The Prize Patrol Returns

Alan Prendergast is on a roll. The veteran Westword staff writer has just racked up two more journalism wins -- and the contest season isn't over. Last week, Prendergast's "Lessons From the Third Grade," published in the January 27, 2000, issue, was named winner of the Paul L. Myhre Single Story award, the most coveted prize in the Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards contest sponsored by the Missouri School of Journalism.

Said the judges: "Prendergast demonstrates what eyes and ears carefully attuned to detail can accomplish in reporting. His account of how one elementary school is making its way up from the bottom puts readers right in the middle of the classroom, to hear the voices of students and teachers and even to see the pioneer artifacts from show-and-tell. That Prendergast is able to do all of this while also illuminating the larger educational issues at stake is what sets this story apart from the others in a very competitive category."

The story had a particular poignancy here in Denver, because the third-grade teacher, Gayla Tracey, announced at the end of the story that she was retiring -- but test scores and attendance at Ashley Elementary continue to improve.

A decade ago, Robin Chotzinoff won the Single Story prize with "What a Jewel," her profile of a bathroom attendant. Stuart Steers was a finalist in the Consumer Affairs category of the 2000 Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards with his "Dying for Dollars," published in the October 15, 1998, issue. (For an updated look at Colorado's care of the elderly, see Steers's "Old-Age Wisdom")

And Prendergast, who's also had first-place finishes this year in the Best of the West and Western Magazine Publishing contests for "Can't Buy a Thrill," his August 17, 2000, feature on a crime spree by Aspen teenagers, late last month was named a finalist in the journalism category of the prestigious Pen USA West 2001 Literary Awards for "Marked for Death," his story about a vicious race war at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, published May 25, 2000.

Last week, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies announced the results of its sixth annual Alternative Newsweekly Awards contest. Laura Bond, Westword's Backbeat editor, placed second in music criticism, one of the most competitive categories, with a selection of three pieces ("Turkish Delight," from the February 17, 2000, issue, a profile of Sam Bivens, trumpet player and leader of the Denver Jazz Orchestra; "Prove It All Night," her April 6, 2000, review of a Bruce Springsteen concert; and the July 20, 2000, "Border Crossing," a profile of Calexico). "Her work displays an impressive range of interests (something that many of her peers lack)," the judges wrote, "as well as a colorful use of language, solid and thorough reporting, a refreshingly in-your-face attitude, and an endearing tendency toward iconoclasm. All of these are qualities that are sorely lacking in music criticism and journalism today."

In sports writing, Eric Dexheimer scored a first with "Super Bowl Champion," his March 23, 2000, profile of champion bowler Jim Lambert. The judging team, which included David Halberstam and Keith Olbermann, wrote: "This article passes the ultimate test -- we wanted to know, we needed to know, if the champ bowled the 900 series, and the writer teases out the suspense just long enough and gently enough to hook without being annoying. Dexheimer also expertly takes the readers through the technical aspects of bowling without dulling the story. Overall, a finely written and reported piece."


In the same Alternative Newsweekly contest, former Westword art director Dana Collins took first place in illustration. But his successor, Jay Vollmar, is winning plenty of accolades of his own. Two of Vollmar's cover designs -- the April 20, 2000, "He's Got a Secret" edition, which highlighted a story on accused spy Wen Ho Lee, and the November 2, 2000, issue, which featured Alan Prendergast's "Lots of Luck," a look at Colorado's Powerball gamble -- were selected for Print's Regional Design Annual 2001. Vollmar's illustrations for the October 6, 2000, "Mr. Money Machine" were also Print winners.

But that's not all: Last month, associate editor Jonathan Shikes was named one of the finalists in the 2001 Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, given to stories that make "significant contributions to the profession of business journalism." Shikes was honored for "Where the Buffalo Moan," his January 6, 2000, story describing the niche industry of bison production. "Being chosen as a finalist is indeed a noteworthy achievement, made all the more impressive as it comes in a year with a record-high number of entries," wrote award chairman Bruce G. Willison.


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