Speaker David Gowan’s spending on construction and renovations to the House. That spending started off with $335,000 to purchase new carpet and build new offices, which then led to a second round of construction that included a “multi-purpose room” in the basement and had a $2 million price tag. The plans led House Republicans to revolt, and more than half of the majority caucus signed a letter demanding Gowan seek approval before authorizing any more construction spending.
Here is the full list of Capitol Times winners:
- Ben Giles, political reporting, coverage of Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s troubled opinion on electioneering activities by elected officials that was withdrawn and then re-written
- Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson, public service journalism, “Stonewalled”
- Rachel Leingang, education reporting, “Teaching Arizona”
- Luige del Puerto, education reporting, “Beneath the rhetoric”
- Luige del Puerto, immigration reporting, “Double lives”
- Luige del Puerto, short-form writing, “Do you have $21 to spare?”
- Hank Stephenson, investigative reporting, coverage of House construction and renovation spending
- Hank Stephenson, government reporting, “Azerbaijan connection”
- Ben Giles, short-form writing, “Montgomery calls pot-smoking vet enemy of Constitution”
- Rachel Leingang, health reporting, “Birthing Rights”
- Rachel Leingang, social issues reporting, “Cash assistance limits dropped to lowest in the nation”
- Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson, statewide public service journalism, “Stonewalled”
– Arizona News Service Editor Jim Small and reporter Jeremy Duda are members of the Arizona Press Club’s board of directors.