by Moira Cullings
BALTIMORE — Although this season is anything but spectacular for the Kansas City Royals, The Leaven made northeast Kansas proud at the Catholic Media Association awards, held from June 6-9 in Babe Ruth’s hometown.
The archdiocesan publication earned a baker’s dozen.
“I hope the number of awards our small paper wins each year encourages some folks who have not yet become faithful readers of The Leaven to spend some time with us each week,” said editor Father Mark Goldasich.
“In just the last five years,” he continued, “we’ve averaged an award-winning story or photo feature every month.
“You just can’t beat that!”
Packing a punch
Senior reporter Joe Bollig and freelance photographer Jay Soldner shone at this year’s awards ceremony, racking up four awards each.
Bollig earned an honorable mention in the Best Coverage of Political Issues category for a package of articles on the “Value Them Both” amendment.
Bollig’s story “Anything and everything” about a huge parish auction in Wetmore was also recognized as an honorable mention in the Best Feature Writing for a Weekly category.
“It was an unusual assignment,” said Bollig, “and I tried to prepare as well as I could beforehand, but I still wasn’t sure what angle I could take.
“It turned out to be a lot of fun. I love going to places like Wetmore, Olpe and other rural communities.”
Bollig also received an honorable mention for his piece “The Weary World Rejoices” in the category of Best Reporting of Social Justice Issues — Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, and a second place award for the same story in the category of Best Story and Photo Package By Two Individuals or More — an award he shared with Soldner.
The pair spent the day at a Christmas party held for those experiencing homelessness.
“I knew I didn’t have enough time in one afternoon to really get to know them or the truth of their lives,” said Bollig, “but I could let them speak about themselves. I tried to approach them with sensitivity and respect.”
Soldner was also touched by the assignment, which earned him a first place award in the Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature category.
It was one of many days he’s spent photographing Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
“Watching the archbishop interact with anyone is always special,” said Soldner. “He takes time for everyone.
“But watching him interact with the homeless specifically is maybe slightly different, in that the archbishop took time to talk to everyone at every table at the dinner. Usually, people are lined up to talk to him.”
Last year, Soldner witnessed the archbishop in another unusual setting — the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex, where he visited the young men there alongside the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Lamb.
Soldner received a first place award in the Best Multiple Picture Package — Feature category for “Doing the works of mercy.”
“It won’t come as a surprise to anybody that one of my favorite wins of the year is Jay’s photo of all the fans of Croatia’s team, gathered down at St. John’s Club in Kansas City, Kansas, to watch the World Cup play,” said Father Goldasich.
“There is just something about that photo that really captures the crazy energy of soccer fans the world over,” he added, “but I love seeing it in the club I practically grew up in!”
The value of Leaven freelancers and their in-depth reporting was undeniable at this year’s awards.
Marc and Julie Anderson were honored with a first place award for their piece “Let’s talk about suicide” in the Best Analysis/Background/Round-up News Writing for a Weekly category.
The piece delved into the tragedy of suicide and the impact it has on loved ones left behind. The Andersons interviewed families who have been impacted, as well as mental health professionals, deacons and priests.
They addressed questions like: “What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say on this topic?” and “How do we love our brothers and sisters who have lost family members to suicide?”
In the same category, freelancer Therese Horvat received a second place award for her piece “Are we failing our kids?” which addressed mental health issues facing children.
That piece also earned her an honorable mention in the Best Reporting on a Special Age Group for Children and Teens Younger than 18 category.
“I think at a newspaper like ours with a small staff, sometimes just covering the news in our local archdiocesan community is a tall order,” said managing editor Anita McSorley.
“But freelancers like Marc, Julie and Therese enable us to turn the lens of the church on some broader and deeper issues,” she said, “and help us see how we as Catholics have a role to play in the broader challenges of our day.”
Todd Habiger was also pleased with Soldner and fellow freelance photographer Kathryn White.
White brought home a second place award in the Best Multiple Picture Package for Sports for her “Runnin’ Revs” work.
“Jay and Kathy are wonderful photographers,” said Habiger. “They both work hard at getting The Leaven interesting photos.
“I can always count on them to bring us back something that will enhance the story the reporters are telling.”
Rounding out the awards, freelancer Jill Ragar Esfeld won a third place in the Best Personality Profile category for her article “A lesson in loss,” and feature writer and social media editor Moira Cullings earned an honorable mention in the Best News Writing Series — International Event for a series of articles on the war in Ukraine.