Association of Alternative Newsmedia Announces 2023 AAN Award Winners

Chicago Reader, Seven Days (Vermont) and Willamette Week (Portland) Lead the Pack with Four Wins Each

[Note: 2024 Awards Finalists have been announced here >>]

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) is pleased to announce this year’s winners for the 2023 AAN Awards. Celebrating excellence in local journalism, these awards recognize outstanding reporting, writing, photography, and multimedia storytelling across various categories.

This year’s finalists and winners represent a group of journalists, publications, and collaborations who have consistently pushed the boundaries of investigative reporting, feature writing, and innovative storytelling. With their work, these finalists have demonstrated a deep commitment to delivering thought-provoking, impactful, and transformative stories to their communities.

“We are thrilled to showcase the incredible talent and dedication of local journalists who tirelessly pursue truth and shed light on pressing issues in their communities,” said AAN Board President Graham Jarrett. “The finalists’ works exemplify the fundamental principles of AAN journalism, emphasizing exceptional reporting, captivating storytelling, and a resolute dedication to serving and engaging our readership unlike anyone else in the local newscape.”

A panel of distinguished industry experts and academics led the impartial judging process. Judges evaluated each submission’s journalistic integrity, originality, impact, and contribution.

First-place winners learned their status during the 2023 AAN Journalism Awards ceremony, which took place on July 21, 2023, in Dallas, Texas, during the 2023 TexAAN AAN Convention.

For more information about the AAN Awards and a complete list of past finalists and winners, visit

Here are the finalists and winners in order:

Music Writing

  • First Place: Arkansas Times – “Pizza, beer and punk: An oral history of Vino’s” – Lindsey Millar, Rhett Brinkley
    Judge’s comment: “An absolute love letter to an institution.”
  • Second Place: Nashville Scene – “Music Writing by P.J. Kinzer” – P.J. Kinzer
  • Third Place: Nashville Scene – “Music Writing by Brittney McKenna” – Brittney McKenna
  • Honorable Mention: San Antonio Current – “Music Stories by Bill Baird” – Bill Baird

Editorial Layout

  • First Place: Nashville Scene – “Festival Frenzy” – Elizabeth Jones
    Judge’s comment: “A very difficult call in an amazing category, but this entry pushes beyond the basics in so many ways without allowing the design to override the value of the storytelling and cleanliness of presentation. The use of specific elements to convey meaning within the stories and the use of graphics to provide humor, vibe and feel make this a winner.”

  • Second Place: Seven Days – “On the Road: What Route 100 Says About Vermont” – Diane Sullivan
  • Third Place: Gambit – “Where In The World Is LaToya Cantrell” – Emma Veith
  • Honorable Mention: Las Vegas Weekly – “Las Vegas Labor Day Guide” – Ian Racoma

News Story

  • First Place: Nashville Scene – “Code Snitching: Nashvillians Are Weaponizing Metro Codes Against ‘Undesirable’ Neighbors” – Radley Balko
    Judge’s comment: “
    Great work being the voice for the voiceless in this one. These “courts” and code enforcement systems are in place all over the country. Your story should be a real wake-up call for anyone who has been cited for something questionable or a city official who oversees an unfair system like this. Your impact source at the beginning was an effective way to illustrate the issue. Your storyteller skills made me feel like I was in the carport with Freddie.”
  • Second Place: North Coast Journal – “Title IX” – Thadeus Greenson
  • Third Place: City Pulse – “Church or cult?” – Todd Heywood, Kyle Kaminski
  • Honorable Mention: North Coast Journal – “Broken Trust” – Thadeus Greenson

Cover Design

  • First Place: Seven Days – “Seven Days: Cover Design” – Diane Sullivan, Harry Bliss, Rick Veitch, Luke Awtry
    Judge’s comment: “From the standpoint of what a cover should do (engage readers, draw attention, highlight key content, be consistent across issues while providing different material), this one has it all. The talents of so many artists, photographers, designers and writers are on display here, a symphony of delight that compelled readers to look inside.”
  • Second Place: Riverfront Times – “Covers by Evan Sult” – Evan Sult
  • Third Place: Charleston City Paper – “Oceans; Roads; Monsters” – Scott Suchy, Christina Bailey, Steve Stegelin
  • Honorable Mention: Santa Fe Reporter – “Santa Fe Reporter Covers: Plight of the Pinyon Jay; Squirt this Cat; Does not Equal” – Anson Stevens-Bollen

