Indiana Lawyer collects 6 statewide journalism awards

Journalists and artists for the Indiana Lawyer collected six statewide awards for work produced in 2019, the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists announced in results for the annual Best of Indiana journalism contest.

Indiana Lawyer managing editor Olivia Covington and senior reporter Marilyn Odendahl each collected a first place award for print publications with circulation below 30,000.

Covington won first place for coverage of minority issues for a collection of stories, “Ruling in deported ‘Dreamer’ case raises questions for immigrants, lawyers,” which explored the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of  Angelo Bobadilla v. State of Indiana, 19S-PC-128, reaction to the ruling and how immigration attorneys subsequently advised their clients. 

Judges said of Covington’s work, “Immigration law is nothing if not complicated, and where America’s Dreamers are concerned it can be baffling. Covington covers the intimate details of one young man’s convoluted journey through the courts and how even experienced attorneys can slip up on simple matters that have devastating consequences.”
Odendahl took a first place award in the business or consumer affairs reporting category for her stories under the banner “Laws, lawsuits aim to tame ‘Wild West’ nature of rent-to-own land contracts.” Odendahl’s reporting looked at the hardships such arrangements placed on would-be homebuyers, the impact of an Indiana Supreme Court ruling and the cost for both sides of litigation surrounding land contract disputes.

Covington won four awards overall, including two in the breaking news category. She claimed second place for her courtroom coverage of former Johnson County Prosecutor Bradley Cooper’s guilty plea in a domestic violence case that led to his resignation. She also won third place in the category for on-the-spot reporting of Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears’ announcement that simple misdemeanor marijuana possession charges would no longer be prosecuted in Indianapolis. 

In the criminal justice reporting category, Covington also won second-place honors for her story “Indiana case shines spotlight on solitary confinement.”

Finally, Brad Turner took third-place honors for his illustration that accompanied the story “Company counselors: In-house positions become more demanding.” 

Indiana Lawyer’s sibling publication, the Indianapolis Business Journal, won 12 SPJ awards in the category for the state’s largest newspapers, digital publications and wire services.

Among IBJ’s winning entries was a package of stories about artificial intelligence in last year’s Innovation Issue. The work included Anthony Schoettle’s story about the growth of artificial intelligence from its early days in science fiction to its practical applications today. Mickey Shuey, John Russell and Lesley Weidenbener also contributed stories to the package.

The judges said the series “clarifies what AI is, debunks common misconceptions, and outlines its history and milestone developments with effective use of timeline graphics.

“Companion articles on potential applications in medicine and health care, a thoughtful exploration of the ethical issues presented by AI and interviews with notable data scientists make this a solid package on a compelling topic,” the judges said.

IBJ graphic designer Audrey Pelsor won first place in non-cover design for her extensive AI timeline that complemented Schoettle’s story. The judges said the timeline was “packed with information” and explains AI “in a fun and smart way, and a pleasing rhythm is maintained from page to page.”

IBJ also won first place for its website, which the judges said had a good navigation bar and used white space well.

Other awards included:

  • Coverage of government or politics, second place: Lindsey Erdody, Mickey Shuey and Mason King for a series of stories and a podcast about the Capital Improvement Board’s efforts to win funding for a Bankers Life Fieldhouse renovation and Indiana Convention Center expansion.
  • Business and consumer affairs reporting, third place: Mickey Shuey for a story about Ambrose Property Group’s decision not to pursue its planned $1.4 billion Waterside project at the former GM stamping plant.
  • Medical or science reporting, second place: John Russell for his beat coverage of medical issues.
  • Editorial cartoon, third place: Gary Varvel for a cartoon that put former presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on the cover of “Mad Magazine.”
  • Sports column writing, second place: Mike Lopresti for a collection of his columns.
  • Page 1 newspaper design, third place: IBJ design staff for several covers.
  • Magazine cover design, second place: Brad Turner for a Forefront cover.
  • Graphics and illustrations, third place: former IBJ designer Jill Doyle for several graphics related to banking problems for low-income workers.

In addition, IBJ’s northern suburbs reporter, Kurt Christian, won second place in investigative reporting for smaller newspapers for work he did at the Bloomington Herald-Times.

The full list of SPJ’s Best of Indiana award winners may be viewed online here. 

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