And the Award Goes to...

Westword writers and editors took home 31 writing awards--eleven of them first-place prizes--from last week's Colorado Society of Professional Journalists banquet. The SPJ contest is the only one in the state in which Westword is allowed to compete against Colorado's largest dailies.

"Hitting Them Where They Live," Westword's series on domestic violence written by executive managing editor Christine Brennan, editor Patricia Calhoun, staff writers Steve Jackson and Alan Prendergast and then-managing editor Andy Van De Voorde, won in legal affairs reporting (and took second place in the series category). Stuart Steers earned two top honors--one in general reporting for his story on Colorado's poorly regulated nursing-home industry, and one in environmental writing for his article on Las Animas County homeowners battling a Denver gas company. Also winning first-place awards were Eric Dexheimer, for his profile of non-drinking DUI lawyer Bob Bettenberg (features; the article also took second in legal affairs); Tony Perez-Giese, for his story on Buddhists in federal prisons (news features); C.J. Janovy, for her article on the sputtering Colorado Xplosion (general sports reporting); Alan Prendergast, for his story on the failure of Denver's high schools to serve Hispanic students (education features); T.R. Witcher, for his feature on controversial civil rights attorney Anne Sulton (legal affairs); and Harrison Fletcher, for his profile of Trinidad sex-change doctor Stanley Biber (science/medical features). Kyle Wagner placed first for her feature on the mentally ill employees and clients at Good Company coffee shop (food and beverage features), and Bill Gallo's film reviews won first place in the arts and entertainment criticism category.

Fletcher also won two second-place awards --one in features, for his deconstruction of the friendship between Leon Kelly and Lloyd Lewan; the other for his story on a mysterious statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe (reader; also third in feature writing). Prendergast's story about hopeful around-the-world balloonist Dave Liniger earned two second-place awards (business features and science writing). Also taking second were music editor Michael Roberts, for his profile of radio personality Jay Marvin (arts and entertainment features); Witcher, for his article on PeaceJam (education features); and Steers, for his story about how bond houses underwrite political campaigns (political reporting). Kenny Be won second place for his editorial cartoons throughout the past year; Gallo took second for his sports columns.

Steve Jackson's feature on Joanne Cordova, a cop-turned-prostitute who beat her drug addiction to become a witness for the prosecution in the murder trial of Robert Riggan, took two third-place honors (general reporting series and reader). Other third-place winners were Juliet Wittman, for her article on plea-happy Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter (general legal affairs); Dexheimer, for his story on Lochbuie developer Gary Antonoff (environmental reporting); Prendergast, who reported on the stifling of student journalists at South High (education features); and Wagner, for her piece on a neighborhood restaurant spat (food and beverage features). Calhoun won third in personal column writing; Roberts's music commentaries won third in arts and entertainment criticism.

All of these stories are archived at
The Rocky Mountain News received 47 newspaper writing awards; the Denver Post had six; the Gazette of Colorado Springs had eight.