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Published: Monday, 4/28/2008

Blade takes 1st place in news, sports writer categories

FROM BLADE STAFF AND NEWS REPORTS

COLUMBUS - The Blade's staff was named best in the state for reporting breaking news in the coverage of the Bluffton bus tragedy in Atlanta, and Dave Hackenberg was named Ohio's best sports writer in the annual Associated Press Society of Ohio newspaper competition for 2007.

The winners were announced yesterday. The Blade's awards were for newspapers with a daily circulation of more than 75,000.

In the winning breaking news category, the judges cited the newspaper for its "Good, crisp writing full of detail," in reporting the March 2, 2007, Bluffton University bus crash.

Judges singled out the newspaper for its "Good angles for sidebar stories. Up-to-date information, good graphics. Commentary was great addition to overall coverage. Depth and breadth of event coverage [were] very good."

Seven persons died, and 28 players and coaches were injured in the crash, which occurred on I-75 in Atlanta as the team was on its way to Florida for spring games. The driver apparently mistook a left-side exit ramp for a highway lane, and the bus tumbled over an overpass and back onto the interstate below.

In the sports-writing category, the judges cited intense competition from entries submitted by other sports writers in Ohio.

"It was anything but a slam dunk in the sports writing category, as so many entrants went well beyond reporting scores to telling insightful, sometimes moving stories," the judges wrote.

"Hackenberg's versatility managed to stand out in this tight field, however, writing features as well as opinion pieces and more newsy articles - all leaving me eager to read more, even about players I'd never heard of before or likely will again."

The Blade's Kirk Walters was awarded second place for editorial cartoons and staff writer Steve Eder and former Columbus bureau chief James Drew placed second for investigative reporting for the WARN Act.

Jeff Basting was awarded second place in graphic arts and Joe Vardon placed third in sports for his entry, "UT Athletes."

In editorial writing, Dave Shutt and Kendall Downs placed third.

For enterprise reporting, former Blade staff writer Robin Erb's "Crime and Consequences" was awarded third.

The Blade also was awarded third for its Page 1 layouts.

Entries were judged by editors from the Ventura County Star, Camarillo, Calif.

Seventy-one daily newspapers submitted 3,215 entries in the contest, which featured news and sports stories, features, editorials, columns, graphics, photos, design, and videography from 2007.

In the breaking news category, The Blade beat the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, the Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Last month, The Blade was a finalist in a national investigative reporting contest for its 2007 series, "Without Warning," by Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. The four-part investigation showed that a 20-year-old federal law meant to give workers notice before massive layoffs and plant closings was riddled with loopholes and repeatedly skirted by employers.



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