Newspaper reporters who exposed a patronage system that plagued a Tennessee county and a photographer who chronicled a family’s economic struggles in Texas captured top spots Friday in the 74th annual National Headliner Awards.
Broadcasters in Maryland and North Carolina were also honored with grand awards – the highest prizes given as part of the national journalism contest run by The Press Club of Atlantic City.
The four grand awards, which come with $1,500 prizes, will be presented along with dozens of other Headliner Awards at a May 17 banquet in Atlantic City.
Along with the grand award, the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel also won first place in the public service category for its series called “Term Limit Turmoil.”
The stories reported on the appointments of family members and political insiders to replace prominent officeholders who had been ousted after the Tennessee Supreme Court decided term limits applied to the Knox County officials. They also looked at the dealings of the county clerk, trustee and register of deeds.
The 12 appointees, who were named during a meeting that frequently went into recess, were removed following the newspaper’s successful public records lawsuit.
“Scrappy, thoughtful, brave and inventive, this collection of stories about a group of local politicians, their family members and flunkies trying to hold onto power embodies the best traditions of accountability reporting,” the judges said.
The grand award in photography went to Melanie Burford of The Dallas Morning News for her images in “The Fight for Sugar Hill,” which followed a struggling family in Texas’ richest county for three years. The entry also won first place for photo essay/story.
The judges said the images “of rare intimacy, power and sensitivity were far and away the most successful example of storytelling in the photography categories.”
The grand award in radio went to the winner of the of the documentary or public affairs category, “Put to the Test,” by American Public Media/North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC.
The documentary showed how students, teachers and administrators at a high school were affected by standardized testing.
“‘Put to the Test’ showed a rare commitment to a vital project with well integrated natural sound that truly made this project a standout,” the judges said.
The final grand award, this one for television, went to WBAL-TV of Baltimore for “Africa’s Maryland,” which also won the documentary or series of reports category.
The documentary tells the story of Maryland County, Liberia – once owned by the state of Maryland – from its founding to its current state. After its airing, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office credited it for spurring a sister state relationship between the two regions.
Judges said the station did “an exceptional job of weaving a tapestry of sights, sounds and history that took the viewer to another world…”
Associated Press photographers swept the magazines/news services/syndicates spot news photography category, with first place going to Pavel Rahman for “Bangladesh Mudslide Victims.”
Among the multiple first-place award winners were:
-The (Baltimore) Sun, which won news beat coverage or continuing story and feature writing on a variety of subjects.
-The Plain Dealer of Cleveland won for local interest column on a variety of subjects and illustrative graphics, as well as online slideshow in the online visual division.
-St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, for special or feature column on one subject and sports writing.
-The Boston Globe, winning for sport column, education writing, environmental reporting and magazine feature writing on a variety of subjects.
-Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for health/medical/science writing and sports photography.
-Star Tribune of Minneapolis for journalistic innovation and informational graphics.
-Radio station WBAL-AM, for documentary or public affairs and news series.
-CBS Radio News, in the broadcast radio networks and syndicators category, for newscast, breaking news or continuing coverage of a single news event, human interest story and news series.
-Television station WTAE of Pittsburgh for continuing coverage of a single event, investigative reporting and environmental reporting.
-CNN took first in four categories – coverage of a major news event, continuing coverage of a major news event, health/science reporting and environmental reporting.