First place: Michael Barrett, The Gaston Gazette

About this entry: Michael Barrett’s submissions included both investigations of advantages being taken by local politicians and a look at a Gastonia family affected by a Texas flood on the 50th anniversary of the flood, which all lend themselves to showing his ability to masterfully report on whatever topic comes his way.

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Read online: Texas flood 50 years ago claimed seven family members from Gastonia

Follow Michael on Twitter @GazetteMike

Obviously a dogged reporter who is making a difference through his work. Excellent job.

Second place: Julie Sherwood, Daily Messenger

About this entry: Julie Sherwood’s news writing asked important questions about the safety of local drinking water, shed light on a dispute between neighbors over a private road and exposed a lack of financial information for voters in an impending election.

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Read online: Everwilde couple embroiled in another disputeCanandaigua Lake water treatment plants prove adept at keeping out toxins

Follow Julie on Twitter @MPN_JSherwood

A real pro. Thorough and well-told stories. The road dispute in particular really sucked me in.

Third place: Aaron Curtis, Daily Messenger

About this entry: Aaron Curtis’ five-part series about area cold cases makes for a wonderful example of crime reporting done right. His investigations are engaging without being overly sensational and also take care to remain sensitive to affected members of the community.

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Read online: Cold cases: Holding out hope for a miracle, Changing the story: ‘Storybook Project’ helps keep strong connections between Ontario County jail inmates, children

Follow Aaron on Twitter @mpn_ascurtis

A fine storyteller. Sensitive treatment of stories that are obviously painful for his sources to discuss.