Westword staffers took home seven first-place newspaper writing awards at the Society of Professional Journalists' annual state awards banquet last Friday--more than any of the state's three major dailies.

Sports and film columnist Bill Gallo led the way with first-place finishes in sports commentary and arts and entertainment criticism. Staff writer Arthur Hodges won first in investigative reporting for a series probing contracts at Denver International Airport, while Karen Bowers won in general reporting for her story about Casey Collier, a young man who died while being held at a private mental-health facility in Westminster.

Staff writer Steve Jackson received first in science or medical features for his story on Denver AIDS doctor Adam Myers, while music editor Michael Roberts won in arts and entertainment features for an article on Christian pop music. Staff writer Eric Dexheimer's profile of printing magnate Barry Hirschfeld topped the field in business feature writing.

Dexheimer also won second place in science or medical features. Other second-place awards went to editor Patricia Calhoun for commentary and Cafe columnist Kyle Wagner for food criticism. Roberts took third in arts and entertainment criticism, while managing editor Andy Van De Voorde won third in investigative reporting.

Westword writers were also honored in a number of other local and national contests this spring. Jackson received a Maggie Award from the Western Publications Association for his series of articles on the AIDS epidemic. Bowers's Casey Collier story was named a finalist for the prestigious Nixon Newspaper National Journalism Writing Award, awarded annually for the story that reflects the most "compelling writing skills." "Heads Up," Dexheimer's portrait of backyard rocketeers, was named a finalist in the University of Michigan's Livingston Awards.

Westword was also honored last Saturday with the first annual "Fighter for Access Award" from the Metropolitan State College of Denver journalism department. The newspaper was recognized for suing Denver city attorney Dan Muse when he refused to release uncensored billing statements from outside law firms, and for going to court to demand that a judge unseal a court file in the case of a prominent University Hospital doctor accused of sexual harassment.


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