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2009 RNA Contest Winners

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Sept. 12, 2009
Religion Newswriters Association names 2009 contest winners

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.—The Religion Newswriters Association today announced the winners of its 2009 contests for excellence in religion reporting in the mainstream media. The organization awarded more than $6,000 in eight award categories at its annual banquet, held Sept. 12 at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center.

Winners were selected from among 201 entries. Judges included current or former reporters, journalists and scholars who praised the entries as "top-notch" and "nuanced."

Religion Reporter of the Year

The Religion Reporter of the Year category recognizes excellence in enterprise reporting and versatility in the field of religion. The first-place winner is Moni Basu, formerly of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for a series of stories chronicling a military chaplain's service to his country from Baghdad to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington. Judges said the series "…had credibility and authenticity because the writer, in the best tradition of unblinking reporting, told her readers what she witnessed firsthand." Basu received $1,000. Second and third place winners, who also received cash prizes, are listed below. 

Religion Writer of the Year

The Supple Religion Writer of the Year Award recognizes a reporter's writing skills. Religion Reporter of the Year first-place winner Moni Basu, took first once again for her series, "Chaplain Turner's War." Judges thought her series was "a vivid, touching entry about the many-faceted role of religion in an ungodly circumstance." Basu received another $1,000 prize. Second and third place winners, who also received cash prizes, are listed below. 

Religion Reporter of the YearMid-sized Newspapers

Publications with weekday circulations between 50,001 and 150,000 compete in the Cornell Award. Jeff Brumley of The Florida Times-Union won first place for an extended look at how faith meets modern life. Judges said his stories "…provide authoritative voices for context but also give readers a glimpse of how regular folks fit in. The writing is smooth and easy to read."Brumley won $1,000. Second and third place winners, who also received cash prizes, are listed below. 

Religion Reporter of the YearSmall Newspapers

The Cassels Award recognizes the religion reporter of the year at small publications with weekday circulations of 50,000 or below. This year's first-place winner was Melanie Smith of The Decatur Daily. Judges liked Smith's range of stories and said her reporting produced "beautifully written stories with a good grasp of lived faith." Smith won $1,000. Second and third place winners, who also received cash prizes, are listed below. 

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 "unmatched coverage in 2008 of issues that put The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints in the national spotlight." Judges took particular note of the section's presentation, saying it was "a diverse and well-designed weekly faith section and a lively mix of religion news, multimedia and interactive features online." The Tribune receiveda citation. Second and third place winners, who also received citations, are listed below.

Best Student Religion Reporter

The Chandler Award is given 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, ML. This year's first-place winner was Adeniyi Amadou from Syracuse University. Judges said Amadou takes "the reader on a journey into worlds still seldom penetrated in the daily news — the lives of Muslims in America, their everyday hopes and anxieties." Amadou won $600. Second and third place winners, who also received cash prizes, are listed below. 

Best Television Religion Reporting

Honoring excellence in religion reporting in general audience news television, this year's award went to Kim Lawton of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly for a story that asked the question, "What would Martin Luther King, Jr. be like as a minister, if he were alive today?" The judges said, "Good writing and production values made this story the clear winner." Lawton received a citationfor her work. Second and third place winners, who also received citations, are listed below.

Best Radio Religion Reporting

Awarded for excellence in religion reporting general audience news radio, this year's award went to Stephanie Martin of KQED Radio in Northern California. "Glimpses of faith combined with justice being called into action made the story relevant," judges wrote. "The different people interviewed made the story flow well… It even raised the question: Is religion doctrine or revelation?" Martin received a citation. Second and third place winners, who also received citations, are listed below.


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2009 RNA Contest Winners

Links made available when possible.


Cassels Award: Religion Reporter of the Year — Small Newspapers


First Place: Melanie B. Smith, The Decatur Daily

Second Place: Melissa Nann Burke, York Daily Record/Sunday News

Third Place: Adriana Janovich, Yakima Herald-Republic

Chandler Award: Best Student Religion Reporter

First Place: Adeniyi Amadou, Syracuse University

Second Place: Sarah Pulliam, Wheaton College (for work done at an internship at The Columbus Dispatch)

Third Place: Tiffany Stanley, Harvard University

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

First Place: Jeff Brumley, Florida Times-Union

Second Place: Bob Smietana, The Tennessean

  • (not available)

Third Place: Julia Duin, The Washington Times

Lifetime Achievement

Recipient: Gayle White, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (retired)

Radio Religion Reporting

First Place: Stephanie Martin, KQED Radio (San Francisco)

Second Place: Monica Brady-Myerov, WBUR-FM (Boston)

