SATW FOUNDATION
LOWELL THOMAS TRAVEL JOURNALISM COMPETITION
Awards for Work Published in 2018-2019

JUDGES' COMMENTS
 
Faculty members of the Missouri School of Journalism judged the competition, with Emeritus Prof. John Fennell,
Prof. Jennifer Rowe and administrative assistant Kim Townlain coordinating. There were 1,335 entries. For questions,
contact: Mary Lu Abbott, SATW Foundation administrator, 281-217-2872, or awards@satwf.com.
 
Category 101: Grand Award — Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year
Gold: Elaine Glusac, freelance writer, Chicago, IL
Elaine Glusac’s portfolio demonstrates a mastery of every form of travel writing, from a breaking news story about the FAA’s refusal to regulate airline seats to beautifully written features about her adventures in under-frequented spots on the globe. Glusac caters to the inveterate traveler with plenty of practical tips and suggestions for those who want to follow her footsteps. But her deeply reported and meticulously contextualized pieces also allow armchair travelers to gain an appreciation and understanding of places they might never visit.
 
Silver: Nikki Ekstein, Travel Editor, Bloomberg Pursuits
Nikki Ekstein is impressive in her effort to give readers more than they perhaps bargain for: While satisfying would-be visitors’ desire to get the latest intelligence on popular Caribbean destinations, Ekstein manages to also engage them in thinking about the changing environment. While describing the exotic luxuries in Sri Lanka, she also emphasizes the hard-won and (as subsequent events showed) precarious commitment to coexistence that has made that luxury possible. Her travel writing is about more than mere tourism.
 
Bronze: Alex Pulaski, freelance writer, West Linn, OR
What stands out in Alex Pulaski’s text is his voice, reflected not only in his choice of subjects but also his pitch-perfect pace and smart word choices. His stories brim with charming characters, wonderful anecdotes and surprising details. The Sedona piece that relied on Zane Grey references demonstrated first-rate reporting and was an absolute delight to read.
 
Honorable Mention: Christopher Reynolds, travel writer, Los Angeles Times
Christopher Reynolds has a respect for places of wonder and a carefully managed irreverent streak. He can both love a destination and single out its idiosyncrasies (a plumbing crisis in Portland, extra-large steaks in Texas, government-shutdown chaos at Joshua Tree National Park). For a lesson in timing and delivery, make this your first stop.
 
Category 102: Newspaper Travel Coverage
Gold: The Washington Post, Nicole Arthur, Travel Editor
Content rules the Washington Post’s Travel section. It delivers the facts through inviting narratives and strong photos in ways that encourage the reader to likely go beyond the story — perhaps even to travel. Stories are original in topic and original in expression. The section doesn’t shy from issues that are complicated, i.e. disposable plastics, but clearly presents them in an inviting, manageable way that draws the reader in with visuals and personal references. Through presentation, news to use “if you go” and ancillary elements, the section is more than a sum of its strong parts.
 
Silver: Los Angeles Times, Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor
Through inviting titles and blurbs, which serve as entry points for the stories, readers can tell the story is for them., i.e., YOUR Asian adventure, Ten Things to Know. Strong photos support the text and complement it. The stories are an incentive to travel — either by imagining or by doing. The stories speak to the reader — often the editors do just that by introducing the stories — through word choice, “your” and “need to know” info. They tell the reader where to go, how to get there and what will make the trip better. Tone is conversational, but intelligent. The editorial mix is relevant and rewards or challenges the reader, leaving him/her with a sense of solid benefit for having embraced L.A. Times Travel.
 
Bronze: The New York Times, Amy Virshup and Steve Reddicliffe, Travel Editors
Travel pieces in the New York Times are above all informative — and interesting — and deliver a body of facts. Even first-person stories that offer opinion are supported by facts, often presented through photographs. The section tackles issues, i.e., “Adventurous. Alone. Attacked,” by weaving a narrative that keeps the reader with the story. Variety of tone is offered through long-form narratives, photo essays and opinion pieces.
 
Honorable Mention: Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Kerri Westenberg, Travel Editor
Strong documentary photography, illustrations and clear maps contribute to the strength of the newspaper’s travel entries. The stories, whether about Machu Picchu or Nebraska, put the reader there. When appropriate, first-person offers a voice that contributes to the personal touch. There is information for quick trips and long excursions, along with stories that delve into issues the reader needs to know to make travel accessible, i.e., “Does cheap airfare fly?” The “interactive guide to your favorite Minnesota getaways” serves as a reliable, valuable news-to-use source that embellishes the paper product.
 
Category 103: Magazines
103A — Travel Magazines
Gold: National Geographic Traveler, George W. Stone, Editor-in-Chief
Wonderful photos that one would expect from National Geographic dictate the personality of the magazine. Its content is strong because of its original reporting and the conversational titles and design that enhance the photo usage. The covers establish momentum early as strong editorial packages with a list of what is inside. The pace continues throughout the magazine with a variety of elements — maps, blurbs — to guide the reader. Each issue offers a varied editorial mix with substantive features. The departments, clearly distinguished as such, offer little bits of inviting stories and real news to use for the traveler. Interesting typography reflects tone and contents of individual stories. National Geographic Traveler knows what it has to offer and makes each issue an inviting, information-laden publication.
 
Silver: Travel + Leisure, Jacqueline Gifford, Editor-in-Chief; Nathan Lump, former Editor-in-Chief
Inviting covers set the pace, and inside the magazine continues with strong, content-driven design and striking photos. The editorial mix is varied — informative, educational and entertaining. Stories are conversational and take the reader along as they offer a complete look at the topic. The tone of the magazine — its personality — is consistent, and the reader knows what to expect from issue to issue.
 
Bronze: Southbound, Kevin Benefield, Editor-in-Chief
Although the magazine covers are rather pedestrian, the contents inside are not. The editorial mix addresses the whole person with strong photo usage, illustration and stories that speak to the magazine reader. The editors establish a genuine, consistent connection to the reader by use of the right words and editing by design. For example, My South and use of “you ...” in sub-display type show the editors know who they want to be their reader. Local features, such as local news personalities sharing their favorite destinations, with locale maps are nice touches that contribute to the magazine’s overall impact.
 
