LOWELL THOMAS TRAVEL JOURNALISM COMPETITION
Awards for Work Published in 2016-2017
Faculty members of the Missouri School of Journalism judged the competition, with Prof. John Fennell, Prof. Jennifer Rowe and administrative assistant Kim Townlain coordinating. There were 1,190 entries.
For questions, contact: Mary Lu Abbott, SATW Foundation administrator, 281-217-2872, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Category 101: Grand Award — Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year
Gold: Christopher Reynolds, travel writer, Los Angeles Times
Christopher Reynolds has an original voice, an eye for offbeat details and an ability to tell stories that engage and inspire. And his writing is exceedingly entertaining. His range is extraordinary, from witty shorts to longer thoughtful pieces. His stories are refreshingly unconventional, authoritative and smart. In short, his work is an enormous pleasure to read.
Silver: Mark Sundeen, freelance writer and author
Mark Sundeen is, above all, a reporter. His book “The Unsettlers” is a deeply reported examination of three couples’ searches for the simpler life. His coverage of the pipeline protest at Standing Rock, ND, is thoughtful and hard-edged. This is an impressive array of subjects with good reporting as the common element.
Bronze: Kerri Westenberg, Travel Editor, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Kerri Westenberg’s travel accounts are anything but predictable, and that is their strength. She uncovers rich material and presents it with precision and clarity. No self-indulgence here; this is superb reporting, great judgment and elegant writing.
Honorable Mention: Paula Froelich, founder, ABroadAbroad.com
Paula Froelich, self-described as “a broad abroad,” covers a lot of territory. She engagingly advocates seeing Japan “before it’s too late.” She explains the economics of rhino poaching through the experience of a poacher. She even offers a cleverly helpful “paranoid guide” to solo traveling. It’s an impressive portfolio.
Category 102: Newspaper Travel Coverage
Gold: The New York Times, Monica Drake, Travel Editor
The New York Times travel section demonstrates a variety of topics and styles. From guidebook-type listings and explanatory graphics to compelling narratives, these stories are informative and entertaining. High-quality visuals accompany most of its entries. Stories such as the examination of the history of the slave trade in Charleston are written with honesty. Other pieces are purely entertaining. For example, one traced the route of Oliver Twist in modern-day London. Whatever the approach, the work is of high quality.
Silver: The Washington Post, Nicole Arthur, Travel Editor
The Washington Post’s travel section takes you around the world in 20 days, hiking through the heat of the Grand Canyon, to an off-the-beat arrondissement in Paris, and, yes, to Columbus, Ohio. These and other stories offer personality, information and entertainment. Oh, did I mention Route 66? An expertly conceived and edited section.
Bronze: San Francisco Chronicle, Spud Hilton, Travel Editor
The San Francisco Chronicle’s entries show a breadth of travel. The destinations include close-to-home Las Vegas to view man-made attractions; far-away Sikkim, to see natural phenomenon; New Zealand, to experience Kiwis and the natural wonders of the country; and Sicily to navigate the narrow streets. Add to those an entertaining compilation of weather encountered over many trips and how it affects readers and the people who live there. There’s never a dull moment.
Honorable Mention: Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Kerri Westenberg, Travel Editor
From the Star Tribune, readers learn about nearby skiing opportunities by accompanying a first-time skier, that Amsterdam combines “a talent for beauty with a genius for commerce,” and that two sisters who thought they could conquer the Boundary Waters did — though not without some perils. This entry combines such diverse features as an engaging, gamelike graphic showing where to view fall colors and a fun look at how the Twin Cities airport has become a destination itself. This coverage is informative and entertaining.
Category 103: Magazines
103A — Travel Magazines
Gold: Southbound, Kevin Benefield, Editor-in-Chief
Good writing makes good reading on virtually every page. From the Pat Conroy homage to small towns, from Ybor City to Birmingham, the reader can stop and be entertained, often surprised, as well as informed. This is a top-notch magazine that is creatively edited and designed.
Silver: Via, Anne McSilver, Editor-in-Chief
A hundred years old but not showing it, Via is filled with lively travel tales that entertain, like the 77-year-old father taking in Four Corners with his daughter or the writer who explains the joys of overpacking. With thoughtful, well-written and well-designed issues, perhaps Via will last for another century.
Bronze: National Geographic Traveler, George W. Stone, Editor-in-Chief
Who but NG Traveler would send a famous illustrator to record an Arctic voyage in watercolors? Each issue unifies science, great images and adventure with lively, consumer magazine sensibility. Comprehensive, visually dynamic and trustworthy, NG Traveler has become a must-read for adventurous travelers.
Honorable Mention: Air Canada enRoute, Jean-François Légaré, Editor-in-Chief
This bilingual magazine puts a worldwide perspective on things from Miami to South Korea to “The Hidden Life of Trees.” What do you put in your carry-on? A veteran traveler tells us each issue. From food to service, to travel adventure and entertainment, enRoute has it all.
