Winning Style

New Times writers win big at annual Press Club fete

One New Times staff writer was honored as the state's top journalist by the Arizona Press Club and eight others won first-place awards for news and feature writing at the club's yearly banquet.

Amy Silverman won the prestigious Virg Hill Journalist of the Year award for a portfolio of stories that included the investigative series "Slammed," about problems within the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

"Slammed" also won the Press Club's top honor for investigative reporting, the Don Bolles award (named after an Arizona Republic reporter murdered while in pursuit of a story).

"It should be required bedtime reading for the Arizona State Legislature," commented Bob Porterfield, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and founding member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, who judged the investigative category.

Three other judges -- top journalists from around the country -- agreed that Silverman's body of work from 2001 was the best in the state. Besides "Slammed," her portfolio included a story about one family's foreign adoption struggle, a review of former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's dismal record when it came to public land trades, and a feature on croquet in the Valley.

"It's a portfolio that stands out among all other entries in its writing and depth of reporting," said judge Gilbert Bailon, executive editor of the Dallas Morning News.

Judge David Boardman, assistant managing editor of the Seattle Times, noted: "To be able to move from a multi-part series on [juvenile corrections] to a light feature on croquet is quite a feat."

Silverman, 35, has been a New Times staff writer since 1993. She won the Virg Hill award in 1999 as well.

Robert Nelson, who joined New Times in 2000, was named first runner-up for Journalist of the Year. Second runner-up was Karina Bland, a veteran reporter and columnist for the Arizona Republic.

The 2001 Photographer of the Year Award went to 24-year-old Pat Shannahan of the Arizona Republic. He graduated from Arizona State University in December 2001 and worked as an intern at the Republic. Judges cited the photographer for his combination of strong individual images and black-and-white documentaries.

Bob Svejcara, a 61-year-old longtime Arizona newsman, was honored as Community Journalist of the Year for his work in covering the northwestern suburbs of Tucson for the Northwest Explorer. Before joining that paper in February 2001, Svejcara worked for 27 years as a reporter and copy editor for the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.

And revered ASU journalism professor Bruce Itule, who retired from teaching last year after 21 years at the college, was honored with the club's Distinguished Service Award.

Other New Times award winners:

-- Edward Lebow won the John Kolbe Politics and Government Reporting award for his story "Primary Colors," which examined the District 8 council race in Phoenix.

-- Robert Nelson won both first and second place in the explanatory reporting category. "Lab Rats," an in-depth examination of research policies and practices at the University of Arizona, took the top honor; "Shock Treatment," which explored how Arizona is becoming a power farm for utilities shipping electricity to California and the West, took second place.

-- James Hibberd won first place for long-form lifestyle reporting for "Hook, Line and Sinner," a look at the Valley's Church of Body Modification. Hibberd also won first place for science writing for a story on a controversial local researcher who uses puppies in his work. And Hibberd's yearlong coverage of Mountain Preserve arsons, including an interview with the arsonist himself, took second place for sustained beat reporting.

-- Gilbert Garcia won two first-place awards. "The Devil and Mr. Hernandez," about a local lay exorcist, won in religion reporting. "The Musica Man," a profile of a Latino poet and songwriter, won the personality profile category.

-- John W. Allman won first place for project reporting for a two-part series, "Ploys in the 'Hood," that revealed flaws in the city's policing of slum properties and the overly aggressive involvement of community activist Donna Neill.

-- Paul Rubin won first place in law and order reporting for "Bedside Matter," which disclosed numerous complaints of sexual abuse against controversial abortion doctor Brian Finkel. Rubin also took a third-place award in the long-form news feature writing category for a story about a mentally ill woman who has slipped through the cracks of both the criminal justice and mental health systems in the state.

-- Laura Laughlin took first place in environmental reporting for "Arizona's Worst Neighbor," an exploration of environmental problems near the TRW air bag plant in Mesa. Laughlin also won a third-place award in education reporting for a story on a bully hot line in Prescott and a third-place award for business writing for a piece that revealed questionable business practices by a Valley log home manufacturer.

-- Jennifer Markley won first place for non-deadline reporting for "Buzz Kill," a story on lax enforcement of crop dusters by state agencies. Markley also won third place in environmental reporting for a story on the threatened flycatcher.

-- Patti Epler won a second-place award in long-form lifestyle reporting for "Kodiak Moment," the story of how a stuffed Alaska brown bear came to rest in a Phoenix strip club and the hunter who wants it back.

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