Pennsylvania Women's Press Association


PWPA Announces Winners of 2015 Excellence in Journalism Awards

PWPA contact: President Daveen Rae Kurutz, (412) 444-8469.

PITTSBURGH (April 27, 2015) —The Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association is excited to announce the winners of its 2015 Excellence in Journalism Awards.   The PWPA board and contest judges were impressed by the number of exceptional entries received. 
“The annual Excellence in Journalism contest showcases the amazing work of PWPA’s members. It’s great to see so many talented journalists competing in our contest each year,” PWPA President Daveen Rae Kurutz said.
Contest winners will be recognized at PWPA’s annual awards luncheon May 30 during the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association’s 2015 Pennsylvania Press Conference in Gettysburg, May 29-30. 
At the luncheon, the winner of PWPA’s top prize, the Journalist of the Year Award, will be named. The Journalist of the Year is the man or woman who accumulates the most points from category wins. More information about the 2015 Pennsylvania Press Conference is
PWPA’s Excellence in Journalism Awards contest does not have divisions based on circulation or publication frequency – all newspapers and news websites compete against one another. All of the contest entries were judged by out-of-state media professionals.  This year, the contest attracted more than 250 entries from 63 professional journalists, hailing from 25 different newspapers.
PWPA congratulates all of the 2015 Excellence in Journalism Award winners.
The winners are as follows:
Class 1: General News
First place: “West Virginia Teen Gets 30 years in Prison for Her Role in Friend’s Stabbing Death,” Janice Crompton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Second place: “School Upheaval,” Sarah Hofius Hall, Times Tribune
Third place: “Drug Users Being Charged,” Jo Ciavaglia, Bucks County Courier Times
Class 2: Sports
First place: “Cal U Quietly Added Football Players with Criminal Backgrounds,” Debra Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second place: “Norristown Grad Brianne Hagels Battle Through Life-altering Illness,” Katie Bambi Kohler, The Times Herald
Class 3: Lifestyles
First place: “Shoe Love,” JoAnne Klimovich Harrop, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second place: “Menu for Controversy,” Jamie Klein, Reading Eagle
Third place: “Table Tenets,” Lini Kadaba, Philadelphia Inquirer
Class 4: Features
First place: “Moving On: Emotional Trauma and Recovery After Flight 427,” Jenny Wagner, Beaver County Times
Second place: “Coaches in Heels,” JoAnne Klimovich Harrop, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Third place: “A Son Halfway Across Earth,” Sarah Hofius-Hall; Times-Tribune
Class 5: Editorials
First place: Liz Allen, Erie Times News
Second place: Salena Zito, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Third place: Kay Stephens, Altoona Mirror
Class 6: Columns
First place: Salena Zito, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second place: Christine Haines, Uniontown Herald Standard
Third place: Stephanie Weaver, Reading Eagle
Class 7: Business/Consumer story
First place: “Savior of the Shipyard,” Craig Smith, Tribune-Review
Second place: “College-bank Deals Inspire Calls for Openness,” Debra Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Third place: “Hopping Ahead,” Jamie Klein, Reading Eagle
Honorable mention: “Women’s Pay Lags More in Beaver County,” Daveen Rae Kurutz, Beaver County Times
Class 8: Series
First place: “Pension Tension,” Terrie Morgan-Besecker, Times-Tribune
Second place: “The Cost of Sports,” Stephanie Weaver, Reading Eagle
Third place: “Sex Offender Registry Flawed,” Jo Ciavaglia, Bucks County Courier Times
Class 9: Interviews/Profiles
