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Elise Madsen, Deseret News
At the Top of the Rockies journalism awards in Denver, the Deseret News received more first place awards and more overall awards than any other news organization, including the coveted public service prize.

SALT LAKE CITY — Friday night, Deseret News Deputy News Director McKenzie Romero represented our news organization at the Top of the Rockies journalism awards in Denver and reported that the Deseret News received more first place awards and more overall awards than any other news organization represented in the four-state contest.

Most notable was first place in the prestigious Public Service category, awarded to the Deseret News for the work of its journalists bringing the opioid crisis to light for Utah and national readers.

Said the judges: "Compelling, deeply reported and varied portraits of key figures in the opioid crisis. Terrific visuals. A significant investment of time and resources that resulted in a nuanced, comprehensive explanation of this complicated issue."

Journalists tend to have a love-hate relationship with contests. We like being recognized for our work, but it's not the reason we do the work. We know that it is the sacrifice and willingness of others to share with us their stories, their fears, and their concerns that have the biggest impact — hopefully for the betterment of our lives and the society we live in.

Contests do have benefits beyond honoring individuals. We measure ourselves against each other as news organizations, and in so doing learn from each other. We respect the work of our colleagues and know that there often is little difference between first-, second- and third-place wins; each is a mark of excellence, based on journalistic principle, yet remain in large part subjective.

Awards also help strengthen the resolve of journalists who may be struggling either personally or professionally as news organizations fight to survive. Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro President Kara Mason addressed a standing room only crowd in an upper room of the Denver Press Club and noted the challenges:

"Tonight we are celebrating the work of so many talented journalists in the region. It’s another milestone for us here with Top of the Rockies. We had more entries this year than ever before from journalists in Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

"And last year, we had 20 percent more entries than the year before that. I don’t think I have to remind anybody in this room that this is despite a time when newsrooms are shrinking, our colleagues are leaving the industry and we are taking on more and more work to keep our communities informed."

Overall, the Deseret News had 17 first-place wins and 51 wins overall, the highest number of wins in the competition for publications with a circulation higher than 75,000.

I congratulate this award-winning staff.

Here is the Deseret News work that was recognized.

Public Service

• First Place: Hidden plague opioid series — Jesse Hyde, Daphne Chen, Gillian Friedman, Erica Evans, Marjorie Cortez, Chad Nielsen, Jeffrey Allred.

General Website Excellence

• First Place: DeseretNews.com

Health: Enterprise Reporting

• First Place: 'We are killing innocent people': Stunned doctor warns of opioid danger, even when taken as prescribed— Ben Lockhart

• Third Place: Behind the numbers: How to make sense of Utah's abortion rate for married women — Jennifer Graham

Agriculture and Environment: Enterprise Reporting

• First Place: The monumental battle over the West — Amy Joi O'Donoghue

Legal: Enterprise Reporting

• First Place: The new asylums: How Utah traps the mentally ill behind bars — Daphne Chen, McKenzie Romero

• Third Place: Briefs filed in Supreme Court case describe rejection and harm experienced by LGBTQ community; Why does the Supreme Court care about wedding cakes — Kelsey Dallas

News Feature

• First Place: Dying homeless in Salt Lake City — Daphne Chen

• Third Place: A Mormon refugee family's struggle to survive in Utah — Gillian Friedman

Special Section

• First Place: Ten (Commandments) today — Kelsey Dallas, Jennifer Graham

Health: General Reporting

• First Place: Increasing number of Utah women choosing home births — Wendy Leonard

• Third Place: Would you save money by going to a doctor who publishes prices online? — Jennifer Graham

Spot News Photography

• First Place: Harvey aftermath — Jeffrey Allred

• Third Place: Futile attempt — Scott Winterton

Feature Photography

• First Place: Syrian refugee family's final chance at survival — Laura Seitz

News Photography

• First Place: Trump shrinks Utah monuments — Laura Seitz

Laura Seitz
Anthony Fierro yells at police officers as protesters are stopped from marching on State Street during President Donald Trump’s visit to Salt Lake City on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Trump was in town to announce changes to the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

