Westword staff writer Alan Prendergast won six individual awards in the Society of Professional Journalists' "Best of Colorado" awards banquet last week. Prendergast received more writing awards than any other journalist in the contest's top division, which pits Colorado's wire services and newspapers with circulations of more than 100,000--the Associated Press, the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette and Westword--against one another.
Nine other Westword staffers were also honored at the ceremony. In all, seven Westword stories received first-place awards in newspaper writing categories, compared to twelve for the Rocky Mountain News and six for the Denver Post.
Prendergast won top honors in education feature writing for "Story Time," about a bizarre case of alleged child abuse at a Laporte elementary school. He received first place in political feature writing for "Party Crasher," his profile of perennial local candidate Sam Zakhem. Prendergast and music editor Michael Roberts tied for first in arts and entertainment feature writing: Prendergast was honored for "Carving a Niche," about Denver folk artist Bill Potts, while Roberts won for "The Long Goodbye," which detailed the reluctant retirement of Denver concert promoter Barry Fey.
Associate editor Ward Harkavy took first in political reporting for "God's Own Party," an analysis of the influence of right-wing Christians on the state GOP. Staff writer Steve Jackson topped the field in a new category titled "A Reader," meant to acknowledge stories that are particularly well-written. Jackson's "Live Fast, Die Young," which told the story of a teenage murder victim, won first, while staff writer Eric Dexheimer took third with "Field of Schemes," about the colorful history of Colorado diamond mines. Dexheimer also got a second-place award in education reporting for "Class Warfare," which examined the privatization of public schools.
Staff writer Stuart Steers won first in food and beverage writing for "The Big Queasy," his stomach-churning tale of how Grand Junction was used as a test market for fat-free potato chips later accused of causing "anal leakage." Steers also took second in business feature writing for "A Dry Hole," about a Colorado businessman serving time for an inventive but highly illegal oil scam.
Second place in business feature writing went to Westword staffer Kyle Wagner for "Aisle Be Seeing You," her account of enduring 24 hours in a Super Kmart store. Cartoonist Kenny Be took second in the cartoon category for his survey of the "Five Types of Campers" who flock to the high country each spring.
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Managing editor Andy Van De Voorde received second place in news features for "Blonde Ambition," about the ongoing controversy surrounding the fatal car accident involving Rocky Mountain News columnist Greg Lopez and Denver socialite Spicer Breeden.
Prendergast took second in legal affairs reporting for "Please Release Me," about Colorado's overtaxed parole system, and in science/environmental feature for "It's the Pits," about the pitfalls of a giant new mine outside the town of Victor. Prendergast received third place in investigative reporting for his story about a perjurer making a living as a witness for the federal government in drug cases. Staff writer Tony Perez-Giese took third in sports reporting for "Down for the Count," about Colorado's troubled boxing commission.
Prendergast graduated summa cum laude from the Colorado College and received his master's degree in journalism from Ohio State University. He is also the author of a true-crime book, The Poison Tree, about the shotgun slaying of Wyoming IRS agent Richard C. Jahnke by his sixteen-year-old son following years of child abuse.