103B — Travel Coverage in Other Magazines
Gold: Coastal Living, Steele Thomas Marcoux, Editor
The travel content in Coastal Living is highly serviceable and often aspirational. Its well-designed pages are visual and varied. The writing is breezy and personable, the photography bright and the subjects engaging. The magazine invites readers to plan their next trip to locales both close-to-home like spots on the U.S. coasts and on distant shores such as the South Pacific, or to daydream about owning a private island. The recurring Navigator section is packed with useful information, and travel features cover all the bases — where to stay, what to wear and what to eat and do. Its web content offers even more service-driven information on a variety of topics, from packing lists to island getaways.
Silver: National Parks, Rona Marech, Editor-in-Chief
The editors of National Parks obviously value good writing and good storytellers: a family trapped on a mountaintop by a forest fire, a writer hunting the truth about burros, a little-known national park in Brooklyn, and a celebration of a centennial of service. This is expert magazine making.
Bronze: Outside, Christopher Keyes, Editor
Outside speaks to readers in the first person. The magazine projects a lifestyle philosophy — except when it doesn’t. Family camping in the Smoky Mountains, frustrations of rebuilding ravaged Nepal, rock-climbing in Ireland’s County Donegal. Wherever these writers and editors go, we want to be there with them.
Honorable Mention: Midwest Living, Trevor Meers, Editorial Content Director
Midwest Living knows the big and little pleasures of the vast region it covers and talks to readers in a people-to-people way — Midwest friendly, of course. Is Traverse City, MI, the best Midwestern town? Read and debate that story and so many others in these well-crafted issues.
Category 104: U.S./Canada Travel
Gold: Chuck Thompson, “Deliverinse,” Outside
Read this piece and hold on to your chair! Chuck Thompson spins a true story of a river-rafting trip in what “may be the least visited, world-class backcountry in North America.” It’s 125 miles of extreme white water in British Columbia. Going into the trip, the participants knew they would be challenged. What they didn’t know was that their lives would be in danger — several times — and that they would face other unanticipated hardships. Building on the classic format of characters who encounter obstacles before reaching an outcome, Thompson imbues the narrative with tension, humor and wonderment to write a world-class story.
Silver: Peter Kujawinski, “Guardians of a Vast Lake, and a Refuge for Humanity,” The New York Times
Great Bear Lake is the world’s eighth largest, and it is pristine. But for its location along the Arctic Circle in Canada’s Northwest Territories, it would be a major tourist destination. Peter Kujawinski examines the history, culture and self-reliance of the 503 Sahtuto’ine people who now own the lake and govern themselves. He doesn’t just tell us but shows us how they live and what they believe. The story is reported deeply and written entertainingly.
Bronze: Don George, “Feel the Burn,” National Geographic Traveler
Sometimes the best travel writing takes us to interesting places where we’d rather not go. That’s the service writer Don George and photographer Aaron Huey perform with their account of the Burning Man Festival on the high desert of Nevada, a party of 70,000 free spirts enjoying food, art and revelry. Thanks, gentlemen. Clearly, this is an event best appreciated from a safe distance.
Honorable Mention: Shelly Rivoli, “Swamp Buggy: A Tale of Family Adventure in Big Cypress National Preserve, ”FamilyTravel411.com
Anyone who has traveled with kids will appreciate Shelly Rivoli’s narrative of her family’s swamp buggy adventure in the Big Cypress. Anyone who has taken those kids to Florida and avoided Disneyland can only admire her courage. Read this one just for fun.
Category 105: Foreign Travel
Gold: Chris Colin, “The Other Side,” Afar
Travel is transformative. This journey to the craggy coast of Ireland is beautifully written, but most of all shows us the effect of the environment on the human spirit. The chill and the unexpected harsh weather of the coast seep into the spirit — and transform our hopes, fears and resilience.
Silver: Mickey Rapkin, “Taipei,” National Geographic Traveler
Readers love “72-hour” destination pieces with quick tips on where to go and what to see. This bit of brevity elevates the art. Every morsel is well-composed, with superior selection and writing. This is a great example of how-to for the art form.
Bronze: Freda Moon, “You’re a Brave Girl,” Afar
A first-person adventure with grit — and we’re not just talking about the Moroccan body scrub. This is a well-crafted tale of transformation as a mother comes to grips with her new self after embarking on her first solo trip since motherhood.
Honorable Mention: Jill Robinson, “Strolling With Ghosts of Vietnam,” San Francisco Chronicle
For readers of a certain age, the city of Hue evokes the ferocity of the Vietnam war. But Hue is a tourist destination now, and the author does a stellar job of sharing the sights and sounds of this colorful city, but not ever forgetting about its ancient and more recent past.
Category 106: Photo Illustration of Travel
Gold: Brad A. Johnson, “Quick Look: Mar Adentro, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico,” BradAJohnson.com blog
These images exude a high level of attention to detail. There is a consistent approach to the color palette, perspective control, framing and time of day. Photographer Brad Johnson’s eye for these techniques is highlighted in the excellent editing and pairing of images. His editing is key to carrying the vision through to viewers.
