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2008 RNA Contest Winners

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SEPT. 20, 2008
Religion Newswriters Association announces 2008 contest winners


WASHINGTON, D.C—The Religion Newswriters Association today announced the winners of its 2008 contests for excellence in religion reporting in the mainstream media. The organization, which has more than 550 members and subscribers, awarded nearly $10,000 in prizes at its annual banquet, held Sept. 20 at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza.

Winners were selected from among 242 entries in eight categories. Judges included current or former reporters, journalists and scholars who praised the entries as "simply amazing” and "beat reporting at its best.”

Templeton Award for Religion Reporting

PaulsonThe Templeton Award recognizes excellence in enterprise reporting and versatility in the field of religion. The first-place winner is Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe for a seriesof stories about the birth and trials of inner-city neighborhood church. The series, called "Ma Siss’s Place,” was judged a "memorable example of narrative journalism. As with the best journalism, the reader develops a nuanced appreciation for the gritty lives and struggles with faith endured by the congregants.” Paulson received $3,500.

Supple Award for Religion Writing

The Supple Award recognizes a reporter’s writing skills. Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe won first place in this award too. Judges thought his series, "Ma Siss’s Place,” was "a powerful and honest package that avoided cheap sentiment” and "took readers to a place they were unlikely to visit.” Paulson received $1,000.

Religion Reporter of the Year — Mid-sized Newspapers

The Cornell Award recognizes the religion writer of the year at mid-sized publications with circulations between 50,001 and 150,000. Jennifer Green of Canada’s Ottawa Citizen won first place for an extended look at the shift of world Christian dynamism southward and eastward. Judges said her stories stood out for "their analytical skill, reporting initiative and clear writing.” Green won $750.

Religion Reporter of the Year — Small Newspapers

The Cassels Award recognizes the religion writer of the year at small publications with circulations of 50,000 or less. This year’s first-place winner was Sara Schilling of the Tri-City Herald in Kennewick, Wash. Judges liked Schilling’s range of stories and said her reporting was solid and her writing "highly readable.” Schilling received $750.

Best Religion Section or Pages

The Schachern Award recognizes excellence in religion pages or sections in the general circulation news media. This year’s first-place winner was The Salt Lake Tribune for its "quality of reporting, writing and consistency of presentation.” Judges took particular note of the section’s presentation, saying it was "hands down the best photography and design.” The section had a good mix of shorter and longer stories, the judges said, and "made a conscious attempt to appeal to several different generations.” The Tribune received a citation for its newsroom.

Best Student Religion Reporter

The Chandler Award is given to to a student journalist who has a grasp of religion issues and writes in a fair and balanced way. The award was established through the generosity of Russell Chandler, former religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, and his wife, M.L.

This year’s first place winner was Heather Donckels, who graduated this spring from The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, Calif. Judges said Donckels took on compelling subject matters—GodTube, Hell Houses and the Hollywood adaptation of "The Golden Compass”—to critique conventional wisdom and offer countering points of view. She won $600.

Best Television Religion Reporting

Awarded for excellence in religion reporting in general audience news television, this year’s award went to Kim Lawton of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly for an entry on street children of Brazil. "Kim Lawton chose to get out of the way and let those called to help the children tell their story in their own words. All the judges were totally silent as they watched.”

Best Radio Religion Reporting

Awarded for excellence in religion reporting general audience news radio, this year’s award went to Jason DeRose, for a piece on dementia and religion he produced for Chicago Public Radio. "This was not only a wonderful example of of nuanced religion reporting but fine radio reporting,” wrote the judge. "The listener was never bored,” the judge continued, "and wasn’t left with unanswered questions.”




2008 RNA Contest Winners

Links made available when possible.

Cassels Award: Religion Reporter of the Year—Small Newspapers

First Place: Sara Schilling, Tri-City (Wash.) Herald
  • Religion in public schools
  • School helps straighten out troubled lives
  • An explosion of faith in Umatilla
  • Spreading the word...door by door
  • What we believe
Second Place: Melissa Nann Burke, York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News
Third Place: Sarah Bruyn Jones, The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News

Chandler Award: Best Student Religion Reporter

First Place: Heather Donckels, The Master's College

Second Place: Allison Ross, University of Missouri at Columbia

  • People's synagogue
  • In from the cold
  • Finding faith through family

Third Place: Matthew Streib, Northwestern University (Baltimore, Md.)


