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2005 RNA Contest Winners

Religion Newswriters Association announces 2005 Award Winners

MIAMI—The Religion Newswriters Association today announced the winners of its 2005 contests for excellence in religion reporting in the secular media, awarding more than $11,000 in prizes at its annual banquet, held at the Wyndham Miami Beach Resort.

Winners in the eight contest categories were selected from among 264 entries and more than 1,300 individual stories judged by panels of current or former reporters and editors.

Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year
The winner of the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year Award, which recognizes excellence in enterprise reporting and versatility on the religion beat, is Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Judges praised Townsend for his "exemplary legwork and keen news judgment [which] combine to produce compelling and highly informative journalism. What stands out is the authoritative tone and relentless focus on hard news, thoroughly and fairly reported. This is journalism that takes on significant conflicts directly, calmly and analytically…This is mature work by an exceptionally talented reporter."

Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News placed second in the Templeton Reporter of the Year contest and Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe took third.

Supple Religion Writer of the Year
The other leading prize for a body of work, the Supple Religion Writer of the Year Award, recognizes a reporter's writing skill and grasp of the range of issues on the beat. This year's winner is Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times. "This entry was produced by a writer with a great voice," the judges said. "It showcases work of both depth and breadth. This writer has command of the material and a sprightliness that, while never out of place, made these stories an enjoyable read. The writer is a gifted storyteller."

Falsani received a cash award of $1,000.

Douglas Todd of The Vancouver Sun in British Columbia placed second in the Supple contest and Michael Paulson of The Boston Globe won third place.

Templeton Religion Story of the Year
While most of the contests are based on a reporter's body of work, one category -the Templeton Religion Story of the Year Award was created two years ago to showcase a single story or series on religion in the print media.

This year the story of the year prize went to a team from the Chicago Tribune for a 12-part series on Islam. The judges said the series "brings news reporting on religion to new heights. With enterprise that astounds, this newspaper's year-long 'special report' is consistently even and well written. It shows remarkable access to Islamic sources here and abroad and portrayed a world religion through the lenses of both scrutiny and sympathy…The series gives balanced attention to both theological and political topics and is filled with historical facts, descriptions of local life and portraits of real people. The newspaper is to be credited for investing considerable resources into what amounts to a public short course in Islam and the West. It is an exemplar for religion reporting and for most readers doubtless provided a deeply informative experience."

For its first-place finish, the Tribune took home a check for $3,500, courtesy of the Templeton Foundation.

Second place in the Templeton Story of the Year Award went to Jane Hoback of The Rocky Mountain News, and Rob Amen of the Valley News Dispatch (Tarentum, Penn.) took third.

Two other contests for top religion writers are designated for reporters at small and mid-sized newspapers and recognize a body of work based on five stories.

Cassels Reporter of the Year - Small Papers
The Cassels Award is given to the religion reporter of the year at newspapers with circulations of 50,000 and below. This year's winner of the $750 first-place prize is Maya Kremen of the Herald News of West Patterson, N.J. Of Kremen's work the judges wrote: "Fascinating character studies are the staple of this entry. The stories display great variety and powerful ledes…We meet two young men who have fallen in different ways and may or may not rise again, and an inner-city missionary with an unusual field. The Episcopal gay bishop controversy and the Palestinian struggle are expertly localized. All the stories end with excellent quotes."

Second place in Cassels was awarded to Marshall Allen of the Pasadena Star-News, and third prize went to Gloria LaBounty of The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, Mass.

Cornell Reporter of the Year - Mid Sized Papers
The Cornell Award is given to the top religion writer at mid-sized newspapers, with circulations between 50,000 and 150,000.

Jennifer Berry Hawes of The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., took home first place and a $750 prize. Cornell judges said her work "stood out in a field of 45 with its incredibly stylish writing. This is a reporter who understands-no, gets-the awesome impact that writing has on a story. The stories are diverse. They're deep. They're informative. They're interesting. This reporter knows her subjects well, and it shows."

Second place in Cornell went to Jean Gordon of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and third place went to Virgina de Leon of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash.

Schachern Religion Sections
The Schachern Awards for best religion pages or sections are given in two categories-newspapers below 100,000 circulation and newspapers above 100,000 circulation. In the small paper category, The Mobile (Ala.) Register took first prize. Judges praised the Register for "creative looks for God in secular places like the movie 'The Polar Express.' Stories in this section also explain Christian basics in a fresh way, as shown in a story comparing the use of the cross and the crucifix."