Explanatory Journalism

  • First Place: Willamette Week – “The Mystery of the Taft Home” – Sophie Peel
    Judge’s comment: Peel had me from the headline. I was drawn into the mystery. Wonderful lead. Beautiful photographs. Riveting. The pull-out Trial by Fire was another interesting piece to this story. The kicker quote gutted me.
  • Second Place: Seven Days – “Locked Out: Vermont’s Housing Crisis” – Matthew Roy, Anne Wallace Allen, Derek Brouwer, Rachel Hellman, Courtney Lamdin, Colin Flanders, Chelsea Edgar, Kevin McCallum
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “Working on the Railroad: How Family-Owned Vermont Rail System Became the Little Economic Engine That Could” – Ken Picard
  • Honorable Mention: City Newspaper – “Showdown over a downtown business improvement district” – David Andreatta, Max Schulte, Brian Sharp

Arts Criticism (Jim Ridley Award – cash prize funded by Nashville Scene)

  • First Place: The Reader (Omaha) – “Lava Conquers All, Nothing Nowhere Nebulously Never, The Only Safe Place for a Gun Is in a Tom Cruise Movie Title” – Ryan Syrek
    Judge’s Comment: “
    The wit in these film reviews is irreverent yet irresistible. Rather than slog through plot synopsis, Ryan uses wry observations to evaluate the wisdom of acting and directing choices. With a lively voice that is willing to challenge popular consensus, he also produces feisty turns of phrase. One in particular, about Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun: Maverick,” stands out: “Instead of passing the torch to the next generation, he clings like a boomer to fossil fuel.”
  • Second Place: Isthmus – “Theater reviews” – Gwendolyn Rice
  • Third Place: Nashville Scene – “Arts Criticism by Laura Hutson Hunter” – Laura Hutson Hunter
  • Honorable Mention: Houston Press – “Selection of Arts Criticism” – Jessica Goldman

Political Column

  • First Place: Charleston City Paper – “Poking free speech bear; Dems embarrassed; Weaver avoids” – Andy Brack
    Judge’s comment: “What stands out in these three columns is Brack’s ability to make both hot-button issues like abortion access and potentially wonky local party and candidate qualifications equally relevant and crucial for the paper’s readers to grasp. He makes the everyday consequences for readers fly off the page.”

  • Second Place: Dallas Voice – “Column — Political” – Tammye Nash
  • Third Place: Houston Press – “Selection of Columns” – Jef Rouner
  • Honorable Mention: Lagniappe – “Damn the Torpedoes — Columns by Rob Holbert” – Rob Holbert

Election Coverage

  • First Place: Reno News & Review – “Our children’s future: Right-wing candidates run for the school board to ‘take back our schools'” – Frank X. Mullen
    Judge’s comment: “
    These well-written pieces clearly depict what happens when school boards become weapons in the culture war. The theater is damaging to the well-being of everyone involved, especially the students, teachers and the community as a whole. I appreciate that the pieces set the record straight on falsehoods the rabblerousers are pushing such as the fact that CRT is being taught in K-12 and the district’s low test scores. These pieces are a community service.”
  • Second Place: Seven Days – “Becca Balint’s Campaign for U.S. House” – Sasha Goldstein
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “In the August 9 Primary, Democratic Candidates Compete for the Jackpot: Vermont’s Lone U.S. House Seat” – Chelsea Edgar
  • Honorable Mention: Mountain Xpress – “Outside groups recruit local poll observers” – Brooke Randle


