2021 AAN Awards Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2021 AAN Awards have been selected. The 92 finalists below were chosen as the most outstanding from a field of 598 entries submitted by 54 alternative publications across the U.S. and Canada.

Held every year since 1996, the AAN Awards recognize the best in alternative journalism and graphic design and are a unique chance for alt-weeklies to compete directly against the work of their peers in cities across the continent. The contest promotes excellence by recognizing work that is well written, incisively reported and effectively challenges established orthodoxies. These finalists truly represent the best of the best.

This spring, all members of AAN were invited to enter their work from 2020 for awards consideration. Judging was conducted by faculty from Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, Emerson College, Humboldt State University, Northeastern University, Scripps School of Communication at Ohio University, as well as active and retired members of the media community not affiliated with the Association of Alternative Newsmedia.

The winners will be announced during the 2021 Annual Convention in Boston at a ceremony held Friday, July 23.

Finalists below are listed alphabetically by paper. Categories with four or more finalists indicate either a tie or an honorable mention. Questions may be directed to Molly Hilton at hilton[at]aan.org



Arts Criticism (Jim Ridley Award)

One $500 prize will be awarded, funded by Nashville Scene.

Lagniappe: “Artifice” (I, II, III) by Kevin Lee

Orlando Weekly:”Translucent: Kieran Castaño’s paintings aren’t just beautiful – they’re necessary” by Leah Sandler

San Antonio Current: Arts Criticism (I, II, III) by Kelly Merka Nelson

Washington City Paper: Visual Art Criticism (I, II, III) by Emma Sarappo

Column (Billy Manes Award)

One $250 prize will be awarded, funded by Orlando Weekly.

Eugene Weekly: “Black Girl From Eugene” (I, II, III) by Ayisha Elliott

The Memphis Flyer: Columns (I, II, III) by Bruce VanWyngarden

Nashville Scene: “Vodka Yonic” (I, II, III) by Fiske Nyirongo, Destiny O. Birdsong, Pooja Shah

Pittsburgh City Paper: “Views” (I, II, III) by Tereneh Idia

Investigative Reporting (David Carr Award)

One $500 cash prize will awarded, funded by AAN.

Dig Boston: “Pandemic Payday” (I, II, III) by Dan Atkinson

Colorado Springs Independent: “Busted: CSPD and other officers disciplined for moonlighting for Teller County sheriff’s private investigations company” by Pam Zubeck

Lagniappe: “A look inside Alacourt” (I, II, III, IV) by Gabriel Tynes

Washington City Paper: “Waste Mismanagement” by Cuneyt Dil

LGBT Coverage

One $500 prize will be awarded, funded by Boulder Weekly publisher Fran Zankowski.

Chicago Reader: “The Pride Issue” by Chicago Reader Staff

Chicago Reader: “We’re not asking for any more than what we are already deserved” by Adam M. Rhodes, Karen Hawkins

The Inlander: “Piecing It Together: A family searches for answers after a gay teen in a small town is beaten and buried in a shallow grave” by Wilson Criscione

Pittsburgh Current: “Gender-Affirming Parenting Is Allowing Kids To Explore Their Own Identities” by Brittany Hailer

Nonprofit Collaboration (The BINJ Award)

One $500 cash prize will awarded to the author/team, funded by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism

Arkansas Times:”Arkansas poultry workers amid the coronavirus: ‘We’re not essential, we’re expendable’” by Alice Driver, with Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Arkansas Times: “Arkansas educators hit hard by COVID-19, new figures show” by Benjamin Hardy, with Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Pittsburgh City Paper: “A changing story by police on a rural Pa. shooting helped fuel white vigilantes and misinformation” by Ryan Deto, Joseph Darius Jaafari, with Spotlight PA

Willamette Week: “Jammed” by Latisha Jensen, with Report For America

Right-Wing Extremism Coverage

One $500 cash prize will awarded, funded by Anonymous

The Inlander: “Triggered: How America’s social unrest and weakened institutions have incited vigilantes” by Daniel Walters

Monterey County Weekly: “Hate in Monterey County – and efforts underway to stop it” (I, II, III, IV, V) by Monterey County Weekly staff

