St. George News wins multiple awards for reporting, photography, headlines

Mori Kessler took first place in news photography in the "Top of the Rockies" journalism contest for this picture of a bee inspector cleaning out a hive of feral bees at a home in Washington City, Utah, March 27, 2018 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — St. George News reporters received seven awards for journalistic excellence – including four first-place winners – in the Top of the Rockies competition, which is held among reporters and news organizations in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

According to the website of the Society of Professional Journalists – Colorado Pro chapter, which manages the contest, entries are judged on overall excellence, service to the community and contributions to the public understanding of issues and events. Judging criteria may also include depth of research, quality of presentation and difficulty in obtaining information. The awards were announced May 3 in Denver.

Leading the way for St. George News was Reuben Wadsworth, a regular contributor who writes the popular biweekly “Days” series, featuring stories about people, places, industry and history in southwestern Utah, as well as other stories.

Wadsworth took both first and second place for enterprise reporting in the “A&E and Food” category.

The first-place piece was a story about the history of the groundbreaking Zion shuttle, why it was remarkable to national parks and how it is now overburdened by the crushing increase in visitation at the park.

The shuttle fleet in Zion National Park, Utah, March 2, 2018. The Zion shuttle system is the subject of an award-winning article by St. George News contributor Reuben Wadsworth. | File photo by Reuben Wadsworth, St. George News

“Some interesting, unusual and intriguing information about Zion National Park,” one judge commented.

Wadsworth’s other award-winner was a “Days” story about Terry Ranch, including the stagecoach stop, on the outskirts of Enterprise.

St. George News senior managing editor Paul Dail said the “Days” series is perfect for anyone looking for someplace to visit in the region that is off the beaten path, but he added that the articles are not just a list of hikes, museums or souvenir shops.

“Reuben’s pieces are much more than that,” Dail said. “He infuses an amazing amount of research into the history of each location that truly brings the past to life. I recently visited Pipe Spring National Monument, and although I went on the tour, I already knew most of what the tour guide said – and more – because I read Reuben’s ‘Pipe Spring day.'”

In the category of education reporting, Joseph Witham won first place for his series of stories that tracked Dixie State University’s controversial firing of two tenured professors.

Music professor Ken Peterson demonstrates on the Dixie State University campus, St. George, Utah, Aug. 20, 2018. Peterson is one of the primary subjects of an award-winning series of articles by St. George News reporter Joseph Witham. | File photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

The professors, Glenn Webb and Ken Peterson, were fired last year for allegedly violating DSU policy. Both were reinstated after appealing their termination, but the university would only agree to Peterson’s reinstatement if he signed a “Last Chance Agreement” that would have prevented him from teaching in his specialized field and restrict his ability to work on campus.

The firings prompted protests by students and other supporters of the professors.

Witham was lauded by the judges for “comprehensive and thorough reporting.” 

Senior reporter Mori Kessler took first place in news photography for a picture of a bee inspector cleaning out a hive of feral bees at a home in Washington City, as seen in the featured image at the top of this report.

Read more: Feral bees removed from Washington City home

“Well-composed, and the clarity is enough to make your skin crawl,” the judge wrote of the photo.

Kessler also wrote the story and produced video of the event.

Michael Rinker won first place for headline writing. Among the three headlines required for the category was one for a story about an exploratory committee finding that Salt Lake City would be able to host the Winter Olympics again without losing money thanks in part to the expertise of a team that put on the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The headline was: “Committee says Utah has enough gold, mettle to host Olympics again,” to which the judge commented: “The Olympics headline is pure gold.”

Dail said he agreed with their assessment, although he said his most recent favorite of Rinker’s was “Chicken a la Gorge: Tons of frozen chicken goes up in flames when semi catches fire on I-15” from April of this year.

“He may have to submit that one next year,” Dail said.

The Grip Fitness Center co-owners Holly and Brian Beckstrand, Washington City, Utah, Nov. 13, 2018. The Beckstrands and their children are the subject of an award-winning story by St. George News reporter Jeff Richards. | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Jeff Richards picked up a second-place award in sports reporting for his piece about Brian and Holly Beckstrand, a Washington City couple whose interest in the “American Ninja Warriors” television show prompted them the open a gym modeled on the show.

Both appeared on the program, and two of their children qualified for the junior version. Their son Kai Beckstrand ended up being the most recent season’s overall winner in the 11-12 age bracket, as seen in the season finale that aired on April 27.

Mikayla Shoup won third place in health reporting for her story on polycystic ovarian syndrome, a hormonal disease that causes a woman’s ovaries to have difficulty releasing eggs each month. A woman can develop it at any time in her life, but it commonly appears during adolescence.

The disease affects approximately 10 million women worldwide, over half of whom are unaware they have it.

“I have been observing the excellent work of our reporters for some time,” Tyler Maffitt, editor in chief of St. George News, said. “These well-deserved awards are a testament to the hard work, discipline and good character of our staff. This recognition serves as a reminder that quality reporting lives here in Southern Utah.”

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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