Press "Enter" to skip to content

Here are the winners in the NHPA 2023 Distinguished Journalism Contest, including judges’ comments

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The New Hampshire Press Association recognized outstanding achievements by its members in 2023 at the annual NHPA Excellence in Journalism Awards Banquet, held June 20, at the Institute of Politics, Saint Anselm College.

The event opened with a tribute to long-time Concord Monitor Editor Mike Pride, whose family was present to receive the Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award in his honor.

The Dennis Joos Memorial Award, given to a journalist who put his own safety at risk for the profession and freedom of information, went to James Rinker of the Keene Sentinel, who has been taking his community on his journey with gender-affirming care.

The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2024 was Shawne K. Wickham, who has told the stories of our state and its people in the pages of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News for the past four decades.

Here is the complete list of winners and judges’ comments.

CLASS 1 (large news organizations)

General news story
1st place

Steven Porter, Boston Globe

Fearful restaurant owner sues Franklin, N.H., alleging conspiracy of retaliation
Such an interesting piece to read. It made me want to see the follow up on the case. Excellent storytelling!

2nd place

Michael Cousineau, New Hampshire Union Leader

7 faces of community college; Male teachers

Story was captivating. Excellent way to craft a narrative to explain a problem. Hope the district gets more male teachers. Great job.

3rd place

Shawne K. Wickham, New Hampshire Union Leader

Medicare fraud hits home in NH

Great use of stats and sources to explain the complex world of Medicare. The entire package was well done.

Spot news coverage

1st place
Boston Globe New Hampshire staff
Security officer dead after shooting at New Hampshire psychiatric hospital; suspect also killed
Superb team coverage of the shooting of a security officer – and former Franklin police chief – outside the state-run psychiatric facility in Concord. Impressive collection of early shooting details from authorities, dispatch recordings, first-hand reporting from the scene, and background of shooter and victim.

2nd place
Ian Lenahan, Portsmouth Herald
Portsmouth pushes back on overnight wave of hateful graffiti targeting Temple, businesses

Excellent one-person deadline reporting on a rash of hate-filled graffiti that targeted a temple and more than a dozen Portsmouth business, many supportive of or with ties to the minority community. Bonus points for tracking down and interviewing many of the victims for this first-day story.

3rd place

Staff, Conway Daily Sun
“December Floods”
Comprehensive empty-the-newsroom coverage of a major rainstorm and flooding in the Conway region that necessitated helicopter rescues, the opening of emergency shelters, and more. Good mix of damage assessments, weather data, the storm’s predicted long-range impact, and color.

Investigative story or series

1st place

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan, Concord Monitor

Concord Casino investigation

2nd place

Catherine McLaughlin, Laconia Daily Sun

Laconia School District superintendent investigation

3rd place

Steven Porter, Boston Globe
Investigation into conduct of Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave

Crime/Court reporting

1st place

Jamie Costa, Concord Monitor

Years of fallout from teacher sexual assault
Writer uses a sentencing hearing as a springboard into a broad examination of a former Concord teacher charged with raping students.

2nd place

Daymond Steer, Conway Daily Sun
“Suspect Charged in 2016 Murder”

Reader curiosity on this cold case was high, and Steer covers a lot of ground.

3rd place

Jonathan Phelps, New Hampshire Union Leader

Court records show killer had violent past
Good use of court records to reveal all the warning signs so often tragically missed in cases like this, in which a man commits suicide after fatally shooting his girlfriend and daughter.

Health reporting

1st place

Shawne K. Wickham, New Hampshire Union Leader
Poison center: More children are getting sick from cannabis edibles

Exceptional piece of data journalism and ability to relate information to real-world situations

2nd place

Jonathan Phelps, New Hampshire Union Leader

County launches its own EMS service, gets pushback from Keene firefighters

Great storytelling and use of facts.

3rd place

Olivia Belanger, Keene Sentinel

Everyone dies. End-of-life doulas can help us process it
Interesting article about little-covered subject. Raised many poignant questions for readers.

Environmental reporting

1st place

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan, Concord Monitor

Landfill Landscape

An ambitious and informative look at New Hampshire’s, a project fueled by audience interest and concern, with robust, thorough journalism delivering a deep accounting of watchdog journalism. On-site examples show how the state struggles to monitor landfills, and how waste management companies lobby for their interests. This project marks a virtuous circle of newsroom-audience interaction from which all are better informed, and better prepared to address issues in this important environmental realm.

2nd place

Shawne K. Wickham, New Hampshire Union Leader

Impacts of climate change in NH – series

This three-part series brings the reader up to speed on shifting awareness of climate change in New Hampshire, attempts to address climate change impacts, as well as a deeper understanding of exactly the nature of those threats. As such, it’s a thoughtful service for the Union-Leader’s audience, informing those new to the issue, while engaging others deeply involved in addressing it. This kind of explanatory journalism is all the more important in an information era where so much is splintered and misunderstood.

3rd place

Amanda Gokee, Boston Globe
How a rail trail sparked a fight pitting outdoor recreation against rare species

A well-crafted feature story that deftly explores a central conflict of our times: to provide more amenities that help us work our way out of our carbon conundrum, in this case in the form of a rail trail; or to protect some of the species already so threatened by our encroachment. The story brings key voices from both sides to provide the reader with a case study in the kinds of environmental compromises we will increasingly need to weigh.