Honorable Mention: Afar, Julia Cosgrove, Editor-in-Chief
Innovative design enforces the magazine’s strong, original editorial content. There is good use of illustration, as well as photos, and the mix provides rhythm and impact, establishing a pace and then introducing a change of pace for stories that demand it. It’s particularly nice to be able to easily find captions because of color and style. The content and its readability provide the impact for this nicely done publication.
 
103B — Travel Coverage in Other Magazines
Gold: Yankee Magazine, Mel Allen, Editor
The magazine has so many travel stories that it is easy to see that they are an important focus of its editorial mission. Some are “best of” while others are deeper features that offer glimpses into the culture and history of places. Photos complement and enhance the editorial packages. It is obvious that the reader is first when choosing and executing stories, and “when you go” and ancillary pieces i.e., recipes, offer a complete and satisfying read. The covers follow the same editorial design and are simple but with blurbs that outline what’s inside and what to expect. Each issue seems to move the reader to action. Yankee likely has longtime, loyal readers because of its consistent and fulfilling content.
 
Silver: Midwest Living, Trevor Meers, Editorial Content Director
Each issue of the magazine offers at least a dozen travel stories, which provide an expansive glimpse of the Midwest and help sustain interest throughout the issue. Photos, maps and event listings complement the stories. “Tiger Woods Goes to Branson. Shouldn’t You?” is an example of how the editors speak to the reader. Sometimes promotions and advertising masquerade as editorial, but are defined as such, i.e. special partner section, and seem to offer good info, which does not conflict with the travel pieces. Some of the covers are particularly striking.
 
Bronze: Private Clubs Magazine, Don Nichols, Editor-in-Chief
An oversized magazine stands out for that reason, but Private Clubs shows through strong travel stories that there is more than size that draws the readers’ attention to it. Travel stories are promoted on the cover, and it is obvious that travel is important to this magazine and its editors. The stories offer in-depth looks at topical issues, i.e., how Napa and Sonoma counties rebounded from the wildfires, as well as news to use, i.e. how “Laos Goes Luxe” and new cruising options. It’s a beautiful magazine that is easy to read and clearly designed for its readership.
 
Honorable Mention: Outside, Christopher Keyes, Editor
Whether it’s describing the best trips of the year or recounting a terrifying road trip, the travel stories in Outside are original and show an awareness of the subject. Strong photos add information, and content drives the design. Even the stories that are more issue-oriented, i.e. “Grand Theft Monument,” present adventure and a look at a potential travel destination. Travel in Outside is presented in fresh, insightful and innovative ways.
 
Category 104: U.S./Canada Travel
Gold: Mark Jenkins, “The Big Unknown,” Smithsonian Magazine
The difficulty of the location for the reporter and crew alone makes this a unique and special piece, exploring glaciers in Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The writer conveys the sheer terror of a near brush with death, saved only by a timely swing of a pick-ax — truly breathtaking writing. It’s guaranteed to evoke a few OMGs. True, this visit to the melting glaciers wouldn’t be for everyone, but for the brave, an opportunity to “dangle in the crack of an iceberg” might be the perfect adventure. Plus, the factual reporting on climate change and the danger to the ages-old icebergs is superb, along with the clever description of a “free-range human.”
 
Silver: Freda Moon, “Where the Wilderness Is,” Afar
The writing is descriptive and full of sensory detail, written like an artist painting with vivid colors and glorious detail. For example, in referring to a diving Alaskan bush plane, the writer compares the flight to diving like a bird of prey seeking a mouse when it spots a grizzly. It’s compelling enough to send a reader on a quest to find luggage and start packing right away for this remote luxury lodge in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
 
Bronze: Heidemarie Brandes, “From German Roots to Vines of Wine, Fredericksburg, Texas, is a Colorful Trek,”
               ROVA  magazine
This “boutique community” is captured in exquisite details, providing readers with a smorgasbord of its wide variety of activities. It’s a colorful trek with strong descriptions and loads of links to help would-be travelers. Floral views of native plants, wineries, German foods, historic buildings and museums are explored along with unique antique shops. The writer has created a “you are there” voice for this piece that’s bound to appeal to U.S. travelers.
 
Honorable Mention: Langdon Cook, “Big Fish Tale,” National Geographic Traveler
Salmon anyone? Everyone? Yes, most probably after reading this well-researched article about the mighty fish known for its annual migration struggle. This piece includes interviews with folks who, as the writer says, “know salmon best, from commercial and tribal fishermen to scientists, anglers, and chefs.” Readers get the intel on what it’s like to be a fisher and the story of the salmon industry.
 
Category 105: Foreign Travel
Gold: Christopher Vourlias, “New Greek Odyssey,” National Geographic Traveler
This is an engaging blend of personal storytelling and site description that is helped along by great pacing. A combination of sharp, personal observation and insight is brought to life with a narrative that truly paints pictures with words … illustrating this corner of Greece and the two lead protagonists on their journey.
 
Silver: Justin Paul, “Rock It,” Virtuoso Life
The writer presents a classic, nearly textbook example of a destination piece for tourists. An early turn of phrase about paper maps quickly hooks the reader, followed by beautiful descriptions of the Italian Dolomites ski area only to deftly pivot to the interesting abundance of quality dining options throughout the area. This is a well-crafted, informative travel piece.
 
Bronze: Stephanie Pearson, “In the Land of Giants,” Outside
This article boasts a surprising amount of information on national park development in Chile and Argentina and of the founder of North Face and former CEO of Patagonia who made that happen. The writer sets out to visit as many Chilean national parks as possible in a month and takes readers along. The plentiful detail and research are obvious and the storytelling interesting, full of little known history of the parks and its champions.
 
