New Mexico print reporters were honored nationally for serving in their role as watchdogs by writing about state government, state and local law enforcement and providing a convenient way to track political contributions.
While total NMPW submissions were fewer than other states, members swept the top four categories in the writing division of the 2017 National Federation of Press Women Communications Contest, earning first place awards in News Story, Continuing Coverage or Unfolding News, Investigative Reporting and Enterprising Reporting.
Online news entities with a small staff and a freelance writer accomplished this, revealing a streak of New Mexico independence and tenacity. “I’m thankful your organization still devotes the time and resources to doing stories like this,” wrote one judge, of New Mexico In Depth, but the judge could have been speaking about any of the winners who were smaller or independent entities. “It is the ‘watchdog’ role to a T, and one that very few media organizations now have the resources or desire to carry out.”
Members received 23 awards overall, including 11 first-place recognitions. Winners were announced in September at the NFPW Communications Conference in Birmingham, Ala.
The governor’s communication staff was the subject of an article written by freelancer Peter St. Cyr, who is director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and an NMPW board member. “Silence is Deafening: Martinez administration dodges interview requests with an army of spokespeople who do not speak” won first place in News Story – Print-based. The article was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican, and as the title suggests, St. Cyr reported on the lack of information and stonewalling by the governor’s communication directors and public information officers statewide.
The state Human Services Department and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, were the subject of a statewide scandal last year. Joey Peters, senior reporter with NM Political Report, began his coverage when employees testified in federal court that their supervisors had asked them to inflate the assets of SNAP applicants to deny them emergency assistance. The scandal led to federal oversight of the department. Peters received a first-place in Continuing Coverage or Unfolding News.
Two articles and a website submitted by New Mexico In Depth Executive Director Trip Jennings won first place awards for Investigative Reporting, Enterprising Reporting and Web site edited or managed by entrant – Nonprofit, government or educational.
“Puff of Smoke,” written by Jeff Proctor and published in collaboration with the Santa Fe Reporter, received a first place for Investigative Reporting. The articles’ big reveal was how investigative grand juries, used by Santa Fe district attorneys to review police shooting cases, are actually used to proove justifiable homicide by a public officer, rather than consider if there’s enough evidence for an indictment as a traditional grand jury would do. The fatal shooting of Jeanette Anaya by State Police Officer Oliver Wilson led to the investigation.
Another fatal shooting, this time of Albuquerque police officer Daniel Webster allegedly by convicted felon Davon Lymon was the subject of a series of articles by Jeff Proctor, including “Davon Lymon: 15 years on law enforcement’s radar,” which received a first place Enterprise Reporting award. The case became politicized, but Proctor learned that Lymon was not arrested after he allegedly sold heroin and firearms to undercover federal agents weeks before the shooting. It also revealed a lack of communication between local and federal law enforcement agencies.
The Openness Project, a joint effort between New Mexico in Depth and DataMade, a Chicago-based civic technology company, is a website that tracks political contributions made to New Mexico politicians running for public office. It received a first place in the Web and Social Media division, Website edited or managed by entrant category for nonprofit, government or educational. “I was a political consultant for 20 years and would have loved to have access to a site like this,” wrote a judge. “I want to applaud you for tackling this subject matter and getting a site up that can benefit many!”
Another first-place sweep by NMPW members took place in the Books and Creative Writing division. Five authors received top honors for their books in the nonfiction books for adult readers: biography or autobiography and history categories, Children’s books: fiction and nonfiction categories, and Short Stories: single story category.
“The War Within: the story of Josef is Patricia Walkow’s self-published account of her in-laws experiences in World War II Germany. Walkow is an award-winning author who lives in Corrales and specializes in essay, memoir and historical fiction.
At nearly 1,000 pages, Don Bullis’ “New Mexico Historical Encyclopedia,” describes 700 historical incidents. “Pick up this massive volume to virtually any place, and be treated to an enjoyable yarn of the old West,” commented the judge. “New Mexico, perhaps more than any other locale, is where the varied players of the American Story met.” Published by Rio Grande Books, Bullis’ encyclopedia is not his first foray into New Mexico and Old West history. He’s a well-known, award-winning author of 10 nonfiction books and two novels.
“Grandpa Lolo’s Matanza,” written by Nasario Garcia and illustrated by Dolores Aragon, is a children’s picture book that tells the story of the New Mexico tradition of matanza, roasting a whole pig to feed the entire village, through the eyes of eight-year-old Junie López. Also published by Rio Grande Press, an imprint of LPD Press, a New Mexico publisher, Mantanza is Garcia’s second award-winning book with Aragon.
“Sea Shoes,” written by Vickie Mayhew, is her second children’s picture book, published by Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency, LLC. A father and son are walking along the beach when the boy’s removed shoes are swept into the ocean where they have an amazing adventure.
“Slightly Imperfect” is Teresa Civello’s coming-of-age story, originally published in Oasis Journal, about her 13-year-old self in the weeks before her 8th grade graduation.
Also in the writing division, Bud Russo received a first-place award for Specialty Articles: History for his features published in Southwest Senior, “Beale’s camels could have changed the way the West was won” and “Sighting of ‘smoke’ led Jim White to Carlsbad Caverns.”
Nineteen NMPW members earned an additional twenty-three awards—11 second places, seven third places, and five honorable mentions.
New Mexico Press Women is the state affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women. It provides professional development, networking and First Amendment right protection to professional journalists and communicators.
Entries published in 2017 are now being accepted for the 2018 Communications Contest. Membership is open to women and men and is not required to enter the contest. For more information on the association and contest please visit the website at: www.NewMexicoPressWomen.org.
By Jessica Savage