Feature writing

1st place

Michaela Towfighi and Jamie Costa, Concord Monitor

Portraits in Diversity

Every Monitor reader should be proud of their newspaper and its staff for developing such an inspiring and exceptionally scripted series of features. Along with a good application of info-graphics and photography – each captures the unique essence of their subject, enough necessary backstory to flesh out why they arrived in America (and in New Hampshire), and why they now feel part of the communities they call their new home. This is what award-winning feature writing is all about.

2nd place

Amanda Gokee, Boston Globe

A battle over LGBTQ+ art in public spaces brews in Littleton, N.H.

While at times hard to read – even angering, the professionalism of the writer and editors in striking close to a 50/50 balance between interests portrayed displays the kind of world-class journalism that is a hallmark of The Globe. This was an important story to tell – kudos to the writer for pursuing and portraying both sides of a troubling issue so expertly.

2nd place
Catherine McLaughlin, Laconia Daily Sun

Making history: LHS senior compiling the Sachem story for the first time

It’s not only important for communities and institutions in them to share their story arch – but to recognize a story about someone so enthusiastically immersing herself into memorializing that history is just plain good journalism that produced a great feature.

3rd place

Roberta Baker, New Hampshire Union Leader
Grass Menagerie

Not just a slam-dunk feature about intriguing collections of stuff for sale, but an even more engaging piece about the people who come to sell and buy it. Beautiful work capturing both the personalities of the subjects and the atmosphere of the market itself.

Business reporting

1st place

Sruthi Gopalakrishnan, Concord Monitor
Allegations of fraud at Concord Casino

Very well-reported, thorough and well-structured and written. Presented an issue and answered all of my questions.

2nd place
Amanda Gokee, Boston Globe
Making maple syrup and fostering community in N.H.’s North Country

Piqued my interest, held it, and told me something about the owner and the community.

3rd place

Michael Cousineau, New Hampshire Union Leader

Sports betting; Migration
Nice package shows breadth, and stories are well reported.

Government reporting

1st place

Michael Towfighi, Concord Monitor
Juvenile Justice in NH
The runaway winner in this category. A master class in how to dissect one of the biggest issues facing the state in a series of articles rich with personal experiences and light on talking heads. With the controversy surrounding abuse at the Sununu center, this 4-part series was well-timed and highly illuminating.

2nd place

Daymond Steer, Conway Daily Sun
“Leavitt’s Bakery Illegal Sign Saga”
The battle between a local bakery and the town of Conway over signage is well-documented over several months by a reporter determined not to get beat on a statewide story breaking in his backyard.

3rd place

Paul Feely, New Hampshire Union Leader
Manchester sewer project ‘A horrible experience’
Lots of interviews with people affected by the project, some colorful anecdotes and all the details readers need to know in an easy-to-read package.

Arts & Entertainment

1st place
Margaret McKenzie, Conway Daily Sun

“After Golden Pond”

This well written and reported story about Ernest Thompson made me want to rewatch “On Golden Pond” and read his new book. The story had everything I needed — Thompson’s early work as a playwright, his connections to New Hampshire, his work with big-name Hollywood stars, and his current day creative efforts.

2nd place

Julia Ann Weekes, New Hampshire Union Leader
Cow cuddling

This incredibly fun story had so much life! I felt I like was tagging along with the writer, and appreciated all the details and quotes. I especially liked the explanation of what the cow’s tongue felt like, and how the couple got into the business.

3rd place
Ian Lenahan, Portsmouth Herald
Portsmouth’s 400th anniversary parade
Parade stories can be routine, but the reporter and photojournalist provided detailed reporting in an engaging way. This was a well-done digital package, with good historical background I’m sure the community appreciated.

Political reporting

1st place
Paul Feely, New Hampshire Union Leader
Mayoral ‘walk-n-talk’ profile interviews

2nd place
Steven Porter, Boston Globe

Contest emerges in N.H. for ‘most important office you’ve never heard of’

3rd place

Steven Porter, Boston Globe
The race to replace Gov. Sununu begins

Columnist of the Year

1st place

Kevin Landrigan, New Hampshire Union Leader

State House Dome

Political journalists who are authorities on their beats gather far more details than they could ever report. The best among them find a way to tell readers still more through newsy columns that crackle with insights.

Kevin Landrigan’s columns are a master lesson in New Hampshire politics – smart, revealing and ever watchful of how every detail fits into the big picture.

Note how Landrigan exposes state Rep. Sandra Panek when her public statements imply she is shifting allegiance from Ron DeSantis to Donald Trump because DeSantis bungled his announced candidacy for president on Twitter.

“The truth is the switch had nothing to do with the hiccup on Twitter,” Landrigan writes. “Four days earlier, Panek signaled on the same social media platform that she was abandoning DeSantis.”

And while the world knows well that New Hampshire treasures holding the first presidential primary, Landrigan points out an advantage most might miss. Candidates require no political contribution before giving access.

“When it comes to presidential primary politics, New Hampshire residents do not pay to play,” Landrigan writes. “Never have. Never will.”

What Landrigan does is hard, important work. New Hampshire is fortunate to have someone who does it so well.