Silver: Kevin Miyazaki, “A Trip Back in Time/Riding the Rails to the Summer of Love,” The New York Times
Photographer Kevin Miyazaki gives viewers the privilege of seeing a train from the inside while also offering vistas outward. The money-shot is a photo from inside the viewing car during the Golden Hour. There’s a great narrative created while working the challenges this project presents. The lead photo in print is a brilliant solution to showing the train in the context of the landscape. The icing, however, is a series showing the changing landscape as seen out the window.
Bronze: Susan Portnoy, “Photographing Kazakh Mongolians and the Importance of Tea,” TheInsatiableTraveler.com
The intimacy and close proximity to the nomads is refreshing. There’s a high level of detail gained in the textures and faces when a photographer works this close to people. Although the amount of time spent with this culture is short, viewers are given an unforgettable look.
Category 107: Special Packages/Projects
Gold: BBC Travel, “The US National Parks Turn 100,” Anne Banas, Editor
“The US National Parks Turn 100” offers reverence, respect and responsibility in hefty servings. For each park, there’s a historic overview, its main features, its size and tips for finding your way through the most popular and off-the-beaten-path sites. Especially endearing were the online text and video interviews with the real people who make up the heart and soul of the parks. A plant scientist, a chef in Arcadia, an artist in the Grand Canyon, a Yosemite Instagrammer and at Yellowstone, a 70-plus-year-old still involved. Each park comes to life, thriving with flora and fauna and opportunities to stretch body, mind and soul. The writers created a rich, wide and deep package jammed with information and humor.
Silver: Los Angeles Times, “Celebrating Our National Parks,” Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor, and Christopher Reynolds,
Anne Harnagle, Thomas Curwen and Carolina Miranda
Beauty matters but so does honesty as this package makes stunningly clear. While many of the parks celebrate majestic beauty, others are reminders of moments in history. Not all of the events are beautiful, and others remind us of reasons for shame. Articles about a plutonium manufacturing site in Washington state and a Japanese internment camp serve as reminders of the wrongs that haven’t been righted. The most outstanding of these is an article about the Sand Creek Massacre Site in Colorado. It’s so incredibly crafted that one is left in tears. In such honesty, beauty is found and does, indeed, matter.
Bronze: The New York Times, “The Underground Railroad: A Special Section,” Monica Drake, Travel Editor
These expertly written articles open the Underground Railroad to close scrutiny, questioning the exactness of the heroine’s tales and broadening the reputation of previously lesser-known heroes. None of the questions diminish the incredibleness of the escaped slaves’ journeys. The articles gently go through the sludge of history and sentiment. It’s easy to be moved to tears by these brutally honest accounts of true horror, yet sadness isn’t the only emotion stirred. An article about a New York City slavery and Underground Railroad tour in the financial district blends humor and respect to skillfully balance the whole.
Category 108: Cruise Travel
Gold: Kim Brown Seely, “Slowly Up the Ganges: An Indian Exploration in Two Acts,” Virtuoso Life
Kim Brown Seely’s immersive descriptions allow readers to feel as if they have become part of an experience of something unusual. She creates a strong sense of the Ganges and its surroundings by involving all of a reader’s senses. Her writing sometimes waxes poetic, as when she describes the Ganges, flickering with candlelight after dark, as “a river of stars.” Her focus remains on the experience throughout the story rather than the personal. She also provides useful information for any reader who might want to take a similar cruise.
Silver: Alyssa Schwartz, “Life in the Slow Lane,” The Globe and Mail
This story transports readers into a chilly place of water and fog-shrouded mountains along the Norwegian coast. Using a classic narrative format — beginning, middle and end — writer Alyssa Schwartz makes the places she visited seem exotic, giving the story an adventuresome quality that provides readers with an escape from the ordinary. Schwartz focuses on the exterior qualities of the cruise, not on the amenities, but when she does describe an amenity, she includes surprising information, such as her caution about the $14 beers.
Bronze: Porter Fox, “From Montreal to Minnesota, by Inland Sea,” The New York Times
Among the many entries that described traditional cruises to the usual locations — the Caribbean and Mediterranean, for example — this well-written story about traversing the Great Lakes on a freighter stood out. With detailed descriptions and observations, Peter Fox crafts a story you want to share with others for its discoveries. This is gritty prose as the author depicts the good and the bad in words that effectively carry the reader along for the ride.
Honorable mention: Bronwen Dickey, “Climb Aboard, Ye Who Seek the Truth!” Popular Mechanics
Bronwen Dickey’s tale about the theme cruise from hell captures attention as no run-of-the-mill account. Like a classic short story, Dickey builds in character development (especially the author’s own), plot twists and conflict. She minces no words in describing her own descent into the madness spawned by a group of passengers who were conspiracy theorists and fans on a “Conspira-Sea Cruise.” The destination, the west coast of Mexico, is of no consequence — the event was all about the people and their interactions, and Dickey captured those well. Once a reader launches into this piece, it demands attention through to the resolution.
