Westword staff writer Alan Prendergast has been awarded the 2015 Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award by Ball State University for his article “Bloody Ludlow,” originally published on April 17, 2014. The cover story, which commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the worst labor conflict in American history, was praised by award judges for its meticulous research, vivid imagery and sparkling description, which provided a detailed, engaging account of an American tragedy.
On Wednesday, April 8, Prendergast will be recognized at the Ball State Department of Journalism’s annual awards luncheon, where he will be presented with a plaque and a $1,500 prize on behalf of the Pulliam family, which sponsors the annual writing award. He will present a speech later that evening at the Pittenger Student Union titled “Using Historical Resarch in Dramatic Narrative Writing,” as part of the journalism department’s professional-in-residence series. In writing “Bloody Ludlow,” Prendergast used archival research, interviews, field observation and other forms of reportage to provide a detailed historical narrative that explains the origins of the 1914 Colorado coal strike, the escalation of violence against striking mine workers, the destruction of the Ludlow tent colony and its aftermath. His goal was “bringing readers as close as possible to the human drama involved in the Ludlow tragedy without losing sight of the historic importance of the event and its impact.”
Prendergast, a Denver native, began his journalism career as an office assistant at the New Yorker. He has a B.A. in English from Colorado College and a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University, where he studied as a Kiplinger Fellow. He has been a staff writer at Westword since 1995, and frequently writes about historic crimes and misadventures, ranging from the Ludlow Massacre to the Jon Benét Ramsey murder mystery.
"Bloody Ludlow" was also a big winner at the Colorado Press Association Awards ceremony, taking first place in Multimedia in the large-paper division, in which Westword competed against the Gazette in Colorado Springs and the Denver Post. “A really impressive story with multimedia elements that add to the storytelling, not just decorate it,” determined the judges. The cover design for “Bloody Ludlow” also took first place in the same division: “Nothing subtle about this cover,” said the judges, “and that’s perfect, considering the story.” The video for the package won second.
In the CPA contest, Prendergast also won first place in Business Feature Writing for “High Rise Anxiety,” his February 27, 2014, cover story about the St. Anthony redevelopment that offered “a comprehensive look at a massive development and how citizens are reacting to the proposals,” according to the judges. Prendergast’s “Saving Jackson,” his October 17, 2013, profile of how one family was coping with a baby born with a serious heart defect, won third place in Health Enterprise Reporting.
Melanie Asmar had two second-place finishes, for her December 12, 2013, profile of drive-by victim Karina Vargas, “Bullet. Proof,” in the Best Feature category, and “One Fish Two Fish,” her August 6, 2014, story on how the state had misidentified the endangered greenback cutthroat trout, in Environmental Feature. Her “Wrong Answer,” from April 10, 2014, took third in Education Reporting.
Westword editor Patricia Calhoun took first place for Serious Column Writing in the big-paper category with a package of columns, including her October 9, 2013, visit to the Homeless Diamond in Sonny Lawson Park. “Calhoun found a terrific story and went to town with it when she found the ballpark for the homeless,” wrote the judges “It’s not mushy or maudlin. There’s no preaching. But the humor is rich; the layers are finely woven together; the message is significant. Terrific.” Calhoun also placed second for Humorous Column Writing; the judge said this about her "Colorado Could Use a Cannabis Mascot" column in the May 22, 2014 issue: “Fun read...would love to trip around town with the writer sometime.”
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You can read any of these prize-winning entries here on Westword.com. For a complete list of Colorado Press Association winners, go to coloradopressassociation.com.