The Explorer, Marana News and other papers in the Tucson Local Media empire brought home 16 awards for investigative reporting, column writing and arts and science coverage in the 2018 Arizona Press Club competition, including top honors in eight categories and a sweep of an arts reporting category.
Tucson Local Media executive editor Jim Nintzel’s long-running Skinny column in Tucson Weekly won honors as the best column in the state, as well as among community papers, for columns that examined Republican Lea Marquez Peterson’s decision to dodge the press during her 2018 congressional campaign, the life of the late Sen. John McCain and an episode involving Pima County Supervisor’s insistence on a police investigation into a memo that went missing from her office.
“Local politics can get pretty dry, but his columns are great entertainment and, oh by the way, informative,” said judge Carolyn Lumsden former opinion editor of the Hartford Courant. “His story about Lea Marquez Peterson avoiding the press was hilarious. It did journalism a service in showing the public that no good comes from hiding from reporters. The John McCain piece could have been just another recitation of the late senator’s accomplishments, but McCain’s complicated, contrary spirit came alive in this truthful tribute. I laughed out loud at the Mailgate saga. I would subscribe to Tucson Weekly just to read Jim Nintzel.”
Tucson Local Media sports reporter Christopher Boan took first place in the community sports beat reporting category for his coverage of high-school sports. “I really enjoy Christopher’s clean, uncluttered style as he captured the essence of the game and doesn’t try to overwrite,” judge Kirk Bohls of the Austin-American Statesman said. “He has a very appealing flair and uses colorful phrasing with descriptive specific detail like a 5-gallon jug of water and ‘fitting coronation.’ He added strong material with the introduction of the coach’s son and his outstanding game. Excellent story.”
Boan also picked up first place in the community sports feature reporting category with a story on 7-on-7 football. Judge Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald said it was a “well-rounded, well-reported look at one of football’s most popular trends.”
Associate editor Jeff Gardner took second place in the community personality profile category for “Burçin’s Galaxy,” a profile of Burcin Mutlu-Pakdil, a UA astrophysicist who has discovered a new type of galaxy. “It’s always impressive when a writer can communicate volumes with an economy of words,” judge Michelle Weber, a senior editor at Longreads, said. “Gardner’s piece on on Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil is short, but he picks the perfect quotes and details to include—it creates a mood and a portrait, and readers are left with a palpable sense of Mutlu-Pakdil’s joy in her vocation.”
Calendar editor Emily Dieckman took first place in community social issues reporting category for “Pride Through the Ages,” a profile of gay and lesbian seniors. Judge Anita Hassan, an investigative reporter at the Las Vegas Review, called the story “an illuminating look into the isolating conditions faced by many senior citizens in the LGBTQ+ community. Dieckman’s story is a thoughtful illustration of an under-covered community within a historically marginalized community.”
Dieckman also took first place in the community arts reporting category and second place statewide with “Dreamscape Dining: Things Get Surreal at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Fall Fundraiser,” which chronicled a surrealistic—and messy—dinner party at MOCA with artist David Henry Nobody Jr. Judge Jim Haag, former features editor at The Virginian-Pilot, said Dieckman “takes us inside the Tucson Museum of Contemporary Art’s weird fundraiser, and it’s a strange and—dare we say it?—surreal evening. And the story’s a hoot. We get a taste of the food, which at times looks red; a glimpse at the attendees’ attire, which is red and every other color under the rainbow; and a bit of the overheard conversation, which not surprisingly includes a reference to Salvador Dali. There’s a bed with four posters covered in peanut butter, and that isn’t the oddest accessory. This is a well-crafted narrative that reveals the oddities of the event without casting judgment. Along the way, you’ll laugh and probably even cringe. And you’ll feel as though you were there.”
Brian Smith, who pens the Tucson Salvage column in Tucson Weekly, took second place in the community arts reporting category with a profile of musician Billy Sedlmayr. “Smith captures the spirit of Billy Sedlmayr, a musician with issues, in this wonderfully written account of his friend,” said Haag. “The tone is conversational, and at times first person, and the details help illuminate the nuances of a life lived well—and hard.”
Smith completed Tucson Weekly’s sweep of the arts reporting category with “Meet the Johnny Appleseed of Magic,” a profile of local magician Emory Williams Jr. Said Haag: “Nice pacing and wordplay grace this portrait of Emory Williams Jr., a magic man who loves to teach his trade to those with fewer mystical abilities.”
Smith also captured first place in the community human interest writing category with a profile of a local salvage yard owner. Judge Anita Hassan, investigative reporter at the Las Vegas Review, said the column was an “excellent profile on a 71-year-old man and his decades old salvage business. Smith used amazing details and great dialogue to tell story. The end result is rich, colorful portrait of Jack Martin and his Jack’s Gov’t Surplus trucks.”
Former associate editor Danyelle Khmara took third place in the community human interest writing category with look at life in Clifton, Arizona. Hassan said it was a “thorough story about a group of new residents transforming an old mining town. Using detailed reporting, Khmara described the rich history of the Arizona town and the colorful characters trying to give it new life.
Khmara also took first and second place in the community investigative reporting category. She won first place for “Death Sentence,” which explored the killing of a small-time thief by his cellmate in the Pima County Jail. “This story of a jailhouse murder delivers a form of justice by humanizing both the victim and the killer through painful, intimate details about their lives and those of their family members,” said Judge Beth Reinhard, a reporter on the investigative team at The Washington Post. Khmara took second-place honors for “Collateral Damage,” which Reinhard called a “non-exploitative and compelling look at sex workers, bolstered by strong data analysis.”
Arts writer Margaret Regan took second and third place in the community arts criticism category for “Desert Corridors,” a show about pathways through the desert at Tohono Chul Park, and “Back to the Source” a review of work by Alfred Quiroz at Davis Dominguez Gallery.