First place: “Newborn’s Refuge Shattered,” Craig Smith, Tribune-Review
Second place: “So Proudly We Geek,” Lini Kadaba, Philadelphia Inquirer
Third place: “Archives to Honor Nun,” Dana Massing, Erie Times News
Class 10: Page Design
First place: Mary Beth Eastman, Beaver County Times
Second place:  Kristin O’Malley, Times-Tribune
Third place: Megan Miller, Beaver County Times
Honorable Mention: Hannah Frank, Altoona Mirror
Class 11: Enterprise/Investigative report
First place: “Thousands of Disabled Workers in PA Paid Far Below Minimum Wage.  Opportunity or Exploitation?” Halle Stockton, Public Source
Second place: “Slaughter a Painful Reality,” Jamie Klein, Reading Eagle
Third place: “Pennsylvania Municipalities Tap Swaps for Upfront Cash,” Romy Varghese, Bloomberg
Honorable Mention: “Temp Jobs, No Votes,” Sarah Hofius Hall, Times-Tribune
Class 12: Health/Science story
First place: “Don’t Spare the Horses,” Elaine Vitone, Pitt Med
Second place: “What’s the Risk,” Dana Massing, Erie Times-News
Third place: “Heart of Gold,” Amanda Gabelleto, Altoona Mirror
Class 13: Education story
First place: “Test Score Struggles,” Daveen Rae Kurutz, Beaver County Times
Second place: “The Job Hunt,” Stephanie Weaver, Reading Eagle
Third place: “Will Changes Save Schools,” Dana Massing, Erie Times News
Honorable Mention: “Higher Ed Can Take a Major Toll,” Debra Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Honorable Mention: “Girard College Finances Handcuffed by Rate Swaps,” Romy Varghese, Bloomberg
Class 14: Travel, A&E story
First place: “Dogs Test Their Pipes at Audition,” Megan Guza, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second place: “Cuba Confidential,” Patricia Sheridan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Third place: “This Is the End,” Lini Kadaba, Philadelphia Inquirer
Honorable Mention: “Long-distance Connections,” JoAnne Klimovich Harrop, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Class 15: Headlines
First place: Liz Allen, Erie Times News
Class 16A: News/Feature photography
First place: Stephanie Strasburg, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second place: Ellen O’Connell, Standard-Speaker
Class 16B: Sports photography
First place: Ellen O’Connell, Standard-Speaker
Second place: Stephanie Strasburg, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Third place: Jamie Pesotine, Standard-Speaker
Class 17: Multimedia projects
First place: “Don’t Forget Me: Portraits of Alzheimer’s & Dementia,” Gwen Titley, Beaver County Times
Second place: “Miss Frick’s Debut,” web team, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Third place: “Science Scores Are up for Beaver County Area High Schools,” Daveen Rae Kurutz, Beaver County Times
Class 18: Religion story
First place: “Christian Crisis,” Betsy Hiel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second place: “We Are a People,” Dana Massing, Erie Times News
Third place: “Sisters Remain Hopeful,” Caitlin Heaney West, Times Tribune
Class 19: Outdoors/Environmental story
First place: “The Half-life,” Betsy Hiel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second place: “W.Va. Toxin on Way to PA,” Debra Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Third place: “Brothers Aim to Bring Back Chestnut Trees in Township,” Nicole Chynoweth, Ligonier Echo
Class 20: Rookie Reporter
First place: Sarah Stemen, Erie Times-News
Second place: Olivia Goudy, Uniontown Herald Standard
Third place: Megan Guza, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Honorable Mention: Lexi Belculfine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Honorable Mention: Elizabeth Bloom, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Honorable Mention: Nicole Chynoweth, Ligionier Echo
Class 21: Student Reporter
First place: Sara Payne, Point Park University
Second place: Marina Weis, Point Park University

