Press Releases

2017 Morris Journalism Excellence Awards

Morris Journalism Excellence Award Winners 2017

Congratulations to all the recipients of the 2017 Morris Journalism Excellence Awards.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

A (Large Market)
Topeka Capital-Journal
Twist of Fate

Judges Comments
The Capital-Journal brought all of its resources to bear and produced content for every platform — digital and print (including a glossy magazine) — also hosted a well-attended community event about the Topeka tornado. While the journalism was impressive, it was the level of engagement by the community that sets the entry apart. Just one example: nearly 100 personal stories from people of all walks of life, including a member of a legendary rock band (yes, named Kansas) whose haunting and humorous recollection of the night the tornado struck included this imagery of standing outside after the storm had passed his house: “The pieces of people’s lives were landing all around us.”

Excellent work and amazing commitment by the Capital-Journal staff.

Honorable Mention
Savannah Morning News
Hurricane Matthew

​Judges Comments
A major news event, such as a hurricane, provides a news staff with many challenges, but also a significant opportunity to connect and engage with readers. With more than 400 submitted photos, and some submitted videos, the Savannahnow.com coverage of the storm shows readers turned to the site to share and consume news.

B (Small Market)
No award.

 

DEADLINE REPORTING
A

Savannah Morning News
Hurricane Matthew coverage

​Judges Comments
Incredibly strong work covering the hurricane, from preparation for its arrival, coverage of it blowing through and, most thoroughly, coverage of the aftermath, people supporting each other, repairs beginning and some accountability work as well.

Honorable Mention
Robert Stein, Lauren Koski, Jon Mark Beilue and Michael Schumacher, Amarillo Globe-News
It Was ‘Mayhem’: Gunman killed, 2 hostages rescued in Walmart standoff

​Judges Comments
The three-story front-page package is a very powerful combination of reporting and writing that makes us eyewitnesses to a variety of scenes occurring simultaneously. In so doing, the reporters answered all the essential questions, including motive and chronology. Impressive.

B
Parish Howard, News and Farmer
Coverage of mid-air F-16 Jet collision

​Judges Comments
A magnificent one-man job of covering the collision of Air Force jets and the impact on the ground. Reporting and writing both extraordinary. This is a great example of a small newsroom that stepped up big to cover a breaking story from all angles.

Honorable Mention
Jonathan Vickery and Laura J. McKenzie, The People-Sentinel
Hurricane Matthew

​Judges Comments
Thorough and detailed coverage of hurricane aftermath with clear eye on community recovery and service.

 

WATCHDOG REPORTING

A
Christopher Hong, Nate Monroe and Steve Patterson, The Florida Times-Union
Corrine Brown investigation and indictment

​Judges Comments
The Times-Union investigation into now-former Rep. Brown shows dogged determination to uncover a tangled web of deceit and personal enrichment of the congresswoman and staff members. Reporters overcame the obstacles inherent in working on a story that was also the subject of a Justice Department investigation and pushed the story ahead of an eventual indictment. They also carefully portrayed the positive impact Rep. Brown had on the community, and the betrayal felt by longtime supporters. In the midst of the investigation, Rep. Brown lost a re-election bid after serving 12 terms. The early and full reporting undoubtedly had an impact on the election.

Thorough and relentless coverage of the bogus non-profit that brought down a well-known politician. A strong watchdog commitment throughout, digging into records and background to explain how the scam worked.

Honorable Mention
Savannah Morning News
Crime in Savannah

​Judges Comments
Good community-oriented journalism and strong explanatory reporting. The commitment to coverage of crime in Savannah, its roots and the actions devoted to it was extraordinary. A good mix of watchdog, accountability reporting and documenting the news.

B
James Brooks, Juneau Empire
Pumped up: The concealed truth behind gas prices

​Judges Comments
Very clear and readable accounting of why gas prices are high and slow to change in Juneau. Good example of demystifying an issue for readers.

Honorable Mention
Jake Martin, The St. Augustine Record
Strained relations with a powerful university

​Judges Comments
Relentless reporting on a complicated relationship between county extension and the University of Florida. Something only a local newspaper can do.

 

WRITING

A
Jan Biles, Topeka Capital-Journal
Life-changing broadcast
Caught in the twister
“The people elected me to do the job”

​Judges Comments
Great idea — recall the devastating tornado of 50 years ago by the way it changed lives. The recollections of these three story subjects give us memorable oral history.