Category 109: Adventure Travel
Gold: Jennifer Kahn, “Out of Range,” Afar
Writer Jennifer Kahn creates an amazing sense of place as she puts readers in her hiking boots while exploring the Lapland region in northern Sweden, its history and the people who inhabit it. The story weaves together a tale of our shared humanity as she journeys through its vastness.
Silver: Jessica Silber, “Into the Congo,” Wanderlust
With visceral storytelling, writer Jessica Silber’s piece about searching for gorillas is as alive as the rainforest’s stinging ants. She paints picture after picture of what it’s like to enter a place of such unfathomable enormity.
Bronze: Dina Mishev, “At the Grand Canyon, a Cancer Survivor Rises to the Challenge of a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Hike,”
The Washington Post
Both celebratory and cathartic, this story at its heart feels so real. Dina Mishev deftly explains the challenge of this Grand Canyon excursion to those who aren’t endurance athletes. Then she tells a very human story about why it matters.
Honorable Mention: Leigh Ann Henion, “A Kid’s First Journey in Ed Abbey’s Utah,” Backpacker
This compelling narrative is a thoughtful take on the value and meaning of public parks, told in part through the observations of the author’s young son. Leigh Ann Henion uses powerful imagery, humor and smart dialogue to propel her story into a finely crafted read.
Category 110: Travel News/Investigative Reporting
Gold: Karen Schwartz, “Recent Incidents Put a New Focus on Sexual Assault on Airplanes,” The New York Times
We are all familiar with the indignities of modern air travel: Overbooked flights, cramped seats and a seemingly endless list of extra charges have taken the romance out of flying. This piece shines light on a little-heard-of risk to air travel — the chance of sexual assault. Karen Schwartz documents the shocking rise of sexual assaults on flights through the stories of three passengers who were caught molesting their seat mates. This article left us wondering how often such assaults go unreported.
Silver: Jason Motlagh, “Skull On a Stake,” Outside
The media is filled with stories of the desperate journeys many immigrants make in search of a better life. But few are told through the eyes of a journalist who is making the journey with them. It is all the more compelling when that journey is through the world’s most dangerous jungle, between Colombia and Panama. Jason Motlagh’s narrative puts readers in the boat with the migrants as they struggle toward their journey’s heartbreaking conclusion. By the end, you swear you can feel the fear and humidity rising.
Bronze: Aaron Teasdale, “Wilderness Wars,” NationalGeographic.com/Adventure
Aaron Teasdale asks the question, “Whose wilderness is it?” In doing so, he explores what may be a generational conflict between conservationists over what are acceptable activities in the backcountry of the nation’s national parks. The conflict is placing paddlers and mountain bikers at odds with traditionalists who believe that these areas should be preserved in their most natural state. Teasdale’s writing gives both sides an opportunity to lay out their vision for wilderness use while giving the reader a feeling of the grandeur of these wild areas.
Category 111: Service-Oriented Consumer Work
Gold: Gina Zammit, “A Very Comprehensive Guide to Getting Drunk at Disney World,” RoadsandKingdoms.com
What an original concept and sparkling voice! Funny and engagingly written, this guide to drinking in Orlando’s family-oriented parks — Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the Animal Kingdom, and Epcot — surprises with its irreverence and solid, well-researched service. Laying out her premise that screaming kids, annoying parents and overzealous Disney freaks can be too much, writer and self-proclaimed “intoxicant informant” Gina Zammit, proclaims: “This reign of terror can only be endured with the help of some strong hooch.” Then she goes on to advise readers where to get the best drinks in this alcohol wasteland. This story isn’t for everyone, but readers don’t have to be drinkers to appreciate a great idea executed with charm, flair and shoe-leather research.
Silver: Jeremy Cronon, “10 Months, 45 National Parks, 11 Rules,” The New York Times
What’s most alluring about this story — a chronicle of lessons learned after a 10-month trek through 45 national parks — is the thoughtfulness writer Jeremy Cronon brings to his long, memorable trip. Unlike the typical “see this, do that” story, Cronon offers tips to allow travelers to better experience their journeys, to make them more memorable. His voice is welcoming, his advice sound and practical. Drive the speed limit, he urges, not to avoid a ticket but to detach from “compulsive urgency.” Learn about where you are and meet someone every day. Simple, straightforward advice too often overlooked.
Bronze: Virtuoso Life staff, “How to Travel Better,” Virtuoso Life
Virtuoso Life’s “How to Travel Better” defines classic, comprehensive service journalism. In short takes, this collection offers tips and advice on everything travelers might want: picnicking in Paris, snacking in Spain, buying art abroad, a fitness plan, cruise options and group travel. And it doesn’t skip advice on the stuff every traveler needs, such as luggage, earphones, cosmetics and a smart pre-trip checklist. Expertly packaged and cleverly written, this story is one to save and consult for any upcoming travel.
