- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Washington Times won 10 awards Wednesday for reporting, photojournalism and criticism in the Society of Professional Journalists’ local 2008 Dateline Awards contest.

Six of the Times’ awards, presented by the Washington SPJ chapter, were first-place honors in a competition that drew 170 entries from local publications and broadcasters.

The Times also was named an “official honoree” in the 13th annual Webby Awards Monday. Drawing 10,000 entries in multiple categories, the awards recognize Web sites and creative teams that “demonstrate a standard of excellence,” according to the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 550-member body of leading Web experts and business figures.

The Times’ Web site, newly designed by Optaros, was one of seven newspaper sites cited by the group; other honorees included USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.

“An extraordinary team of partners constructed our new Web site, from Roger Black and his design team to the fantastic programmers at Optaros and our own Internet development and journalism teams,” said John Solomon, executive editor of The Times. “We’re grateful for the Webby’s recognition and for the extraordinary 500 percent growth in Web traffic we have experienced since we relaunched last summer.”

At the SPJ awards, Times national security reporter Sara A. Carter won first place in the correspondents category for “An Opium Epidemic in Afghanistan,” a special report that took her on a seven-week trek through a war-torn countryside.

“This reporting was definitely outside the wire - beyond the protection of the military. I wanted to investigate the real issues that were plaguing the people of Afghanistan,” Mrs. Carter said. “When we found out that women and children were becoming addicted to opium, it made those risks worth it.”

Audrey Hudson, a national reporter for veterans affairs and other issues, garnered first place for investigative reporting for a daily newspaper. “Disposable Heroes,” which examined the Veterans Affairs Department’s practice of testing medications on American vets, honed in on the dramatic experience of a former soldier who attempted suicide following a medication regime provided by the VA.

Business reporter David Dickson also took first place in the business and financial reporting category for “China: Balance of Financial Terror,” offering a greater look at the global implications of China’s burgeoning economic interests in the U.S. and around the world.

Sports reporter David Elfin won first place for sports writing for “The Redskins are Still Struggling” , offering an insider’s look at the competitive trials of the local National Football League team owing to injuries, personnel matters and morale.

The Washington Times swept the category for photojournalism at a daily newspaper.

The poignant and often tragic images of oppressed women garnered a first-place win for Times photographer Katie Falkenberg. “Pakistani Women Seek Shelter from ‘Honor’ Violence” provided a window into disturbing and often tragic cultural practices in Pakistan - plus a compelling look at their home lives, children, friendships and traditional clothing.

Photographer Mary F. Calvert took second place for “Hillary Clinton Photo Opportunity,” offering the visual evidence of a political player at the end of a long campaign. Photographer Peter Lockley won third place for “Samuels’ Birthday Cake,” featuring Redskins linebacker Chris Samuels’ surprise cake - and the spattered aftermath after he was hit in the face with it.

The Times also dominated in the arts criticism category.

Arts and culture critic Deborah Dietsch won first place in arts criticism for “How Not to Be Hip,” citing the National Portrait Gallery for organizing a show about hip-hop artists, despite warnings from culture observers that the genre was considered misogynist, racist and violent.

Features writer Sonny Bunch took second place for “Partisanship at the Theaters,” highlighting evidence that American movie theaters have become almost as politicized as the voting booth. Mr. Bunch also won third place for his review of “The Dark Knight,” which tracked how the movie took the iconic Batman character in darker directions.

“Our new promise to our readers is to provide fearless reporting worldwide while respecting American values, and we are so grateful that the SPJ recognized projects that fit those promises - from Sara’s courageous reporting of a war gone awry in the lawless regions of Afghanistan and Katie’s photography that illuminated the silent humanitarian crisis of abused women in Pakistan, to Audrey’s dogged work in exposing VA medical experiments that put our returning war heroes unnecessarily in harm’s way,” Mr. Solomon said.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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