Honorable Mentions
Jenel Few and Brittini Ray, Savannah Morning News
Terror trail

​Judges Comments
Really interesting story with some strong investigative work. Few and Ray went above and beyond the typical crime story to illustrate what went wrong, what could have been done better and the impact those mistakes had.

Matt Soergel, The Florida Times-Union
The mayor, Barbara Jean and the surfer

​Judges Comments
Soergel has the fine writer’s eye for detail and compassionate heart. With both, a homeless woman’s life is worthy of a full-length obit, a solitary surfer becomes talkative and an 82-year-old mayor becomes a vehicle to tell Jacksonville’s history.

Jon Mark Beilue, Amarillo Globe-News
The cost of Alzheimer’s Disease
“Rabbit” comes home

​Judges Comments
A sad story, well-written and informative. The storytelling is compelling and informative, seamlessly weaving subject narrative and statistical information.The “Rabbit” story showed the horrors of war, told with a vivid, yet gentle touch.

B
Jared Keever,  The St. Augustine Record
Justice for Haley
Medals don’t mask pain of war

​Judges Comments
Results matter. The St. Augustine Record got results for deserving citizens because of Jared Keever’s skill at telling stories. The stories of Lorenzo Neely and Haley Nicole Smith demand sympathy, but are told without maudlin excess. We become journalists to make a difference, to make things a bit better for many. Jared Keever and the St. Augustine Record have done just that.

Honorable Mentions
Elizabeth Earl, Kenai Peninsula Clarion
“Above and beyond”

​Judges Comments
Earl has done well to turn what could have been a boring procedural government story into a tale worth telling.

Parish Howard, News and Farmer
Heart wood; Planting for oil; One wild river
Healing hunts; Alligator agent trapper; She felt led

​Judges Comments
Parish Howard has a rare gift: the ability to listen. That requires humility and a sincere interest in others. That interest persuades those he interviews to tell marvelous stories that reveal themselves. Howard managed to take what some might consider to be mundane or boring topics and make them interesting, informative and fun to read about.

 

COMMUNITY SERVICE

A
Savannah Morning News
Hurricane Matthew

​Judges Comments
The Morning News, through its print editions and digital presence on savannahnow.com, provided exemplary coverage of Hurricane Matthew and its impact on the region. No storm of this size is routine, but the staff went well beyond the routine coverage — with an emphasis on helping readers stay safe before, during and after the storm. Leadership made an exceptional effort to communicate clearly with readers about when and where to find coverage. Safety tips evolved into ideas for where to find a helping hand, or where to volunteer to help neighbors in need. And when residents of one particular low-income housing complex needed an advocate, the Morning News was there to speak for the voiceless, and to report and prompt stronger action to fix the situation. An excellent example of community service.

Honorable Mentions
Topeka Capital-Journal
Downtown Topeka by Building Blocks

​Judges Comments
The Capital-Journal tapped a rich vein of community pride with this special section. Smart, interesting way of showing change and providing the context that explains it.

Ellysa Gonzalez, Lucinda Holt, Gabriel Monte and Matt Dotra, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Aftermath of Winter Storm Goliath

​Judges Comments
Good community service, taking an issue and grabbing on to it and not letting go. The AJ forced some change by putting a spotlight on the issue.

B
The St. Augustine Record
Hurricane Matthew: All Hands on Deck

​Judges Comments
Immediate, comprehensive and useful coverage sustained for days by a small but dedicated staff. The staff of the Record proved up to the task of helping the community prepare, endure and recover from Hurricane Matthew. Through print, digital and social media channels, the Record staff provided the big picture coverage of the storm and its after-effects — but in particular focused on the nuts and bolts with updates and announcements readers find so essential to putting their lives back together.

 

COMMENTARY

A
Mark Woods, Florida Times-Union
Corrine delivers, but to whom?
Walking helps reinforce feelings of home
Heartfelt messages from locals more appreciated than Limbaugh’s blather

​Judges Comments
Reporter as well as writer, Woods conveys a sense of place, or a sense of outrage, by getting out of the office and showing as well as telling. His elegant writing demonstrates that persuasive writing does not require beating readers over the head with strident language.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Haskin, Topeka Capital-Journal
Dress code disrespectful
Colson should seek approval
Brownback plan failing

​Judges Comments
Well-phrased and framed arguments that make strong points. They way editorials should be.

B
Carol McLeod and Parish Howard. News and Farmer
A healthy appetite
The real question
When we are at our best

​Judges Comments
Love the plain-spoken nature of the News and Farmer editorials. Points are clearly made and stated and done so with efficiency.