Honorable Mention: Anne Sigmon, “Hemingway, Cuba & Me,” GeoEx Wanderlust
This is a great and painful story. The author’s circumstance, having suffered a stroke and battling an autoimmune disease, is overshadowed by her quest to visit Cuba and feed her fascination of Hemingway. In earlier years, she had visited Kilimanjaro, Africa and Pamplona with his books in hand. Now she provides a loving reconstruction of the man’s time in Cuba and an interpretation of the circumstances of his late-in-life decline. Poignant, heartfelt and a wonderful read.
 
Category 106: Photo Illustration of Travel
Gold: Brian Peterson, “Feeling Superior — Thru-Hiking the Superior Hiking Trail,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
This massive undertaking succeeds in multiple ways. In weekly segments, Brian Peterson takes readers along for the trek, capturing the experience in detail.  Viewers are treated to images of expansive grandeur, characters of the trail, water, small flowers and the trials and tribulations of a long hike. Photos are beautifully framed with beautiful light and are expertly edited and presented.
 
Silver: Ian Shive, “Living Monuments,” National Parks magazine
Rarely is there strong, in-depth photographic reporting on national marine monuments. The photographer possesses an enviable array of skills shooting aerials, underwater, details, landscape or conservation photojournalism. The visual storyline in the South Pacific covers marine and land animals, coral above and below the water, plastic pollution, tourism and history. The final spread is particularly striking, as the readers see someone playfully leap into the water at an atoll, next to a photograph of a rock with initials carved by a prisoner of war before his death.
 
Bronze: Corey Arnold, “Big Fish Tale,” National Geographic Traveler
These photographs are impeccably framed, with great visual variety. The article opens with a gorgeous fishing scene, and then viewers follow the path of the salmon. Photographs highlight anglers, food preparation, a fish market, a fish hatchery and tribal traditions. This photo essay succeeds because it covers both the salmon and their impact on people nearby.
 
Honorable Mention: Jill Peters, “Intimate Portraits of Women Who Live as Men in Remote Albania,” Afar
This is quite a surprise, as rarely does a portrait series say so much about a single location. Each subject is photographed in her environment. The intense gazes and intimate expressions give a peek at the subject’s emotions. This beautiful and cohesive portrait series raises questions about how these women chose to live as men in order to survive and begs for more research and travel.
 
Category 107: Special Packages/Projects
Gold: Outside, “The Greatest Show on Earth,” (Journey down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon),
           Christopher Keyes, Editor
The navigation down the Colorado River is led by mesmerizing full-screen interactivity. The photography is high-caliber and presented beautifully, and the voice of the piece is as grand as the topic. There is an appreciation for the history, culture, respect and literary references to the canyon. From a straightforward guide that solves the utilitarian need of knowing what to do if you visit to a book excerpt, the pieces play off what readers learned earlier along the journey. Even the sponsored content is riveting. The entire saga is a series of chapters that sheds light on the destination in different nuanced fashions. Brilliant.
 
Silver: Star Tribune (Minneapolis), “Feeling Superior,” Bob Timmons, Melanie Radzicki McManus, Brian Peterson,
            David Braunger and Jenni Pinkley
The expertise and understanding of the region makes this journey believable. The honesty and openness in storytelling connects the humanity to the sense of place. The presentation is a full court press of incredible print and online design. The photography is excellent and well-informed. The project shows a great collaboration between the writer and the photographer. The video journal updates were full of personality. The stories relay the tales of encountering many hikers and the different ways people interact with hiking. Readers learn about the trail, a little more about the depth of pride in a place and the difficulty and joy a journey like this provides.
 
Bronze: The New York Times, “The Love Issue,” Dan Chaon, Judy Mandell, Leslie Jamison, Rumaan Alam
               and Carmen Marie Manchado
What a beautiful marriage between travelling and the relationships people make, the stories behind them and the interconnectivity between it all. This is so sweet yet so intelligent in the twist in perspective on the topic of love. Sometimes the stories reach into the melancholy that seeps into experiences. The writing leads the reader into the sphere one finds themselves when traveling, sometimes a bit disconnected, definitely immersed, much like how love can whisk one away. The photography seems to have been chosen somewhat based on the mood of the pieces and is certainly full of influence. Good editing of the visuals. The presentation is classic.
 
Honorable Mention: The New York Times, “Secret National Parks,” Jenna Schnuer, Rosalind Bentley, Rachel Levin
              and Jordan Breal
This project is exciting because it uncovers some of the lesser known gems in the U.S. and makes the idea of taking a journey to these places obtainable. The great photography, 360-degree views and audio bring a level of excitement to the parks. The pairing of the visuals and the text is strong, not just illustrating text but adding another level of understanding to provide a greater sense of these unique locations. The writing is full of adventure. Part of the adventure is who the reader meets along the way, and those people are brought into the stories. Two standouts were the narrative writing about the Great Basin and Guadalupe Mountains parks. The maps are excellent.
 
Category 108: Cruise Travel
Gold: Emma Yardley, “Beyond the Fjords,” VIE Magazine
This article is simply great! This same cruise has been reviewed many times over, but in a “I went to the lounge and saw...” first-person mode. This story used historical research, great local quotes and colorful writing to make the reader want to take the cruise. The writing was so colorful that one had no problem seeing the Vikings without photos.
 
Silver:   Emma Yardley, “How to See Iceland by Boat,” The Globe and Mail
The writer employs a fascinating angle that takes the reader beyond a “normal” cruise and makes many people want to go. Well written — good use of quotes and local color. The writer was able to include a celebrity without pandering to the name-dropping cult. This article did a nice job of getting travelers to rethink a cruise destination.
 
Bronze:  Peter Heller, “Hawaii, Here We Come,” Travel + Leisure
This story starts with a wonderful lead — and then it just got better from there. It was both very entertaining and highly informative and relays the kind of cruise most people can only dream about with an acknowledgement that a good dream is a cruise of its own. The writer used first person without over personalization. Good job from start to finish.
 