Rounding out the small category, The Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette took second, and the Deseret Morning News of Salt Lake City took third.

In the larger Schachern category The Houston Chronicle secured first place. "In a fresh way, this section consistently offers its readers a wide variety of religion and ethics stories," the judges said. "Every section was compelling. Clear inviting writing was a hallmark. The wire stories chosen enhanced the section with strong context, not just as filler. Nothing is ho-hum. Readers shouldn't let Saturdays go by in Houston without visiting this section."
The Dallas Morning News won second prize in this category and The Salt Lake Tribune placed third.

Chandler Student
The RNA also recognizes excellence in writing college students with an emphasis on reporting skill and a grasp of religion issues that is fair, balanced and in accordance with journalistic standards. Named the Chandler Award for Student Religion Writer of the Year, the contest was established through the generosity of Russell Chandler, former religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, and his wife ML, through the Chandler Legacy Fund.

The winner of this year's Chandler contest is David Crow of the The Davidsonian, the student newspaper of Davidson College in North Carolina. Crow won for a series of three in-depth articles on an academic-theological controversy swirling around the struggle of a college founded by Presbyterians to redefine its Reform Tradition identity in the 21st century.

Abram Handler of the Columbia Daily Spectator at Columbia University in New York, N.Y., placed second in Chandler, and Maggie Carlson of The Journal of Webster University in St. Louis, Mo, took third.

2005 RNA Contest Winners & Links to Stories
(for work published in 2004)

Cassels Award: Religion Reporter of the Year—Small Newspapers

First Place: Maya Kremen, Herald News (West Patterson, N.J.)

  • Spiritual Journey: A would-be priest works outside the church, and wonders
  • Man on a Mission: Pastor spreads the Word among city's Albanian immigrants
  • A new chapter: Former altar boy heals through helping abuse victims
  • Hamas: Charitable cause or a terror organization? It depends on whom you ask
  • Dealing with the issue of gays head-on: St. Paul's opens conversation to any and all

Second Place: Marshall Allen, Pasadena Star-News (Pasadena, Ca.)

Third Place: Gloria LaBounty, The Sun Chronicle (Attleboro, Mass.)

Chandler Award: Best Student Religion Reporter

First Place: David Crow, The Davidsonian, Davidson College, North Carolina

  • Trustees propose allowing non-Christians on Board
  • Trustees' Newly Endowed Chair Causes Faculty Concern
  • Belk, Smith Resign from Board

Second Place: Abram Handler, Columbia Daily Spectator, Columbia University, New York

Third Place: Maggie Carlson, The Journal of Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.

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

First Place: Jennifer Berry Hawes, The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)

  • As it was in the beginning
  • Churches seek to mirror modern times
  • Gospel in symphony
  • Donnie Woods: Pastor overcomes racial strife to lead faithful
  • A father's long wait ends at last

Second Place: Jean Gordon, The Clarion-Ledger, (Jackson, Miss.)

Third Place: Virgina de Leon, The Spokesman-Review, (Spokane, Wash.)

Lifetime Achievement

Ed Briggs, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Schachern Awards: Best Religion Section or Pages

Small papers

  • First Place: The Mobile Register
  • Second Place: The Kalamazoo Gazette, (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
  • Third Place: The Deseret Morning News, (Salt Lake City)

Large papers

  • First Place: The Houston Chronicle
  • Second Place: The Dallas Morning News
  • Third Place: The Salt Lake Tribune

Supple Religion Writer of the Year

First Place: Cathleen Falsani, Chicago Sun-Times
Search Cathleen Falsani's columns online at the Chicago Sun-Times:

  • News, the God Factor: 'I'm a pretty moral guy'
  • Divorced dad finds calling as priest
  • The Third Great Awakening?
  • Christian comic summit drawn into debate on faith
  • A cantor's 10 days of awe
  • Comedian out to prove Islam, humor do mix
  • Didn't need Gibson's gore to make me a believer

Second Place: Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun, (British Columbia)

Third Place: Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe

Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year Award

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

  • Pedophile priest lives near school
  • After agonizing split, church faction returns to its home
  • When does a vote become a sin?
  • Gregory's term is ending: Bishop will welcome more time with his people
  • History, fears fan flames of distrust

Second Place: Jeffrey Weiss, The Dallas Morning News

Third Place: Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe

Templeton Story of the Year

First Place: Chicago Tribune
Second Place: Jane Hoback, The Rocky Mountain News, (Denver, Colo.)

Third Place: Rob Amen, The Valley News Dispatch, (Tarentum, Penn.)


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