2nd place

Quddus Snyder, Conway Daily Sun
“Whatever we say about peace, maybe subconsciously, we really want war. We love violent television, cage fights, machine guns and politicians who carry brass knuckles. It is uncomfortable to think about, but the record shows that ordinary people derive pleasure from the pain inflicted on another. Will we stop lying to ourselves?”

Eaton, population 420, now needs a town manager? Give me the job!

“I’d have to hire a minimum-wage lackey to keep careful notes on a yellow legal pad, and also zip down to the store and get me a muffin as needed. An entire universe of unanticipated challenges would arise, and so I’d delegate new responsibilities to new employees, some of whom I’d fire to keep the rest honest.”

Don’t like the choices some make in life? Hey, it’s my neck. Move on.

“At one time or another, we’ve all been deserving of the Darwin Award, and when it comes to surviving a harsh Maine winter, well, sometimes a man’s gotta drive under a tree, when a man’s got places to be.”

Contrarians challenge us to rethink our default positions. Snyder does this, smiling all the way.

3rd place

Jonathan Phelps, New Hampshire Union Leader
Who doesn’t want to know about new businesses opening? Plus, Phelps has fun with it, serving up lively prose and quotes. No doubt, this is a reader favorite.

“The vibe of Elm Street in Manchester continues to get more hip with the opening of Stash Box, a restaurant and cocktail bar, and the reopening of a former speakeasy. “

What’s a Stash Box? Google it for yourself, Phelps says. I’m sure many did!

Rookie of the Year

Christopher Cartwright, Keene Sentinel

Dogged reporting and clear writing shine through this mix of stories – breaking news, investigative and feature – demonstrating a versatility not always found in rookie reporters. Christopher exhibits a good nose for tracking down public documents, using the state’s open-records law as needed. His story about a Vermont woman lamenting the nearly three-month lapse before being notified by police about her brother’s death is particularly memorable.

Sports writing

1st place

Shawne K. Wickham, New Hampshire Union Leader
Unified sports, unified schools

Well-told, heartwarming story about the impact Unified sports can have on a school and the athletes and partners and families who participate.

In a paragraph that sums up the Unified experience, I about burst when I read: “As a coach, Erdody said he tries to make sure everyone scores — on both teams. If that means one of Milford’s partners makes a bad pass in a key moment, it’s a feature, not a bug.”

This story was propelled and enriched by a variety of perspectives: from administrators, players, partners, coaches, families and students in the stands.

2nd place

Tris Wykes, Valley News
Sometimes we need sports to buy time, restore sanity, and be a life raft. This story, about a young athlete who makes rowing do those things for her, is well written and well-sourced. The fact that the writer doesn’t try to file down the story’s rough edges only makes it stronger and adds to the authenticity by making the contrasts sharper.

No third

Sports photo

1st place
Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor

Crash course

First base collision and flying hat a peak action image.

2nd place

Rachel Sharples, Conway Daily Sun

Playoff Backflip
Backflip and reaction of teammates is a good catch by photog

3rd place

Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor
Home Run Celebration

Good faces and reaction enhanced by outfield angle of view

General news photo

1st place

David Lane, New Hampshire Union Leader
Many Happy Returns
A sweet moment captured brilliantly by the photographer by being in the right place at the right time and anticipating the action. Composing the photograph with the American flag in the background really enhances the image.

2nd place
Rachel Sharples, Conway Daily Sun
Boat Parade

The blue hour light contrasted by the warm light in the canoe really helps ellivate this image. Nice layering but a more level horizon would enhance this photograph.

3rd place

Deb Cram, Foster’s Daily Democrat
Comforted in court

A tender moment and having the hand of shoulder helps add emotion to a difficult assignment.

Spot news photo

1st place

Rachel Sharples, Conway Daily Sun

River Rescue

Interesting image with a touch of tension and drama.

2nd place
Deb Cram, Portsmouth Herald

Fire destroys home

Nicely framed firefighter

3rd place

David Lane, New Hampshire Union Leader
Whalloped by a wall of water

Readable flood photo captures the moment.

Feature photo

1st place

Mark Bolton, New Hampshire Union Leader

Chalk it up to fans having fun

An action-packed, dynamic and exciting image. The expressions among the fans are excellent and tell the story. Composition is on point. Well done

2nd place

Deb Cram, Portsmouth Herald
Wreaths Across America
Beautiful, dramatic light on the subject of the photo and the American flag accentuate this image and elevate it from what could have been a more static moment with flat light.

3rd place

Alex Driehaus, Valley News

Frost Damage

There is an austerity and melancholy in this photo and its use of empty space to convey the story. The subject’s expression and downcast posture clearly communicate the disappointment so widely felt of a poor season.

Photo essay

1st place

Deb Cram, Portsmouth Herald
A home at last

Homeless couple show optimistic outcome to an otherwise desperate situation.

2nd place

Alex Driehaus, Valley News

Abdullah

intimate images of an man adjusting to a new life in America.

3rd place

Alex Driehaus, Valley News

Search and Rescue

Unsung heroes in the making.

Best Design

1st place

Tom Lynch, New Hampshire Union Leader

New Hampshire and Golf

Informative, well designed and attractive.

Best Use of Audio or Podcast

1st place

Eric Rynston-Lobel, Dan Attorri, Concord Monitor

Monitor Sports Podcast

Terrific local sports podcast, especially at a time when sports coverage in newspapers — especially in N.H. — is dwindling. Covered a wide range of topics and kept it interesting and informative.

