Report for America hosts 2nd annual Local News Awards

Report for America presented awards to journalists in a dozen categories and named a Mentor of the Year at its second annual “Local News Awards” ceremony, held at Loyola University Chicago, June 10.

The celebration capped off the national service program’s “National Gathering 2022” which brought together hundreds of corps members for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Among the evening’s top winners was Katie Hyson, WUFT News, who took home “The GroundTruth Award” for “How a Black marching band style was erased from Gainesville’s fields, and why it matters decades later.” Hyson also took first place honors for Feature Writing.

The Texas Observer’s Ivan Flores took first place in both the Feature and Spot News Photo categories.

Breanna Reeves, Black Voice News, receives the Service Project of the Year Award from Steven Waldman, president and cofounder of Report for America. (Photo by Michael Karam / The GroundTruth Project)

Other first-place winners were Samantha Hogan, The Maine Monitor, for Investigative Writing; Kayla Canne, Asbury Park Press, for Enterprise Writing; Julia Shanahan, Rappahannock News & Foothills Forum, for Breaking News Writing; Maria Sestito, The Desert Sun, for Community Leadership Writing; Phoebe Petrovic, Wisconsin Public Radio/Wisconsin Watch, for Audio; Madeleine Cook, Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, for Video; Jackie Botts, CalMatters, for Dispatch; and Breanna Reeves, Black Voice News, for Service Project of the Year.

Jacob Fries, executive director of InvestigateWest, was honored as the Mentor of the Year for his work with Rose Wong, a corps member who covered healthcare for the Tampa Bay Times and is now at the Oregonian.

Each of the entries was judged through an anonymous document with only the journalist’s words or visuals — no designs, no links to other work, no identification of the newsroom — to put newsrooms big and small on a level playing field, according to Jason Blakeney, a Report for America regional manager, who coordinated this year’s awards.

“It’s always difficult to select winners when so many worthy entries are submitted, but the quality of those recognized truly represents the standard of journalism for this corps,” Blakeney said. “I was so impressed combing through the work and blown away by the impact these journalists are having on their communities.”

The Report for America 2022 Local News Awards winners are:

Feature writing

First place: Katie Hyson, WUFT News

“How a Black marching band style was erased from Gainesville’s fields, and why it matters decades later”

Second place: Benjamin Simon, The Hastings Banner

Trouble with beavers in Barry County

Third place: Rose Lundy, The Maine Monitor

Tiny Coopers Mills reeling in the aftermath of nursing home closure

Investigative writing

First place: Samantha Hogan, The Maine Monitor

“Jailed defendants expected private attorney calls. They didn’t always get them”

Second place: Douglas Soule, Mountain State Spotlight

“This West Virginia sheriff’s deputy killed a man. The family warned it would happen again. And it did.”

Third place: Amanda Ulrich, The Desert Sun

In California, a Native woman’s killing remains unsolved. There are many others like her.

Enterprise writing

Firat place: Kayla Canne, Asbury Park Press

Why illegal discrimination toward Section 8 tenants goes unchecked in NJ

Second place: Wyatt Massey, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Former members question culture of Venue Church

Third place: Becky Jacobs, Salt Lake Tribune

“My kid being trans does not affect you”: Why a family says they can no longer live in Utah

Breaking News writing

First place: Julia Shanahan, Rappahannock News & Foothills Forum

Rep. Good encourages Rappahannock students to shed masks at school

Second place: Ian Karbal, Mountain State Spotlight

A ‘no-name’ sets the tone for WV Senate redistricting plan

Third place: Amelia Ferrell Knisely, Mountain State Spotlight

What happened in WV legislative session’s crowded final night

Community Leadership writing

First place: Maria Sestito, The Desert Sun

Court rulings enable Palm Springs man to receive more than $73k in survivors benefits — 16 years after his partner’s death

Second place: Breanna Reeves, Black Voice News

“Government Working to Improve Equity in Distribution and Use of COVID-19 Treatment Options”

Third place: Kailey Broussard, KERA

Arlington is considering filling in ‘missing middle housing.’ Experts explain what that means


First place: Phoebe Petrovic, Wisconsin Public Radio/Wisconsin Watch

“Arson Trial of Dale Chu”

Second place: Antonia Ayers-Brown, The Public’s Radio

“Life at the Newport Motel 6”

Third place: Camila Vallejo, CT Public

“Landlords wanted: As Afghan refugees arrive in Conn., housing is an issue”

Feature photo

First place: Ivan Flores, The Texas Observer

Light painting a proposed LNG facility

Second place: Madeleine Cook, Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer

Eric Lofton’s Covid-19 recovery

Spot news photo

First place: Ivan Flores, The Texas Observer

David Lee Espinoza comes home


First place: Madeleine Cook, Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer

Evictions during Covid-19


First place: Jackie Botts, CalMatters

One man’s lonely journey through California’s plan to end homelessness

Second place: Seyma Bayram, Akron Beacon Journal

The failed Akron Innerbelt drove decades of racial inequity. Can the damage be repaired?

Third place: Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio

Through the trauma of getting COVID-19, this family of Iowa meatpackers found strength

Mentor of the Year

Jacob Fries, mentor of Rose Wong

Service Project of the Year

Breanna Reeves, Black Voice News

The GroundTruth Award

Katie Hyson, WUFT News

“How a Black marching band style was erased from Gainesville’s fields, and why it matters decades later”

About Report for America
Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities across all 50 states. By creating a new, sustainable model for journalism, Report for America provides people with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and restore trust in the media. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.