2021 AAN Awards Winners Announced

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 AAN Awards. The winners 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 winners were announced during the 2021 Annual Convention in Boston at a ceremony held Friday, July 23. First place winners received a commemorative plaque, sponsored by Popmount.

Congratulations to all award winners!



Arts Criticism (Jim Ridley Award)

Winner received $500 prize, funded by Nashville Scene.

1st PLACE: Washington City Paper: Visual Art Criticism (IIIIII) by Emma Sarappo

2nd PLACE: Orlando Weekly:”Translucent: Kieran Castaño’s paintings aren’t just beautiful – they’re necessary” by Leah Sandler

3rd PLACE: San Antonio Current: Arts Criticism (IIIIII) by Kelly Merka Nelson

HONORABLE MENTION: Lagniappe: “Artifice” (IIIIII) by Kevin Lee

Column (Billy Manes Award)

Winner received $250 prize, funded by Orlando Weekly.

1st PLACE: Nashville Scene: “Vodka Yonic” (IIIIII) by Fiske Nyirongo, Destiny O. Birdsong, Pooja Shah

2nd PLACE: Eugene Weekly: “Black Girl From Eugene” (IIIIII) by Ayisha Elliott

3rd PLACE: Pittsburgh City Paper: “Views” (IIIIII) by Tereneh Idia

HONORABLE MENTION: The Memphis Flyer: Columns (IIIIII) by Bruce VanWyngarden

Investigative Reporting (David Carr Award)

Winner received $500 cash prize, funded by AAN.

1st PLACE: Lagniappe: “A look inside Alacourt” (IIIIIIIV) by Gabriel Tynes

2nd PLACE: Dig Boston: “Pandemic Payday” (IIIIII) by Dan Atkinson

3rd PLACE: Washington City Paper: “Waste Mismanagement” by Cuneyt Dil

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

LGBT Coverage

Winner received $500 prize, funded by Boulder Weekly publisher Fran Zankowski.

1st PLACE: Chicago Reader: “The Pride Issue” by Chicago Reader Staff

2nd PLACE: Chicago Reader: “We’re not asking for any more than what we are already deserved” by Adam M. Rhodes, Karen Hawkins

3rd PLACE: 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

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

Nonprofit Collaboration (The BINJ Award)

Winner received $500 cash prize, funded by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism

1st PLACE: Arkansas Times:”Arkansas poultry workers amid the coronavirus: ‘We’re not essential, we’re expendable’” by Alice Driver, with Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

2nd PLACE: Willamette Week: “Jammed” by Latisha Jensen, with Report For America

3rd PLACE: 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

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

Right-Wing Extremism Coverage

Winner received $500 cash prize, funded by Anonymous.

1st PLACE: The Inlander: “Triggered: How America’s social unrest and weakened institutions have incited vigilantes” by Daniel Walters

2nd PLACE: Monterey County Weekly: “Hate in Monterey County – and efforts underway to stop it” (IIIIIIIVV) by Monterey County Weekly staff

3rd PLACE: Triad City Beat: “The lost boys of Ukraine: How the war abroad beckoned American white supremacists” by Jordan Green

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



Arts Feature

1st PLACE: Las Vegas Weekly: “Intimacy & Innovation” by Brock Radke

2nd PLACE: 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

3rd PLACE: Seven Days: “In the Shadows: The Legend of Author and Folklorist Joe Citro” by Dan Bolles

HONORABLE MENTION: Willamette Week: “Starving Artists” by Shannon Gormley

Beat Reporting

1st PLACE: Metro Silicon Valley: SJPD Brutality During Summer Protests (IIIIIIIVV) by Grace Hase, Jennifer Wadsworth

2nd PLACE: Seven Days: Beat Reporting (IIIIIIIVV) by Derek Brouwer

3rd PLACE: Pittsburgh Current: Education Reporting (IIIIIIIVIV) by Mary Niederberger

HONORABLE MENTION: Boulder Weekly: “Unhoused” (IIIIIIIVV) by Emma Athena

Feature Story

1st PLACE: Nashville Scene: “Safety, Compensation and Accountability at Nashville Construction Sites” by Alejandro Ramirez

2nd PLACE: Chicago Reader: “From soldier to worker” by Maya Dukmasova, Sujay Kumar

3rd PLACE: The Pitch: “The fight for racial equality has boosted Black-owned businesses, but it won’t fix their issues forever”  by Hanna Ellington

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

Food Writing

1st PLACE: The Pitch: “Food writing: From normal to COVID” (IIIIII) by Liz Cook

2nd PLACE: Chicago Reader: “Chicago’s Restaurant Scene & Pandemic Pivots” (III, III) by Mike Sula, Karen Hawkins

3rd PLACE: North Coast Journal: Food Writing (IIIIII) by Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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