Category 112: Environmental Tourism
Gold: Joshua Hammer, “The Most Dangerous Place on Earth to Be an Environmentalist,” Outside
Joshua Hammer gives a thoroughly reported, gripping account of the plight of environmentalists in Honduras. The article deftly blends the horrific details of the assassination of activist Berta Carceres with the experiences of other activists, both in Honduras and around the world, who have faced violence, death threats and worse at the hands of opponents. The article succeeds in not only highlighting the risks these activists face but also situating their experiences in a complex cultural and political environment in Honduras. It provides the perspectives of local residents, politicians, and others, particularly in the context of a controversial dam project. The article offers important background for understanding the battles underlying natural areas that have become hotbeds for tourists.
Silver: Aaron Teasdale, “The Problem With Wilderness,” Mountain magazine
This detailed, engaging, well-written piece provides a wealth of insights on the conflict between Wilderness conservationists and mountain bikers. The piece offers historical context for the tensions, clearly lays out the arguments and gives a variety of perspectives from cyclists and conservationists. The inclusion of rides in these contested areas results in a thoughtful, enjoyable article that also addresses an under-covered aspect of environmental tourism.
Bronze: Rona Kobell, “A Campsite Grows in Brooklyn,” National Parks magazine
This account of a visit to a little-known campsite in Brooklyn provides a fun and informative blend of reporting, first-person assessments and context about ecological threats to the area. The author successfully situates the history of the area, often captured in family memories, alongside an entertaining travel narrative highlighting the enjoyment and challenges accompanying urban camping. A memorable reader-service piece.
Honorable Mention: James Card, “In Michigan, a Fight Over the Future of a Fabled Trout River,” The New York Times
This well-reported, well-written feature outlines a battle brewing over a river in Michigan known as a haven for trout fishing. The piece neatly presents the views and experiences of both sides, from hatchery owners to fishers and businesses catering to them, while also clearly explaining the science underlying the conflict. A fascinating piece that provides important ecological context about a popular pastime.
Category 113: Cultural Tourism
Gold: Jad Davenport, “Black Beauty,” Coastal Living
“Oysters are like people; they have souls,” explains a tattooed Polynesian pearl farmer as he whispers and sings a lullaby to keep his oysters happy. This is one of the many scenes that make the article so captivating. While readers learn about black pearls and the French Polynesia’s Gambier Islands, the article provides an engrossing explanation of the black pearl culture. Pearls are woven into every fiber of this island, and Jad Davenport perfectly captures that. The story spins around a great character and the iridescent black pearls that he loves.
Silver: Brian Mockenhaupt, “The World’s Unlikeliest Trail,” Backpacker
“The World’s Unlikeliest Trail” is a great read that details a hike through the West Bank on Masar Ibrahim al Khalil, translated as “Abraham Path in Palestine.” The article goes far beyond standard tourist hints and instead explains history and culture as the author writes about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and attempts to create peace through walking. Although Brian Mockenhaupt encounters escalating tensions and increased checkpoints, he also details delightful encounters, like sharing cactus fruit with people who live along the path.
Bronze: Leigh Ann Henion, “In Japan, An Archery Quest Leads to Unexpected Lessons,” The Washington Post Magazine
Although most readers will never study archery in Japan, they can all relate to the passion in this article. The author inherited a love of traditional Japanese archery, Kyudo, from her grandfather, who discovered archery during a striking World War II encounter in the South Pacific. The first paragraphs will hook readers as the author beautifully describes hiding in the rain with Buddha while studying a soggy map in search of her ryokan, or traditional inn. The relationship that develops between archery master and student is touching, and the final paragraphs take readers out of the studio and into Japanese life.
Category 114: Personal Comment
Gold: Jacqueline Woodson, “When a Southern Town Broke a Heart,” The New York Times
A young girl who made summer trips back to her Southern hometown in South Carolina remembers not only the beauty but also the unspoken segregation, which could be ignored until it couldn’t. The town she loved suddenly changed into a heartbreaking and complicated place. This is a moving and beautifully written piece.
Silver: Scott Vogel, “Houstonasia,” Houstonia magazine
The choice of “storybook style” makes this an interesting read and helps readers move along toward its universal “moral.” Although the subject, a man and his reluctant mother touring Asia, is complex, the story isn’t. The result is a fun and surprisingly effective article that resonates.
Bronze: Zora O’Neill, “You Would Have Loved Aleppo,” USA Today
This story provides what good travel stories should provide: context. Here’s a look inside Syria, a world unfamiliar to most readers. But with Aleppo and Syria in today’s media reports, it’s important to introduce the people behind the news and to look at the photographs, as Zora O’Neill points out, and see faces that we might recognize.
Honorable Mention: Eva Holland, “The Promise,” Southwest: The Magazine
What drives this story is the process. A woman wants to spread some of her mother’s ashes in the perfect place. It should be a place that they shared, or perhaps even better, a place that they could share. In other words, something permanent. The quest pulls the reader through until the satisfying, if not predictable, end.