Pittsburgh City Paper: “Pittsburgh’s Colcom Foundation linked to White Nationalism” (I, II) by Ryan Deto

Triad City Beat: “The lost boys of Ukraine: How the war abroad beckoned American white supremacists” by Jordan Green



Arts Feature

Las Vegas Weekly: “Intimacy & Innovation” by Brock Radke

Seven Days: “In the Shadows: The Legend of Author and Folklorist Joe Citro” by Dan Bolles

Washington City Paper: “The Day the Music Died: Local and Regional Performers Reflect on Life Without Live Music in the Wake of Coronavirus” by Kristina Gaddy

Willamette Week: “Starving Artists” by Shannon Gormley

Beat Reporting

Boulder Weekly: “Unhoused” (I, II, III, IV, V) by Emma Athena

Metro Silicon Valley: SJPD Brutality During Summer Protests (I, II, III, IV, V) by Grace Hase, Jennifer Wadsworth

Seven Days: Beat Reporting (I, II, III, IV, V) by Derek Brouwer

Pittsburgh Current: Education Reporting (I, II, III, IV, IV) by Mary Niederberger

Feature Story

Chicago Reader: “From soldier to worker” by Maya Dukmasova, Sujay Kumar

Leo Weekly: “A Three-Part Series On The Protests In Louisville” (I, II, III) by Cary Stemle

Nashville Scene: “Safety, Compensation and Accountability at Nashville Construction Sites” by Alejandro Ramirez

The Pitch: “The fight for racial equality has boosted Black-owned businesses, but it won’t fix their issues forever”  by Hanna Ellington

Food Writing

Chicago Reader: “Chicago’s Restaurant Scene & Pandemic Pivots” (I, II, III) by Mike Sula, Karen Hawkins

Lagniappe: “Beer & Loathing” (I, II, III) by Alyson Sheppard

North Coast Journal: Food Writing (I, II, III) by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

The Pitch: “Food writing: From normal to COVID” (I, II, III) by Liz Cook

Health Care Reporting

Dig Boston: “Boston’s Murky World of Open-Source COVID-19 Vaccine Research” by Tadhg Larabee

The Inlander: “Offering free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, crisis pregnancy centers try to ‘slow down’ thoughts of abortion in an ultimate quest to stop it” by Samantha Wohlfeil

Monterey County Weekly: “The only way Monterey County reopens during the pandemic is if all voices are at the table to find solutions” (I, II, III) by Pam Marino

Seven Days: “It’s in the Building: How COVID-19 Overwhelmed a Burlington Nursing Home” by Derek Brouwer, Colin Flanders

Immigration Coverage

Dig Boston: “Coronavirus Leaves International Students Uncertain About Future” by Grace Symes

INDY Week: “Because of What I Did As a Three-Year-Old, I Have No Access to the American Dream” by Jeremy Carballo Pineda

INDY Week: “As Election Day Looms, José Chicas Feels Like He’s in Limbo” by Sara Pequeño

Little Village: “The ‘long and terrifying’ journey of two friends fleeing Modi’s India for Iowa City” by Ikram Basra

Long-Form News Story

Cleveland Scene: “Caught Between Here and There: Octavius Williams Was Convicted of Attempted Murder in 2011. Now, He’s Free, But Far From Finished With His Case” by Eric Sandy

Eugene Weekly: “Begin Modeling” by Donald Morrison

The Inlander: “Doomed: How a fire destroyed the town of Malden in a matter of hours” by Wilson Criscione

Washington City Paper: “How the D.C. Police Department, DOJ, and D.C. Attorney General’s Office Shield Cops’ Bad Acts” by Mitch Ryals

Music Writing

Austin Chronicle: Music Writing (I, II, III) by Kevin Curtin

Boulder Weekly: Music Writing (I, II, III) by Angela K. Evans

INDY Week: Music Writing (I, II, III) by Sarah Edwards

Nashville Scene: Music Writing (I, II, III) by Andrea Williams

Political Column

Austin Chronicle: “Austin At Large” (I, II, III) by Mike Clark-Madison

Chicago Reader: Political Commentary (I, II, III) by Ben Joravsky

Jackson Free Press: “Mississippi Governor Plays Covid, Race Politics” (I, II, III) by Donna Ladd

