IBJ, staff win 12 awards in SPJ contest, including first place honors for AI coverage

IBJ and its reporters and staff won 12 awards Monday in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Best in Indiana contest for work during 2019, including first place honors in best news website, medical or science reporting, and page design categories.

IBJ competes in the category for the state’s largest newspapers, digital publications and wire services.

The Indiana Lawyer, which is also published by IBJ Media, won six awards, including first place honors in two categories. The Lawyer competes against publications with circulations of 30,000 or less.

Among IBJ’s winning entries was a package of stories about artificial intelligence in last year’s Innovation Issue. The work included Anthony Schoettle’s story about the growth of artificial intelligence from its early days in science fiction to its practical applications today. Mickey Shuey, John Russell and Lesley Weidenbener also contributed stories to the package.

The judges said the series “clarifies what AI is, debunks common misconceptions, and outlines its history and milestone developments with effective use of timeline graphics.

“Companion articles on potential applications in medicine and health care, a thoughtful exploration of the ethical issues presented by AI and interviews with notable data scientists make this a solid package on a compelling topic,” the judges said.

IBJ graphic designer Audrey Pelsor won first place in non-cover design for her extensive AI timeline that complemented Schoettle’s story. The judges said the timeline was “packed with information” and explains AI “in a fun and smart way, and a pleasing rhythm is maintained from page to page.”

IBJ also won first place for its website, which the judges said had a good navigation bar and used white space well.

Other awards included:

– Coverage of government or politics, second place: Lindsey Erdody, Mickey Shuey and Mason King for a series of stories and a podcast about the Capital Improvement Board’s efforts to win funding for a Bankers Life Fieldhouse renovation and Indiana Convention Center expansion.

– Business and consumer affairs reporting, third place: Mickey Shuey for a story about Ambrose Property Group’s decision not to pursue its planned $1.4 billion Waterside project at the former GM stamping plant.

– Medical or science reporting, second place: John Russell for his beat coverage of medical issues.

– Editorial cartoon, third place: Gary Varvel for a cartoon that put former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on the cover of “Mad Magazine.”

– Sports column writing, second place: Mike Lopresti for a collection of his columns.

– Page 1 newspaper design, third place: IBJ design staff for several covers.

– Magazine cover design, second place: Brad Turner for a Forefront cover.

– Graphics and illustrations, third place: former IBJ designer Jill Doyle for several graphics related to banking problems for low-income workers.

In addition, IBJ’s northern suburbs reporter, Kurt Christian, won second place in investigative reporting for smaller newspapers for work he did at the Bloomington Herald-Times.

The Indiana Lawyer’s managing editor, Olivia Covington, won four awards, including first place in coverage of minority issues for a story about an immigration case.

The judges said immigration law “is nothing if not complicated and where America’s dreamers are concerned, it can be baffling. Covington covers the intimate details of one young man’s convoluted journey through the courts and how even experienced attorneys can slip up on simple matters that have devastating consequences.”

Covington also won second and third place in the breaking news category and second place in criminal justice reporting.

In addition, The Lawyer’s Marilyn Odendahl won first place in business or consumer affairs reporting for a story about rent-to-own land contracts.

Designer Brad Turner won third place in graphics and illustrations for an illustration about corporate attorneys.

SPJ announced the awards Monday. Typically, they are handed out at an evening banquet in the spring, but that was postponed and eventually canceled due to the pandemic.

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