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Religion Newswriters Association Names 2009 Contest Winners

by Staff
September 14, 2009
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., ( -- The Religion Newswriters Association today announced the winners of its 2009 contests for excellence in religion reporting in the mainstream media. The organization awarded more than $6,000 in eight award categories at its annual banquet, held Sept. 12 at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center.

Winners were selected from among 201 entries. Judges included current or former reporters, journalists and scholars who praised the entries as "top-notch" and "nuanced."

Religion Reporter of the Year
The Religion Reporter of the Year category recognizes excellence in enterprise reporting and versatility in the field of religion. The first-place winner is Moni Basu, formerly of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, for a series of stories chronicling a military chaplain's service to his country from Baghdad to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington. Judges said the series "...had credibility and authenticity because the writer, in the best tradition of unblinking reporting, told her readers what she witnessed firsthand." Basu received $1,000.

Religion Writer of the Year
The Supple Religion Writer of the Year Award recognizes a reporter's writing skills. Religion Reporter of the Year first-place winner Moni Basu, took first once again for her series, "Chaplain Turner's War." Judges thought her series was "a vivid, touching entry about the many-faceted role of religion in an ungodly circumstance." Basu received another $1,000 prize.

Religion Reporter of the Year--Mid-sized Newspapers
Publications with weekday circulations between 50,001 and 150,000 compete in the Cornell Award. Jeff Brumley of The Florida Times-Union won first place for an extended look at how faith meets modern life. Judges said his stories "...provide authoritative voices for context but also give readers a glimpse of how regular folks fit in. The writing is smooth and easy to read." Brumley won $1,000.

Religion Reporter of the Year--Small Newspapers
The Cassels Award recognizes the religion reporter of the year at small publications with weekday circulations of 50,000 or below. This year's first-place winner was Melanie Smith of The Decatur Daily. Judges liked Smith's range of stories and said her reporting produced "beautifully written stories with a good grasp of lived faith." Smith won $1,000.

Best Religion Section or Pages
The Schachern Award recognizes excellence in religion pages or sections in the general circulation news media. This year's first-place winner was The Salt Lake Tribune for its "unmatched coverage in 2008 of issues that put The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints in the national spotlight." Judges took particular note of the section's presentation, saying it was "a diverse and well-designed weekly faith section and a lively mix of religion news, multimedia and interactive features online." The Tribune received a citation.

Best Student Religion Reporter
The Chandler Award is given to a student journalist who has a grasp of religion issues and writes in a fair and balanced way. The award was established through the generosity of Russell Chandler, former religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, and his wife, ML. This year's first-place winner was Adeniyi Amadou from Syracuse University. Judges said Amadou takes "the reader on a journey into worlds still seldom penetrated in the daily news--the lives of Muslims in America, their everyday hopes and anxieties." Amadou won $600.

Best Television Religion Reporting
Honoring excellence in religion reporting in general audience news television, this year's award went to Kim Lawton of Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly for a story that asked the question, "What would Martin Luther King, Jr. be like as a minister, if he were alive today?" The judges said, "Good writing and production values made this story the clear winner." Lawton received a citation for her work.

Best Radio Religion Reporting
Awarded for excellence in religion reporting general audience news radio, this year's award went to Stephanie Martin of KQED Radio in Northern California. "Glimpses of faith combined with justice being called into action made the story relevant," judges wrote. "The different people interviewed made the story flow well... It even raised the question: Is religion doctrine or revelation?" Martin received a citation.

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