Category 115: Special-Purpose Travel
Gold: Tony Perrottet, “Viva La Revolución,” Smithsonian Magazine
A timely article, Tony Perrottet’s story about the Cuban Revolution retraces the steps of young revolutionaries Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Along the way, we get to see Castro’s rebel headquarters, and even sneak inside with the writer who lies down on Castro’s bed in the middle of a jungle. When Perrottet stops to ask for directions at one point, he meets a gentleman whose father was murdered during Fulgencio Batista’s rule — an anecdotal, but universal, piece of reporting to underscore Castro’s motivation to overthrow the government. The article swings from the late 1950s to present day where beachgoers near Havana enjoy the advantages of an opening economy. The article underscores Castro’s socialism ideals without excluding Cuba’s past and present struggles to define itself.
Silver: Wells Tower, “No Amount of Traffic or Instagrammers or Drunks Can Take the Magic Out of (Semi-) Wilderness,” Outside
In a culture that generally demands immediate gratification, the infamous camping trip looks to take people away from elements of convenience, and in so doing, maybe show what’s missing. But it’s never that easy. There are always obstacles — an uncooperative tent, rain, and or obnoxious “neighbors.” Wells Tower uses well-planted humor — a most-needed requirement to survive almost any trip with a three-month-old — to relay his family’s trip to the Smoky Mountains. The quest for enrichment in a wet sleeping bag and a couple of days in the outdoors is a rite of passage that extends from generation to generation.
Bronze: Ron Stodghill, “In Charleston, Coming to Terms With the Past,” The New York Times
Charleston is a beautiful city with a complicated past, one that includes a former slave-trading center in the heart of the town. Ron Stodghill takes readers to The Holy City, a nickname originating from a proliferation of churches, and provides a window into Charleston’s complicated history. The article begins in 1862 on a Confederate gunboat and ends in present time with the sight of a white schooner off the harbor that looks like a slave ship. In between these bookends, readers learn why tourists love Charleston, despite its brutal chapter in American life.
Honorable Mention: Leigh Ann Henion, “Dreams to Remember: Macon, GA, Has Produced a Lot of Essential
American Music,” The Washington Post Magazine
Leigh Ann Henion takes readers into the belly of Macon, GA, and makes them feel, see and hear their surroundings in what was once known as a great music city. Readers meet a variety of colorful characters: Otis Redding’s grandson, Justin Andrews, a couple of modern-day hippies who sell vinyl records and locally grown gourmet mushrooms, die-hard Allman Brothers Band fans, Clark Bush (Red Dog Campbell’s son) and a few others. A musical folklore tour includes a cemetery, church, record shop and the Otis Redding Foundation. This is colorful and fun writing with a strong sense of place.
Category 116: Short Work on Travel
Gold: Carrie Miller, “How Instagram Is Changing Travel,” National Geographic Traveler
This story captures the allure of Instagram and shows how the social media platform is revolutionizing the way people learn about place and how photographs compel them to plan their next trips. It’s contemporary, informative and surprising, and the writer offers readers insight into photographs and their impact on tourism.
Silver: Diane Daniel, “Amsterdam Restaurant Takes Food From Wasted to Tasted,” The New York Times
This bright story shows how a popup focused on dealing with food waste grew into a full-blown restaurant supported by a grocer. The writer is part of a trio to try out the restaurant. Not everything here is pretty or pleasing to everyone’s palate, but it’s a business with a conscience, and readers get a peek behind the scenes with succinct but descriptive writing.
Bronze: Larry Bleiberg, “Learn How to Drive in Winter Weather at This Colorado Driving School,” The Dallas Morning News
Few people would think that driving in a whiteout would be fun. Larry Bleiberg somehow manages to write about taking a class on how to drive in such snowy conditions as a fun adventure. From the opening, he has readers’ attention and takes them on a ride with him as he learns to forgo his white-knuckle ways and embrace the physics of driving in winter conditions. The story balances service with entertainment in a charming fashion.
Honorable Mention: Rosemary McClure, “A Storied Sling: Singapore Always Surprises,” Los Angeles Times
The writer draws readers in with a trifecta of admissions or concessions in her lead. From there she presents historical background and context with up-to-date statistics and information to provide a thorough guide to Singapore with an engaging tone and authoritative voice. Readers learn about the National Gallery, the gardens of the city and get a recipe for the gin-based drink originally made at the Raffles Hotel.
Category 117: Culinary-Related Travel
Gold: Sarah Khan, “Eating Bunny Chow in Durban,” Saveur
Apartheid’s zest to limit cultural exchange created the secretive origins of bunny chow, and the enticing recipe at the end of Sarah Khan’s article holds the story within its ingredients. It’s no surprise that foods of a subculture transform from their motherland to form a new flavor profile. In “Bunny Chow,” Khan gives readers more: a cultural-origin story that goes beyond food to reveal atmosphere and the sweep of history in Durban. Her sourcing and reporting are well done. The parallel between food and linguistic change throughout the text is fascinating evidence of cultural and culinary evolution.
