Awards For Works Published in 2014 - 2015

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Philadelphia Writer Wins Travel Journalist of the Year Award

LAS VEGAS, NV (Oct. 5, 2015) — National Geographic Traveler, Outside magazine and the New York Times are the top media winners in the 2015 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition, overseen by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation.

Freelance writer Todd Pitock of Philadelphia is Travel Journalist of the Year for his wide range of reports, from Botswana to Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House, the U.S. Whiskey Trail and Denver’s beer breweries. “Pitock demonstrates not only a tremendous grasp of thick description but also an uncanny ability to bring meaning to his travel writing,” wrote judges from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Also honored for Grand Award travel portfolios were freelance writers Tim Neville of Bend, OR; Christopher Solomon of Seattle; and Melanie Radzicki McManus of Sun Prairie, WI, a suburb of Madison.

National Geographic Traveler won seven awards, including the Gold as Best Travel Magazine. “The magazine inspires readers,” said a judge. National Geographic Books took a Gold, for Best Guidebook, on Peru, by Rob Rachowiecki, with photography by Vance Jacobs.

Outside magazine won eight awards, including three Golds in the categories of Travel News/Investigative Reporting, Cultural Tourism and Travel Journalism Websites. Travel + Leisure and Afar magazines each earned three awards. Departures won Gold for best travel coverage in other magazines.  

Among newspapers, the New York Times won six awards, including Gold for Best Travel Section and Golds in the categories of U.S. and Canadian Travel, Adventure Travel and Personal Comment. The San Francisco Chronicle won Gold for Best Travel Section with a circulation of less than 350,000. Other newspapers honored were the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times and The Plain Dealer (Cleveland). Judges praised sections for the local voice given readers through regular staff-written coverage.

The Lowell Thomas awards, recognized as the most prestigious in travel journalism, were announced in Las Vegas at the annual conference of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the premier professional organization of travel journalists and communicators.

The competition, for work from spring 2014 to spring 2015, drew 1,406 entries, a near record. This year, the SATW Foundation is giving 82 awards in 24 categories and nearly $20,000 in prize money to journalists.

“This is quite an amazing contest,” said John Fennell, an associate professor at University of Missouri who holds the Meredith Chair in Service Journalism. He praised “the quality of the writing, the editing and the overall packaging evidenced in the entries ... Like a multi-faceted prism with which to view the world, this year’s entries demonstrate that there are no finer writers working today.”

Among the Gold winners were Andrew McCarthy for Foreign Travel, “Untamed Ireland,” in Travel + Leisure; Brian Peterson for Photo Illustration of a “Wild World in Bloom,” in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis); Air Canada enRoute for Special Packages/Projects, “Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2014;” Andrew Sessa for Cruise Travel in the fjords of Norway in the Houston Chronicle; Elizabeth Weil for Adventure Travel, “The Woman Who Walked 10,000 Miles (No Exaggeration) in Three Years,” in the New York Times Magazine; Grayson Schaffer for Investigative Reporting in Nepal in Outside; Sunset Magazine for Service-Oriented Consumer Work, “The Procrastinator’s Survival Guide to Summer Travel;” Austin Merrill for Environmental Tourism, “Into the Arctic,” in Departures; Patrick Symmes for Cultural Tourism on saving manuscripts from the Jihadists in Timbuktu, in Outside; Sarah Khan for Personal Comment on India, “Once a Land of Princes and Palaces,” in the New York Times; David Farley for Special-Purpose Travel, “Ashes to Ashes” in Varanasi, India, in Afar; and Mary Bergin for Short Work on Travel, about bratwurst in Nuremberg, in the Chicago Tribune.

Gold for best travel blog, for the second year in a row, went to “Readers can sense the passion of this blog’s owners in every one of the carefully crafted posts,” wrote the judges. “They combine a light-hearted, conversational writing style with stunning photography.”  The Silver winner was won bronze.

Best travel video Gold winner was Rick Steves, “The Holy Land: Israelis and Palestinians Today,” on American Public Television. Rudy Maxa won Gold for Audio Travel Broadcast with “Rudy Maxa’s World: June 2014,” syndicated radio travel show.

Winning best travel book was Karen Berger, “America’s Great Hiking Trails,” with photography by Bart Smith, for Rizzoli International Publications.

The awards are named for Lowell Thomas, acclaimed broadcast journalist, prolific author and world explorer during five decades in travel journalism. The competition is open to all North American journalists.

“We thank this year’s many supporters who help sustain this contest to recognize and reward outstanding travel journalism, led by a generous donation from Carnival Corp,” said David G. Molyneaux, SATW Foundation president.

A list of the winners and the judges’ comments are available on this here for list of winners and click here for judges' comments.

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