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Congratulations to winners of Excellence in Journalism 2014

Winners of the 2014 Excellence in Journalism Contest will be honored at the annual PWPA luncheon, held during the PA Press Conference, on May 31.


Class 1 General News

First place: Erin Negley, Reading Eagle Business Weekly, “Bottled Up

Second place: Betsy Hiel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Egypt army deposes Morsy”

Third place: Amanda Cregan, The Intelligencer, “Pilot burned in crash of aircraft on Route 313”

Honorable mention: Debra Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Dollar Bank begins foreclosure against August Wilson Center”

Honorable mention: Daveen Kurutz, Murrysville Star, “After complaints, district stifles ‘Howl’ ”

Honorable mention: Stephanie Weaver, Reading Eagle, “Shock, sorrow follow stabbing”

Class 2 Sports

First place: Karen Price, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “Wounded vets overcome more than mere obstacles on grueling course”

Class 3 Lifestyles

First place: Linda Koehler, Times News, Here’s to hats

Second place: Kelly Cernetich, Altoona Mirror, Volunteer makes his mark

Third place: Caitlin Heaney, The Times-Tribune, City Oasis

Honorable mention: Erin Negley, Reading Eagle Business Weekly, Dolfin aims to make a splash

Honorable Mention: Jennie Geisler, Erie Times-News, Pint-Size Cooks

Honorable Mention: Sandra Fischione Donovan, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Owner overcomes tragic past to find spirit in South Side’s Apsara Café

Honorable mention: Pam Parker, Lake Erie Lifestyle, Dancing Trees

Class 4 Features

First place: Lini Kadaba, Philadelphia Inquirer “To be young, black and safe”

Second place: Stephanie Weaver, Reading Eagle: “Jobless on purpose”

Third place: Sarah Hofius Hall, The Times Tribune, Scranton: “We need to heal them”

Class 5 Editorials/Political commentary

First place: Kay Stephens, Altoona Mirror

Class 6 Columns

First Place: Linda Koehler Erie Times-News

Second Place: Cheryl Hatch

Third Place: Nafari Vanaski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Honorable Mention: Dana Massing, Erie Times-News

Honorable Mention: Gordon Glantz, The Times Herald

Class 7 Business/Consumer

First Place: Romy Varghese, Bloomberg News, ‘Lap Dances Targeted by Philadelphia for Amusement Revenue’

Second Place: Erin Negley, Reading Eagle Business Weekly, ‘Paul Fredrick goes for the bold’

Third Place: Tory N. Parrish, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, ‘Corporations go back to School’

Honorable Mention: Kim Leonard, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, ‘A Center for Ideas’

Honorable Mention: Jo Ciavaglia, Bucks County Courier Times, ‘Loopholes in law aid convicted contractors’

Class 8 Series

First Place: Erin Negley, Reading Eagle Business Weekly: “Who makes how much: Corporate Kings” and “Atop the pay scale: The cost of quality”

Second Place: Erie Times-News staff: “Leaning into Leadership”

Third Place: Linda Gracey, Altoona Mirror: “Faith & Homosexuality”

Class 9 Interview/Profile

First Place – Salena Zito, Pittsburgh Tribune Review”Party Lines invisible to Sen. Manchin of West Virginia”

Second Place- Karen Price, Pittsburgh Tribune Review “Message in a Battle”

Third Place – Beth Anne Heesen, Reading Eagle “The Circle of Life”

Class 10 Page Design

First place: Brenda Martin, Erie Times-News,

Second place: Morgaine Ford-Workman, Bucks County Courier Times

Third place: Keith Frederick, Altoona Mirror

Class 11 Enterprise/Investigative

First place: Emily DeMarco and Natasha Khan, PublicSource: PA’s regulation of amusement parks falls short in inspections, enforcement

Second place: Betsy Hiel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Unchecked looting guts Egypt’s heritage with one site 70 percent gone

Third place: Jo Ciavaglia, Bucks County Courier Times:  Life and death in their hands

Honorable mention: Sarah Hofius Hall, The Times-Tribune: It’s who you know

Class 12 Health/Science

First place: Beth Anne Heesen, Reading Eagle: “Caring is sharing”

Second place: Rossilynne Skena Greensburg Tribune Review: “Threat of violence constant”

Third place: Debra Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune Review: “Fat studies”

Class 13 Education

First Place: Sarah Hofius Hall, The Scranton Times-Tribune:  “NEPA schools face $149M 3-year loss”