Third Place: Jessica Alpert, National Public Radio (Day to Day)

Religion Reporter of the Year Award

First Place: Moni Basu, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Second Place: Julia Duin, The Washington Times

    Series: the "new sanctuary" movement:

Third Place: Eric Gorski, The Associated Press

Schachern Award: Best Religion Section or Pages

First Place: The Salt Lake Tribune

Second Place: The Houston Chronicle

Third Place: The Post and Courier (Charleston)

Supple Religion Writer of the Year

First Place: Moni Basu, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Second Place: Michelle Bearden, The Tampa Tribune

Third Place: Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Television Reporting

First Place: Kim Lawton, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

Second Place: Judy Valente, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

Third Place: Kimberly Holmes, WBOC-TV (Salisbury, Md.)


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2009 RNA Contest Finalists

Congratulations to the following finalists in the 2009 RNA Annual Contests for Religion Reporting Excellence!

Listed in alphabetical order. For work published/broadcast in 2008.

Cassels

  • Brett Buckner, The Anniston (Ala.) Star
  • Melissa Nann Burke, York (Pa.) Daily Record
  • Ron Cassie, Frederick (Md.) News-Post
  • Sachi Fujimori, The Herald News (West Patterson, N.J.)
  • Adriana Janovich, Yakima (Wash.) Herald-Republic
  • Linda Andrade Rodrigues, The Standard-Times (New Bedford, Mass.)
  • Sara Schilling, Tri-City (Wash.) Herald
  • Marleen Shepherd, Southern Illinoisan
  • Melanie B. Smith, The Decatur (Ala.) Daily
  • Amy Flowers Umble, The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)

Chandler

There were two ties, making a total of 12 finalists. Two students submitted two entries, and both entries placed in the finalist list as indicated below.

  • Adeniyi Amadou, Syracuse University
  • Gabrielle Dunn, Emerson College (Cooper City, Fla.)
  • Casey Feldman, Fordham University (NY, NY)
  • David Grant, Virginia Tech
  • Zahra Hankir, Columbia University
  • Justin Hawthorne, Marshall University (Huntington, W.V.)
  • Sarah Pulliam, Wheaton College, for work done at The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch
  • Sarah Pulliam, Wheaton College, for work done at The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch (second entry)
  • Priscilla Reyna-Ovalle, San Antonio College
  • Tiffany Stanley, Harvard University
  • Tiffany Stanley, Harvard University (second entry)
  • Olivia Wiznitzer, Yeshiva University (NY, NY)

Cornell

  • Jeff Brumley, The Florida Times-Union
  • John Chadwick, The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)
  • Julia Duin, The Washington Times
  • Jennifer Green, Ottawa Citizen
  • Charles Honey, The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press
  • Dana Massing, Erie (Pa.) Times-News
  • Lindsay Melvin, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal
  • Adam Parker, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier
  • Mirko Petricevic, Waterloo Region Record (Kitchener, Ontario)
  • Bob Smietana, The Tennessean Radio

Radio

  • Jessica Alpert, NPR, Day to Day
  • Monica Brady-Myerov, WBUR Boston
  • Nancy Griffin, KYW-AM Philadelphia
  • Stephanie Martin, KQED San Francisco
  • Monique Parsons, NPR, Day to Day

Religion Reporter of the Year

  • Moni Basu, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • David Briggs, for work done at The Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • Sandi Dolbee, for work done at The San Diego Union-Tribune
  • Julia Duin, The Washington Times
  • Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
  • Eric Gorski, The Associated Press
  • Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La.)
  • Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe
  • Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Steven Vegh, The Virginian-Pilot

Schachern

  • The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch
  • HoustonBelief.com (The Houston Chronicle)
  • The Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register
  • The Post & Courier (Charleston, S.C.)
  • The Salt Lake Tribune

Supple

  • Moni Basu, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • Michelle Bearden, The Tampa Tribune
  • Jeff Diamant, The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.)
  • Jennifer Green, Ottawa Citizen (Canada)
  • Robert King, The Indianapolis Star
  • G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Religion News Service
  • Bruce Nolan, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
  • Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe
  • Gary Stern, The Journal News (White Plains, N.Y.)
  • Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Television

  • Kimberly Holmes, WBOC–TV News 21, "Prayer: The Heart and Soul of Religion"
  • Kim Lawton, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, "Continuing King's Legacy"
  • Kim Lawton, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, "Dr. Ben Carson"
  • Fred de Sam Lazaro, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, "Indiana Doctor in Kenya"
  • Judy Valente, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, "U.S. Hispanic Catholics"

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