Archdiocese Local

Awards are icing on the cake for Leaven staff, freelancers

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Going the extra mile — in snow and ice, no less — for a special issue earned The Leaven a big first place win in the 2011 Catholic Press Association awards competition.

The judges praised the Dec. 24 special issue, “A Day in the Life of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas,” as a “well-executed, beautifully photographed project.”

In addition to winning first place for Best One-Time Special Issue, it also took a second place for Best Photo Story.

“I’m always happy when The Leaven is acknowledged at the awards ceremony. This time, I was especially pleased by the first and second places the special issue took,” said managing editor Anita McSorley.

“Those issues are always a collaborative effort and a labor of love,” she continued. “But this one was a reminder of just how wide and deep the activities of the Catholic Church are on any given day. Even professional ministry folks, who are out there in the trenches, told me the hour-by-hour coverage made them realize that what they saw every day was only a fraction of all that goes on in the church.”

The special issue required a lot of work, said production manager Todd Habiger.

“The special issue was a beast in terms of logistics,” he said. “We wanted this issue to encompass the entire archdiocese, to show people what a day is like at any given point of time in the archdiocese.”

“I think we were successful in that regard,” he continued. “We put out a call to every photographer we could think of, and they were all excited about the project. Despite the long day, our photographers never complained and really took ownership of their turn and brought back some spectacular images.”

Editor Father Mark Goldasich shared McSorley’s and Habiger’s enthusiasm for the special issue.

“I’m always proud of my staff, but never more than at awards time,” he said. “It’s then that we put the work of just a handful of people up against newspapers produced by staffs of a dozen or more. Special thanks go to Susan, Elaina, Jill, Lori, Don, J.D., Fernando — and, of course, Joe and Todd. That was one for the record books.”

But he was also pleased with the third-place finish in the Best Front Page category.

“I’m glad we placed again in the Best Front Page category,” he continued. “That’s six times in the past eight years . . . not that anyone’s counting!”

Freelance reporter Jill Ragar Esfeld won third place for Best Reporting Special Age Group Senior Citizens.

“Last year, I won an award for a piece I did on Catholic students at the St. Lawrence Center at the University of Kansas, and this year for a story about a Catholic senior citizen group in Lawrence. So it’s nice to know I can do a good job covering both ends of the spectrum,” said Esfeld.

But Esfeld had another reason for being pleased with the win.

“I’m so glad this story was recognized because it focused on empty nesters,” she said, “a group that often has a difficult time fitting into parish activities once children are grown and gone.”

Freelance photographer Elaina Cochran won a third-place award for Best Sports Photo, capturing a shot of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann tossing out the first pitch at a Kansas City T-Bones baseball game. Little did the prelate know that his efforts would be reviewed at a later date.

“Layering the archbishop with the catcher and the ballpark is more effective than a tight shot of him throwing the ball,” said the judges of Cochran’s photo.

And . . . “Great form on the part of the archbishop.”

Finally, the awards were rounded out by an honorable mention from the National Right to Life Committee’s 14th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards, won by freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson.

“Our story was ‘A couple’s fiat or the ‘ayes’ have it,’” said Julie Anderson. “The story was about a little girl by the name of Mariella, whose birth mother had started and stopped an abortion. Cabrina and Mark Magee of Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park adopted Mariella in 2007, with Cabrina being present at [Mariella’s] birth in the delivery room.”

Marc Anderson said the story “seemed meant for us.”

“Given our background, it made sense to us,” he said. “We are both active volunteers in the pro-life ministry. We have always had a special place in our hearts for pro-life work, due to the fact that we were both born in 1973, the year of Roe v. Wade [abortion ruling].”

Each award The Leaven receives is a welcome affirmation, said Esfeld, but each issue is affirmation enough.

“Working with The Leaven staff is its own reward,” said Esfeld. “They are such a talented group of people. And I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I love — write — and do it for the glory of God. The CPA awards are just icing on the cake.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

Leave a Comment