Category 109: Adventure Travel
Gold: Ali Carr Troxell, “Mayday,” Outside
Ali Carr Troxell has a written a beautiful, tragic and searing account of her father’s death on the Pacific. Superbly reported, Mayday is suspenseful yet deeply personal in this saga of a boyhood dream gone awry. From her powerful opening sentence, “My father’s email didn’t make such sense, but he seemed to be saying pirates had boarded his boat,” Troxell expertly navigates her way through an odyssey that is biographical to deliver a multilayered maritime thriller. Top-notch journalism and storytelling.
 
Silver: Nicholas Schmidle, “Rocket Man,” The New Yorker
This story soars in its chronicling of the ace pilot leading Virgin Galactic’s billion-dollar gambit to commercialize space tourism. Deftly reported and superbly written, “Rocket Man” is a masterful glimpse into an epic race between a trio of global business titans: Virgin’s British billionaire Richard Branson against Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk to bring commercial space travel to market. Schmidle taps plenty of human emotion and historical relevance in this contest through his extraordinary profile of Mark Stucky, the driven ace pilot leading Virgin Galactic, whose devotion to the cause cost him a marriage and strained his relationship with his children. 
 
Bronze:  Doug Robinson, “Snowbound,” Outside
The writer provides a gripping narrative with elegant prose and incisive reportage. Set against the epic backdrop of the Continental Divide Trail, Doug Robinson unfolds a heartbreaking story of Stephen “Otter” Olshansky’s hike gone bad. Readers witness his losing battle against nature, read wrenching journal accounts of Otter’s slow death and join a suspenseful, and ultimately failed, search mission. “My intention is to bring the stove inside later and asphyxiate myself,” Otter wrote matter of factly in his journal. “Prolly won’t work. Nothing else I’ve tried has.” But Robinson’s capturing of Otter’s last days certainly does work — often in surprising ways.
 
Honorable Mention: Scott Yorko, “Surviving the Darien Gap,” Playboy
Scott Yorko joins four veterans, including a Special Forces medic and a platoon leader in Iraq, on a mission to complete a continuous motorcycle expedition from Alaska to Argentina that includes the “80-mile snarl of jungle” known as the Darien Gap. From mechanical issues to one man abandoning the trek, the story deftly outlines challenges such as torrential rains, diminished supplies and nonfunctioning bikes. This is a tale of survival woven with suspense and secondary characters, including a group of young boy guides who also quit, replaced by Colombian porters, as the team deals with the deadly paramilitary. The camaraderie of the men is on full display as they fight against the stereotype of vets, all without the structure the military had previously provided them.

Category 110: Travel News/Investigative Reporting Gold: Zach Everson, “Inside the World’s Most Controversial Hotel,”
                         Conde Nast Traveler
Zach Everson uses the allure of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., to draw readers into its darker corners where
its questionable position in the president’s portfolio is fully explored. The reporter uses the full range of strategies and techniques
to show how messy the relationship is between the leader of the free world and a hotel perfectly situated to benefit from his status.
What a rare combination of vivid, witty writing and solid investigation this is. Bravo.
 
Silver: Nikki Ekstein, “Caribbean Says Zika No Longer an Issue. Doctors Say Not So Fast,” Bloomberg Pursuits
It’s hard to imagine a more important investigative follow-up than this one: a thorough examination of the claim that the Caribbean is Zika-free. Nikki Ekstein explains in a clear and convincing way why that declaration is premature and better for the travel industry-dependent Caribbean than the careful traveler. She outlines the reality the scientific community is tracking and what risks remain.
 
Bronze: Megan Specia and Tariro Mzezewa, “Adventurous. Alone. Attacked,” The New York Times
With growing numbers of women deciding to travel alone, the New York Times takes a close look at how the solitary pursuit of adventure can go wrong for women and outlines practices that can help keep travelers safe. It’s sobering and useful and a reminder that the world hasn’t changed quite as quickly as women have.
 
Category 111: Service-Oriented Consumer Work
Gold: Matt Jaffe
, “Hello, Wine Country,” Los Angeles magazine
One of the most impressive things about this comprehensive feature is that its multiple elements were written by a single author,
Matt Jaffe. Sidebars such as the viticultural areas of Santa Barbara County to tips from vintners to Santa Maria-style barbecue complement shorter stories on the towns and trails of the Santa Ynez Valley. He writes with clarity and authority with some beautiful description to put you in these places.
 
Silver: Christopher Soloman, “Adventure Schools,” Outside
The academic theme plays well throughout this course catalog feature with blurbs that provide a syllabus-style description of a dozen offerings at three different levels. Electives are sprinkled throughout as well as action and location photographs that show what participants can experience. The writing outlines the skills you need and what you can expect to learn. This is service journalism as it’s meant to be.
 
Bronze: Jeremy Tarr, Rachael Levitt, Teddy Minford, Lauren Cierzan and Jill Krueger, “Fodor’s Go List 2019,”
               Fodor’s Travel
Categories of this article include Why It’s Wonderful, When To Go and Insider Tips for each of the 52 selections, but the most surprising element of this package is What To Read/What To Listen To/What To Watch, which highlights novels, memoirs, albums, films and TV shows that go with the selections. From topographic and architectural explanations to short history lessons, the blurbs update travelers with specific details from trends to legislation to educate readers and help them make their choices.
 
Honorable Mention: Nikki Ekstein and Mark Ellwood, “Travel Hacks A to Z,” Bloomberg Pursuits
This service piece stands out for its clever packaging and witty writing. The story concept of travel hacks from industry insiders to celebrities comes to life with bright illustrations that draw in readers. The tips are unusual and offer advice for apps, purchases, packing and tactics to make your travel go smoothly.
 
Category 112: Environmental Tourism
Gold: Paul Kvinta, “One Scientist’s Valiant Mission to Save Two of Hawaii’s Endangered Seabirds,” Audubon magazine
In this heartening, hilarious and moving profile, Paul Kvinta writes that scientist Andre Raine’s work requires “Seal Team Six-level assistance” and fanaticism. One gets the feeling that reporting on him requires almost as much. Kvinta tackles his exhaustive subject with humility and originality, crafting a profile of a scientist’s labor of love against the odds. Kvinta is a writer who is curious about everything — how it’s done, why it’s done and what the odds are. And while making this expedition intimate and personal, he lifts up the science, a scientist and the birds he’s determined to save.
 
