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The Arizona Mirror took home nine awards in the Arizona Newspaper Association’s annual Better Newspapers Contest, led by its coverage of Indigenous communities.
Shondiin Silversmith, who covers Indigenous affairs for the Mirror, was awarded top honors for her coverage of Arizona’s Native American communities and the issues that impact them.
She won a first place in the Best Sports Story category for her exposé of the All Indian Rodeo hosted annually at the Arizona State Fair — and how it isn’t hosted or produced by Indigenous people, and hasn’t been for years.
Silversmith also nabbed a first place in the Best Enterprise Reporting category for her in-depth coverage of Light Up Navajo, a project that extends “life-changing” electrical service to some of the 15,000 or so Navajo homes without electricity.
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In the category for Best News Story, reporter Gloria Rebecca Gomez earned a first place award for her detailed coverage of the political battle over a school spending limit in the state constitution that would have meant “doomsday” budget cuts in the middle of a school year had lawmakers not acted.
Even before 2023 began, school leaders were calling on lawmakers to act and castigating then-Gov. Doug Ducey for failing to call a special legislative session as he’d promised to do. When the legislative session began in January, Republicans initially were wary of acting to lift the spending cap, and some had to be dragged to support doing so.
Gomez also took home a second place award in the Best Narrative Work category for her coverage of a Republican-backed proposal that would have made schools legally liable for letting transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming students use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
Michael Kiefer and Dale Baich won first place in the Best Sustained Coverage or Series category for their five-part series “Poorly Executed,” which examined Arizona’s failure at carrying out the death penalty over the last several decades.
Kiefer was a longtime journalist at The Arizona Republic, where he covered seven different executions over 16 years, while Baich spent decades defending death-row inmates at the Federal Defender’s Office in Phoenix. The pair relied on their personal experiences and extensive reporting to detail the modern history of the death penalty and executions in Arizona — including how the state has at times broken the law to put inmates to death.
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy earned a first place for Best News Photograph for his picture of a KC-135 tanker from the Arizona National Guard’s 161st Refueling Wing refueling an F-16 fighter jet in midair as part of his coverage of NORAD’s preparations to protect the airspace over the Super Bowl in Glendale in February.
Mirror Editor in Chief Jim Small also took home a first place award for Best Column or Commentary for a collection of columns on Arizona politics and government.
Small also was awarded second place in the Best Investigative Reporting category for his deep-dive into the campaign fundraising success that GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake had after following her loss in the 2022 election, when she embraced election fraud conspiracies and declared that she had actually defeated Katie Hobbs.
Lake raised more than $2.5 million after Election Day — and had her best day of fundraising in the entire election cycle on the day that Hobbs was declared the winner. Although she told supporters she needed money to pay for legal challenges to the election, the reporting chronicled how less than 10% of that post-election haul was spent on those legal battles.
The Arizona Mirror also won a second place for Best Website.
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