Health Care Reporting

1st PLACE: Seven Days: “It’s in the Building: How COVID-19 Overwhelmed a Burlington Nursing Home” by Derek Brouwer, Colin Flanders

2nd PLACE: 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

3rd PLACE: Monterey County Weekly: “The only way Monterey County reopens during the pandemic is if all voices are at the table to find solutions” (IIIIII) by Pam Marino

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

Immigration Coverage

1st PLACE: Little Village: “The ‘long and terrifying’ journey of two friends fleeing Modi’s India for Iowa City” by Ikram Basra

2nd PLACE: Dig Boston: “Coronavirus Leaves International Students Uncertain About Future” by Grace Symes

3rd PLACE: INDY Week: “Because of What I Did As a Three-Year-Old, I Have No Access to the American Dream” by Jeremy Carballo Pineda

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

Long-Form News Story

1st PLACE: 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

2nd PLACE: Eugene Weekly: “Begin Modeling” by Donald Morrison

3rd PLACE: Washington City Paper: “How the D.C. Police Department, DOJ, and D.C. Attorney General’s Office Shield Cops’ Bad Acts” by Mitch Ryals

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

Music Writing

1st PLACE: Nashville Scene: Music Writing (IIIIII) by Andrea Williams

2nd PLACE: Boulder Weekly: Music Writing (IIIIII) by Angela K. Evans

3rd PLACE: Austin Chronicle: Music Writing (IIIIII) by Kevin Curtin

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

Political Column

1st PLACE: Chicago Reader: Political Commentary (IIIIII) by Ben Joravsky

2nd PLACE: San Antonio Current: Current Events (IIIIII) by Sanford Nowlin

3rd PLACE: Jackson Free Press: “Mississippi Governor Plays Covid, Race Politics” (IIIIII) by Donna Ladd

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



Cover Design

1st PLACE: North Coast Journal: Covers by Jonathan Webster, Soni Lopez-Chavez


2nd PLACE: San Antonio Current: Covers by Samantha Serna, Tom Carlson, Melissa McHenry


3rd PLACE: Detroit Metro Times: Covers by Evan Sult


HONORABLE MENTION: Riverfront Times: Covers by Evan Sult

Editorial Layout

1st PLACE: Las Vegas Weekly: “Caucus 2020” by Corlene Byrd


2nd PLACE: Las Vegas Weekly: “Staying Busy and Mentally Healthy” by Corlene Byrd


3rd PLACE: Washington City Paper: “Behind the Movement” by Maddie Goldstein, Darrow Montgomery, Ella Feldman


HONORABLE MENTION: The Inlander: “Progress Edition” by Derek Harrison


1st PLACE: Nashville Scene: “The Boner Awards” by Holly Carden

2nd PLACE: Metro Times: “Summer Guide” (III) by Noah MacMillan


3rd PLACE: Inlander: “Is Privacy Dead” (III) by Jeff Drew


HONORABLE MENTION: Seven Days: New Year Cover by Jeff Drew


1st PLACE: Washington City Paper: “2020” (IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXX) by Darrow Montgomery


2nd PLACE: Pittsburgh City Paper: “Pittsburgh in Protest” (IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXX) by Jared Wickerham


3rd PLACE: Willamette Week: “Portland Streets” by Alex Wittwer


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




1st PLACE: Dig Boston: Lunchtime Comix/The New Normal (IIIIII) by Cagen Luse


2nd PLACE: Seven Days: Cartoons (IIIIIIIVV) by Tim Newcomb


3rd PLACE: Little Village: “Futile Wrath” (IIIIII) by Sam Locke Ward


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

Innovation/Format Buster

1st PLACE: Washington City Paper: “2020 Vision” by Josh Kramer

2nd PLACE: Washington City Paper: “The Nature of D.C.” by Julia Terbrock, Kayla Randall, Maddie Goldstein, Ronan Lynam, Carlos Carmonamedina, Tenbeete Solomon

3rd PLACE: Seven Days: “Green Mountain Quaranzine: Seven Days’ First (and We Hope Last) Pandemic Literary Journal” by Dan Bolles, Contributors


1st PLACE: 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

2nd PLACE: 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”(III) by Emma McClatchey, Jason Smith

3rd PLACE: Queen City Nerve: Black Lives Matter Coverage (I, II, III, IV) by Justin LaFrancois, Ryan Pitkin, Grant Baldwin, Joshua Galloway, Yolián Ortiz

Special Publication

1st PLACE: 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

2nd PLACE: INDY Week: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Coronavirus But You Were Too Afraid to Ask” by INDY Week Staff

3rd PLACE: Seven Days: “August Kids VT” by Kids VT Staff

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

Special Section

1st PLACE: Chronogram: “The Future is Now” by Brian Mahoney

2nd PLACE: 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

3rd PLACE: Seven Days: “Staytripper July 2020” by Seven Days Staff

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