Best Use of Video

1st place

Alec Kerr, Conway Daily Sun

“Tranifer Lovely Interview”

2nd place

Alec Kerr, Conway Daily Sun

Justin Chaffee Interview

3rd place

Alec Kerr, Conway Daily Sun

Barnstormers Interview

Best Use of Social Media

1st place

Sadie Layher, Boston Globe
Boston Globe New Hampshire on social media

The breadth of channels utilized in reaching readers demonstrates the full court press needed to extend a story’s reach to a wider audience or promote the overall

mission of the news organization.

2nd place

Rachel Sharples, Conway Daily Sun

Flooding Highlights

This Insta story demonstrates how social media lends itself well to local disaster coverage, which requires constant coverage of evolving news. This entry reflects outstanding use of social media to assist in reporting a story.

No third

CLASS 2 (small news organizations)

Spot News Story

1st place
Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin

In sweeping order, court holds NH school funding model is unconstitutionally low

This story has it all – the breaking news, reaction, all-important background, context, a look at what’s next — after two groundbreaking rulings by a Rockingham County Superior Court judge that found the state’s method of funding public education to be inadequate and unconstitutional. The use of the word “sweeping” in the online headline could very well apply to this story. Clear winner in this class and category.

2nd place

Tony Schinella, Concord Patch

Shooting Reported At New Hampshire State Hospital

When it comes to spot news, this coverage checks all the boxes — first reported on Patch (15 minutes after the shooting took place), features photos and video. and a quick follo revealing the suspect was a past patient at the state hospital.

3rd place

Tony Schinella, Concord Patch

Gun Threat Incident Reported At Concord Heights Burger King: Watch

This is what audiences expect on breaking news these days — video and pictures from the scene and posts updated repeatedly as police and troopers searched for the suspect.

General News Story

1st place

Kelly Burch, Granite State News Collaborative

Competency Based Learning Series

Burch takes a complicated and multi-faceted story and uses a video and a variety of perspectives to clearly explain the state’s changing educational standards and competency-based education.

2nd place

Damien Fisher, Michael Graham
Inside Source / NH Journal
Pro-Palestinian Vandals Attack Israeli-Own Business in Merrimack

In a five-part series, New Hampshire Journal explained the expanded civil rights needs for the state while identifying Elbit Systems of America, the largest defense contractor for Israel. The series covered proposed laws and types of protestors both from inside and outside the state.

3rd place
Scott Merrill, BusinessNH
Hospitality Employers Rely on Foreign Workers to Fill Workforce Gaps
Merrill provides the readers with a thorough understanding of how NH businesses are dealing with housing for seasonal workers through cultural exchange visas with help from US Rep. Annie Kuster.

3rd place
Carol Robidoux, Pat Grossmith, Manchester InkLink

City vs ACLU: Downtown homeless encampment leads to court battle
In five well-written articles, InkLink follows a homeless crisis in Manchester over a week with the court siding with the city that existing shelter is sufficient. ACLU calls the court order “criminalizing the homeless.”

Editorial Writing

1st place
Matt Mowry, BusinessNH magazine
Editor’s Notes

“Do something” is the theme of “New Year, Old Problems,” a well written and creative approach to talking to our legislators by Matt Mowry in BNH. Mowry combines personal and individual experience with NH and national statistics to make his points about the work the legislature needs to do about the state’s problems, especially in education and child care in “Child Care Crisis is Hurting NH.” Mowry identifies an important issue with his piece “Stop Sending our Kids Away” where he makes the point that NH is sending our children out of state for an affordable education. Important topics pointedly covered.

2nd place
Nathan Graziano, Manchester InkLink
Graziano on Politics
In addition to a familiar diatribe against former President Donald Trump in “Bananaland,” Nathan Graziano of Manchester Ink Link gives a local take on the often-criticized event of Trump’s talk at Saint Anselm’s May 2023 following Trump’s conviction in the E. Jean Carroll trial. Titled “Yolk on faces after Saint Anselm Side Show,” Graziano gives a NH perspective that makes a difference in focusing this story for NH readers. In the third entry, Graziano shows a good sense of humor as he relates a funny story. He criticizes those who mock those who drink Bud Lite, and he is one of them in “I’ll have another Bud Lite.”

Investigative story or series

1st place
Paula Tracy, InDepthNH.org
Failed Northern Pass Project Raises New Questions After Eversource Land Giveaway

2nd place

Hadley Barndollar, New Hampshire Bulletin
How Manchester worked to prevent overdoses after large-scale drug trafficking bust

Crime/Court reporting

1st place
Harrison Thorp, Rochester Voice

‘Onlyfans’ stalking case saw young man go from ‘fan’ to ‘fanatic’ Luridly written, but well-told, the story unfolded almost like fiction but was sadly true. Feature kept my attention throughout the whole piece.

2nd place
Maureen Milliken, Manchester InkLink
Logan Clegg murder trial
Liked the description in this piece. Grim story but touchingly told from family’s viewpoint.

3rd place
Damien Fisher, NH Journal

The Sad Saga of Sheriff Mark Grave
Fisher enlivens the most pedestrian court stories with his colorful language: “A middle-aged man buying a sports car while going through a divorce might not be a crime, but Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave could end up in jail after treating himself to a 1968 Porsche.”

