Report for America celebrates the best in local journalism with 3rd annual Local News Awards


Report for America presented awards to journalists in nearly a dozen categories and named a Mentor of the Year at its third annual “Local News Awards,” held virtually, May 17, following a ceremony honoring the program’s recent graduates.

More than 300 entries were submitted this year, showcasing compelling and impactful local reporting from across the country through a variety of mediums, including writing, audio, video, and photojournalism.

Melissa Montalvo, who covers childhood poverty for The Fresno Bee, was among the evening’s top winners. Her investigation into the disturbing use of force by security guards in homeless shelters took first place in the Investigative Writing category. Montalvo also received the Service Project of the Year award for devoting her free time to teaching story development and interviewing skills to student journalists in area high schools.

“Growing up, I never thought journalism was a thing I could do,” said Manpreet Kaur, one of her students. “But seeing a woman of color in that realm, who is successful,” it showed me, “I can do that!”

Sahan Journal’s Jaida Grey Eagle took top honors in the “Spot News Photo” category for this year’s Local News Awards with her photograph of Representative Ilhan Omar, and supporters, celebrating Omar’s reelection.

The Sahan Journal’s Jaida Grey Eagle took first place in the Spot News Photo category. Harika Maddala, Bay City News Foundation, captured top honors for Feature Photo. WJCT’s Will Brown placed second in both photo categories.

Other first-place winners were Gabriela Szymanowska, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, for Feature Writing; Becca Savransky, Idaho Statesman, for Enterprise Writing, Trisha Ahmed, The Associated Press, for Breaking News Writing; Jacob Steimer, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, for Community Leadership Writing;  Laura Kebede, Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis, for Audio; and Bethany Baker, The Salt Lake Tribune, for Video.

Gayle T. Williams, a development communications manager for an academic medical institution in New York City and former longtime journalist, was honored as the Mentor of the Year for her work with Brittany Brown, a corps member who covers public policy for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism.

“I really underestimated the amount of time it would take for me to adjust to living in a new place, reporting in a new place, and Gayle has been my rock,” Brown said in taped remarks for the ceremony. She went on to say, “There’s so much I’m learning from her, both as a journalist and as a Black woman in the field of journalism.

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 my annual pleasure to be involved in the planning of Report for America’s Local News Awards,” Blakeney said. “This year was a tremendous year for journalism among our corps, and the quality of the pieces honored during tonight’s ceremony is a perfect example of the work local journalists can do when placed in a position to succeed.”

The top-three entries in each category received cash prizes thanks to the generosity of the Dan and Christine Quinn Family Foundation. Please join us in congratulating all of the 2023 Report for America Local News Awards recipients for their reporting and commitment to local journalism as a national service.

Community Leadership

First place: Jacob Steimer, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism

When eviction is on the line, some judges are helpful. Some are not

Second place: Tiana Woodard, The Boston Globe

Double-parking at Boston churches often goes unchecked. Muslims say they want the same flexibility

Third place: Frank Vaisvilas, Green Bay Press-Gazette

Indigenous tribes in Wisconsin grapple with blood quantum dilemma amid declining enrollment


First place: Gabriela Szymanowska, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Midnight heist of rare horse: Minnesota woman’s bizarre fight with Florida circus owner

Second place: Julia Shanahan, Rappahannock News & Foothills Forum

A local family’s journey tracing an inescapable lineage of slavery, and their efforts to confront it

Third place: Jarrette Werk,

Running down a dream

Breaking News

First place: Trisha Ahmed, The Associated Press

North Dakota governor signs law banning nearly all abortions

Second place: Victoria Rossi, El Paso Matters

The end of Roe v. Wade will have unique impact on Texas-Mexico border

Third place: Arleigh Rodgers, The Associated Press

Indiana lawmakers advance ban on all gender-affirming care


First place: Becca Savransky, Idaho Statesman

Leaking roofs, collapsing pipes, freezing classrooms. How did Idaho schools get here?

Second place: Tiana Woodard, The Boston Globe

Why Some Black Bostonians are Choosing to Move to the South

Third place: Kate Cough, The Maine Monitor

The Unstoppable Ocean: 10 Stories from the Edge of Maine


First place: Melissa Montalvo, The Fresno Bee

‘Disturbing’ force used at Fresno homeless shelters by private security. Here’s what happened

Second place: Michael Goldberg, The Associated Press

Deputies accused of shoving guns in mouths of 2 Black men

Third place: Charlie McGee, California News Desert & Trust Initiative/Victorville Daily Press

Sewage fire fuels fears in Hinkley

Spot News Photo

First place: Jaida Grey Eagle, Sahan Journal

Dancing with supporters

Second place: Will Brown, WJCT

Football player turning flip

Third place: Harika Maddala, Bay City News Foundation

Woman hugging police officer

Feature Photo

First place: Harika Maddala, Bay City News Foundation

Kid playing in the sprinkler

Second place: Will Brown, WJCT

Man being restrained in a courtroom

Third place: Alex Driehaus, Valley News

Afghan refugee


First place: Bethany Baker, The Salt Lake Tribune

Utahns protest Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade

Second place: Ashley Miznazi, The Haitian Times

Little Haiti in Transition


First place: Laura Kebede, Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University of Memphis

Civil Wrongs Podcast, Episode 2

Second place: Ari Snider, Maine Public

Bus Ambassadors’ help new immigrants navigate southern Maine transit systems

Third place: Gabriella Paul, WUSF Public Media

Hurricane Ian hit Florida’s citrus growers when they were already down


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 the United States and its territories. 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.