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Arizona Capitol Times wins more than dozen writing, design awards

stacked old newspapers pile of newspapers

stacked old newspapers pile of newspapers

The Arizona Capitol Times has won more than a dozen awards in the latest Arizona Press Club’s writing and design competition.

The honors included reporter Hank Stephenson winning the coveted Virg Hill Journalist of the Year, as well as the Sledgehammer Award for “exposing the truth” on the travels of some of the state’s most powerful politicians, notably former House Speaker David Gowan.

That series also won for Stephenson first place in investigative reporting in the community newspaper category. The judge noted how Stephenson’s reporting brought about “real change, including new policies at the Capitol.”

Reporter Rachel Leingang and editor Luige del Puerto won first place in breaking news for capturing the “chaos and frustration” on March 22, 2016, when the presidential preference election turned into a logistical nightmare and political debacle. That day, voters waited for hours – some after midnight – to cast a ballot.

Leingang also won first place in health reporting for her story on medical marijuana smokers who are in their 50s and older. The judge said her reporting was “refreshing and well told.”

Designer John Layton won two awards: First place for front page layout or design, and second place for non-deadline lay or design.

Reporter Katie Campbell’s reporting for PinalCentral, where she worked before joining the Capitol Times, earned her a first runner-up spot in the Community Journalist of the Year category. Campbell also won second place for social issues reporting.

A complete list of the awards and some of the judges’ comments is listed below.

Hank Stephenson

Virg Hill Journalist of the Year

Sledgehammer Award

Third, The Don Bolles Award for Investigative Reporting

First, Community investigative reporting, for articles on House travel

Comments: “This investigation made great use of public records, including calendars and mileage reimbursements along with Internet searches to show the high-spending ways of Arizona’s House speaker David Gowan. It brought about real change, including new policies at the Capitol and thousands in reimbursements from Gowan, whom the Capitol Times showed clearly misused taxpayer-funded vehicles, staff and his own position to enrich himself and to support his run for Congress. No doubt the digging by the Arizona Capitol Times contributed to the candidate’s low favorability among voters, which forced him to abandon his campaign.”

Third, Community public service journalism: “Bill milling: Lobbyists draft bills, then openly roam Capitol seeking sponsors

Comments: “Only a reporter who knows this beat well could spot this story. Excellent spotting of a story right in front you that would be easy to miss.”

Rachel Leingang

First, Community health reporting: “Getting higher with age: Marijuana use rises dramatically among people over 55

Comments: “Leingang produced a strong profile of a less heralded group of pot smokers: people in their 50s and older. Her look at this demographic slice of medical marijuana users was refreshing and well told.”

First (with Luige del Puerto), Community breaking news: “Miscalculations quickly became apparent as voters lined up at the polls

Comments:  “Del Puerto and Leingang ably captured the chaos and frustration that marked voting in the presidential primary in Maricopa County. Their story used a wealth of statistics to simply explain how the problems were the result of confusion among independent voters who didn’t realize they were not allowed to vote and miscalculations by election officials who severely underestimated how many voters would show up at the polls.”

Second, Community public service journalism, for a series of stories on solar, including “Major battle likely to heat up over solar energy initiative

Comments:  “These stories help readers understand the complexities of solar energy and their utility rate increases, no easy feat.”

Third, Community environmental reporting: “Rooftop greenery wards off heat, provides social gathering place

Comments: “An unexpected piece about the complexity and promise of a novel conservation solution.”

Third, Community breaking news: “Catherine Miranda defeats stepdaughter in LD27 Senate race

Comments: “Rachel’s lede said it all: ‘The family reunion might be a little awkward this year.’ From that funny and inviting start, this short-but-sweet piece ably charts the result of the intra-family election battle, providing important context about campaign finance and the candidates’ family history.”

Honorable Mention, Community public service journalism: “Time limit strikes back: Cut in aid to needy families costs DES millions

Comments: “This story provides an interesting look at TANF limitations with an especially nice example of how it affected an abused woman and her children.”

John Layton

First, Community Front-Page layout/design. John won for his illustration of this story: “The inquisition: For county recorder, information session devolves into ‘public flogging’

Comments: “A visual interesting way to show a story with what I can only assume was very limited art options.”

Second, Community non-deadline layout/design. John won for his illustration of this story: “Republicans and Democrats see presidential race as key to shaking up state Legislature

Ben Giles

Third, Community health reporting: “When is a benefit like sick leave not only a benefit?

Comments: “Giles provided balanced coverage of statehouse issues. His look at how a fight over the regulation of municipal employee benefits hinged on the interpretation of one word was particularly sharp.”

Katie Campbell (as a reporter for PinalCentral/Casa Grande Dispatch)

First runner-up, Community Journalist of the Year
Comments: “It’s obvious that Katie Campbell has a bright future. Her work shows her dedication to working a beat, developing sources and looking outside of court documents for stories. She’s engaged on social media, on a variety of platforms, both with journalism as an industry and with her readers. She’s has also embraced photo and video, in a way that no editor could imagine her saying, ‘That’s not my job.’” wrote Philips.

Katie Campbell (as a reporter for PinalCentral/Casa Grande Dispatch)

Second, Community social issues reporting, for her reporting on child abuse

Comments: “This reporter has a knack for taking timely issues and elevating her coverage of them to include powerful narrative, information from data and records and, even in the face of topics that can cause despair, she offers what stakeholders and the community can do in response in a responsible, professional way.”


One comment

  1. I vote for Ben Giles.

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