On May 31, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN), a 122-member organization representing alternative newsweeklies across the country, held its annual awards ceremony during its national convention in Madison. For the second year in a row, Gambit Weekly earned more first-place awards than any other paper in the organization, collecting a total of four top awards. The LA Weekly in Los Angeles received three first-place awards, followed by the Independent Weekly in Durham, N.C., The Local Planet Weekly in Spokane, Wash., and the Village Voice in New York City, each of which earned two top awards.
Included in Gambit's first-place entries was Gambit Communications Chairman Clancy DuBos, whose weekly "Politics" column topped the Column/Political Commentary"category. "DuBos takes intensely local issues and makes them universal with his clarity of vision and original voice," wrote the judges in their commendation. "His conversational, direct writing makes political machinations crystal clear, leaving squirming pols with no place to hide."
Freelance writer Katy Reckdahl received first place for "Louisiana Lockdown," a multi-part series on juvenile justice in Louisiana. "It's a troubling trip from beginning to end .... Reckdahl's seven-part series is packed with power and pathos -- a standout in every way," wrote judges.
Top honors for music criticism went to music editor Scott Jordan for his weekly "Set Break" column. The judges praised Jordan's ability to "find the stories within his town -- stories that only somebody who lives in New Orleans could tell, and more importantly, stories that would particularly fascinate New Orleans readers." The judges singled out a report about the ending of the longstanding Traditional Piano Night at the Maple Leaf Bar: "The Traditional Piano Night story is steeped in local flavor (right down to the dog urine). The image of the dog pissing on a bag of CDs was the most memorable in the whole pile of cuttings, and the beginning of a well-told story." (Jordan also won first-place AAN honors at last year for his account of a weekend with the New Orleans Brass, which scored in the Sports Writing category.)
Lastly, Gambit Weekly editor Michael Tisserand's story about circumcision, "Slice of Life," received top honors in the category of Health Care. "The article offers a thought-provoking look at the health ramifications of circumcision as well as a historical and cultural background of the procedures," wrote judges.
In addition to its first-place awards, Gambit Weekly also received a third-place award in illustration, for freelance artist Rhett Thiel's rendering of Buckminster Fuller for a cover story about a Fuller-designed building currently in disrepair near Baton Rouge. Thiel's illustration also won first place at the Press Club of New Orleans' annual competition, held June 1.
In all, Gambit received a total of six first-place awards from the Press Club of New Orleans, tying for the most awards with The Times-Picayune, which also received six. In addition to Thiel, Gambit's first-place entries include Tisserand's "Slice of Life," in the Special Interest category; Andrei Codrescu's "Pennypost," for Column; senior writer Allen Johnson Jr.'s article about the encroachment of meth labs, "Speed Zones," for Environmental; and film critic Rick Barton for Critical Review. Reckdahl and DuBos were honored with the Ashton Phelps Sr. Memorial Award for the commentary "Close Tallulah."
Gambit Weekly also took home 11 second- and third-place awards and one honorable mention. Eileen Loh Harrist and Reckdahl took second and third, respectively, for General News; Ronnie Virgets and Harrist won second place in Feature; Johnson won third place for Series; Virgets won second place for Column; Johnson took second in Environmental (in which he also placed first for a separate story); Harrist won third in Investigative; Tisserand won honorable mention in Headlines; and Cristina Diettinger won second place in Special Interest. In Cartooning, Greg Peters took second place, and Harvey Pekar and Gary Dumm took third. Finally, Gambit Weekly swept the category Critical Review -- in addition to Barton's first-place finish, second place went to Jordan and third to food critic Sara Roahen.
At the awards ceremony, a Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Gambit Weekly contributor and columnist Ronnie Virgets, for his work in local media -- including print, television and radio -- through the years.
For a complete list of Alternative Newsweekly Awards winners, see the AAN Web site www.aan.org. The full results of the Press Club of New Orleans' annual competition is available at www.pressclubneworleans.org.