Maui News staffers receive recognition

Maui News staffers snapped up 13 awards, including five first-place honors, from the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2012 Excellence in Journalism Awards held Friday night on Oahu.

Maui News staffers won all of the awards in the Spot News Category.

First place went to Staff Writer Melissa Tanji, Copy Editor Tressa Verber and former Staff Writers Nanea Kalani and Chris Hamilton for “Wait, see for Maui,” a report of a tsunami’s impact but no damage on Maui published Oct. 28.

“Solid coverage that touched all the bases,” the judges said.

The same story took first place in the Breaking News Reporting Category.

Judges said: “This piece was punctuated with a strong opening quote on an ‘overprediction’ followed by tons of detail. Would have been great for a full day’s work, but only put together in a few hours. Great job by the staff.”

Also in the Spot News Category, Kalani and Tanji were finalists for “Oracle Corp. CEO to buy Lanai,” the June 21, 2012, story on Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison’s deal to buy Lanai from David Murdock of Castle & Cooke Inc.

And Staff Writer Lila Fujimoto was a finalist in the category for “Man pulls a gun.” Her story published on May 23, 2012, covered an incident in which police fatally shot Marshall M.K. Langford at the Mana Kai Maui resort in Kihei.

Maui News Photographer Matthew Thayer took four awards.

He won first place in the News Photography / Videography Category for “Hawaii a privileged viewpoint for a rare display,” a June 6, 2012, series of photos showing people at Kamaole III Beach Park watching Venus pass between the Earth and the sun. Thayer said that he borrowed a special sun filter to allow him to shoot directly toward the sun for one of the photos.

The judges said: “A compelling lead photo made this photo series take first place. It was nice to see the photographer made sure readers saw what the subjects in the photos were looking at. A solid package.”

In the same category, Thayer received a finalist award for “Hot New Ride,” a couple of photos published Nov. 3 of a Mercury Villager GS that was engulfed in flames along Honoapiilani Highway in Waikapu.

The judges commented: “We could tell the photographer is always prepared for spots news and was rewarded with this compelling image.”

In the Sports Photography / Videography Category, Thayer won first place for “Action-packed day at Makawao Rodeo,” a series of photos published July 8, 2012, that wrapped up coverage of the Fourth of July Makawao Rodeo at Oskie Rice Arena in Olinda. The series featured a wide-angle photo of a young paniolo being bucked off a running sheep.

The judges said: “An attention-grabbing lead photo set this entry apart from the rest. We imagined ourselves falling off the back of the sheep after seeing the photo. Nice work by the photographer to be in the right place at the right time.”

In the same category, Thayer took a finalist award for “Illinois no ka oi,” a series of photos published Nov. 22 that show the Illinois basketball team’s goofy victory celebration with fans after winning the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

The judges commented that it was “nice to see the photographer waited for a unique and humorous moment to occur. His patience was rewarded with a nice out-of-the-ordinary image.”

In the General News / Enterprise Reporting Category, former Staff Writer Ilima Loomis was a finalist for a story published Feb. 12, 2012, about the Wailuku Main Street Association and how Maui County officials at the time were unable to account for how the association, now effectively defunct, was spending thousands of dollars in taxpayers’ money.

Judges said: “This story exposes a clear problem about accountability for this nonprofit. I love some of the digging the reporter did.”

Retired Maui News Scene Editor Rick Chatenever was a finalist for his “Making the Scene” columns. Judges commented that “this was the most traditional of the entries, and it was a good read.”

Maui News Dining Editor Carla Tracy won first place in the Feature Writing / Long Form Category for her story “Vanilla Skies,” published April 8, 2012, in the Currents Section. The story featured Maui’s vanilla growers, and judges found it “informative and engaging.”

Entries were judged by the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.