What began as a September gathering among publishers, editors and reporters to recognize winning entries quickly turned into a celebration of journalism against the backdrop of shrinking newspapers, unceasing fights over public records and a fusillade of hostility coming from many sides.
The tone at the Arizona Newspaper Association’s 2017 Better Newspapers Contest awards nights was at once somber and defiant – somber because, as one journalist acknowledged, the press isn’t so popular now, but also defiant because everybody in the room knows what’s at stake.
“Journalism is crucial to democracy,” the Republic’s Pat Flannery, who also received an award from the Society of Professional Journalists, told attendees.
Like every year, the awards ceremony became a showcase of newspapers’ best work, particularly those that sought to shed light on how government operates.
All told, the Arizona Capitol Times won 16 awards, including recognition as the Associated Press Member of the Year.
In giving the recognition, Josh Hoffner, AP’s Southwest News Editor, said the Arizona Capitol Times provides the kind of watchdog journalism that is the thorn in the side of people in power.
Reporter Rachel Leingang, who covers the governor’s office, also won story of the year in the non-daily category for an article that explored how a decision by legislators to cut welfare assistance wasn’t only affecting poor families but also hurting the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s finances.
Non-Daily Story of the Year – Rachel Leingang
Third Place, Best Headline – Gary Grado
Second Place, Best News Story – Hank Stephenson
Second Place, Investigative Reporting – Ben Giles
Third Place, Best Feature Story – Luige del Puerto
Second Place, Best Feature Story – Rachel Leingang
Second Place, Enterprise Reporting – Hank Stephenson
First Place, Enterprise Reporting – Rachel Leingang
Second Place, Best Column, Analysis or Commentary – Luige del Puerto
Second Place, Best Multimedia Storytelling – Katie Campbell
Associated Press Member of the Year
Second Place, Editorial Page Excellence
Third Place, Best Use of Photography
First Place, Community Service/Journalistic Achievement
Third Place, Special Section or Newspaper Supplement or Magazine
Third Place, Newspaper Website