Honorable Mentions
Kelly Sublett, Conway Log Cabin Democrat
Commentary

​Judges Comments
Very nice mix of personal anecdote and making larger points.

Carol McLeod and Parish Howard, News and Farmer
His name was Danny
We have to support what we have
Thank you, Larry

 

DIGITAL JOURNALISM

A
Matt Soergel, Derek Hembd and Phillip Heilman, The Florida Times-Union
Great fire of 1901

​Judges Comments
Terrific and readable package that utilizes nicely all the elements of digital media. Really well thought out.  The video narration, quoting from the original 1901 breaking news story, was an inspired way to present historical photos. A lot of effort at multi-platform storytelling here and trying to meet the audience where they are, regardless of platform.

Honorable Mention
Topeka Capital-Journal
Twist of Fate website

​Judges Comments
This complete, creative report combined the power of print with the storytelling abilities of digital — photos, videos, interactives — to provide a deeply engaging work of community journalism. The staff proved up to the task of providing a compelling report on a seminal event in Topeka history. And the digital results (a half million page views and counting) were terrific.

B
No entries

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

A
Phillip Heilman, The Florida Times-Union
A retelling of the Great Fire of 1901.

​Judges Comments
This social media effort was well-conceived and well-executed, and served a broader community service goal of informing the community of a seminal event in Jacksonville history. Very clever and engaging way to tell the history of the Great Fire and to build interest over time.

An interesting idea and the photos are helpful to telling the story.

Honorable Mention
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kit-Kat craze

​Judges Comments
A fun example of the power of social media. A good idea, and it certainly carried. The kind of story that’s made for social media — light and easy to process.

B
Will Brown, St. Augustine Record
Which boys lax match should I cover on Friday night for @recordsports?
This is an important message from the #StAugustine Fire Department.
Chris Howard was $$$$ from 42 yards at the buzzer to help PV remain undefeated.

​Judges Comments
Will Brown of the St. Augustine Record demonstrate how a consistent effort on social media will build and engage audiences. Through regular posts, and by attaching media elements to posts, he grew his impressions by more than 60 percent compared to the prior year.

Honorable Mention
Jonathan Vickery and Laura J. McKenzie, The People-Sentinel
Using Facebook for breaking news and feedback

​Judges Comments
Solid use of Facebook to broaden audience.

 

GRAPHICS

A
Josh Rouse, Topeka Capital-Journal
Tax revenue shortfall: Troubling cycle

​Judges Comments
Mixing up the use of the typography, color, size and technique made for an effective, engaging presentation that goes beyond repackaging the facts. Nicely done.

Honorable Mention
Steve Nelson, Florida Times-Union
When crime happens
Dark money

​Judges Comments
An ambitious display. Particularly liked the pairing of the circular graphics plotting the time of day with the maps plotting the locations of the crimes.

B
James Brooks, Juneau Empire
A guide to (most of) the Alaska state budget

​Judges Comments
The hand-lettered effect on the headline is effective and engaging. Great attempt to make something as dry (and as large) as a state budget relatable.

Honorable Mention
James Brooks, Juneau Empire
A visual guide to the money behind Tuesday’s primary election

​Judges Comments
Good information, perhaps a bit overwhelming on the page. It feels a bit daunting and cluttered. I wonder if you had pared out the 15 unopposed races, to start with, to give more space to the contested races. Or, go with the top 3-4 races in terms of spending, send readers inside for the rest? Readers need us to edit our findings to help them understand what is most important. This starts down that path.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY

A
Lauren Koski, Amarillo Globe-News
Finding a Forever Family

​Judges Comments
The reader can’t help but share in this family’s utter joy thanks to this beautiful moment captured by Lauren. Awesome and uplifting.

Honorable Mention
Michael Schumacher, Amarillo Globe-News
Standing tall to the end

​Judges Comments
This image captures the intense grief and the sense of loss at a police officer’s funeral service. A powerful, deeply emotional moment.

B
Peter Willott, St. Augustine Record
Hurricane Matthew

​Judges Comments
Peter Willott’s superb photography documents the devastation that Hurricane Matthew inflicted upon Florida’s coastal regions, This collection of images from before, during and after the storm tell the tale in a most powerful way.

Honorable Mention
Christina Kelso, St. Augustine Record
After Matthew

​Judges Comments
Great photo of a hurricane victim dealing with the aftermath. Captures the devastation and the emotion beautifully. The T-shirt he’s wearing with the simple word “Alive” adds to the poignancy.