Second Place: Dana Massing, Erie Times-News: “Kids are sponges”

Third Place: Kari Andren, Tribune-Review: “Parents take stand against standardized tests”

Honorable Mention: Christine Haines, The Herald-Standard:  “High Cost of College”

Class 14 Travel, Arts & Entertainment

First Place: Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Visiting Boston: The cradle of liberty still rocks”

Second Place: Gordon Glantz, The Times Herald, “Kathy Mattea comes full-circle with authenticity onstage”

Third Place: Caitlin Heaney, The Scranton Times-Tribune, “Social Media Play Key Part to Promotion”

Honorable Mention: Erin Negley, Reading Eagle, “‘Sheer genius'”

Class 15 Headline Writing

First place: Liz Allen, Erie Times-News

Second place: Stephanie Longo, The Abington Suburban

Class 16A News/Feature photos

First place: Stephanie Strasburg, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Second place: Ellen O’Connell, Standard Speaker

Third place: Kristina Serafini, Sewickley Herald

Honorable mention: Elizabeth Baumeister, Abington Journal

Class 16 B Sports photos

First place: Kristina Serafini, Sewickley Herald

Second place: Stephanie Strasburg, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Third place: Karen Price, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Honorable mention: Ellen O’Connell, Standard Speaker

Class 17 Multimedia

First: Erie Times News, JFK look-back:

Second:  The Times-Tribune

Class 18 Religion

First place:  Megan Harris, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review “If it’s right you’ll know.”

Second place: Jennie Geisler, Erie Times-News, “Spirituality & Religion”

Third place: Erin Negley, Reading Eagle Business Weekly, “Lifting more than spirits”

Honorable Mention: Linda Gracey, Altoona Mirror, “Tragedy fails to shake faith”

Honorable Mention: Deb Erdley, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “Churches reach disconnected through webcasts”

Honorable Mention: Kelly Monitz, Standard Speaker, “St. Joseph burns”

Class 19 Outdoors/Environmental

First place:  Romy Varghese, Bloomberg News, “Bat-Killing Fungal Disease Has U.S. Lumber Firms Fighting States”

Second place: Lini Kabada, Philadelphia Inquirer, “Dumping Diapers”

Class 20 Rookie Reporting

First Place: Beth Anne Heesen, Reading Eagle.

Class 21 Student entries

First Place: Emily Balser of Point Park News Service

Second Place: Megan Guza of Point Park News Service

Third Place: Amy Walker of Penn State University Collegian

Honorable Mention: Brian Reed of Point Park News Service

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PWPA and the Pirates

Update: We are out of tickets for this event.

Thanks to the generosity of Trib Total Media, PWPA Southwest again will be to host a spring event at PNC Park in the Trib’s luxury suite.

Thanks to the Trib, this has become a tradition for the PWPA Southwest group.

The Pirates take on the Cardinals at 7:05 p.m., and it is a Free Shirt Friday, so everyone in attendance will receive a promotional T-shirt. As always, food and beverages are provided, with the exception of the dessert cart.

The first 15 members to respond will be able to attend this event. Not to worry, a summer happy hour/dinner will be held in the South Hills.

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Past PWPA president tells international tales


Past PWPA president Linda Espenshade (back, far left), news coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee U.S., spoke to a South Central District lunch gathering in June at Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata.

Those attending sat in rapt attention as Linda, also a former Lancaster Newspapers staff writer, talked about her travels to such countries as Zambia, Bangladesh, India and Haiti, to write about Mennonite Central Committee’s relief, development and peace work for “A Common Placemagazine,” published by Mennonite Central Committee.

She told riveting tales, including risking arrest when entering Zimbabwe (hint: don’t tell checkpoint officials you’re a writer) and learning the heartbreaking stories of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

On hand were (clockwise, from giraffe) district director Diane Bitting, Kay Stephens, Donna Hudelson and Erin Negley. Also attending, but not pictured, was Laura Knowles.

