First place: Keith Magill, Thibodaux Daily Comet

About this entry: Executive Editor Keith Magill’s columns expertly blend discussion of sensitive local and national topics in an open and honest way that illuminates his opinion and beliefs without being condescending or patronizing to readers with viewpoints that might differ from his own.

Read online: What does Nicholls stand for?, Where are all the good people?, What would Jesus do with these refugees?

Follow Keith on Twitter @CourierEditor

Magill’s columns provide a fine example of how race in America should be discussed, in a calm, thoughtful and reasoned manner that is more likely to provoke readers to examine their views on this most important subject. That he does this within the context a highly charged hometown atmosphere is even more impressive.

Second place: Dave Schlenker, Ocala Star-Banner

About this entry: Whether visiting his daughter’s classroom on career day to cleaning out the family van in preparation for its sale, Dave Schlenker’s columns offer a humorous and relatable insight into his life as a working father.

Read online: This is our story, this was our van, Pulling out all the stops at career day, We built this squidbee

Follow Dave on Twitter @daveschlenker

Schlenker’s column offers an irresistible combination of humor, sentiment and stylish writing to capture the life of a modern dad in a manner all can enjoy regardless of age, gender or family status.

Third place: Barry Lewis, Times Herald-Record

About this entry: Barry Lewis is just as eloquent when revealing the simple pleasures of a small town’s fair as his is calling out the ineffectiveness of state politicians or the outrage over the abysmal conditions of an area factory, which show his range and skill as a columnist.  

Read online: Political courage can help change Albany, Hard-working folks deserve their dignity

Follow Barry on Twitter @barryeditor

Lewis’ eloquent but bare-knuckle columns express a kind of old-fashioned outrage that speaks for the little guy and pokes at the powerful — an essential responsibility of a free press. He doesn’t shy from calling out public officials by name and provides a sense of place.