NMPolitics.net took home five journalism awards on Saturday in the annual New Mexico Press Women contest.
For the article, “Millennials like this mixed-ethnicity couple are reshaping America,” NMPolitics.net won first place in the feature story category. Damien Willis wrote the article and Robin Zielinski created a video report to accompany it.
The project, which was a collaboration with the Las Cruces Sun-News and funded with help from the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, told the story of a multi-ethnic family that’s working to make ends meet and get along in a complicated world. We placed that family in a larger context with statistics and other information, with the 2016 election as a backdrop.
“Good use of the metaphor of color as a hook and to unify the ideas in the story,” a contest judge wrote. “There are several complex issues here, and the use of color helps move it along in a strong, concise manner.”
NMPolitics.net editor and publisher Heath Haussamen, who oversaw the project, said the award validates such collaborations. NMPolitics.net, the Sun-News and KRWG are working to build such partnerships to pool resources and tackle important topics. This year they’re investigating Southern New Mexico’s inadequate behavioral health system and exploring solutions.
“We’re excited about the potential of such collaborations to shine light on problems and tell important stories — just like we did with our millennial project,” Haussamen said.
The state-level awards come a week after Haussamen won a first-place award for commentary writing in the multi-state Top of the Rockies contest. NMPolitics.net’s website also won second place in that contest for general excellence.
Here’s a rundown of the other awards NMPolitics.net won in the 2016 New Mexico Press Women contest, which were announced during NMPW’s annual conference on Saturday in Mesilla:
Second place, news story
For the article, “Despite Dem protest, House OKs death penalty bill at night, without public notice,” Haussamen won second place in the news story category. The article told the tale of then-N.M. House Speaker Don Tripp’s decision to hear a bill to reinstate the death penalty in the middle of the night with no public notice — and provided a chance to tangibly explain the importance of government transparency.
“Great observational storytelling of an important unfolding news story,” a contest judge wrote. “Great comments, good capturing of the moment making readers feel as if they were in that chamber watching the proceedings and nice back-and-forth quotes to give it a fair and balanced story. Nice job.”
Third place, continuing coverage
Haussamen focused much of his reporting in 2016 on the effects of budget cuts at New Mexico State University, which earned him a third-place award for continuing coverage. He worked to tell the public which jobs were being cut, watchdogged Open Meetings Act issues, and focused on the impacts to employee health care, an academic engineering program and the women’s equestrian team.
“What a wide variety of stories really based on one topic — budget cuts,” a contest judge wrote. “Nice job with the different facets, from health care to the engineers to sports to the open meetings law violation.”
“All of the stories were strongly written, flowed wonderfully and chock full of details,” the judge wrote. “The community — both on-campus and beyond — probably had their eyes opened throughout these stories being reported. Good watchdog journalism, which many of these smaller states and towns need more of.”
Honorable mention, enterprise reporting
In Haussamen’s most in-depth report on NMSU’s budget cuts, he told the story of a New Mexico State University employee who had a heart attack hours before he was scheduled to learn his job was being cut — and the campus medical staffers who, just after learning several of them would also lose their jobs, saved his life. For that article, “Hours after learning of job cuts, NMSU medical staff saved a life,” Haussamen won an honorable mention for enterprise reporting.
“There were many entries in this category,” a contest judge wrote. “However, the human touch in reporting a difficult financial situation helped hook the reader into the story.”
Third place, news organization excellence
The NMPW contest ranks organizations based on the number of awards they won in various categories. NMPolitics.net took third place overall.