Silver: Ruth Reichl, “If Worse Comes to Wurst,” Afar
In this breezy, charming piece, Ruth Reichl travels to Frankfurt — to the bafflement of her husband and privileged, well-traveled others, for whom the putatively drab city holds little interest. But Reichl keeps an open mind and is rewarded for it. In her account, Frankfurt emerges as a large small town full of interesting corners, quirky legends and warm, big-hearted people. It is hard to capture an entire city in so few words — Balzac and Dickens needed volumes to nail down Paris and London — but she gives the impression of having caught an essential aspect of Frankfurt.
Bronze: Debra Kamin, “In Israel, a New Passion for Palestinian Cuisine,” The New York Times
Debra Kamin set out to look at Arab cooking in Israel and came back with so much more. Her descriptions are evocative and often mouth-watering, but what drives this piece of travel writing is the exploration of culture, history and identity of a nation within a nation, a people who yearn to express themselves freely and unself-consciously. Kamin shows us that, through their culinary reclamations and cultural excavations, they have taken a small, if important, step on behalf of their people.
Honorable Mention: Eliot Stein, “The Secret Behind Italy’s Rarest Pasta,” BBC Travel
This is an entertaining, fascinating and compulsively readable piece of travel writing — an investigation into the origins of an obscure pasta whose recipe is known by only two people. Eliot Stein’s article, like all good writing, is about more than its ostensible subject. On the surface a travel piece about food in Italy, on closer examination it is an exploration of memory, roots and identity.
Category 118: Travel Book
Gold: Zora O’Neill, “All Strangers Are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
This book works well on two levels — as an account of learning a new language with an unrecognizable alphabet and tonal system, and as an account of traveling through nations where that language is dominant. Zora O’Neill is a keen observer of cultures fresh to her and a fine writing stylist. The tragic timeliness of the genocide in Syria gives O’Neill’s account unplanned urgency for readers in 2016-2017.
Silver: James Campbell, “Braving It: A Father, A Daughter and an Unforgettable Journey Into the Alaskan Wild,”
Rarely does a travel book double as a parenting book featuring a middle-aged father bonding with a teenage daughter under dangerous conditions. This is such a rare volume. James Campbell exhibits gutsiness and empathy in large doses as he takes daughter Aidan on the adventure of a lifetime. The writing is crisp, the content is highly emotional, and the book is altogether memorable.
Bronze: Matt Goulding, “Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain’s Food Culture,”
Roads & Kingdoms/HarperCollins Publishers
Distinct regions of Spain jump off the pages of this book. Those regions come alive not only through their varying culinary traditions but also through Matt Goulding’s knowledge of so many regional cultures. The involvement of adventurer/chef Anthony Bourdain in the origin of the book constitutes a bonus for readers who are aware of Bourdain’s outsized presence in print and on television.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Evans, “The Black Penguin,” The University of Wisconsin Press
“The Black Penguin” chronicles a fascination, or rather an obsession, with Antarctica. The person obsessing seems an unlikely individual for such an adventure. Much of the book’s admirable tension derives from how Andrew Evans overcame huge odds to accomplish his dream, traveling 12,000 miles by public transport to catch the ship to his destination. This is a searing, sometimes humorous memoir doubling as a travel book.
Category 119: Guidebook
Gold: Matthew B. Christensen, “A Geek in China: Discovering the Land of Bullet Trains, Alibaba and Dim Sum,”
A very different kind of guidebook, “A Geek in China” delivers on the ambitious goal of actually helping would-be travelers understand this unique and complex culture. It achieves that goal through the engaging and authoritative voice of its author and in its bright, bite-sized design. The effect is both nuanced and delightful, as if one were just given a cultural crash course by a guide who is equal parts enthusiast and expert.
Silver: National Geographic Books Editorial Staff, “Guide to National Parks of the United States,” 8th Edition,
Throw it in the glove compartment, and hit the road: National Geographic’s guide to the national parks combines the stunning photography one expects from the yellow-bordered brand with a clean design and succinct information for park enthusiasts. Organized by region, this one book is all a traveler needs to find the best sights and sites in the vast and far-flung U.S park system, right down to the details.
Bronze: Andy Steves, “Andy Steves’ Europe: City-Hopping on a Budget,” Avalon Travel
Designed for the study-abroad student, gap-year backpacker or trip-of-a-lifetime European traveler, “Andy Steves’ Europe: City-Hopping on a Budget” packs lots of essentials into a compact and handy guide. From Amsterdam to Venice, the must-see sights are described and travel tips abound, with an emphasis on stretching the travel dollar. Yet there’s no skimping on insider know-how about bars, cafes and places to stay.
Category 120: Travel Journalism Websites
Gold: BBC.com/Travel, Anne Banas, Editor
This is an outstanding travel site from a company with a global brand and global reach that it uses well to expand the scope and inform the mission of its offering here. The site is comprehensive and thorough without falling into the cliches that many travel sites promote. An eclectic mix of stories on the front page keeps reader interest over time.
Silver: RoadsandKingdoms.com, Matt Goulding, Nathan Thornburgh, Cara Parks, Pauline Eiferman and Alexa van Sickle
The Roads & Kingdoms website, always a strong travel entry, continues to surprise and delight. With smart editing and thoughtful reporting, it avoids some of the common pitfalls of travel sites. This is a winning combination of snapshots of life abroad and deep, well-researched and authoritative travel writing.
