The Colorado Sun won more than two dozen awards in the four-state Top of the Rockies journalism contest this weekend, receiving more recognition than any other Colorado news organization in its category.
The Sun, competing in the “extra-large newsroom” category despite being less than half the size of many of its peers, earned 28 awards overall, including nine first-place honors in the contest sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists.
Colorado Public Radio received 11 awards overall in the same category, as did the combined Colorado Springs Gazette and Denver Gazette.
Seventy-five media outlets plus a dozen freelance journalists from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico entered this year’s contest, submitting 1,507 entries, the SPJ said.
The organization also recognized Sun Editor Larry Ryckman as Colorado journalist of the year. Ryckman spearheaded the launch of The Sun in 2018 and has overseen its expansion from the original 10 journalists to a staff of 25. Additionally, the SPJ noted that he negotiated The Sun’s acquisition, with backing from the National Trust for Local News, of the more than 20 local metro publications that comprise Colorado Community Media.
The Sun stories and journalists honored by the journalism organization were:
- Extended coverage, Jennifer Brown, for her important coverage of homelessness. Among her stories: 10 moves in 4 months: Following one homeless couple’s endless migration around Denver.
- Running Out of Options, a joint investigation of Colorado residential treatment centers by The Sun’s Jennifer Brown and 9News’ Jeremy Jojola. The judges said: “The series, which helped spur new state policies and legislative proposals, is the kind of compelling and significant work that journalists anywhere could aspire to.”
- Beat reporting, by health and climate reporter Michael Booth. The judges said: “The reporter has a mastery of his environmental beat that few other journalists show. His stories mix hard data and insightful reporting with the human stories that make the issues he covers so compelling.”
- Zillow spent big in Colorado’s Front Range this summer, months before collapse of home-flipping business, by Jason Blevins, for business enterprise reporting.
- Politics-News, by Thy Vo and Sandra Fish for their work on redistricting. Among their stories: Despite Colorado’s new redistricting process being independent, there was still plenty of political influence. The judges said: “Comprehensive look at a difficult-to-explain topic. Good use of interactive content to add depth.”
- Is Colorado home to an ancient astronomical observatory? The question is testing archaeological limits, science and technology feature by David Gilbert. The judges said: “The winner incorporated a comprehensive breadth of history and enough lively quotes to keep this longer piece from getting bogged down.”
- Opponents refuse to play on Branson’s hardscrabble football field. Now the town needs a(nother) miracle, sports news by Kevin Simpson.
- News column, Mike Littwin. The judges said: “Sharp, witty writing that keeps the reader engaged, regardless of topic.”
- Editorial cartoons, Drew Litton. The judges said: “Litton’s cartoons are innovative in their approach and clear in their meaning. They offer a good combination of humor and seriousness.”
- A Colorado town nearly ran out of drinking water. Experts say it’s a window into the future, agriculture and environment news by Shannon Najmabadi.
- The Marshall fire, breaking news story by Jesse Paul, Thy Vo, Olivia Prentzel, David Gilbert, Shannon Najmabadi, Jennifer Brown and Danika Worthington.
- One of Colorado’s poorest school districts gave its superintendent a 17% raise after losing $1M-plus in state funding, education news by Erica Breunlin.
- “What’d I Miss?” editorial cartoons by R. Alan Brooks, Cori Redford.
- Three family members tried to avoid coronavirus in their Colorado home. It found and killed them all anyway, features-short form by Jesse Paul.
- 10 Moves in 4 Months: Following one homeless couple’s endless migration around Denver, information graphic by Eric Lubbers and Jennifer Brown.
- Colorado has half a billion dollars to fix its mental health system. But it won’t work without workers, mental health news by Jennifer Brown.
- The behind-the-scenes story of being Gov. Jared Polis during Colorado’s coronavirus crisis, politics feature by Jesse Paul.
- No, there’s no evidence ivermectin can cure COVID. But can it fight West Nile virus in Colorado?, science and technology feature by John Ingold.
- How Colorado Ballet reimagined costumes for the “Nutcracker” — and saved pandemic-struck designers and makers, A&E news or feature by Mark Jaffe.
- Climate change isn’t coming in the future, it’s already here. This is how it’s impacting your everyday life, climate reporting by Michael Booth.
- Tragedy often begets more tragedy. Denver’s coroner wants to break the cycle by offering families help, health news by John Ingold.
- Racial discrimination still exists in jury selection. Colorado’s Supreme Court rejected a proposal meant to fix that, legal feature by Thy Vo.
- Snowboarders facing criminal charges for avalanche above I-70 lose a critical battle in court, legal news by Jason Blevins.
- Monarch Pass could serve as a new model for wildfire mitigation in treacherous areas, multimedia story by Jason Blevins.
- News column, Diane Carman.
- The ACLU has become a powerful player at the Colorado Capitol. But at what cost?, politics-news by Jesse Paul and Allison Sherry, CPR News.
- “We can’t broadcast through a mountain”: Digital dead zones getting in the way of Colorado’s first responders, science and technology news by Shannon Najmabadi.
- Armed guards helped evict residents from an East Colfax motel in violation of tenant laws, suit claims, social justice reporting by Tatiana Flowers.