Health reporting


1st place
David Solomon, BusinessNH
How NH Learned to Love Medicaid Expansion

Comprehensive, well-written and organized article.

2nd place

Staff, BusinessNH

Health Care Guide

Highly interesting topics with plenty of facts and supported by data. Great read and nice overall presentation.

3rd place
Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin
Medicaid challenges in New Hampshire

Compelling topic and well-told

Environmental reporting

1st place

Hadley Barndollar, New Hampshire Bulletin
A forever chemical you’ve heard little about. Banned since 1979, PCBs are everywhere in NH

This is a compelling deep dive on the continuing threat of PCBs in New Hampshire. The story provides readers with plain-language background on what they are and why the matter, while providing expert commentary and in-the-ground examples of the threat that remains. Wonderful service journalism.

2nd place

Scott Merrill, BusinessNH

NH is Water Rich, But the Cost is Mounting

A thorough, thought-provoking exploration of looming threats to NH’s drinking water supply, from aging pipes to scarce construction crews. The reporter looks statewide, turning to those involved in the industry at many levels, to give readers a solid assessment of what needs to happen now to ensure state resident’s don’t thirst for better water in the future.

3rd place
Dan Houde, Matt Howe, Mt. Washington Valley Vibe

ROAD SALT: How much is too much?
Compelling data and expert explanation of the risks of road salt, and some potential solutions to cutting back in New Hampshire. Another example of a clear-eyed look at an environmental threat at odds with our modern life.

Feature writing

1st place
Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin
Bill to ban gender-affirming surgeries for minors spurs pushback from parents, providers

This is a well-balanced, thoughtfully scripted and compelling feature that every parent, community leader and politician should read. Even lacking first-person input, the writer’s sensitivity is complimented by the humanizing of the subject and analysis of how political winds at the statehouse have real life and death consequences for a growing demographic of young people.

2st place
Dan Houde, Heather Corrigan, Mt. Washington Valley Vibe

The Very Beginning of Après Ski in the Eastern Slopes Region of New Hampshire
A very entertaining and educational piece, even if you are neither a skier or were ever a participant in Après Ski activities. This feature was well researched, employed a great balance of sources, and utilized a wonderful collection of images that put faces to the names of people and locations described in the piece.

3rd place

Maureen Milliken, Manchester InkLink

All shook up: Looking back at Maine’s summer of Elvis
This feature was exemplary in so many ways, not just a mere fan lookback, but a deep dive examination of the cult of personality around Presley, the development and transition of this fledgling venue to near-immediate success, with a good dose of information enlightening readers about the ‘business’ of the concert industry of the day – all rooted in local recollections and reflections.

Business reporting

1st place
Matt Mowry and Staff, BusinessNH

Guide to Startup Success
Tons of information, from actual experts, combined with the individual mini-features makes for a great package.

2nd place

Ethan DeWitt, Hadley Barndollar, New Hampshire Bulletin

Cannabis legalization in New Hampshire

Interesting angle for an issue that’s been well-covered. A different approach done well.

3rd place

Amanda Andrews, New Hampshire Business Review
NH’s in-home care program threatened with ‘collapse’
Raises awareness of an issue, and relies on sources in the middle of the system to tell a good, fairly complete story.

Government reporting

1st place
Hadley Barndollar, NH Bulletin
Private well users were reimbursed by the state for PFAS remediation. Then they were taxed on it.

Excellent story on a program that affected the community. The reporting is strong and explains the problem well. Great job.

2nd place

Harrison Thorp, Rochester Voice
Ethics policy chair violates policy he helped craft

Government stories like this are why journalists are the watchdogs. Great job at relaying to the community how the policy was violated.

3rd place

Tony Schinella, Concord Patch
Concord’s Longest Serving Mayor Won’t Seek Re-Election In November

Good job at chronicling a public official who has done a lot for the community.

Arts and Entertainment

1st place

Beverly Stoddart
Beverly Stoddart Brings Some Class To InDepthNH.org            

These columns are elegantly written and engaging, and do a nice job of connecting local readers with people they should know. I especially loved the lead on the Blake Dempsey column and the Banichar piece.

2nd place

Shepard Bassett, New Boston Beacon
In the Kitchen

These relatable columns hold a nice mix of personal stories and recipe instruction. They make cooking accessible and do a good job of connecting with local readers.

3rd place
Keith Spiro, Manchester InkLink

Art as an authoritative voice in communities
I appreciated these digital packages. The video and links came together well, and the stories were interesting. They were choppy in places, though. The intro and headline could have been more clear on the Sandeep Das story about why local readers would care – you had to look at the cutline to figure out he would be performing with the local symphony.

Political Reporting

1st place
Tony Schinella, Concord Patch
2023 Municipal Election Cycle In Concord NH
Granular coverage of a municipal election over several weeks that is quite rare these days, including detailed campaign spending reports, analysis and detailed reporting on breaking developments and results.

2nd place

Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin
New Hampshire primary: Yard signs out. Social media in. Future? Up for debate.

An insightful and easy to read examination of the forces buffeting the states cherished FITN primary.

3rd place
Damien Fisher, New Hampshire Journal
COVID, Conspiracies, and Cannabis: RFK Jr. Does PorcFest

Colorful reporting in magazine style rich with clever language and details. A really entertaining read.