Silver: Leath Tonino, “Grand Theft Monument,” Outside
Leath Tonino’s account of Grand Staircase-Escalante is a dizzying maze of geography and language tackled with near-exhaustive urgency and flair. The very presence of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is political. And Tonino gracefully incorporates history and narrative, character and observation into an exploration that is highly physical, geographical and spiritual  — all the while utilizing a compelling, original voice that transcends.
 
Bronze: Allison Entrekin, “Turning Tides,” Southbound
In this quietly observed study, Allison Entrekin reports on a decimated oyster population on the Florida coastal town of Apalachicola and how its citizens are responding. With subtlety and elegance, Entrekin introduces us to people who have lost their livelihoods through the decline of the oyster population. What emerges is a portrait of an entire town grappling with its identity. In spite of the challenges she’s reporting on, Entrekin imbues this story with beautifully observed descriptions, bringing a quiet, hopeful presence to the narrative. 
 
Category 113: Cultural Tourism
Gold: Jeff MacGregor, “American Rhapsody,” Smithsonian Magazine
This is June in Kansas and this is Symphony in the Flint Hills. This is a surprising piece for anyone who doesn’t know about the symphony program that takes place each year in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas. The Kansas City Symphony Orchestra trucks in for a performance in one of the country’s most wide-open spaces, drawing 6,000 people. The result is stunning in several ways. MacGregor’s piece is too.
 
Silver: Andrew Van Wey, “Keyboard Dreams: Observing a Virtual Rite of Passage in Korea,” GeoEx Wanderlust
It’s hard to know what to think of competitive video gaming, or e-Sports as it is known. Start with, for example, stadiums packed with people who buy tickets to watch other people play video games. Andrew Van Wey and his wife lead the reader on a deep, sensory-overloaded dive in South Korea, the heart of e-Sports. A personal conclusion brings it home nicely. We still may not know what to think. But now we know what to think about.
 
Bronze: Leslie Oh, “What It’s Like to Break Bread in the Desert,” Saveur
This is a sweet, touching and informative essay that shows how food is the center of a community. Leslie Oh and her children learn from a 200-year-old Jordanian bread recipe called shrak. They knead it, bake it, eat it, and learn more about the nomadic desert culture of a Bedouin family they visit than they could have possibly learned in any other way. Via Oh’s writing, readers can see the experience in her daughter’s eyes.
 
Honorable Mention: Wes Eichenwald, “Where Life Is Still a Cabaret in Manhattan,” Austin American-Statesman
As this piece says, piano/cabaret bars are the communal living rooms of the performing class. They may be harder to find than they used to be (They’ve become something of a hidden culture scene), but they’re worth the search. The best times are late, when other places close and the musicians and singers come to entertain themselves. Like with any good travel story, Wes Eichenwald not only shows us what it’s like to be there, he makes us want to be there.
 
Category 114: Personal Comment
Gold: Jeff MacGregor, “Taming the Lionfish,” Smithsonian Magazine
Part adventure story, part environmental alert, this funny, deftly written narrative takes readers on an unexpected journey of murder. What begins with the deliberate spearing of a new, invasive ocean species culminates in the gustatory pleasures of eating these unwelcome marauders. And, yes, they are tasty! With a surprise in every section, Jeff MacGregor introduces us to the organizers of these lethal trips, the teams of hunters who compete for the most kills, as well as an alluring mermaid. This is a rollicking, absorbing read detailing an unusual approach for confronting an environmental issue that’s quickly outpacing any means to deal with it.

Silver: Latria Graham, “We’re Here. You Just Don’t See Us,” Outside
Dispelling the myth that African-Americans don’t like the outdoors, Latria Graham uses compelling research and a moving personal story to argue that generation after generation of discriminatory laws and customs have actually prevented African-Americans from enjoying the pleasures of national parks, swimming pools and other outdoor activities most Americans take for granted. Referring to the National Park Services’ history of bigotry, she writes that Shenandoah National Park continued this policy as late as the 1940s, with signs designating areas for Negroes. With solid reporting and her personal lens, Graham makes a powerful, myth-busting argument. She concludes with suggestions of what we can do about the problem.
 
Bronze: Robert Earle Howells, “The Only Way to Protect These Trees Is to Hide Them,” San Francisco Chronicle
In this original, thoughtful story, writer Robert Earle Howells argues that the only real way to protect the U.S.’s magnificent ancient redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, is to let them grow on their own without our destructive visits. The damage visiting gawkers inflict on these surviving, rare trees is well known. To safeguard them, to ensure they remain for posterity — especially those not in public parks — we should never identify specific locations or seek them out. Be content, he writes, to view their grandeur from afar.
 
Honorable Mention: Tyrone Beason, “Reporter Feels the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Promised Land
                   on a Mexican Mountaintop,” The Seattle Times
Tyrone Beason discovers that even before the rise of the Aztec empire, the inhabitants of Tepoztl├ín have been fiercely independent. Runaway slaves, hidden by these people, settled here in Colonial times and nearby is one of the first hamlets of free blacks in America. As he passes stands selling corn cakes or pork skins, Beason is reminded of his own family. When he sees a shop called Tierra Prometida (“promised land”), he reminds himself he’s near an Aztec pyramid, “mulling a story about African slaves who saw promise in a different hostile land, the same as my ancestors in the American South.” Like Martin Luther King Jr., he’s been to a mountaintop and there sees himself in the experience of others.
 
Category 115: Special-Purpose Travel
Gold: Florence Williams, “The Survivors,” Outside
Six city women at the end of a year-long treatment for sex abuse and substance abuse are on a four-day backpacking trip in Colorado. They have lived on the streets of Atlanta, but this wilderness is unknown and scary. The hike is a metaphor for their journey to the healing power of nature. Hiking, rock climbing, even sleeping in tents is all new to these women. The story’s infrastructure, complete with re-created scenes and dialogue, moves the narrative and makes this story work. When the trip is over, one of the women sums up the impact: “I took back my body. I realized it could be mine.”
 
