Coverage of papal transition bears fruit at national convention

by Libby Hyde

Kansas City, Kan. — The Leaven enjoyed more than a little Southern hospitality last month when it brought home from the June 18-20 convention in Charlotte, N.C., a total of 16 national press awards.

The paper won four first-place awards, three second-places, three third-places, and five honorable mentions.

“Receiving any award from the Catholic Press Association is gratifying, but to receive 15 — as well as a first-place award from the Pontifical Mission Societies of the United States — is something any paper would be honored to have,” said Father Mark Goldasich, the editor of The Leaven. “When you consider how small a staff we have at The Leaven, even with our excellent freelancers, this number of awards is truly astounding and a tribute to our writers and photographers.”

Bragging rights this year went to summer intern Katie Hyde, who won six of the 15 awards for the paper. Hyde was proudest of her second-place award for Best Coverage of Immigration with her story, “Shattered Dreams.” It was published in The Leaven last September.

Immigration is an issue Hyde has always been passionate about. So, an offer to travel to Tijuana, Mexico, and report on the work of Father Pat Murphy, CS, former Hispanic animator for the archdiocese, was one she couldn’t resist.

“For me, it was an incredible experience to go to the Casa Migrante in Tijuana and experience firsthand the lives of deported migrants,” said Hyde. “Those stories in particular stay with me. I will never forget the things I heard in Tijuana.”

Hyde said the most difficult part of writing that story was the sheer amount of information she dealt with. Hearing the heartbreaking stories of immigrants who were deported from the United States, Hyde said, made it difficult for her to maintain a professional outlook on the work.

“The stories I heard were ones that made me want to weep, and some that made me want to scream,” said Hyde. “It was very difficult to listen to the stories of hardship and loss and to only be able to write them down and carry them home with me.”

In addition to the second place from the CPA, she was also given the Pontifical Mission Societies’ 2014 Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Award for “Shattered Dreams.”

And she won a second place for her story “We Are the Veronicas” in the category of Best Coverage of Vocations.

“If Katie Hyde’s interning days with The Leaven had to come to an end,” said Leaven managing editor Anita McSorley, “I am glad they did so on such a high note.

“Between her piece on the visit of Benedictine Sisters Anne Shepard, Barb McCracken and Lorraine McGuire to Torreon, Mexico, and her own trip with photographer Elaina Cochran to visit Father Pat Murphy in Tijuana, Katie put a human face on the suffering of our closest neighbors that readers won’t soon forget.”

Senior reporter Joe Bollig took a first place in a new category for him — Best Sports Journalism — for “Big League Saints,” a story about former Kansas City Royals All-Star Mike Sweeney’s Catholic base- ball camp.

“I think the strength of the story comes not from the typical substance of a sports story about plays or games or loss- es and wins,” said Bollig. “The strength of the story came from the faith of Mike Sweeney. He could have been any kind of athlete, or for that matter [it could have been] any kind of profession, because the game was not the main focus — the faith was. It just happened to be in the context of sports.”

Though Bollig said he has never covered sports in any capacity, the difficulty he faced was not his lack of sports reporting experience. It was choosing what to use in his article that proved to be difficult.

“Sweeney had so many excellent things to say, as did so many other men who were there with him,” said Bollig. “I just didn’t have enough space to put in everything that I wanted to. The expressions of faith, the witness of faith, and the insights of faith that were given by the people there other than Mike Sweeney were just as good; they were wonderful. I wish I could have used more of that.”

Doug Hesse, a freelance photographer who has been working with the Leaven since 1992, also received a first-place award in the category of Best Multiple Picture Package for his photo essay accompanying the story, “Seeking the Lost Lambs.” For this assignment, Hesse photo- graphed Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s visit to the Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka.

“It was hard to see because they really were just kids who seemed to have no hope,” said Hesse. “The archbishop was trying to give them hope through Catholicism, even though they were behind bars.”

