It had been more than a decade since Westword had competed in the Colorado Press Association awards -- since the last time we were able to challenge the state's major dailies, in fact.
That was back when the Rocky Mountain News was still going strong; after the News complained to the CPA about allowing Westword in the big-paper category, that loophole was closed.
But it's open again.
The News has now been gone five years, leaving only the Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Gazette in the top slot -- and these days, the web has erased many of the distinctions between weeklies and dailies and 24/7 websites, anyway. And so once again, Westword was allowed to compete in the big-paper category...and took home a cluster of awards last Friday.
Westword editor Patricia Calhoun took first place in Humorous Column Writing for "Denver Boone Is dead. Long Live Denver Boone!," her April 4, 2013 look at the University of Denver's doomed attempts to get a new mascot. William Breathes won second place in the same category for a collection of his Ask a Stoner columns.
And Westword writers swept the Best Feature Story category. Alan Prendergast took first place for "Joe Arridy Was the Happiest Man on Death Row," his September 20, 2012 cover story on the 23-year-old with an IQ of 46 who was put to death for murder in 1939 -- even though there was plenty of evidence pointing to his innocence. Prendergast also took third-place honors for "Kimmyan Franklin Couldn't Escape her Uneasy Past," his January 3, 2013 profile on the life and death of Kimmyan Franklin. And Melanie Asmar took second place for her April 11, 2013 cover story on Aurora theater shooting victim Carli Richards.
Asmar also won first place for Best Agriculture Story for "Can Hemp Escape the Role of Marijuana's Sober Stepsister?," her March 14, 2013 cover story on Colorado's growing hemp industry. And Prendergast took second place for Best Environmental Story with "The Dogs of War," his May 9, 2013 cover story on the fight to eradicate prairie dogs from Stapleton, and also second for Best Business Feature Story: "The Insider," his June 13, 2013 cover on Tisha Schuller.
The Post and the Gazette won many more awards in this division, of course; the Gazette's Dave Philipps will probably need an extra shelf to display his latest honors. There were also nine more categories in the CPA contest, dividing weeklies and dailies across the state into circulation classes. And while the dwindling circulation of the larger papers was a sad sign of the times, that was offset by the strong journalism coming out of many of the smaller markets in the state. Find out more about the contest results at the Colorado Press Association website.
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More from the Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "DPS sells Contemporary Learning Academy for $12 million."