Silver: Lisa Ballard, “Climbers as Humanitarians,” Appalachia journal
Writer Lisa Ballard joined a team that went to Mexico to help people in the high country after the 2017 earthquake. Once there, team members were also asked to help treat migrants who were injured riding trains through Mexico to the U.S. With the medical supplies they carried and their know-how, they helped heal the migrants and even built bunk beds for a shelter. The ambulance they used had previously been purchased by some team members who had raised the funds and donated the vehicle to the Red Cross in the area. Ballard’s story, which includes a long climb up a mountain, is filled with humanitarian deeds told in her moving narrative style.

Bronze: Zora O’Neill, “Lesbos: A Greek Island Big Enough for Two,” BBC Travel
The author’s husband’s family had vacationed each summer in Lesbos for years. The author had seen only a small part of the island, but when refugees started arriving, she rented a car and went to the other side to help. She aided the refugees, organized more volunteers and wrote a pamphlet to help everyone. When the crisis eased, Zora O’Neill wondered if she would be able to simply go back to the beach. How she resolved her conundrum keeps everyone reading.

Honorable Mention: Christopher P. Baker, “Hidden Honshu,” BMW Motorcycle Magazine
Writer Christopher P. Baker, who joined a 16-day motorcycle tour of the main island of Japan, shares stories of the road, Japanese customs and his fellow riders. Through his eyes, we gaze at the sights from high on mountains, learn to deal with technologically advanced toilets and sample the food. We are perched on his shoulders as we vicariously experience his amazing journey.

Category 116: Short Work on Travel
Gold: Kerri Westenberg
, “Swimming With the One Percenters,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
From its opening paragraph in an airport lounge of Gucci- and diamond-bedecked travelers the author encounters to its closing image of beach sand-decorated tresses, this enjoyable story is deftly reported and written. The writer weaves history, anecdotes and instantly visual details in a piece about a weekend in Nantucket that will leave you wanting to book a ticket.
Silver: Elaine Glusac, “At an Arizona Ranch, Desert Beauty With a Side of Border Politics,” The New York Times
This story blends history, culture, service information and politics while inviting readers to picture the star-studded past and reinvigorated present of a dusty dude ranch along a piece of old border wall. Thoroughly reported and written with sumptuous detail, the piece packs a lot into a succinct package.

Bronze: Fran Golden, “The Galapagos Is Evolving With Luxury Yacht Cruises,” Bloomberg Pursuits
Once the destination of small vessels and rustic adventurers, the Galapagos Islands have sparked increased interest by luxury travelers. This story is an informative guide for readers who want to understand the impact of these visitors as well as how to choose the right voyage to take in the islands’ secluded wildlife for themselves.

Honorable Mention: Damaine Vonada, “Gather ’Round the Table,” Ohio Cooperative Living
With charm equal to its small-town setting in Lebanon, OH, this story chronicles the history and process of a restaurant’s annual Thanksgiving dinner — for the 1,000-plus diners who have made it a family tradition.

Category 117: Culinary-Related Travel
Gold: Lisa See
, “One Perfect Cup,” National Geographic Traveler
This is one perfect culinary travel feature — and a powerhouse of a story. Lisa See takes readers along on the journey to discover the origins, powers and cultural significance of tea, beautifully covering its past and present, ritual and reality. So much work obviously went into it — the way it was crafted, the research, the details — and the writing all comes together in a seamless way. She’s got a handle on the subject, or rather, we get to see her get a handle on the subject over the course of the story and learn along with her. Impressive journalism from start to finish.

Silver: David Farley, “A Guest at the Feast,” National Geographic Traveller (UK)
This is a tremendous piece of writing and reporting. It fulfills the four things a reader wants in a food travel piece: 1) to be informed; 2) to be entertained; 3) to get hungry; and 4) to provoke an undeniable desire to visit the locale. David Farley takes readers inside the experience of a Georgian supra — and all the mouth-stuffing and wine-guzzling galore the festive gathering entails — by embracing being a guest in the ritual and noting all the particulars that make it special. He takes you there, smelling and tasting everything in rich detail, until you feel almost woozy yourself. It seems almost impossible to read this and not have the country of Georgia end up on your travel wish list.

Bronze: Naomi Tomky, “Feast by Ferry,” Hemispheres Magazine
Naomi Tomky’s piece is a feast for the senses — a pristine culinary travel story set in Washington state’s San Juan Islands. Her writing and interviews take readers to places through island culture and habitat cuisine, getting incredibly descriptive about locations without bogging down in excessive details. She highlights the courage, creativity and passion of the chefs that invite readers/travelers to share in this memorable experience. A seemingly simple story that tells us so much, elevating it beyond mere slice-of-life writing into something altogether more poignant and thought-provoking.

Honorable Mention: Eliot Stein, “Vienna’s Unpredictable Vegetable Orchestra,” BBC Travel
An irresistible piece of writing. Eliot Stein’s love for the offbeat subject matter is evident from the lead to the finale. His hilarious prose never mocks what could be a potentially silly subject, and the way he describes the instruments alone makes it worth a read. The light tone camouflages what is a terrific, informative piece of travel writing. This is culinary-related travel at its funniest and finest, in which culture and cuisine unite in the most enjoyable way. If music be the food of love, play on.

Category 118: Travel Book
Gold: Allison Coffelt,
“Maps Are Lines We Draw: A Road Trip Through Haiti,” Lanternfish Press
As a student, Allison Coffelt discovered Haiti through a book and decided to visit the besieged island, partly based on intellectual curiosity, partly based on a vague notion of humanitarian aid. What she learned has led to a highly unusual travel book. The lessons imparted in the well-crafted narrative took Coffelt by surprise and might also surprise readers.