Cornell Award: Religion Reporter of the Year—Mid-sized Newspapers

First Place: Jennifer Green, The Ottawa Citizen

Second Place: David Yonke, The (Toledo, Ohio) Blade

  • Creation Museum's era dawns
  • A Torah for all time
  • Pope flexes his theological muscle
  • A Rocky road to healing
  • Church enlists devilish humor

Third Place: Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune

  • They've got a friend
  • Saved by a stranger
  • Latter Day: Nod to anarchy
  • A Bonanza of His Own
  • Grasping Mitt

Lifetime Achievement

Recipient: John Dart, Los Angeles Times

Radio Religion Reporting

First Place: Jason DeRose, Chicago Public Radio

Second Place: Simone Orendain, WFAE-90.7 (Charlotte, N.C.)

Third Place: Jason DeRose, Chicago Public Radio

  • Green Houses of Worship

Schachern Award: Best Religion Section or Pages

(links not available)

First Place: The Salt Lake Tribune
Lisa Carricaburu, section editor

Second place: Houston Chronicle
Betty Luman
, section editor

Third Place: The Birmingham News
Greg Garrison, section editor 


Supple Religion Writer of the Year

First Place: Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe

Second Place: Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle
  • The Lost Parish: An unlikely band of believers launches a crusade
  • The Lost Parish: An agonizing battle to save a church reaches the Vatican
  • The Lost Parish: After more than a decade without their church
Third Place: Lee Lawrence, The Christian Science Monitor

Television Reporting

First Place: Kim Lawton, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (Washington, D.C.)

Second Place: Lucky Severson, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (Washington, D.C.)

Third Place: Lucky Severson, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (Washington, D.C.)


Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year Award

First Place: Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe
Second Place: Robert Sibley, The Ottawa Citizen
  Third Place: Mark Pinsky, Orlando Sentinel
(see stories here)
  • Scores lose jobs as Holy Land undergoes extreme makeover
  • Priests' troubled pasts led here
  • From storefronts to sanctuaries
  • The new breed on the right
  • Piety in partyland



2008 RNA Contest Finalists


Listed in alphabetical order. For work published/broadcast in 2007.

Cassels

  • Brett Buckner, Anniston (Ala.) Star
  • Melissa Nann Burke, York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News
  • Sarah Bruyn Jones, The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News
  • Carleigh Kate Knight, Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal
  • Gloria LaBounty, The (Attleboro, Mass.) Sun Chronicle
  • Bettina Lehovec, The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas
  • Christine Morente, San Mateo County (Calif.) Times
  • Sara Schilling, Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)
  • Marleen Shepherd, The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan
  • Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan, The (Durham, N.C.) Herald-Sun

Chandler
Due to a low number of entries, no finalists were named.

  • Virginia de Leon, freelancer, for work done at The Spokesman Review (Spokane, Wash.)
  • Jean Gordon, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.)
  • Jennifer Green, Ottawa (Ontario) Citizen
  • Brad Greenberg, LA Daily News
  • G. Jeffrey MacDonald, The Christian Science Monitor
  • Nicole Neroulias, The Journal News / Religion News Service
  • Mirko Petricevic, The (Kitchener, Ontario) Record
  • Jessica Ravitz, The Salt Lake Tribune
  • Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune
  • David Yonke, The (Toledo, Ohio) Blade

Radio
Due to a low number of entries, no finalists were named.

Schachern
Due to a low number of entries, no finalists were named.

Supple

  • Michelle Bearden, The Tampa Tribune
  • Manya Brachear, Chicago Tribune
  • Sandi Dolbee, The San Diego Union-Tribune
  • Julian Guthrie, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Barbara Karkabi, Houston Chronicle
  • Matthai Kuruvila, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Lee Lawrence, The Christian Science Monitor
  • Abe Levy, San Antonio Express-News
  • Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe
  • Margaret Ramirez, Chicago Tribune

Television
Due to a low number of entries, no finalists will be named. The winner will be announced Sept. 20, 2008.

Templeton Reporter

  • Michelle Bearden, The Tampa Tribune
  • Jeff Diamant, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger
  • Julia Duin, The Washington Times
  • Eileen Flynn, Austin (Texas) American-Stateman
  • Jennifer Garza, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee
  • Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe
  • Mark Pinsky, Orlando Sentinel
  • Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Omar Sacirbey, Freelancer, for work done at The Boston Globe, Religion News Service, The Christian Science Monitor
  • Robert Sibley, The Ottawa (Ontario) Citizen

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