 

VIDEOGRAPHY

A
Heather Henley, Savannah Morning News
Walter at the 2016 Savannah Doggie Carnival

​Judges Comments
Aside from the wacky perspective, here’s what set this video apart: It doesn’t need narration or long minutes of dialog to tell the tale. The fact is today’s video consumers are watching video on their mobile devices with the volume turned off. (Look around the conference table at the next staff meeting.) Video that does NOT rely on extensive narration but instead uses text over video (or text over photos) will be more consumable and sharable.

Honorable Mentions
Bill Kirby, Mark Albertin and Noelle Wilder, Augusta Chronicle
Kirby’s Augusta

​Judges Comments
Bill Kirby’s Augusta is consistently enjoyable. These video romps in the Augusta Chronicle’s archives courtesy of Kirby give viewers interesting stories that are well documented and thorough, with an abundance of historical art.

Chris Neal, Topeka Capital-Journal
Relay for Life

​Judges Comments
Well-edited video, good use of family photos, B-roll alternating with stand-up video to help advance the story and break the monotony of a one-camera perspective interview. Her story touches an emotional chord that many viewers would be able to relate to.

B
Peter Willott, St. Augustine Record
Sentencing for a double murder

​Judges Comments
A raw, emotional video that puts the viewer in the courtroom. Would have been helped by some text over video to help explain who is speaking, explain what is being said, why it matters, but nonetheless, a nice job capturing an important moment.

Honorable Mention
Michael Penn, Juneau Empire
Coming ashore

​Judges Comments
Nice job of editing multiple camera angles and shots to capture the scene.

 

PAGE DESIGN

A
Jim Zahner, Savannah Morning News
Hurricane Matthew

​Judges Comments
Clean. High-impact. Good use of strong photography.  Jim uses typography in a big and bold way, with sophisticated use of color for emphasis. Designs make clear the magnitude of the story for the community. When you have a huge story, you run with it, and that is done in a very smart way here.

Honorable Mention
Heather Henley, Savannah Morning News
Do Savannah

​Judges Comments
Three different design approaches for the weekly “things to do” features front. Heather’s work is impactful and well executed. She shows the good sense to follow the photography and let the art help guide her design. Clean, impactful. Color choices are bold but not frantic. Nice PhotoShop work, too.

B
Devin Long, The St. Augustine Record
Managing growth: Balancing act
After Matthew
Our wild, wild world of animals

​Judges Comments
Really love the way the infographics are incorporated into the design. It feels like an integrated package, not just plopped into the design. The data becomes the focal point of the page. The “After Matthew” page is bold and clean. Great use of the white space and simple but effective points of entry. Ditto with the wild animals page: Clean and simple, good use of the cutouts, not “in your face” or gimmicky. Well done!

Honorable mention
Christine Rodenbaugh: St. Augustine Record
Spanish Wine Festival
A mobile lifeline
Football Preview

​Judges Comments
Three very solid examples of feature/news feature design. Smart use of photography, typography and color.

 

SPORTS

A
Dennis Knight, Savannah Morning News
Ball in the Family
Islands’ Zoller builds relationships through football
‘Plucky’ Mell inspires Calvary Day.

​Judges Comments
Whether it’s small college basketball or prep football, Dennis Knight clearly knows his beat and lets his readers get to know the characters he covers. They’re not just X’s and O’s, winners and losers, but people.

Honorable Mentions
Scott Michaux, Augusta Chronicle
Jordan Spieth: Tall in the Saddle
It’s Ellie’s world for the Spieth family
Fighting Spirit: Paralyzed boxer Williams returns in role as trainer.

​Judges Comments
Scott Michaux clearly gets the most out of his interviews, getting his subjects to open up and be themselves when so many people in any media spotlight today tend to be more guarded. And his writing style shows that he also knows when to sit back, stay out of the way, and let the story tell itself.

Nicholas Talbot, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Dreaming Big: Despite hearing impairment, SPC’s Adams sets his sights on Division I coaching job
Signing Up: Athletes don’t let hearing difficulties get in the way of their dreams
A Place to Call Home: Pipkins ‘endured it all’ before finding his place with the Red Raiders

​Judges Comments
Nick Talbot has an enviable skill of being able to collect a ton of detail — gathering lots of voices and having them answer all the relevant questions — and then presenting it in a clear, concise and easily digestible fashion.