Though Hesse has photographed a number of prison visits for The Leaven in the past, he said this particular shoot was more emotional because the offenders were so young.

While some of the teens seemed not to want anything to do with the archbishop and his message, said Hesse, there were others who seemed very interested in what the archbishop was saying,

“Some even asked [Archbishop Naumann] to pray for them and their families,” Hesse said.

The final big wins were for the entire staff, and one freelance photographer who had a front row seat to the biggest news of last year — Italian photographer Stefano Spaziani.

Despite the fact that photo rights had to be negotiated by email and in the editor’s rusty Italian, Spaziani was all the places the staff wanted to be this past spring but couldn’t. Spaziani took first places for the Best Multiple Picture Package called

“The Long View” and the Best Coverage of the Papal Transition, and third place for Best Photograph, for a portrait of Pope Benedict from be- hind, looking out to the mountains.

Spaziani also contributed to a third place for Best Multiple Picture Package — News for “Habemus Papam,” designed by Todd Habiger.

The entire staff won second place for its “Pope Francis” issue in the Best Special Issue category, and third place for Best Coverage of the Papal Transition.

“There’s nothing like a surprise conclave to test a diocesan news- paper’s mettle,” said McSorley. “But I’m grateful that the judges thought we rose to the occasion. A special thank you should go to Italian photographer Stefano Spaziani, whose images of both popes helped make our coverage stand out.”

Father Goldasich said it was “hugely satisfying” to know that the paper’s coverage of the papal transition was recognized as among the best, despite the fact that most Catholic newspapers across the United States were covering the same event.

“The awards that we received in these categories, from the resignation of Pope Benedict to the election and installation of Pope Francis, were particularly sweet to receive,” said Father Goldasich. “It makes me appreciate even more the creativity and talents of those staffers and freelancers responsible for these issues.”

The paper took five honorable mentions as well.

Finally, although The Leaven can’t claim him, Leon Suprenant, the communications associate for the archdiocese, also received an honorable mention from the Catholic Press Association for his book, “The Faith Basics Catholic Dictionary,” in the category of Reference Books.

Suprenant said he felt genuine surprise when he received the award.

“I didn’t know it was nominated,” Suprenant said. “And even if I had known, I probably wouldn’t have thought I had much of a chance.”

Suprenant added that he owed the book’s success to Eric Stoutz who edited the dictionary.

“He and I had been close friends for 30 years, and it was a singular joy to work with him on this project,” Suprenant said. “Sadly, as the dictionary went to press, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away last September. I firmly believe Eric is a saint, and this award is as much his as it’s mine.”


 First Place

Best multiple Picture Package – news
“Seeking the lost lambs” by Doug Hesse

Best multiple Picture Package – Feature
“The long view” by Stefano Spaziani

Best Sports Journalism – news
“Big league Saints” by Joe Bollig

Best coverage of the Papal transition – multiple Picture Package
“Papal Transition” by Stefano Spaziani

Archbishop O’meara Award Visit to the Missions
“Shattered Dreams” by Katie Hyde

Second Place

Best Special Issue
“Pope Francis” by Leaven Staff

Best Coverage of Immigration
“Shattered Dreams” by Katie Hyde

Best Coverage of Vocations
“We are the Veronicas” by Katie Hyde

Third Place

Best Photograph – Portrait
“The Long View” by Stefano Spaziani

Best Multiple Picture Package – News
“Habemus Papam” designed by Todd Habiger

Best Coverage of the Papal Transition
“Papal Transition” by Leaven staff

Honorable Mention

Best Front Page – Tabloid
“Conclave, Rome, Francis” by Todd Habiger

Best Analysis/Background/ Roundup News Writing: Sherry Award
“Eye Opener” by Katie Hyde

Best In-depth news/Special Reporting
“Eye Opener” by Katie Hyde

Best In-depth news/Special Reporting
“Shattered Dreams” by Katie Hyde

Best Feature Story
“We are the Veronicas” by Katie Hyde

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