Archdiocese Local

The Leaven wins 14 awards at Catholic Media Conference

by Moira Cullings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — St. Louis gave The Leaven a welcome as sweet as its signature gooey butter cake June 1-3, when the paper took home a total of 14 press awards from Catholic Media Conference 2016.

The awards, which ranged from first place for Best Website to Best Redesign, illustrated the diversity of the archdiocesan newspaper’s efforts to tell the stories of archdiocesan Catholics in all possible ways.

For interns Katie and Libby Hyde and web consultant Darin Hansen, winning Best Website was particularly gratifying, since they built the site just last summer.

“We wanted a product that was user-friendly, intuitive and informative,” said Katie. “You can sometimes get into the weeds a bit, thinking about flashy design, special features, the bells and whistles of a website.

“So, our whole staff tried hard to focus on the basics of a good site.”

For Libby, who helped build the site between her high school graduation and freshman year of college, the experience was priceless.

“Personally, it was really beneficial to learn the skill of predicting the desired result, then devising a plan to get to that point.”

“Overall, building the site really helped me learn to plan and execute more efficiently,” she said.

The Leaven’s website is designed to reflect the print paper and offer readers features they can only access online.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the work Katie and Libby Hyde and Darin Hansen did on the new website,” said Father Mark Goldasich, editor of The Leaven, “and I’m delighted that they were acknowledged in this fashion.”

“But I have to admit,” he continued, “the award pales in comparison to how great it’s been to be able to make a wider range of stories, photos and videos available to our readers that we couldn’t share with them before.”

The creation of the new website went hand in hand with the paper’s redesign, which won production manager Todd Habiger a first place win in the Best Redesign category and a second place in the Best Front Page contest.

Habiger sees the award as a testimony not only to his design skills but also to the rest of the work that goes into the success of the paper.

“Design serves to get the reader to notice the articles,” he said.

“Because we have such great editors, writers and photographers, I’ve always got to be on top of my game to do them justice,” he continued. “The goal is to have readers wanting to read the paper from cover to cover.”

Habiger took a second place for the creation of an infographic used to illustrate an article on Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si’” and even placed second in the Best Sports Journalism category for a piece he wrote on Bishop Ward graduate Chris Huey called “Dream On.”

“Writing an occasional story helps me realize the effort that goes into every one of The Leaven’s articles and, of course, I want to present each one of those stories in the best way possible,” said Habiger.

Senior reporter Joe Bollig was also rewarded for standout writing, scoring a third place in the Best Personality Profile category for his piece “The Barnstormer,” a category he has won in before.

“I don’t know if I can say that personality profiles are my forte,” said Bollig, “but I do enjoy getting to know interesting things about people, and so do our readers.”

Bollig also took third in the category of Best Analysis for a story on adult stem-cell research called “Cellular Won,” a piece which also garnered managing editor Anita McSorley a first place win for Best Headline.

Bollig, who is accustomed to writing on complex topics such as medicine, law and economics, said these issues are important for all Catholics to understand.

“Our challenge as writers for The Leaven is to take what is complex and make it understandable to our readers without losing what is essential,” Bollig continued, “illuminating and clarifying the moral dimension in the light of Catholic doctrine.”

Other awards were due to the contributions of The Leaven’s unrivaled freelance writers and photographers.

“I often get to know our freelancers only through their work,” said Father Goldasich.

“For example, Carolyn Kaberline, a teacher at Mater Dei School in Topeka, has been with us for some years now, so I was really pleased that she won a second-place award in the Knights of Columbus competition for her article on the Friendly Visitors program in Topeka.”

Regular freelance photographers Lori Wood Habiger, Joe McSorley and Doug Hesse were among the winners, as were occasional photographers Diana Luppens, Eric Powell and Jim Sovanski.

Regular freelance writer Jill Esfeld also won an honorable mention winner in the Best Feature category for her article “Cool Beans.”

“The thing I’m most proud of is that The Leaven won these awards in a wide variety of categories — writing, photography, design, headlines and illustration,” said Father Goldasich. “All are such important parts of storytelling. These wins inspire us to strive for even greater excellence in the future.”

The Winners


Best Newspaper Website
“” by Katie Hyde, Libby Hyde, Darin Hansen

Best Redesign
The Leaven by Todd Habiger 

Best Headline
“Cellular Won” by Anita McSorley


Best Front Page: Tabloid
The Leaven by Todd Habiger

Best Multiple Picture Package Originating with a Newspaper: Sports Package
“Say it Ain’t So, St. Joe” by Lori Wood Habiger, Joe McSorley, Todd Habiger

Best Use of Art or Graphics: Best Original Illustration
“Laudato Si’” by Todd Habiger

Best Sports Journalism: Sports Feature
“Dream On” by Todd Habiger


 Best Personality Profile
“The Barnstormer” by Joe Bollig

Analysis/Background/Round-Up News Writing: The Gerard E. Sherry Award
“Cellular Won” by Joe Bollig and Doug Hesse


Best Feature Writing
“Cool Beans” by Jill Ragar Esfeld

Best Multiple Picture Package Originating with a Newspaper: Feature Package
“The Newbie” by Jim Sovanski

Best Multiple Picture Package Originating with a Newspaper: Sports Package
“Are You Ready for Some Football?” by Doug Hesse, Lori Wood Habiger, Julie Anderson, Diana Luppens, Eric Powell

General Excellence: Weekly Diocesan Newspaper
The Leaven by Father Mark Goldasich, Anita McSorley, Todd Habiger, Joe Bollig, Moira Cullings, Beth Blankenship

Knights of Columbus Father Michael J. McGivney Award for Distinguished Volunteer Journalism
Carolyn Kaberline

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage the website, social media channels and Archbishop Naumann's Facebook page. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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