Winners of Times’ Editorial Awards
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The Times’ Editorial Awards for 2009 honor, in the words of Editor Russ Stanton, ‘the work of a newsroom whose ambition has been unbowed by the seismic forces affecting change upon our industry.’
Pacific Time podcast host Michelle Maltais interviewed Stanton about this year’s winners. Listen here:
The winners: Beat Reporting: Joel Rubin, for his coverage of the LAPD. Judges singled out his articles about a ‘john school,’ an officer whose home was raided by SWAT officers from his own department, and the search for a new chief.
Breaking News: “Michael Jackson,” Harriet Ryan, Andrew Blankstein, Geoff Boucher, Chris Lee and Ann Powers. ‘When Michael Jackson succumbed to a fatal dose of a powerful anesthetic, The Times was prepared like no one else. Web surfers around the world turned to The Times for the most credible, definitive reports on what was happening.’
Investigations: “Failure Gets a Pass,” Jason Song and Jason Felch. The series ‘helped set the agenda for a national debate over teacher tenure.’ Locally, the reporters’ work ‘began spurring serious efforts at reform even before the stories were published.’
Explanatory Reporting: “Innocents Betrayed,” Garrett Therolf, Kim Christensen and Hector Becerra. Judges said this series showed that ‘the deaths of children who have been under the county’s watch involve hard cases that defy easy solution. And yet, these deaths are not inevitable -- almost always, they involve failures by public officials to do their jobs properly.’
Opinion: TV critic Mary McNamara. Judges called her ‘wickedly acerbic and insightful,’ whether she is calling Hugh Jackman’s dance number opening the 2008 Oscars a “chorus boy spaz-out” or fondly remembering the early TV image of Kate Gosselin when “her eyebrows were still natural and her belly pooched a bit over her pants.”
Sports Reporting: Diane Pucin, who in covering four beats followed the Tiger Woods scandal as well as Lance Armstrong’s return from retirement. For the two-week U.S. Open in tennis, she produced 53 web-only stories -- often done instantly as matches ended -- along with hundreds of tweets and blog posts.
News Blog: Company Town, Dawn Chmielewski, Claudia Eller, Ben Fritz, Meg James, Alex Pham, Richard Verrier, lead blogger and tweeter Joe Flint, and Company Town editor John Lippman. Company Town, judges said, ‘has established itself as a comprehensive destination for entertainment coverage.’
Features Blog: Jacket Copy, Carolyn Kellogg, whom judges credited with ‘expanding the idea of what a blog can do, filling Jacket Copy with opinion, interviews, criticism and news. ... She has helped create a presence for The Times as a leader in the online conversation about books.’
News Photography: Wally Skalij, who ‘captured the iconic moment (right) when the Station Fire’s wind-blasted embers became the lethal firestorm that killed two firefighters, destroyed 90 homes and laid waste to 250 square miles of land.’ He also ‘artfully captured the mood of a city in shock following the death of the King of Pop and documented the Lakers’ prowess that led them to another NBA title.’
Feature Photography: Barbara Davidson, who chronicled the residents of the ‘Bennett Freeze’ zone in Arizona. Judges said her images captured the residents’ hardscrabble existence and noted that she ‘was as determined to tell their story as their environment was bent on swallowing them up.’
Multimedia: “Promise and Peril in South L.A.,” reporter Scott Gold; photographer Michael Robinson Chavez; interactive special projects team: Stephanie Ferrell, Sean Connelley, Alan Hagman, Thomas Suh Lauder, Katy Newton and Ben Welsh; photo editor Mary Cooney; multimedia producer Albert Lee; data analysis: Doug Smith and Sandra Poindexter. This series, published online in both English and Spanish, ‘chronicled a neighborhood long besieged by gang-related crime but that now seems to have a real chance of a revival.’
News Design: Gerard Babb, who judges said is best known around the newsroom for performing the thankless job of booking the space for each news section -- that is, making sure that the balance of photographs, stories and illustrations works each day for the allotted space and that the end result are pages in keeping with our outstanding design tradition. He also has been instrumental in teaching new editing systems.
Features Design: Reuben Muñoz, whose designs are called bold, eye-catching, varied and effective in pulling the reader into the story and into the newspaper. Judges were struck by the descriptions of how Muñoz worked his designs from the inception, for instance, the way he art-directed a photo shoot on dirt. ‘He made dirt actually look interesting.’
