Veteran Phoenix New Times contributor Robrt L. Pela won first place in the Best of the West journalism competition for his cover story "Battle of the Ladmo Bag Boys," on two men who have continued their feud over the children's TV program The Wallace and Ladmo Show.
Pela was honored in the Arts and Entertainment category.
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"The fact that a beloved local children’s show that ran for 35 years could be the catalyst for a years-long feud between two adults is a story that cries out to be told,” the judge wrote. “In less capable hands this could have turned out to be little more than a soon-forgotten daily newspaper story. But here, the author invested the time into learning the history of the show and the clearly insane people on both sides of this fight.
“This is a thoughtful, extremely well-structured story that informs and entertains. The writer allows the story to unfold over time by using a deft hand and a superior writing skill. It stands as Exhibit A as the reason we still need alt-weeklies and long-form journalism. The author is a true storyteller and that’s something we should all strive to be.”
Pela's writing has earned numerous awards, including the 2017 Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award for a story about caring for his mother, who has advanced Alzheimer's disease.
He currently writes a weekly column, Under the Sun, for New Times as well as other freelance articles.