Navajo Times staffers clean up at Arizona Press Club awards

By Diane J. Schmidt
Special to the Times

PHOENIX, May 24, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Diane J. Schmidt)

Navajo Times reporters Marley Shebala and Cindy Yurth receive awards May 19 from Arizona Press Club master of ceremonies and Arizona Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons.


ust in case you thought your local reporters were pretty special but weren't sure if anyone else did, it's nice to know that some national journalists think so too.

Saturday night in Phoenix, the Navajo Times swept the Arizona Press Club competition with 13 awards, including seven top and first places.

Marley Shebala won the top award as Community Journalist of the Year.

Cindy Yurth, who was the runner-up for that same award, received a total of eight awards-more than any other one journalist in the state.

And just as remarkable, four of those eight awards won by Yurth were first-place awards.

Sports Editor Candace Begody and photographer Donovan Quintero also won first-place awards for the Times.

The judges included Pulitzer prize-winning journalists from the top papers in the country, and their comments for the first-place wins are included in the list below.

  • Arizona Community Journalist of the Year: Marley Shebala. "Marley Shebala does it all," Judge David Horsey writes. "She writes a dramatic narrative. She covers a broad range of topics, from wildfires to domestic violence. And, most impressive of all, she does tough investigative work that lets the officials in her distressed community know they are being watched and held accountable. Shebala epitomizes the power of community journalism." (Judge David Horsey is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and political commentator for the Los Angeles Times.)
  • Arizona Community Journalist of the Year: 1st runner-up, Cindy Yurth.
  • Public Safety Reporting: 2nd place, Diane J. Schmidt, "Branded and Scarred."
  • Politics and Government Reporting: 3rd place, Marley Shebala and Bill Donovan, ?"Top officials benefit from bonus purchases," "Shelly promises to learn from past mistakes," etc.
  • Environmental/Science Reporting: 1st place, Cindy Yurth "Horses and Drought on Navajo Nation." Judge David Hammer, environmental investigative reporter of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, comments: "If there were a 'best-in-show' for environmental reporting, regardless of media outlet size and location, this would be it-and by a country mile. "Yurth produces a real eye-opening look at overgrazing's role in the worst Navajo Nation drought in memory, and how it all fits in amid the backdrop of the climate change debate. She offers great political analysis, and with rare flair, too."
  • Environmental/Science Reporting: Education Reporting: 3rd place, Cindy Yurth, "Lost boys."
  • Sports Reporting: 1st place, Candace Begody, "Ayoo daat'iido." Judge Mike Whaley, New Hampshire's 2012 sportswriter of the year, comments about Begody's story, "Moving and well-written piece on Navajo basketball team. Great quotes from coach. It was really a nice change of pace story and handled very well."
  • Sports Reporting: 2nd place, Cindy Yurth, "Luckiest coach in the world."
  • Column Writing: 1st place, Cindy Yurth. Judge Bill Ervolino of the wrote, "Whether sniffing around a Navajo casino (with a stack of one dollar bills) or saluting the Native American Code Talkers-who helped us win World War II-Yurth engages us with a cozy blend of facts, observations and compelling points of view. She also writes, lovingly, about some earnest do-gooders who deserve to be singled out in her column because they will never win awards-unlike Yurth."
  • Human Interest Writing: 1st place, Cindy Yurth, "Making peace with mustangs," and "The Graduates." Judge Lane DeGregory, St. Petersburg Times Pulitzer Prize feature writing winner, writes, "Cinematic writing, dramatic construction and conversational tone help these delightful stories put the reader in the scene-wondering what will happen to the horses and the men trying to tame them. "Judicial use of quotes, nice sandwiching of 'what you need to know' information inside the narratives. Great details, like when the cowboy can't break a horse named 'Rocky,' his wife 'inhaled some mountain tobacco and blew it into his nostrils.'"
  • Arts Reporting: 1st place, Cindy Yurth. Judge Jori Finkel, arts reporter for the Los Angeles Times: "An imaginative reporter and energetic writer who finds ways of pacing and framing her stories to capture her subjects' sensibilities, Yurth introduces readers to promising Native American artists, like a 27-year-old self-taught classical composer, without losing sight of their daily struggles."
  • Portrait/Personality Photography: 1st place, Donovan J. Quintero "World War II veteran Cpl. Ester Denetclaw."
  • General News Photography: 2nd place, Donovan J. Quintero, "Target."