2016 Column Contest Winners Announced in Los Angeles

2016 Column Contest

Winners in the 2016 annual column contest of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists were announced Saturday night (June, 25) at the awards banquet of its 40th annual conference, held in Los Angeles.

Each contestant submitted three columns or blog posts that were published in calendar year 2015. First place in each category is receiving $300, second place $200 and third place $100, in addition to certificates. The six category judges could select one or more contestants, or none, for honorable mention, who received certificates.


Contest A.  General Interest (Print – Newspapers — Over 50,000 circulation)


First Place – Ronnie Polaneczky, Philadelphia Daily News

Judge: “Lively, vivid, indignant columns about a Catholic school’s firing of a beloved gay teacher, an innocent man mistreated by airport security, and a cable provider’s awful customer service.”


Second Place – Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times

Judge: “Powerful, sorrowful columns about the police murder of Laquan McDonald and the efforts of Chicago officials to prevent release of the damning video of the shooting.”


Third Place – Frank Harris III, Hartford Courant

Judge: “A professor/columnist researching past and present use of the vile “N-word” writes compelling pieces about trips he took to Mississippi and California — and then focuses on his own state of Connecticut.”


Honorable Mention – Christy Heitger-Ewing, Cabin Living Magazine

Judges: “Her enjoyable “Now & Then” pieces gracefully describe often-idyllic, always-memorable family vacations in cabins.”


Honorable Mention – Patricia Bunin,  Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Judges: “Her poignant, engaging “Senior Moments” columns discuss growing old, missing people who have died, the great work nurses do, and more.”


Contest B.  Humor (Print – Newspapers — Over 50,000 circulation)


First Place – Eric Heyl, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Judge: “Clever writing, witty, ironic.  Good use of parenthetical.  Laugh out loud funny.  Analytical, smart, well-paced.  Comical observations spot on.  Who weighs tuna fish cans?”


Second Place – Leah Eskin, The Chicago Tribune

Judge: “Who would have thought reading recipes could be so much fun?!  It’s often said writing short concise columns is harder than large ones.  Leah makes it look easy.”


Third Place – Bill Bender and David Gambacorta, Philadelphia Daily News

Judge: “Informative editorials with a twist of irony.  Reporting adds to humor value.  Ed Rendell on the toilet?!?”


Contest C.  General Interest (Print – Newspapers — Under 50,000 circulation)

First Place – Ken Tingley, The Post-Star

Judge: “Ken Tingley is a leader in his community and his columns are the proof. They grab you by the shoulders and give you a good shaking. He tells serious stories and his mature writing style allows him to stay out of the way. What he says is important and has impact. He advocates without providing a tedious sermon. Most columnists aspire to make a difference in their world. Ken Tingley succeeds.”


Second Place – Gary Yordon, The Zachary Group

Judge: Read one sentence of Gary Yordon’s columns, most any column, and you like him. A few more sentences and he’s your friend. He’s funny and thoughtful and his columns are a joy. Our world seems to grow more depressing by the day. His columns make it less so. Every one of our increasingly grim publications needs a Gary Yordon to brighten the readers’ day.”


Third Place -Rebecca Sabky, The Valley News

Judges: “Rebecca Sabky knows her community and what makes people there think, laugh and, once in awhile, cry. And she educates. Did you know some chickens actually lay green eggs? If she can convince a tourist from New York to dab vinegar behind his ears to ward off moose attacks, you know she consistently brings readers to her delightful, beautifully-written column.”


Contest D.  Humor (Print – Newspapers — Under 50,000 circulation)


First Place – Sarah Smiley, Bangor Daily News

Judges: “One example of Sarah’s “craftswomanship” after the school system announced a “snow day” universally dreaded by parents and she arrives  to stock up ahead of the storm: “People are going crazy in the aisles. Water and bread are disappearing from the shelves. I roll my eyes, but by aisle 7, I’m throwing canned soup and non perishable snacks into my basket. I contemplate freeze dried food. I Google how long with canned goods last in an apocalypse?” Later back home: “I tell the kids I’m too tired from the grocery store to make dinner. Side note: I never want to make dinner after I’ve been to the grocery store. We order pizza.” And her column about driving an agitated teenage son to school in time to make the morning bell: “The mother drives faster, but not over the speed limit, because just between us, she’s wearing socks with flip flops. And if she gets pulled over for speeding, the socks would embarrass her more than the rollers in her hair.” Very funny stuff to which we all can relate and carved in the ways of a wordsmith who knows how to connect with her readers.”


