The phrase “award-winning journalism” has become a meaningless cliché. There are so many contests and so few (good) newspapers, it’s kind of like making it to the NBA playoffs (and about as exciting). But some contests matter more than others because of the caliber of the judges and the competition. We’ve just won a few of those awards, and I wanted to share the judges’ remarks. It’s humbling to work around such talented people, and a reminder that when the Independent does it right, we do it very well. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to the readers and advertisers who support our hard work. And the real winners are:

Mosi Secret, staff writer: Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families, for “Dreams deferred” (Aug. 2, 2006): “The reporter conveys the complexities involving Derrick Steele’s struggles to overcome addictions to find meaningful, legal work through a Durham jobs program. Secret also shows how the program falters through lack of funding and commitment, leaving participants unsteady and on the edge.”

Fiona Morgan, staff writer: First Place, Media Reporting/Criticism, Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN): “Fiona is proof positive of what the common tools of reporting can do when put in the hands of an uncommonly hard worker. Nothing is taken at face value, everything is reported out and then conveyed in clear, precise prose. She does great credit to her profession and her paper.” David Carr, media columnist, The New York Times

Tyler Bergholz, freelance artist: Second Place, Illustration (“Prince George,” Oct. 4, 2006), AAN: “I loved the expressiveness and personality of the illustrations.” Stephanie Grace Lim, former features design director, San Jose Mercury News

David Fellerath, arts and entertainment editor: Third Place, Arts Criticism, AAN: “These reviews are some of the best I’ve read in recent times. The author’s depth of research brings each of the movies to life and provides a detailed context for understanding each of the filmseach review takes on a life of its own but never loses its focus on the movie under scrutiny…. The author’s dedication to each of the films enhances his credibility as a critic and storyteller: At times it seems as if the author were part of the movies’ creative teams.” Art Janik, grant writer for New York City Center, a landmark performing arts center in Manhattan

Derek Anderson, staff photographer: Third Place, Web site Content Feature (“Me Against Me,” a Web production with “Dreams deferred”), AAN: “A really nice job of using audio track and photos to add depth to a print feature.” Erin Kissane, editor of, an online magazine for people who make Web sites

Lissa Gotwals, former staff photographer: Third Place, Photography (“Central Park South,” May 24, 2006), AAN: “In my opinion, the best of the bunch. A nice variety of images that captured a mood and gave me a sense of place with visually appealing images.” Alicia Calzada, past president of the National Press Photographers Association