Judged 'Best in Class'

Episcopal Life wins 12 awards at church press convention
May 31, 2004

EPISCOPAL LIFE WON 12 awards, including the award of excellence for “Best in Class” among national and international newspapers, at the 2004 Associated Church Press convention in Toronto April 18-21.

More than 100 writers, editors, graphic designers, photographers and marketing directors attended this year’s meeting. James Solheim, recently retired director of news and information for the Episcopal Church, received an honorary life membership in recognition of his years of service to religious journalism and the Associated Church Press.

Episcopal News Service garnered six awards, including awards of excellence for feature article writing, for a news service and for convention coverage, and an honorable mention for overall excellence.

Besides the awards ceremony, participants in the annual convention honed their skills in a broad variety of workshops and plenary seminars and heard from two thought-provoking keynoters: Muslim TV journalist Irshad Manji of Toronto and veteran Canadian religion journalist Hugh McCullum.

McCullum, who lived in Africa for 13 years before his return to Canada in 2002, delivered a scathing indictment of the role of Christian churches -- and the inaction of the Christian press -- in the Rwandan genocide 10 years ago and a stern warning that religion journalists may be missing yet another vital story in Africa.

He warned of “a mighty fissure growing within Christianity that will cause such huge mutations that our liberal Northern version of the faith will simply disappear.” He called the phenomenon “Third Church” – “highly supernatural, ultra-orthodox and inclined to see Jesus as the embodiment of divine power who overcomes the evil forces that inflict calamity and sickness on the human race.”

In the turbulent Africa of today and tomorrow, said McCullum, “Third Churches with a strongly apocalyptic mindset which triumph on righteousness and a vision of a world destroyed by fire and plague could be a perilously convenient ideology. ... We are living in revolutionary times, but we have failed to see them or been willing or even interested in participating in them.”

Best of the press
The judges said of Episcopal Life: “Beautiful covers draw the reader into a wide variety of news, features columns and reviews. Well-written articles expose readers to both local and international concerns. News stories are clean and easy to read, while the features pop with a present-tense style focused on people, not just ideas.”

The newspaper also received six other awards of excellence for top honors in its category and five awards of merit or honorable mentions for second and third place.

Among the first-place awards was one for its coverage of last year’s General Convention in Episcopal Life and the Convention Daily. The judges said: “This newspaper did a great job in two ways: It promoted the conference well with specifics and understandable chunks of information, and it reported on the conference well. Both participants and eaders at home got a lot out of this coverage.”

A second-place award for written humor went to Garrison Keillor, who contributed an article to the first issue of Convention Daily: “Enjoy Minneapolis - but not too much!”

Jerry Fargo, graphic arts director, won top honors among newspaper entries for best design. “Episcopal Life is refreshing and contemporary,” the judges said. “The graphics and typography are excellent, the use of photographs is inventive, and the personality is strong and distinctive. This lively and colorful publication is a model of how newspapers should be designed.”

Judges also awarded Episcopal Life first place among 24 newspaper entries for front-page design.

Nan Cobbey, associate editor, received an award of merit for her coverage of the enthronement last year of Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury.

Of the “Great Ideas” series that won top honors for best department, judges said: “All news media would be improved if daily newspapers included a ‘great idea’ department.”

Two other writers received awards. Nancy Allen for an article examining the plight of Haitian refugees held in detention in the United States received top honors for editorial/opinion, as did Douglas LeBlanc for his “From the Edge” column. The judges said: “Douglas LeBlanc strikes an accessible and reasonable tone as he tackles some of our culture’s toughest issues.”

Freelance writer Diane Walker received a second-place award for her feature cover story “Searching for Intimacy,” published last October. It offered “valuable insights about human relationships from an Episcopal perspective,” the judges said.

Larry Moore, Episcopal Life’s marketing manager, received an award of excellence for a successful marketing program he executed last year for Friends Journal, the Philadelphia Quaker publication for which he had worked.

Two Episcopal diocesan publications won awards for best regional newspapers: Central Florida Episcopalian (Joe Thoma, editor), followed by Chicago’s Anglican Advance (David Skidmore, editor).