Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Source New Mexico wins 10 awards at the SPJ Top of the Rockies contest • Source New Mexico

DENVER — Stories from the Land of Enchantment told by local journalists were highlighted among the top news articles last year in the region.

On Saturday, the annual Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism competition honored 67 articles published in 2023 by nine news outlets from journalists across the state. Judges picked award-winners from submissions by reporters in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Outlets in New Mexico picked up 21 first-place awards for articles on topics ranging from Indigenous issues, immigration, federal disaster relief, elections, health, environment, food, opera, education and science.

Designers, photographers and columnists in local newsrooms also won several first-place awards.

Principles and objectives from The Society of Professional Journalists is the foundation for how judges pick the winners at the annual awards ceremony in Colorado, and at similar events across the country.

Newsrooms are sorted by staff size that range from small to extra-large. Online, radio and print outlets all compete in a battle royale of sorts about who brought the best news to their audience.

Source New Mexico won 10 awards in as many categories. 

Reporter Patrick Lohmann’s coverage on the federal response to the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire won first place for Best Solutions Journalism in the large newsroom class. Lohmann exclusively covered the recovery process for one year as part of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, and SPJ allowed his submission to move up a newsroom size class.

He lived in Las Vegas last year, visiting people in Northern New Mexico trying to navigate how to receive disaster relief administered by FEMA from the $4 billion approved by Congress and President Joe Biden to compensate people harmed by the fire that the U.S. Forest Service started. 

Judges noted the rigorous, in-depth reporting and said, “The series provides heartbreaking accounts of the many survivors that were let down by the federal government and offers potential solutions to an urgent problem.”

Reporter Danielle Prokop and photojournalist Corrie Boudreaux followed another major federal policy’s impact. They worked early days and nights on the border ahead of new immigration standards for people seeking asylum. They were at the El Paso crossing when Title 42 expired and talked with people entering the new immigration process.

Their work won first place for Extended Coverage in the medium newsroom class. “On a competitive national story, Source New Mexico distinguished itself through dogged, ground-level coverage,” the judges wrote. “It did so by explaining the implications of the lifting of Title 42 and resulting increase in immigration from all viewpoints.”

Senior reporter Austin Fisher took on breaking news coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court issuing its ruling to affirm the Indian Child Welfare Act

He quickly found legal and child welfare experts to interview. He sourced and attributed reaction from Diné, Shoshone-Bannock, Cherokee, Laguna and Isleta people to react to the court’s opinion and what it means for the civil rights of Native American children.

The contest judges agreed and called the article “a notably thorough analysis of a locally important U.S. Supreme Court decision, outlining the opinion’s national implications, as well.”

Other Source New Mexico articles that received honors:

Second place

Columns/Op-Ed Pieces: Shaun Griswold for “Real conversations with family taught me about life after loss

Third place

Ag and Environment News: Danielle Prokop for “Rescuing silvery minnows like ‘slapping a Band-Aid on a severed limb‘”

Education Feature: Megan Taros, Liam DeBonis for “Diné teen takes to lobbying for inclusive textbooks while lawmakers push reform to next session

Features: Short Form: Ryan Lowery for “Balloon Fiesta: A view from above

General Reporting-Series or Package: Danielle Prokop, Diana Cervantes for “Crisis on the Rio Grande

Headline Writing: Danielle Prokop, Shaun Griswold for “Ain’t no sunshine when the settlement data is gone

Public Service: Megan Gleason for “Black Fire Recovery

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