Bronze: ABroadAbroad.com, Paula Froelich
A quirky and irreverent travel site, this is exploding with personality. It won’t be for everyone but will delight those who find it interesting. The site offers great travel guides and tips for solo travel, in keeping with its mission.
Category 121: Audio Travel Broadcast
Gold: David Hanson, “Calling Home,” The Dirtbag Diaries
This terrific first-person narrative meanders through description of several national parks and the experience and importance of travel. It is well-written with high production value. People’s travel stories can get formulaic, but this approach felt fresh and engaging, bringing listeners into the family and these places through the expert use of the audio medium.
Silver: Rebekah Nolan, “From Mine Closure to Reinvention: A Story of Bell Island Newfoundland,”
NPR-KCBX Journeys of Discovery With Tom Wilmer
This is a compelling piece on the history and future of this Canadian town. Great interviews and perspectives humanize and bring the story to life. Very strong writing and production kept the piece moving with a strong editorial focus that communicated the historical and contemporary material in an engaging way.
Bronze: Thomas Wilmer, “Alcatraz Island NPS Series,” National Public Radio podcast
Fantastic conversations with primary sources tell the history of Alcatraz. Very high production value and a great mix of characters give multiple perspectives on the experience of life at the prison. The conversations went beyond generalities and anecdotes and gave more meaningful reflections and explanations of the past.
Honorable Mention: Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman, “Memorable Travel Through the Eyes of Our Military, Part 2,”
A fantastic idea for a show topic for this weekly program anchored this piece, which was well-executed. The exploration of the nature of the experiences of travel among the veterans took the conversation to a depth that was enlightening and challenging to more civilian concepts of travel.
Category 122: Video Travel Broadcast
Gold: Liz Carlson, “Svalbard — When a Book Inspires a Journey,” YoungAdventuress.com
Gorgeous video and a charismatic host combine to make this video blog entry a standout. Liz Carlson found inspiration in the Golden Compass books, and her entry is worthy of the source. Her deeply felt personal connection to Svalbard, between mainland Norway and the North Pole, is clear. The video will leave viewers hungry for more.
Silver: T. Sean Herbert, Barry Petersen, David A. Bhagat, Rand L. Morrison and Jason Sacca, “CBS Sunday Morning:
Forbidden Kingdom,” CBS Sunday Morning
This entry provides a nuanced look at the kingdom of Bhutan where happiness reigns, despite intrusions from the outside world. The CBS Sunday Morning team does its usual standout job of putting viewers in the scene with exceptional natural sound while providing the perfect balance of compelling close-ups and sweeping panoramas.
Bronze: Paula Froelich, “Rhino Poaching, South Africa,” ABroadAbroad.com
Extremely difficult to watch, this project is far removed from typical travelogues featuring Kruger National Park. The stark reality of rhino poaching might be something far from the minds of most tourists, but it is crucial to address. Paula Froelich’s sources, including a poacher, provide important insight on both sides of the battle.
Honorable Mention: Christine van Blokland, Jesse Jung and David Zelski, “King Longshank’s Iron Ring of Castles in Wales,”
Curious Traveler/Public Broadcasting System
This is a fun history lesson featuring quirky graphics, bouncy music and beautiful video effectively paced and consistently compelling.
Category 123: Travel Blogs
Gold: CurbFreeWithCoryLee.com, Cory Woodard
Travel isn’t — and shouldn’t be — only for the able-bodied. Curb-free with Corey Lee is a treasure of useful information on wheelchair-accessible locales and attractions. From reviewing hotel rooms to hiking in the Amazon and up Masada, making the most of a tiny airplane seat and introducing other travelers rolling around the globe, this blog will leave everyone inspired to take off and try it all.
Silver: TravelsofAdam.com, Adam Groffman
Travels of Adam is the perfect blog for the guy who’s not-so-rugged and not into roughing it. Adam Groffman is a hipster’s dream, offering specific guides into some of the “hipsterish” sights and scenes in the some of the world’s biggest cities. The section on LGBTQ+ travel is a refreshing addition and unique to this year’s entries.
Bronze: Moment Catchers, CandaceRoseRardon.com, Candace Rose Rardon
If part of travel is to stop and see the world, Candace Rose Rardon is doing that with her blog, Moment Catchers. The sketches of the people and places encountered during her travels are as stunning as — if not more so than — the photos that accompany each post. And, if that’s not enough? She offers suggestions to other travelers on how they can start sketching in seconds so they, too, can really see the world through fresh eyes.
Honorable Mention: TheInsatiableTraveler.com, Susan Portnoy
The Insatiable Traveler’s audience is never satisfied, coming back again and again to engage with blogger Susan Portnoy. Her breathtaking photography is bold and colorful. Her posts offer a glimpse into the cultural, historical and practical aspects of the places she visits. And, she not only welcomes reader comments but also replies and offers additional information as requested. As much as anything, Portnoy has created an online community for her readers.