Silver: Doug Bock Clark, “The Last Whalers,” Little, Brown and Co.
Doug Bock Clark knew about a remote Indonesian island that even seasoned, intrepid travelers could not imagine visiting, much less inhabiting for significant stretches of time. But, motivated by a burning desire to document disappearing cultures, Clark made an extraordinary commitment to reside among a tiny tribe of whalers. Part journalist and part anthropologist, Clark has composed a narrative that will be difficult for any reader to forget.

Bronze: Cindy Ross, “The World is Our Classroom: How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape
               an Extraordinary Education,” Skyhorse Publishing
Not many authors are able to successfully combine a travel book with a book of parenting advice. Cindy Ross is an exception. With her husband, daughter and son, Ross created a classroom based on residing in nature, not only across the United States, but in other nations as well. Certainly not every family could muster the flexibility, the courage and the finances to experience such a journey. For readers who will never accomplish what Ross accomplished, the book is a wonderful adventure to be enjoyed vicariously. The family photographs add a layer of richness that is touching.

Honorable Mention: Carl Hoffman, “The Last Wild Men of Borneo,” HarperCollins
Fascinated by the island of Borneo, Carl Hoffman felt the call to explore a very human mystery set on that island. Why had an explorer seemingly vanished into the jungle? And who would know the answer to that question if Hoffman landed on the island to unravel the mystery using his own detective skills? This is a travel book, to be sure. But more than that, it can be approached as a saga of potential murder.

Category 119: Guidebook
Gold: Becky Lomax
, “Moon USA National Parks: The Complete Guide to All 59 Parks,” Avalon Travel
“USA National Parks” is this year’s winner partly because of the guide’s thoroughness, as suggested by the subtitle: The COMPLETE Guide to ALL 59 Parks. The extensive research and attention to detail exhibited by author and seasoned travel writer Becky Lomax is impressive page after page. The writing is crisp; the photography is gorgeous, and the maps are helpful.

Silver: Amy Bizzarri, “The Best Hits on Route 66: 100 Essential Stops on the Mother Road,” Globe Pequot
Within the extensive listing of U.S. highways, Route 66 could seem like an anachronism. The nearly 2,500-mile stretch has been around a long time and perhaps immortalized beyond reason. But author Amy Bizzarri is battling any tendency toward anachronism with a finely curated collection of interesting way stations that casual travelers might miss without her help. The state-by-state arrangement is sensible; the sketches of each stop are enticing, and so is the photography.

Bronze: Caroline Eubanks, “This is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States,” Globe Pequot
Given that we reside in the UNITED states of America, and given that the Civil War has long since ended, singling out the South as a distinct entity might seem unprogressive. And yet, the South, however delineated, considers itself a distinct entity. Caroline Eubanks has defined the South as 10 states. She chronicles each in detail and with respect. Each state is then divided into regions, and the presentation of attractions in each region comes in a consistent format. As a result, the guide is easy to follow while on the road and supremely helpful in its detail. The writing is straightforward, and the photography is elegant and copious.

Honorable Mention: Michelle Young and Augustin Pasquet, “Secret Brooklyn,” Jonglez Publishing
It is impossible to know whether most of the sites listed are actually “secret” to the average visitor and/or Brooklyn resident. But secret or not, the sites are explained with enough detail that any individual consulting this guidebook is quite likely to learn something new. The co-authors carve the borough of Brooklyn into four sectors; that interpretation offers a sense of order to an extremely varied portion of New York City. The writing is clear, and the illustrations are useful.

Category 120: Travel Journalism Websites
Gold: NationalGeographic.com/Travel, National Geographic Traveler
, Christine Blau, Digital Director; George W. Stone,                     Editor-in-Chief
National Geographic Traveler is the epitome of what a travel website should be: constantly updated, global in scale and featuring authoritative, well-written and well-edited content. Stunning photography from around the world makes the site pleasurable to dive into, and a multitude of index and search options make it easy to find the destinations a user is looking for. Part of the goal of a travel site is also for virtual travel, and the site’s writing and illustrations make it a great way to “travel” without leaving home.

Silver: BBC.com/Travel, Anne Banas, Editor
The BBC’s travel website manages to be both worldwide and to have a strong sense of place. Articles are anchored in local reporting and expertise, and the site does an excellent job of finding interesting, quirky and new angles about places that have been written about many times. Tagging content is extremely useful for finding related stories and unexpected connections between places.

Bronze: Afar.com, Julia Cosgrove, Editor-in-Chief
The Afar website distinguishes itself from other travel sites with its strong focus on regional guides. Placed front and center on the site, the guides combine maps, photography, illustrations, suggested itineraries and seasonal tips to make travel experiences excellent. The site’s guides are obviously the product of deep reporting.

Honorable Mention: QuirkyCruise.com, Heidi Sarna and Ted Scull, editors
QuirkyCruise.com has distinguished itself as a destination for people interested in alternatives to the corporate cruise experience. The site offers a deep dive into more than 80 cruise experiences on rivers and lakes, as well as the high seas. Warm and friendly writing invites readers into the experience.

Category 121: Travel Audio/Podcasts
Gold: Beth Harpaz and Warren Levinson
, “Montgomery Alabama’s Lynching Memorial and Legacy Museum,”
           Associated Press Travel “Get Outta Here” podcast
Production fades into the background in this well-produced podcast as the story fully takes over the mind of listeners. Equally informative and moving, this podcast weaves painful stories of the past with painful stories of the present, and in doing so shows how the two are not reconciled. The juxtaposition of past and present shows the two time periods aren’t all that different. The story transports listeners to the opening of the museum, but in telling stories of lynchings and racial abuse, it makes clear the opening of the museum, while meaningful, doesn’t make up for years of pain.

Silver: Mike Randolph, “Madrid’s Rastro: A Feast for the Ears,” SpainByMikeRandolph.com
This entry is superbly produced and does something only podcasts and audio pieces can do: make the world beautiful through sound. The experimental use of technology makes the production stand out. The entry is informative, teaching listeners about auditory processing, and transformative, as it engulfs listeners in the sounds of Madrid to create a sense of place.