B
Kevin Gullufsen, Juneau Empire
100 years of football wisdom retires
Two hospitalized as Ketchikan forfeits over safety concerns
Meet the World’s Greatest Fisherman

​Judges Comments
Kevin Gullufsen showed enough chops to do a little bit of everything in his entry this year. Whether it’s a cleanly written, entertaining feature or a concise news story that gives both sides of an issue, Gullufsen delivered and did so with clever leads and the occasional turn of phrase.

 

WILLIAM S. MORRIS IV INNOVATION AWARD

A
Topeka Capital-Journal
Twist of Fate website

​Judges Comments
The multi-media approach is innovative; the content is easily accessible; the use of many community voices is exemplary.This was done well. Taking a community back to its defining moments is always a good thing. The use of events to engage the community is even better.

B
No entries

 

WILLIAM S. MORRIS III DEDICATION AWARD

Jonathan Vickery, The People-Sentinel

​Judges Comments
The letter (below) describes a journalist who is an inspiration to all he encounters, through talent, dedication, humility, selfless dedication, and charity to all. A man who lives his faith.

The nomination letter from Laura J. McKenzie, publisher of The People-Sentinel:

I would like to nominate Jonathan Vickery of Barnwell, South Carolina (The People-Sentinel) for Journalist of the Year.

At a weekly newspaper, it is impossible to give someone just one label of “journalist” or “photographer” or anything else. There is too much to do and staffs are too limited.

Jonathan’s title is “managing editor.” What he really manages is being a reporter, writer, paginator, editor, social media and website master and community liaison. (Our editorial staff consists of Jonathan and myself. There are only five people on staff altogether.) And, when a delivery problem has arisen, he has delivered bundles of The People-Sentinel to post offices and convenience stores.

Day or night, I know I can depend on him for anything.

Jonathan, a native of Barnwell, came to The People-Sentinel first as a high school intern, then as a college intern. After graduation he found his way home and we were very glad he did. In four short years he rose from “junior reporter” to “managing editor”.

He effectively started our Facebook page and maintains our website, on both daily and weekly basis, depending on breaking news.

His work is exemplary. He has won many awards through the South.Carolina Press Association in multiple areas including photography, social media and writing, including the Jay Bender Award for Assertive Journalism.

This young man is not just a 9-to-5 employee. He is a 24/7/365 dedicated journalist who turns out of bed in the middle of the night to cover a wreck, stands out in an ice storm to cover a downtown fire, or turns around just after deadline to cover a three-hour governmental meeting. He works nights, weekends and holidays on top of weekday duties. This is not the rare occurrence, this is the weekly norm.

He does this all without complaint or second thought.

His stories and photographs are compelling and human. He makes The People-Sentinel a community newspaper. It’s difficult to pick out just one story because so many of them are top notch.

As a watchdog, he is a bulldog – calling each and every school board member to ask why they were closing a meeting to the public. In the end, that meeting stayed open.

He makes sure our governments stick to the letter of the law. In a sense, he has “trained” them so that most of our government entities really work at meeting FOIA.

As an editor, he is detailed-oriented.

As a paginator, he is creative with an eye for balance. He makes his deadlines so others can make theirs.

As a “manager”, he is a problem-solver, finding ways to overcome small and big challenges.

Before going on vacation this year, he pre-paginated multiple pages for the upcoming edition to take the load off of me since our editorial staff is so small. While on vacation, he touched base via text to offer guidance where needed. He was away from the office, but I still knew I could depend on his help.

On top of all this, Jonathan is a gentleman and a gentle man. In our community he is beloved for his kindness, consideration and devotion. He is a devout member of the local First Baptist Church. I often hear of quiet kindnesses he has done for people, not only members of his church but all over the community.

He is also dedicated to improving his skills and talents as a community leader and as a journalist.

In the office, he probably is the “favorite” employee if the staff were to poll. On Friday mornings he goes to Hardee’s and picks up biscuits for the staff. He has been doing it for years. He does small, quiet things for each of us that mean a lot. He makes us a team. He doesn’t do these things to gain attention or garner favor. It’s just that his sincere dedication to those around him is so ingrained it comes about naturally.

I have been in the newspaper business all my life and with this group of community newspapers off and on for 38 years. In all those years, I have worked with a lot of people. Of all those people, I put Jonathan Vickery at the very top of the list for dedication, passion and love not only for his chosen profession and his company, but for his family, friends, coworkers and community.

Jonathan Vickery is what a “Journalist of the Year” should be. I hope you agree.

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