San Antonio Current: Current Events (I, II, III) by Sanford Nowlin



Cover Design

Detroit Metro Times: Covers by Evan Sult

North Coast Journal: Covers by Jonathan Webster, Soni Lopez-Chavez

Riverfront Times: Covers by Evan Sult

San Antonio Current: Covers by Samantha Serna, Tom Carlson, Melissa McHenry

Editorial Layout

The Inlander: “Progress Edition” by Derek Harrison

Las Vegas Weekly: “Caucus 2020” by Corlene Byrd

Las Vegas Weekly: “Staying Busy and Mentally Healthy” by Corlene Byrd

Washington City Paper: “Behind the Movement” by Maddie Goldstein, Darrow Montgomery, Ella Feldman


Inlander: “Is Privacy Dead” (I, II) by Jeff Drew

Metro Times: “Summer Guide” (I, II) by Noah MacMillan

Nashville Scene: “The Boner Awards” by Holly Carden

Seven Days: New Year Cover by Jeff Drew


Pittsburgh City Paper: “Pittsburgh in Protest” (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X) by Jared Wickerham


Riverfront Times: “The Lede” (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X) by Theo Welling

Washington City Paper: “2020” (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VIIVIII, IX, X) by Darrow Montgomery


Willamette Week: “Portland Streets” by Alex Wittwer




Charleston City Paper: Cartoons (I, II, III, IV, V) by Steve Stegelin, Robert Ariail

Dig Boston: Lunchtime Comix/The New Normal (I, II, III) by Cagen Luse

Little Village: “Futile Wrath” (I, II, III) by Sam Locke Ward

Seven Days: Cartoons (I, II, III, IV, V) by Tim Newcomb

Innovation/Format Buster

Seven Days: “Green Mountain Quaranzine: Seven Days’ First (and We Hope Last) Pandemic Literary Journal” by Dan Bolles, Contributors

Washington City Paper: “2020 Vision” by Josh Kramer

Washington City Paper: “The Nature of D.C.” by Julia Terbrock, Kayla Randall, Maddie Goldstein, Ronan Lynam, Carlos Carmonamedina, Tenbeete Solomon


Little Village: “Iowa City teen Kasey Dawson overcame homelessness and loss to graduate high school. A year later, she’s still fighting for a place to call her own”(I, II) by Emma McClatchey, Jason Smith

Queen City Nerve: Black Lives Matter Coverage (I, II, III, IV) by Justin LaFrancois, Ryan Pitkin, Grant Baldwin, Joshua Galloway, Yolián Ortiz

Volume One: “Outbroken: A pandemic’s impact on Wisconsin farms & food” by Joel Pearish Don Ross, Nick Meyer Eric Christenson, Rebecca Mennecke Andrea Paulseth, Tom Giffey Taylor McCumber, Alex Barber Kyle Lehman, Anthony Casonova

Special Publication

INDY Week: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Coronavirus But You Were Too Afraid to Ask” by INDY Week Staff

Pittsburgh Current: “Historical Context: Violence Occurring Against Black Pittsburghers Today Has Been Happening For More Than A Century-And-A-Half ” by Jody DiPerna, Elaine Frantz, Charlie Deitch, Jake Mysliwczyk, Deesha Philyaw, Caitlyn Hunter, Larissa Mallon

Seven Days: “August Kids VT” by Kids VT Staff

Yes! Weekly: “Triad Coloring Book” by Alex Farmer

Special Section

Chronogram: “The Future is Now” by Brian Mahoney

Little Village: “Reader-Submitted Photo Issue” by Jordan Sellergren

Mountain Xpress: “2020 Voter Guide” by Jeff Fobes, Scott Southwick, Virginia Daffron, Molly Horak, Daniel Walton, David Furr, Tiffany Wagner, Sara Brecht, Cindy Kunst, Able Allen, Laura Hackett

Seven Days: “Staytripper July 2020” by Seven Days Staff