First place: Michael Smith, Spartanburg Herald Journal

About this entry: Michael’s submissions tackled hot-button subjects including the Confederate flag, public records access and political gaffes.

Read online: Honesty needed: State needs to be realistic about its past and Confederate flagLawmakers consider changes that would give SC residents more information and Political and fundraising campaigns seize gaffes rather than issues

Smith tackles the thorniest of subjects, including one of the South’s iconic images – the Confederate flag – and does so courageously. The writer nails it again with completely honest writing on a subject vitally important to newspapers and the public – access to public records and the ability to hold public officials accountable. Again, a well-crafted and well-reasoned editorial that should inspire readers to action. He also points out quite ably the silliness that surrounds political gaffes.

Second place: Dave Dudajek, Utica Observer-Dispatch

About this entry: Dave’s editorial entries put a human face on the red tape that stands between children with severe epilepsy and medical marijuana treatment, abuse in teenage relationships and dysfunction within a children museum’s board of directors.

Read online: There’s no excuse for abuse, Museum: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Feds need to act now on waiver for medical marijuana

An effective treatment for children with severe epilepsy is available – medical marijuana — and the only thing standing in the way of its use is maddening ball red tape created by bureaucracies. The editorials put a human face on the issue, a little girl named Mackenzie with epileptic seizures so severe that she’s been robbed of her quality of life. The writer makes a convincing and understandable argument and gives readers the names and addresses of lawmakers to get this issue resolved.

Third place: Amy MacKinnon, Patriot Ledger

About this entry: Amy’s series of editorials on the opioid crisis examine public officials’ roles in the issue, as well as call for community action.

Read online: A plea to Baker, Healey on opioid epidemic, Stepping out of drug addiction’s shadow, Drugs are killing us

The opioid crisis has swept the nation, including Massachusetts, and MacKinnon rightly points out that methods to contain the problem have failed and fatal overdoses are at an alarmingly high rate. The editorials do a splendid job of holding public officials’ feet to the fire, but they also call for action from all community leaders and the public.