Second Place – Brian Thompson, The St. Augustine Record

Judge:  “One example of his wit in print as he distresses amid shelves of light bulbs: “So many bulb sizes. Wattages that don’t mean what they used to mean. The new measurement is ‘lumens.” Lumens? I thought you ate lumens to lower your cholesterol.”…For decades we had one kind of light bulb. It was yay big with a base yay big around. You screwed it into the light socket. Light poured out. Hooray! I didn’t need choices. But why is it easier to pick out a new car than a light bulb?”


Third Place – Janine Talbot,  Journal Tribune

Judges: “Example of her fine work as she muses over her husband’s proclivities:  “My husband is seeing another woman, More than one, actually. They show up shortly after his post shower nap (how anyone can nap after a shower is beyond me) and while I am in the shower, which is convenient for him. That way I have virtually no say about who he’s spending time with for at least 15 minutes in the morning. But I know where I’ll find him. Every time. He’s in front of the television watching the morning news…I’ve had it up the here with those dang female morning news anchors and meteorologists … meteorologistesses – whatever they are.”


Honorable Mention – Giles Snyder, The Journal, Martinsburg, West Virginia

Honorable Mention – Michael Picarella, The Acorn Newspapers


Contest E.  Online, Blog, and Multimedia Columns (

Over 100,000 Monthly Unique Visitors)


First Place – Mohamad Bazzi, Reuters

Judge: “Mohamed Bazzi writes with great clarity and urgency about the salient issues related to the Muslim world and America’s relationship to it. In his columns, he demonstrates his extensive body of knowledge about Islamic culture and history, laying out an array of facts that speak just as convincingly as his own sensible commentary. His reason-driven arguments stand out amid a global conversation in which emotions typically run so high. At a time when understanding these issues is crucial, Bazzi is contributing valuable, calm-headed viewpoints to a momentous subject.”


Second Place – Susan Antilla, TheStreet

Judge: “Susan Antilla turns a spotlight on some lesser known yet vital issues in the financial sector, where there is plenty of room for skepticism and suspicion. Her spritely explanations present a common sense view of the complicated inner workings of this industry. As consumers are increasingly left to equip themselves with information to protect their financial well-being, writers like Antilla are providing a true service.”


Third Place – John Schumann, NPR

Judge: “John Schumann utilizes his perspective as a physician and an educator to enlighten readers on topics in medicine that might otherwise remain obscure. His clearly articulated insights not only help readers navigate the intimidating landscape of health care, but he also offers the kind intensely personal connection that is possible only from a trusted doctor with an appealing bedside manner.”


Honorable Mention – Mary C. Curtis, Roll Call

Honorable Mention – Jill Lawrence, U.S. News & World Report


Contest F.  Online, Blog, and Multimedia Columns

(Under 100,000 Monthly Unique Visitors)


First Place – Chandra Bozelko, Prison-Diaries

Judge: “It’s part of the columnist’s art, touching readers by isolating the smallest things in daily life and teasing out the universality, providing connections between one writer and many readers, and thus between one of us and all of us.  How rare and useful to take the everyday details of life in prison and let the rest of us “in,” as it were.  There’s no special pleading in these columns, just a reminder of our common humanity under conditions most of us will never have to face.”


Second Place – Judith Clarke, Dementia Isn’t Funny

Judge: “‘Dementia Isn’t Funny’ the headline says: But these columns remind us – perhaps encourages us is a better way to say it – to think it can be borne, day by day, gracefully and patiently.  But if there are no laughs in this, there are smiles.”


Third Place – Renee Davis Brame, PopDepravity.com

Judge: “For some of us popular culture is the water we swim in.  For others it’s the rising tide that has us worried.  (Insert global warming metaphor here at your leisure.)  Ms. Brame mixes laughs and insights as she takes apart certain mass media “treasures” that – having chuckled and/or nodded at her deconstruction – we will never regard quite the same way again.”


Honorable Mention – Erica Washington, HouseOfPerpetualDistraction.com

Judge: “ Classic column writing.  Lessons from the everyday and the role of faith and patience dealing with them.”


Honorable Mention – Cary Vaughn, The Reluctant Cat Owner’s Journal

Judge: As it says in “Field of Catnip,” write cat columns and they will come, as in readers.  I kept shoving these columns back in the pile, and they kept crawling out.”


Honorable Mention – Ann Hedreen, TheRestlessNest.wordpress.com

Judge: “Moments of national shame and pain filtered through a personal lens.  Affecting and insightful.”


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  1 comment for “2016 Column Contest Winners Announced in Los Angeles

  1. Lynne Stahler
    July 1, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Third? Becky should have been first in my book!!!! So proud of our hometown girl!!!

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