Tucson Weekly writers took home five awards in the Arizona Press Club's 2009 awards, including top honors in one category, and second-place in three categories. The results were announced at a gathering of journalists on Saturday, May 15, at the Arizona State University Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix.
All of the awards came in "metro" or "any publication" categories, meaning the Weekly was competing with all other publications in the state.
Tim Vanderpool took one of the top awards in the Immigration Reporting category, earning first-place honors for "Eye of the Storm" (May 14, 2009), his cover story about the effects of federal border policies on Cochise County. Judge Dianne Solís, a senior writer at The Dallas Morning News, noted: "Tim Vanderpool writes a compelling and sweeping tale of how Cochise County clenched up with law enforcement, vigilante and official, as it became one of the largest border crossings for illegal entry. Vanderpool skillfully trains his lens on an intense landscape that is a central character in a drama in which immigrants in the U.S. fight back with civil rights laws against a rancher who holds them at gunpoint."
Leo W. Banks earned two second-place awards. One came in the Personality Profile category for "The Good Guy" (Feb. 5, 2009). Judge Moni Basu, of the CNN Wire, said: "A four-word apologia is delivered to the writer by his subject: 'I'm the good guy.' And Leo W. Banks tells us a riveting story of why Jay Dobyns feels compelled to make that statement about himself. Enter the world of a rough-talking, frayed-at-the-edges undercover cop who feels betrayed by his own peeps, hardly an easy topic for a reporter to tackle. But Banks does it with ease. It's a gutsy story of a gutsy man told with gutsy reporting and language."
Banks' other award came in the Human Interest Writing category, for "Navy Seal Down" (Nov. 12, 2009). Judge Elizabeth Bernstein, of The Wall Street Journal, commented: "This story performs an important service for readers by connecting them to a historical event and showing them the heroism in their fellow citizens. It's told with rock-solid reporting and fast-paced, exciting writing."
James DiGiovanna cemented his status as the state's top film critic by nabbing second-place in the Criticism category, for "Sentiment Sans Schmaltz" (July 2, 2009), his review of O'Horten; "Conceptually Funny" (Aug, 27, 2009), his Humpday review; and "The No. 1 Fan" (Oct. 15, 2009), his review of Big Fan. (This year, all criticism was merged into one category; James won top honors in the film-criticism category in each of the previous three years.) "DiGiovanna draws on a deep knowledge of the movie-making business to deliver crisp, thoughtful reviews free of jargon and clichés," said judge Mark Washburn of The Charlotte Observer.
Irene Messina earned an honorable mention in the Column Writing category, for a selection of columns including "Hey, Readers: The Future of Newspapers is in Your Hands" (April 9, 2009).
Thelma Grimes, of the San Pedro Valley News-Sun and Arizona Range News (which, like the Weekly, are owned by Wick Communications), was named the Community Journalist of the Year. Shanna Hogan, of Times Publications (in the greater Phoenix area), was honored as the Virg Hill Journalist of the Year.
Nick Oza of The Arizona Republic was named Photojournalist of the Year, while Peter Storch of the Phoenix New Times was named Designer of the Year.