Columnist of the Year

1st place

Michael Davidow, InDepthNH

This year’s Chanukah column is different.

Some people see a depth and scope in life that others can’t imagine. If we are lucky, those people are gifted writers willing to take us with them. Michael Davidow is one of those writers.

I’ve read a number of pieces in defense of Israel amid the fighting in Gaza. None have some close to matching the passion and reason that Davidow presents in “This year’s Chanukah column is different.”

The column begins with a remarkable summary lede:

“In certain progressive, Democratic quarters, the lines between disliking Benjamin Netanyahu, disagreeing with the past decade of Israeli foreign policy, feeling hostility towards the idea of Israel itself, and hating Judaism have all been blurred, calling into question how solid those lines ever were.”

The column then lunges straight at bastions of progressive thinking, including the New York Times and Ivy League universities. Davidow offers tangible evidence of such institutions failing to come to the defense of Jews. There is no question of where he stands.

“We know what will happen if Hamas remains in power; we know because they have told us. They have promised to keep killing as many Jews as possible, until there are no more Jews left. I see no reason to disbelieve them.

“A ceasefire in Gaza would therefore be optimal – so long as that ceasefire is accompanied by a return of all hostages to Israel without conditions, and by Hamas surrendering all civil control. These terrorists need to leave their tunnels, give their stolen fuel and food to their fellow Gazans, and surrender to justice. When that happens, the fighting should stop.”

He acknowledges that his arguments are unlikely to change minds. Only time will close the chasm, he says. He closes with one more disturbing assessment.

“The Jews make up the only nation in the world that is ordered to be complicit in its own destruction, and deemed even more worthy of death, for failing to agree.”

This is a lament of biblical proportions. The anguish expressed is authentic, palpable. Agree or disagree, you will remember what was said here.

2nd place

Jesseca Timmons, Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

The Greenfield Beat

This columnist knows well the purpose of her beat. She’s there to introduce the audience to interesting locals with fascinating stories. She also knows how to tell a good story, rich with detail.

“Walking into Katrina Rosa’s and Cesar Queiroz’s house in Greenfield, the first thing you notice is plants – trays of green seedlings on every available surface, flowers and herbs hanging in dried bunches from the rafters and a profusion of houseplants crowding the windowsills.”

Readers learn that Jesseca came across this story by circulating in the community and coming across a lovely bouquet of cut flowers. She dug in from there and discovered the struggle that led to that bouquet.

“‘After my mom died, all of a sudden, my hands became still,” Katrina recalled.’ “I needed to have something to do with my hands, and to keep communicating with and caring for my mom in some way, so I started gardening intensively.”

A heartwarming column about the neighbors among us.

3rd place

Dan Szczesny, Manchester InkLink

Transcendental Dad

Many parents hurry through the routines of daily life, unable to appreciate the blessings within. Dan Sczesny invites them to stop and notice what’s extraordinary.

A bitter-sweet date on the calendar. A father/daughter dance. A chance to watch your kids playing in the yard with other kids in the neighborhood.

Sczesny writes that he can spy on his kids from the comfort of a couch.

“It occurred to me during one of these sessions recently – me there with a nice cup of steaming coffee, dog at my feet, half a dozen kids screaming their lungs out in my backyard – that we’ve become that house.

“You know the one I mean. The house where the neighbors are always peeking out their window to try to figure out what’s going on over there and whether to call the police or just close the drapes.”

And yet, what’s so bad about this? They are safe. They are happy.

“And I know where they all are. So today, I’ll take that as a win.”

Rookie of the Year, small news organizations

Ani Freedman, InDepthNH
An impressive collection of articles, all but one exploring the long-running contamination of drinking water with “forever chemicals” by a company in Merrimack. What comes through loud and clear is Ani has invested the time to research her topic, infusing her stories with context and depth that goes far beyond the day-to-day he said/she said on this issue. The same can be said for her story exploring New Hampshire’s place in today’s LGBTQ+ culture wars.

Sports Writing

1st place

Lisa Connell, Berlin Daily Sun

Ski jumpers launch a new generation at Nansen
“Just the right amount of cowbell” is a line that deserves an award by itself.

Outstanding series explored the snowballing effort to jump-start the North Country’s ski-jumping legacy through the famed “Nansen” ski jumps, which had fallen into disrepair.

2nd place

Scott Gaillard, New Boston Beacon

Maine Moose Hunt

The level of detail in this story makes it read more like a thriller than a hike in the woods on the hunt for a moose.

3rd place

Ashley Saari, Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Local racer follows in her father’s tire tracks

Nice story about a 7-year-old who finds a niche in the world of go-cart racing. Nice detail and terrific quotes, including, ““I really started liking it, and it made me braver and braver and braver,” Raelin said.

Sports photo

1st place

Stacy Harrison, Manchester InkLink

Championship Sights and Sounds: Trinity High’s 2023 NHIAA Division III state title

Classic football action

2nd place

Jeffrey Hastings, Frame of Mind Photo

Determination

Kid’s face of determination liked by judges

No third

General news photo

1st place

Jeffrey Hastings, Frame of Mind Photo

A funny picture that grabs your attention. Lot of nice color and it’s great to see so many unobstructed smiling faces. Nice tight composition.

2nd place

Jeffrey Hastings, Frame of Mind Photo

Drag Queeen Storytime Protest

Switching focus to girl in background could have elevated the image but the judges did like the selective depth of field. Nice story telling image.

