The Tribune has been honored as Arizona’s best newspaper in 2002 by The Associated Press Managing Editors.
The association recognized the Tribune with its top award for general excellence before 100 journalists from across the state at a Saturday luncheon ceremony in Phoenix. The Tribune was recognized for the high quality of its stories, photographs and graphics — as well as the newspaper’s presentation as a complete package.
"It was tremendous and stood above the other entries," commented the judge from an Iowa newspaper. "Overall, the paper is easy to read and attractive; made you want to read the entire paper and then you are thoroughly impressed."
The judge included praise for the Tribune’s top leadership, but Managing Editor Patrick Rice said the strength of the newspaper rises from those who work every day to put its pages together. "The credit goes to the staff," Rice said. "Congratulations to all of them. We do it for the readers."
General excellence was one of seven first places and 20 other awards the Tribune received in the metro division of APME’s annual newspaper contest. APME is an association of editors from Arizona newspapers who are members of the AP wire service cooperative.
A Tribune sister publication, The Sun in Yuma, received the 2002 general excellence award for nonmetro newspapers Saturday. Both newspapers are owned by Freedom Communications, based in Santa Ana, Calif.
"I couldn’t be prouder," said Karen Wittmer, Tribune publisher and president of Freedom’s Arizona division. "The staff is fabulous and they deserve it. The readers are lucky."
The Tribune staff was honored with a first-place award in investigative reporting for its inquiry into why last year’s wildfire season destroyed millions of acres of forests across the West. The Tribune joined forces with sister papers, The Orange County Register and the Gazette in Colorado Springs, to explore events leading up to the destruction and how fire agencies responded poorly at times when the flames erupted. The package was called "What went wrong — how the West’s wildfires were lost."
A yearlong series by Tribune writer Emma Johnson that looked into Arizona’s dismal record for organ transplant donations called "On Borrowed Time" resulted in a first-place award for health reporting. Johnson also received second place in environmental reporting for her story about the impact of mold growing in East Valley homes.
Tribune photographer Jennifer Grimes claimed two firstplace awards. A snapshot of a firefighter getting helped over a fence to reach a blazing building won first in spot news photography. Grimes earned the top spot in feature photography with her picture of a teenage girl’s reaction to seeing a surgery on "bring your child to work day."
Photography editor Rick Wiley claimed his own first place award in sports action for his picture of a football player stepping on the face mask of a defender.
Sports columnist Scott Bordow was honored for his work in 2002 with a first-place award in sports column writing and a third place in sports enterprise reporting.
Tribune Executive Editor Jim Ripley said the general excellence award and other honors demonstrate the newspaper’s commitment to bringing the best in journalism to the East Valley.
"The team here at the Trib has a passion for providing readers in the East Valley with a newspaper that helps them make sense of the world and their communities and lead more successful and rewarding lives," Ripley said. "We also have a passion for constant improvement. We’re already better today than we were last year."