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Why I joined PWPA

by Stephanie Longo
Vice president, PWPA

It all started with a phone call.

I was working as the editor of The Villager newspaper in Moscow, near Scranton, when I received an intriguing phone call.

“Hello, this is Kathy Ruff, I am the Northeast Regional Director for the Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association,” the friendly voice said.

Kathy then asked me a few questions about my job; I explained to her that I was editor of a one-woman show weekly newspaper and that I also was a full-time student at Regent University working on my masters in journalism.

“So, you’re really on your own up there?” she said.

Oh I was on my own.

I really was — especially considering the fact that my direct supervisor’s office was more than 45 minutes away in Honesdale.

By the end of that phone conversation, I was hooked. I had to join PWPA.

Flash forward to our Excellence in Journalism awards two years later. I had won an award for work I had done while at The Villager for a multimedia piece and, after the luncheon, my mother and I were relaxing in the Hilton Harrisburg’s lobby. This time, a smiling face approached me.

“Hello, you’re Stephanie Longo, you just won an award with us; I’m Kay Stephens. PWPA is looking for a secretary. I thought you might be interested.”

Again, I was intrigued. Admittedly, I’m not the type of person to immediately open my mouth and volunteer for something, so the fact that someone would actually go out of their way to invite me to participate meant a lot to me.

I now have been a PWPA member since 2007, having served as board secretary, Northeast Regional Director and now board vice president. While my involvement as a board member is something I always will cherish, it is the friendships I have made that have made my participation worthwhile.

I never would have met our current board president (and one of my dearest friends) Daveen Kurutz if it hadn’t been for this organization. Having a friend who understands the ins and outs of your job is priceless.

I also had the opportunity to make friends with other journalists from my region. Perhaps while at work we are “competition” but outside, we are all trying to make a living and sometimes it is nice just to get together, talk shop and remember why we became journalists in the first place.

On a more personal level, my membership with PWPA has helped me increase my self-confidence as a journalist. By winning awards, I discovered I am talented at my craft — something I often didn’t fully own. I also became a better journalist through conversations with other members and by getting to read their publications, especially those from outside of Northeast Pennsylvania.

If anyone were to ask me if they should join PWPA, I would emphatically say “yes.” For $25 a year, the benefits far outweigh the cost, which also is a bargain compared to other professional organizations in our field.

If any of you know a potential journalist who is “on the fence” about joining, I’d be happy to speak with them personally.

Stephanie Longo is vice president of PWPA. She can be reached at or 570-348-9185, ext. 5429.

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July 2013 newsletter

pwpajuly2013coverInside the July 2013 issue of the PWPA newsletter:

-2013 Journalist of the Year JoAnn Ciavaglia talks about how she got some of her winning stories.

-Remembering long-time PWPA member Teresa Spatara

-A recap of Elizabeth Merrill’s talk at the awards luncheon in May

-Getting to know the 2013-14 PWPA officers.

Download a copy of the newsletter here.

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February 2013 newsletter

Click here to read the latest issue of the PWPA newsletter.

Included are details about changes to this year’s contest, and a summary of the most recent Southeast District meeting.

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December 2012 newsletter

One last newsletter before the year ends! To download the December newsletter, please click here.

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75th anniversary edition newsletter

Take a look at the special anniversary edition of the PWPA newsletter.

We distributed copies of it at the awards luncheon in June, but I realized I never sent it out to the membership, so here it is for anyone who may have missed it.

Inside, you’ll find musings from past presidents, vintage clippings from the organization’s youth and a reprint of a speech given by member Barbara Hough Roda at the 50th anniversary luncheon.

Download a copy of the Special 75th anniversary newsletter.

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September 2012 newsletter

Download the newest newsletter below. Inside you’ll find photos from the 75 anniversary luncheon, excerpts from some of the winning entries, and an article about PWPA member Larry Alexander talking about the books he’s published with the South Central district.

Click here for a copy of the September 2012 newsletter.

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