3rd place

Jeffrey Hastings, Frame of Mind Photo

Homeless Eviction

The high viewpoint adds interest and helps tell the story. The unique angle makes viewers stop and take notice.

Spot news photo

1st place

Jeffrey Hastings, Frame of Mind Photo

Firefighters Battle Tractor-Trailer Fire
Moody fire photo shows photographer recognizing and using light and composition to enhance the image.

2nd place

Jeffrey Hastings, Frame of Mind Photo

Officers Rescue Child From Dangerous Shooter

An informative caption helped elevate the image image and illustrate how tense the moment was.

3rd place

Ashley Saari, Monadnock Ledger Transcript

Happy homecoming

A touching moment but this image should have been in the General News category.

Feature photo

1st place

Andrea Gagnon, New Boston Beacon

Wednesday Walk

The colors of the jackets and the line of students draw viewers into the scene and offer a nice contrast with the snow.

2nd place

Jackie Reed , New Boston Beacon

Keeping it Cool at Camp Coolio
Fun, excited expressions tell the story in this bright, cheery image.

3rd place
Carol Soule, freelance

Cameron and Mr. Devon

This is a nice, peaceful farm image with a cutline that helps viewers understand what they are seeing.

Photo Essay

1st place – one award
John Rondeau, Mt. Washington Valley Vibe

Soaring Spectacle Above White Mountain Waters

Too many of the entries were just a collection of similar and sometimes repetitive images, not what we would classify as Photo Essays but the photo expertise of the eagle photos did deserve recognition.

Best Design

1st place

Dan Houde, Marty Basch, Mr. Washington Valley Vibe

Snow Grooming Under Cover
Clean layout, beautiful photos. Like the main spread a lot. Looks great on the screen. Curious as to how it’s printed.

2nd place

Christine Carignan, BusinessNH

Companies Invest in Change

Nice use of interplay in the silhouettes, nice color. Very attractive design.

3rd place

Nadeane Mannion, Bow Times

Clean with nice color. Like the story count on the front pages

Best use of audio or podcast

1st place
Matthew J. Mowry, Christine Carignan, BusinessNH

BizCast NH Podcast

Great variety of guests, and the hosts seem very comfortable with each other and the format and asked great questions of their guests. Loved the Juston McKinney episode, which was a nice break from the usual business-focused guests.

2nd place
The Laconia Daily Sun, Franklin Pierce University
The Granite Beat
I really enjoyed these in-depth discussions with various journalists from across New Hampshire, from the Boston Globe’s new N.H. reporter to NHPR’s “13th step” podcaster. Learned a lot about the business of covering the state.

3rd place
Citizens Count, Franklin Pierce University, GSNC
$100 Plus Mileage Podcast

Love this deep dive into various forms of legislation in New Hampshire. The hosts are very knowledgeable and keep what could be dry topics from getting too bogged down in boring details. Absolutely love the name of the pod too!

Best use of video

1st place
Michael Graham, Inside Sources/NH Journal
Diner Table Economics

Love the series, love the choice to use such an iconic location. I thought the video editing was strong, and I appreciated the transcript accompanying each video. The host was obviously experienced and did a great job setting each video up and with the questioning. I also enjoyed the interaction with the staff!

2nd place

NH PBS, Franklin Pierce University, GSNC

The State We’re In
The pandemic made Zoom reporting and interviewing a common practice in media, and many stations have continued this even today, with great success. This is a good example of being able to create a show that tackles a number of different pressing issues while being able to bring in guests from across the state. Great work!

3rd place

Jeffrey Hastings, Frame of Mind
Deputy Chief Haggart Retires After Serving Town For Decades

I really appreciated the use of the police scanner audio to tell the story here. Probably the best way to tell a retirement story for a public safety officer.

First Amendment Award

1st place
Harrison Thorp, Rochester Voice
The Rochester Voice v. the City of Rochester: A Right to Know donnybrook

This entry demonstrates laudable leadership and resolve in pressing a news organization’s First Amendment mission. The series of clear and concise editorials recaps and updates readers on developments in a RTK rift between city and press. That the rift goes to the very heart of NH RTK–who is eligible to receive public records–highlights how important the dispute is to the state’s press corps.

2nd place

Damien Fisher, InDepthNH

Series of articles
These entries certainly demonstrate the “dogged digging” of Damien Fisher. This is outstanding journalism utilizing the tools that preserve the values and spirit of the First Amendment.

3rd place

Charles G. Douglas, III, Bow Times

Teaching Civics is Essential

The Bow Times’ support and advocacy for the state’s civics project is an admirable effort to educate the public about the First Amendment. The editorials are informative and data rich.

Well put–“The concepts of challenging the government and maintaining majority rule while protecting minority rights must be taught not assumed to be inherent in our students.”

Photographer of the year
This is a single award combining both classes.

1st place
Geoff Forester
Eclectic mix of images displaying all the skills of a seasoned veteran photo-journalist.

Journalist of the Year
This is a single award combining both classes.

1st place

Michaela Towfighi, Concord Monitor
Two New Hampshires Beat
Michaela Towfighi ‘s reporting is what all editors want: crisp, clear writing in a narrative style that gets to the heart of crucial issues. Her reporting is exhaustive, she ties all the pieces together in a coherent story with almost no loose ends, and provides readers with an understanding of the issues that help them form educated opinions, all done with a compassionate treatment of the people she’s covering. In a tough competition among the top three in this category, she takes top honors.

