ASNE Awards 1999

1999 winners of the ASNE Writing Awards announced
Posted 3/29/1999 2:33:00 PM


RESTON, Va. — The American Society of Newspaper Editors has selected six winners in the 1999 Distinguished Writing Awards and Jesse Laventhol Prize competition:

  • Bartholomew Sullivan, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn., Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by an Individual
  • The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash., Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by a Team
  • DeNeen L. Brown, The Washington Post, ASNE Distinguished Writing Award, nondeadline writing
  • Mirta Ojito, The New York Times, ASNE Distinguished Writing Award, covering the world
  • Bailey Thomson, Mobile (Ala.) Register, ASNE Distinguished Writing Award, editorial
  • J. Peder Zane, The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C., ASNE Distinguished Writing Award, commentary


The 1999 ASNE contest attracted nearly 500 entries. The Jesse Laventhol prizes each carry a $10,000 cash award. The ASNE Writing Award winners will receive $2,500 prizes. The awards will be made April 16, during the Society’s convention in San Francisco. The winning entries and interviews with the winners and finalists will be published in Best Newspaper Writing 1999, by The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, St. Petersburg, Fla.


Bartholomew Sullivan’s Laventhol Prize for deadline work by an individual recognized news accounts of three different events — the conviction of a Ku Klux Klan wizard for a three-decades-old murder of a black civil rights worker, the funeral of country music star Carl Perkins, and a tornado that hit northeast Arkansas.


The News Tribune in Tacoma earned its Laventhol Prize for deadline reporting by a team for a dramatic account of an avalanche that turned a brilliant day on Mount Rainier into a disaster that took the life of one young mountain climber. The story described the event in the words of the people who were involved.


The nondeadline writing category attracts the largest number of entries in the ASNE contest. Washington Post staff writer DeNeen L. Brown’s winning articles were on a variety of topics about the life of people in the nation’s capital, from spanking children to being falsely charged with murder.


Mirta Ojito, a New York Times reporter, was recognized in the covering the world category for a series of first-person stories on what Cuba has become. This award recognizes work that helps readers understand international developments that affect and change their communities and lives. Ojito came to the U.S. in the 1980 Mariel boatlift.


Bailey Thomson, Mobile (Ala.) Register, was awarded for a series of editorials on the theme of Dixie’s Broken Heart. Thomson focused on Alabama’s failures in environment, education and other areas in the context of a gubernatorial election and the positions of the two leading candidates.


The commentary/column writing winner, Raleigh News & Observer’s J. Peder Zane, was cited for writing that addressed many topics. Each of the columns was pegged to books. The topics included gossip, the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda, and a late 20th-century perspective on American slavery.


The ASNE judges also recognized the work of other newspaper writers as finalists:

  • Deadline news reporting/individual: Seth Mydans, The New York Times; Peter St. Onge, The Huntsville (Ala.) Times; Mike Vaccaro, The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J.
  • Deadline news reporting, team: The Boston Globe and The Oregonian, Portland.
  • Editorial: Paul Greenberg, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock; Howell Raines, The New York Times.
  • Nondeadline writing: Erin Hoover Barnett, The Oregonian, Portland.
  • Covering the world: Eric Black, Star Tribune, Minneapolis; Rhea Wessel, The Anniston (Ala.) Star.
  • Commentary/column writing: Colbert I. King, The Washington Post; Peter H. King, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee; Cynthia A. Tucker, The Atlanta Constitution.


The Jesse Laventhol Prizes are named in honor of a longtime Philadelphia newspaperman. They are endowed by his son, David A. Laventhol, consulting editor for Times Mirror Co., longtime member of ASNE, and member and former chair of the ASNE Writing Awards Board. Laventhol said he wanted to encourage excellence in a key aspect of newspaper reporting — "to recognize the best deadline work and to encourage more of it."


The ASNE Foundation — which is supported by gifts from ASNE members, newspaper companies and foundations — funds the Writing Award prizes. The Poynter Institute administers the competition. Best Newspaper Writing 1999 will be edited by Christopher Scanlan, director of writing programs.


Rena M. Pederson of The Dallas Morning News chaired the 1998-99 ASNE Writing Awards Board. Other ASNE members who participated in the judging were: Gilbert Bailon, The Dallas Morning News; Joann Byrd, Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Leonard Downie, Jr., The Washington Post; Robert H. Giles, Media Studies Center, New York; Clark Hoyt, Knight Ridder; Maxwell E.P. King, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Craig Klugman, The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Forrest M. Landon, retired ASNE member; David A. Laventhol, Times Mirror, New York; Carolyn Lee, The New York Times; Sandra Mims Rowe, The Oregonian, Portland; Paul C. Tash, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times; Gil Thelen, The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune; Cynthia A. Tucker, The Atlanta Constitution; and Howard A. Tyner, Chicago Tribune.


With nearly 900 members, ASNE is the principal organization of American newspaper editors. It is active in a number of areas, including open government, freedom of the press, journalism credibility and ethics, newsroom management, diversity and readership.