The Win Crowd

Westword writers and editors took home prizes in a string of national, regional and local writing contests this spring.

The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors announced last week that Westword editor Patricia Calhoun has received the Golden Quill Award, presented annually to the country's best opinion writer. Calhoun won for her column "The Bottom Drops Out," about a Denver family whose six-year-old son was investigated for sexual abuse after he "pantsed" a classmate during gym class. The judges called the column an "impassioned, yet balanced and textured piece" that made thought-provoking points about a family "enmeshed in the Social Services bureaucracy." Calhoun will receive the award July 10 at the society's annual conference in Boston.

Another national writing award went to staff writer Steve Jackson, whose "The Other Side of the Tracks," about the dwindling membership of a Denver-based railway-porters' union, won first place for feature writing in the National Association of Black Journalists Awards Contest. Jackson was the runner-up in the same category last year, an honor that this year went to Westword colleague Eric Dexheimer, who took second place nationally in the features category with "Fade to Black," a bittersweet portrait of former Black Panther leader Lauren Watson. The awards will be presented at the NABJ awards dinner August 23 in Nashville.

Staff writer Karen Bowers's "How to Coddle a Crip," about how smooth-talking Denver gang member Orlando Domena manipulated the emotions and loyalties of local law enforcement authorities, took third place in general reporting in the annual Best of the West contest. Judge John Walter, managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution and Journal, selected Bowers's article from among 153 entries submitted by daily and weekly publications in thirteen western states. Walter called the piece "the kind of background, perspective piece we don't do often enough."

Staff writer Michelle Dally Johnston's "The Clients," which revealed serious flaws in Colorado's guardian ad litem system for minor children, was a finalist in the annual Maggie Awards of the Los Angeles-based Western Publications Association. Dexheimer was a Maggie finalist for his series of articles dissecting a neighborhood feud between the Quigley and Aronson families of Evergreen that tested the limits of Colorado's controversial ethnic-intimidation laws. Westword also was a finalist in the general-excellence category for publications in its class.

Staff writer Alan Prendergast was a finalist for the John Bartlow Martin Award, a national honor conferred by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. His "End of the Line," which provided an inside look at life inside the federal government's new "Supermax" prison in Florence, was one of twelve articles selected by the awards committee, which honors excellence in magazine public-interest journalism.

Music editor Michael Roberts was a national finalist in three categories in the Music Journalism Awards, handed out May 10 at the Wyndham Bel Age Hotel in West Hollywood, California. He was honored for his first-person account of the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, for a commentary on the Lollapalooza festival, and for an interview with former Monkees drummer Mickey Dolenz.

Staff writer Robin Chotzinoff was a finalist in the Pen Center USA West Awards, a contest that recognizes works produced by journalists and other writers living in the western states. Her "Globeville Warming" was about a close-knit family of gardeners in Denver's Globeville neighborhood, where topsoil has been contaminated by years of exposure to heavy metals from an Asarco smelter. Jackson was named a finalist in the University of Missouri's Lifestyle Journalism Awards for "The Hep-C Generation." The story detailed the tribulations of Denver residents suffering from hepatitis C.

On the local level, Westword posted three first-place finishes in the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Awards, where the newspaper competes against Denver's two dailies and the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph. First-place in sports feature writing went to Jackson for his story "Life's a Pitch," about a baseball player trying to break into the big leagues. Top honors in business feature writing went to former intern Kim Leydig for "Clear Thinking," her analysis of how Coors's experimental Zima brand went flat. And Dexheimer led the field in science, environmental and medical feature writing with "Corporate Swine," a story about the porcine politics of a hog farm on the Colorado plains.

Jackson and Dexheimer, along with Calhoun and staff writers Bowers, Chotzinoff, Prendergast and Stuart Steers, received second-place awards, while Bowers, Roberts, cartoonist Kenny Be and food critic Kyle Wagner took third-place plaudits.

Also last month, Westword art director Dana Collins was honored by the Art Directors Club of Denver. The club announced that Collins had won for his editorial design of two feature stories: "A Death in the Family," about the death of local musician Jeff Dahl, and "The Last Ride," about three teenagers who died in the fiery crash of a stolen car on Interstate 70. The Club will hand out the awards June 22. Collins was also honored by Print, the national graphic-design trade magazine, which has included samples of his work in its annual regional showcase.