Graphics: Raoul Rañoa, who, judges said, has been a leader in pursuing interactive graphics for the website, as well as producing an impressive portfolio for print. Among his contributions in 2009 were his spectacular rendering of the new Las Vegas City Center, the graphics for the nurses project and his interactive look at U2’s concert stage.
Online Presentation: “Mapping L.A.,” Robert Browning, Stephanie Ferrell, Megan Garvey, Thomas Suh Lauder, Maloy Moore, Sandra Poindexter, Doug Smith and Ben Welsh. Judges called Mapping L.A. more than just an exercise in definition; it is ‘the foundation stone of an ambitious effort to give us the ability to produce truly localized news and information.’
Copy Editing: Amy Hubbard of the morning copy desk. Her work is primarily for latimes.com, where, judges noted, ‘all requests are urgent; fast is the only speed; and ‘right now’ is the deadline.’
Headline Writing: Laura Dominick of the foreign copy desk. Judges said her headlines were probably instantly recognizable to fans: For a story about a law to legalize brothels in Reno and Las Vegas, she wrote ‘Nevada is checking under the mattress for cash.’ For a feature about an Irish village with links to Barack Obama: ‘O’Malley, O’Mara … O’Bama?’ And for a feature on the “funemployed” -- young people who have opted out of the workforce: ‘Nice work if you can avoid it.’
Assignment Editing: (two winners) Projects editor Julie Marquis, who judges said has an invaluable combination of editing skills – the ability to keep reporters on track through projects that often take months, combined with skill at turning often-difficult subjects into compelling prose. And health editor Tami Dennis, who judges noted has guided coverage that has appeared on A1, in Column One, in National and Metro as well as the weekly Health section. She also established a blog that provides fresh material five or six times a day and to which she contributes and breaks news.
Special Citation, presented by the publisher and editor: “Redesign of LATimes.com,” Stephanie Ferrell and Paul Olund. The redesigned site, customized for L.A. from colors to fonts, debuted in August and was hailed by readers as “clean, professional, easy to read,” “elegant,” “absolutely gorgeous.” It “works like a website, looks like a traditional newspaper. The perfect mix.”
Editor’s Prize: Borzou Daragahi, whose coverage of the protests surrounding the Iran election demonstrated his passion and commitment to outstanding journalism despite the danger of the assignment. ‘The challenges he faced were daunting: covering a story characterized by live fire and beatings, with intimidation that carried the threat of imprisonment in a jail notorious for human rights abuses.’ In addition, he filed for the Web, blogged at a high tempo, seemed to never turn down a radio or TV interview, and was prolific on Twitter and Facebook.
Publisher’s Prize: ‘Toyota: Road to Recall,’ Ken Bensinger and Ralph Vartabedian. ‘It began with a tragic accident near San Diego. An off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, was driving his family in a borrowed Lexus when the car accelerated out of control, leading to a crash that killed all four in the vehicle. The Aug. 28 crash, in which the driver’s frantic efforts to stop the vehicle were recorded in a 911 emergency call, led to the biggest recall in Toyota history. Toyota blamed the problem on floor mats entrapping the gas pedal. Ken and Ralph were skeptical, asking a series of questions that weren’t being addressed by the automaker or federal highway safety investigators. In the weeks following the recall, Ken and Ralph wrote 14 stories dealing with sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, including six that ran on Page One. Throughout their reporting, Ken and Ralph faced resistance and hostility from both Toyota and federal regulators. NHTSA staff refused to consent to interviews, and Toyota disparaged their reporting on the company website. But as events unfolded, Ken and Ralph’s reporting has proven on target.’
‘Michael Jackson’: Jesus Lopez, 17, of Hawaiian Gardens signs a memorial banner at Staples Center. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
‘Station Fire’: U.S. Forest Service firefighters let the fire burn along Angeles Crest Highway in the early morning hours in La Canada Flintridge. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
‘Bennett Freeze’: Tlaashchii Gordy, 6, a Navajo, plays in the foreground with sister Nizhoonii. Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times
‘Promise and Peril in South L.A’: A graffiti-marred wall in South Los Angeles. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times