Bronze: Randy Sharman, “Wildlife Cruelty in Tourism,” The Informed Traveler SEG 1 (May 6/18), 770 CHQR, Calgary
Animal treatment in tourism is under-covered and often overlooked by tourists. This podcast is informative and forces listeners to reflect on what’s more important in travel: the traveler’s experience or the experience of the locals? It also asks listeners to consider wildlife as locals and forces travelers to confront how seemingly harmless activities may actually be detrimental to animal health and well-being.

Honorable Mention: Nikki Ekstein and Mark Ellwood, “Forbidden Travel and Chef Curtis Stone,” Bloomberg Pursuits
      Travel Genius episode 8 (January 2019), Topher Forhecz, producer; and Francesca Levy, podcast editorial director
This entry provides thought-provoking commentary on the dark side of travel: what happens when you cause harm to a place, culture and people when you’re attempting to do the opposite? The producers offer much-needed context to the story of John Allen Chau and the perspectives that were overlooked and underreported in much of mainstream Western media about the young adventurer killed on a remote Indian island. On the lighter side, the celebrity chef shares his travel tips.

Category 122: Travel Video
Gold: Lee Cowan, Aria Shavelson, David Bhagat, Rand Morrison and Henry Bautista
, “CBS Sunday Morning: Puffin Patrol,”
          CBS Sunday Morning
In this superb video, tourists visit the small island of Heimaey off the coast of Iceland to see puffins, which play a big role in the lives of the people who live there. But the puffins are facing decline and we find out why. Through the efforts of the locals though, many of them children, the puffin decline has slowed. We follow the rescue efforts and see how it has become part of their island culture and a tradition passed down through the families who take part in it.

Silver: Rebekah Barlas, Andrick Deppmeyer and Christoph Niemann, “This Artist Sketched His Way Through Cambodia
            and Vietnam,” National Geographic Traveler
Christoph Niemann shows us how he tries to decenter or disconnect from an assumed way of travel and how viewers might be able to do the same. When traveling in the Mekong region, he says most people probably find the culture exotic. But for him, he is the exotic. We see one of his photos, not of a well-known site, but of hundreds of people taking a photo of that well-known site. He says looking for real experiences like this can tell you a lot about place. He expertly describes real experiences of travel rather than the imagined travel or travelogue.

Bronze: Samantha Brown, “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love — Lafayette, Louisiana” PBS/Samantha Brown Media
Samantha Brown brings Cajun culture to life by having Lafayette’s people tell and show its different facets: music, dance, food or the environment and why those are important to them. Viewers get a feel for everyday life, especially the music, as she interacts with locals in an honest way by keeping her voice to a minimum while letting them shine. She also weaves in a bit of Cajun history to give us perspective.

Honorable Mention: Joseph Rosendo and Julie Rosendo, “Mekong River Adventure — Part 1” Joseph Rosendo’s Travelscope
After viewing this piece, anyone will have a good understanding of a culture centered around Buddhism and how that might help if visiting this area. This video provides detailed cultural experience from a variety of perspectives. Joseph Rosendo lets the people he interviews reveal to viewers the locale and life there. He also weaves into the story the effects that the Khmer Rouge had and continue to have on Cambodia, and that includes tourism.

Category 123: Travel Blogs
Gold: ThisIsMySouth.com
, Caroline Eubanks
You think you’ve “seen” a place after reading a book or watching a movie? Not really. At, least not the Southern portions of the United States. Through her travelogues, Caroline Eubanks dispels the myths and stereotypes on her blog, This Is My South. From make-your-own movie set tours, to restaurant and accommodation reviews, this pulls back the curtain on the rich history and diverse cultures to be found right here at home.

Silver: CurbFreeWithCoryLee.com, Cory Woodard
The Americans with Disabilities Act has made travel within the United States somewhat easier for people with disabilities. But, accommodations are not universal. Cory Lee Woodard takes readers along with him as he tours some of the world’s wonders in his wheelchair. He gives other travelers who have a disability everything they need to know to feed their wanderlust — from the best time of day to visit attractions, to booking accessible tour facilitators, to finding the best hotels.

Bronze: We3Travel.com, Tamara Gruber
Family trips aren’t created equal. From the summer road trip, to visiting the cathedrals of Europe, to mother-and-daughter bonding weekends, We3Travel offers families the tips, reviews, destination guides and sample itineraries they need to maximize money and to create meaningful memories. The Grubers’ hits and misses are guaranteed to inspire and inform any family trip.

Honorable Mention: SightDOING.net, Becky Pokora
It’s one thing to go see a new place, it’s another to go and do something. Becky Pokora’s SightDOING challenges readers to get out there and do something. Her description of “fowling” in Detroit is just one example of the way she irreverently uncovers some of the lesser-known activities open to visitors in cities around the globe.

Category 124: Multimedia Single Work
Gold: Michael Benanav and Monika Agarwal
, “The Last Dokpas of North Sikkim,” Traditional Cultures Project
The Last Dokpas is an elegant user experience that mixes vivid photography with a carefully crafted story. The people and places jump off the screen via image and text. The videos add more dimension to the characters as they explain cheese making and butter churning. The interactive creates a real connection with the yak herders.

Silver: Christoph Niemann, “Along the Mekong,” an illustrated travelogue, National Geographic Traveler
Quirky illustrations and witty, insightful writing guide us as we journey to the Mekong with Christoph Niemann. The interactive is capped by a rich additional layer, a video that allows users to hear Niemann’s take on the entire experience.

Bronze: Eliot Stein, “The Last Film Poster Painter of Taiwan,” BBC Travel
This is the story of Yan Jhen-Fa, the last great painter of movie posters in Taiwan, who is losing his vision. His account, as presented here, is moving and inspiring. The interactive captures the beauty of his art and the uncertainty of his future.

Honorable Mention: Meg Lukens Noonan and Tom Garmeson, “The Rarest Fabric on Earth,” BBC Travel
The “golden fleece” of the vicuna is deeply entwined with Peru’s Inca heritage. The videos here drip with reverence. The story and the photos that go with it paint a vivid image of how such an unassuming animal can have so great an impact.

BACK TO OVERVIEW PAGE