• Second Place: Light Up Puerto Rico — Spenser Heaps

Sports Photography:

• First Place: Rodeo flip — Jeffrey Allred

• Second Place: Jab to the eyes — Laura Seitz

Laura Seitz
Utah Utes guard Lorenzo Bonam (15) gets hit in the eyes by California Golden Bears center Kingsley Okoroh (22) in the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

• Third Place: Diving player — Scott Winterton

Feature Page Design

• First Place: 2017 College football preview center spread — Heidi Perry

Single Page Design

• First Place: Jazz — Ending on a sour note — Heidi Perry

• Second Place: Third act — Mary Archbold

• Third Place: Out of sight — Heidi Perry

Sports: Columns

• First Place: Doug Robinson columns

• Third Place: Amy Donaldson columns

Arts & Entertainment and Food: Criticism

• First Place: Whitney Wilde theater reviews — Whitney Butters Wilde

Arts & Entertainment and Food: Enterprise Reporting

• First Place: Ability through the arts — Sarah Harris

• Third Place: Is Utah upholding Brigham Young's arts legacy? — Michelle Garrett Bulsiewicz

Politics General Reporting

• Second Place: 'I didn't feel safe': Mayor Ben McAdams describes secret nights on street, in shelter — Katie McKellar

Marijuana General Reporting

• Second Place: Into the weed: What Utah can expect if medical marijuana is legalized — Jennifer Graham

• Third Place: Utah cannabis research: Providing answers or just a smokescreen? — Ben Lockhart

Editorials

• Second Place: Hal Boyd editorials

• Third Place: Jay Evensen editorials

Front Page Design

• Second Place: President Trump — Heidi Perry

News Column

• Third Place: Lois Collins columns

Breaking News Story

• Second Place: Utah National Guard plucking victims from flood-ravaged landscapes — Dennis Romboy

• Third Place: Trump visits Utah — Lisa Riley Roche, McKenzie Romero, Katie McKellar, Dennis Romboy, Tad Walch, Art Raymond, Herb Scribner

Info Graphic

• Third Place: Invasion of Poland — Aaron Thorup

Sports: General Reporting

• Second Place: Agent tells Gordon Hayward's side of the story from a wild day — Jody Genessy

• Third Place: Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell put friendship aside as Jazz top Blazers in overtime — Eric Woodyard

Multimedia Story

• Third Place: Hell's Backbone grill — Spenser Heaps, Amy Joi O'Donoghue

Business: General Reporting

• Third Place: Provo couple marching path of success with high-end shoe business — Art Raymond

News Reporting: Single Story

• Second Place: Operation Rio Grande: Many 'sheep' being netted in the hunt for 'wolves' — McKenzie Romero, Katie McKellar

Arts & Entertainment and Food: Single Story

• Third Place: Utah artist Jann Haworth talks about creating iconic Beatles album cover Sgt. Pepper on its 50th anniversary — Lottie Peterson Johnson

Religion General Reporting

• Second Place: What a Mormon doing Buddhist meditation has to do with the future of faith — Kelsey Dallas

Science and Technology: General Reporting

• Third Place: Salt Lake City firm developing technology to regenerate human skin — Jasen Lee

Science and Technology: Enterprise Reporting

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• Third Place: Is adoption the answer to unused frozen embryos? — Jennifer Graham

Education: General Reporting

• Third Place: This group of youths almost never goes to college, but Utah has a plan to change that — Lois M. Collins

General Reporting: Series or Package

• Second Place: Bears Ears — Jesse Hyde, Dennis Romboy, Wendy Leonard, Marjorie Cortez, Ryan Morgan, Amy Joi O'Donoghue, Todd Curtis

Agriculture and Environment: General Reporting

• Third Place: Secretary Zinke visit — Amy Joi O'Donoghue