2nd place

Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin
The top three journalists in this category are top-notch and posed tough choices. Annmarie Timmins’ work demonstrated excellent narrative story-telling with compelling issues of state and local importance. Her reporting is thoroughly researched and compelling to read. A tendency to leave stories hanging leaves readers wanting more, even if the resolutions are not clear cut. Otherwise, excellent work.

3rd place

Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin

Ethan DeWitt is an excellent reporter with a penchant for stories that delve into state policy with an ability to make those issues clear to readers. His story on a bill to ban gender-affirming surgeries is also told well in narrative style that brings a very personal perspective to the issue in a way that changes readers’ understanding of this sensitive and complex issue. Excellent work among top competitors in this category.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Shawne K. Wickham, New Hampshire Union Leader
A lifetime of journalistic achievement is measured in many different ways, sometimes for the institutions built, others for the decades of writing stories that moved readers. Shawne Wickham’s achievement is the latter. From traveling to Kuwait to cover local National Guard troops, to accompanying a local 8th grade class to President Obama’s inauguration, to covering the Space Shutter Challenger’s tragedy from Florida in 1986, and thousands of local meetings and news events between, she has been a compelling storyteller for 40 years. Her “Beyond Stigma” series over the course of a year, 2018-19, is a telling tribute to her perseverance and journalistic skill, plus exhaustive research and study. Throughout her career, it’s clear she has maintained her enthusiasm for finding stories of great interest and telling them in compelling ways — a tribute in itself and reason to earn her this year’s NHPA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Community Service Award
This is a single award combining both classes.

1st place
Matthew J. Mowry, Scott Merrill, Judi Currie, BusinessNH

Affordable Housing and Homelessness Series
Cumulatively, all the elements come together well as a package. But each piece also stands well, and impactfully, on its own.

2nd place
Concord Monitor
Annual Report to Readers

Sometimes a publication needs to remind readers who might take their newspaper of record for granted. This does it with style.

3rd place

Matthew J. Mowry, Scott Merill, Kathleen Reardon, BusinessNH magazine
Nonprofit Special Supplement

I imagine this is one of those supplements that many a reader — and more than a few officials and fellow journalists — kept aside long past the publication date. New that you can use!

General Excellence – large news organizations

1st place

New Hampshire Union Leader
Solid and well-designed, with lots of local content and thoughtful touches such as the statewide town meeting roundup and digest-style recaps of city and state government happenings that don’t merit a full story on their own. Good local sports coverage. The kind of paper all states deserve and too few have.

2nd place

Concord Monitor
State capitols deserve good papers, and the Concord Monitor fills that role ably. Solidly reported local stories; slightly less imaginative design and more apparent reliance on wire in some areas are the only minor knocks one can make.

3rd place

Keene Sentinel
How many U.S. towns Keene’s size have papers as full-featured as the Sentinel? There can’t be more than a handful. Though not quite on the same level as the first- and second-place winners, the Sentinel does an impressive job given the size of its newsroom and its community. If all local papers looked like the Sentinel, no one would believe that the fortunes of print newspapers are in as tough shape as they are.

General Excellence – Small news organizations

1st place

Mt. Washington Valley Vibe
It feels a little odd comparing a quarterly outdoor-focused magazine to daily newspapers, but there’s no denying the quality of the Vibe and the wonky charm of its in-depth articles. Great layout and variety of subject matter for a focused publication.

2nd place

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
A good paper with a strong community feel. Somewhat lacking in hard-hitting reporting, but an impressively broad array of local stories and features.

3rd place

New Hampshire Bulletin

As with the first-place entry in this category, it’s difficult to compare an online-only publication (albeit one that shares freely with print outlets) with print papers, but here we are in the 21st century. Fewer stories per day than some other entries, but what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Good explanations of policy that might otherwise go over readers’ heads.

Dennis Joos Memorial Award

This award honors a New Hampshire journalist who makes a unique personal sacrifice in pursuit of covering an event or issue of significance to his or her readers, viewers or listeners. The award recognizes an effort that separates itself from normal journalistic endeavors. Dennis Joos was the editor of the Colebrook News & Sentinel. He was one of four people shot and killed by Carl Drega on Aug. 19, 1997. Joos tried to disarm Drega, who was later shot and killed by police.

This year’s winner truly meets those criteria — James Rinker, staff writer with the Keene Sentinel

(nomination by Cecily Weisburgh – Executive Editor-Digital)

Born and raised in the Monadnock Region, James Rinker has been taking his community on his journey with gender-affirming care. He has done this through deeply personal columns and through news stories on state legislative efforts that affect Granite Staters in the trans and greater LGBTQ+ community. He laid himself bare to combat misinformation and help educate people in his rural hometown. If they had never met someone who was trans, they had now.

His work puts a human face to issues that have been politicized here in New Hampshire and across the country, at a time when there is real danger in speaking out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

James’ decision to share his personal journey with the community opens his personal life to scrutiny, especially in a rural area where there’s more visibility and less anonymity. To understand this and to do it anyway, bringing humanity in the face of divisiveness and ignorance, has been a great asset to the people of his hometown.