  • First Place: The Pitch – “Chase Castor’s photo work at The Pitch” – Chase Castor
    Judge’s comment: “This entry showed a wide range of skills, including portraits, action, process photos and still life. The photographer demonstrated a sound technique in capturing the moments. I personally enjoyed the love boat story. Great job!!”
  • Second Place: Charleston City Paper – “2023 photos, Charleston City Paper” – Ruta Smith
  • Third Place: C-Ville Weekly – “A Clearer Picture” –
  • Honorable Mention: The Inlander – “The Inlander’s photos” – Young Kwak, Erick Doxey

Solutions Journalism

  • First Place: Willamette Week – “Comeback” – Nigel Jaquiss
    Judge’s Comment: “This is a great piece of local journalism that has far-reaching implications and lessons for other American metro areas. It is a well-reported deep dive into Portland’s housing policy and history of segregation. Great narrative.”
  • Second Place: Gambit – “Climate of Change” – Sarah Ravits, Kaylee Poche, Domonique Tolliver, John Stanton
  • Third Place: Chicago Reader – “‘Lukewarm welcome'” – Katie Prout, Jim Daley
  • Honorable Mention: The Inlander – “Fixing the Missing Lynx” – Samantha Wohlfeil

Right-Wing Extremism Coverage (cash prize funded by Anonymous)

  • First Place: Seven Days – “Capitol Offense: Nicholas Languerand’s Quest for ‘Belonging’ Led Him to QAnon, the Insurrection — and Now Prison” – Derek Brouwer, Colin Flanders
    Judge’s comment: “Far more than a highly nuanced and deeply reported profile (which it is), CAPITOL OFFENSE also deftly captures the many shades of gray that make the events of Jan. 6 so hard to reconcile across the political spectrum, not only for those on the ideological fringes but at many points in between. The result is one of the best examples of journalists capturing a confusing, contradictory, and often inscrutable period of our nation’s history and reflecting it back to the reader with something that is all too rare these days — clarity and a measured degree of compassion that allows us to better understand Nicolas Languerand, and others like him, without needing to agree with him. Derek Brouwer and Colin Flanders display mastery of their subject and an economy of language that lends this piece a quiet confidence that easily places it at the top of its category. Outstanding work by all involved.”
  • Second Place: Austin Chronicle -” ‘Has Round Rock ISD Hit Rock Bottom?'” – Brant Bingamon
  • Third Place: Reno News & Review -” ‘Little Trump 2.0s’: Robert Beadles is spending big bucks to install ‘America First’ candidates in office in Washoe County and beyond” – Frank X. Mullen
  • Honorable Mention: Willamette Week – “What Happened to Mike Bivins?” – Rachel Saslow

Investigative Reporting (David Carr Award – cash prize funded by AAN)

  • First Place: Willamette Week – “Trader Bob” – Nigel Jaquiss
  • Second Place: LEO Weekly – “Death in Louisville’s Jails” – Josh Wood
  • Third Place: The Pitch – “The Coterie Theatre’s Jeff Church faces internal investigation after harassment allegations” – Brock Wilbur
  • Honorable Mention: Lagniappe – “Lawsuit and Examiners’ report allege issues at State Bar” – Rob Holbert

Health Care Reporting

  • First Place: Willamette Week – “No Man’s Land and other stories on the Oregon State Hospital” – Lucas Manfield
    Judge’s comment:”
    Truly superior local reporting. This story about the release of locked-door psychiatric patients doesn’t offer easy answers because there aren’t any. But the storytelling and grasp of the issues is authoritative and well done. The inclusion of Q&A in addition to narrative helps readers more easily grasp the facts and issues.”
  • Second Place: Washington City Paper – “The New Fire at Engine 22” – Alexandra Moe
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “A Vermont Drug Company’s Failure to Maintain Standards Led to Recalls — and Its Demise” – Colin Flanders
  • Honorable Mention: Riverfront Times – “In Missouri’s Bootheel, Reproductive Health Care Options Are Few” – Monica Obradovic

LGBTQ+ Coverage (cash prize funded by Fran Zankowski)

  • First Place: Orlando Weekly – “‘Straight Time'” – Eric Tegethoff
    Judge’s comment: “A nuanced case study of how religion can impact the LGBT people in the carceral system in unexpected ways. I’m grateful to have read this story that could have easily slipped through the cracks.”

  • Second Place: Triad City Beat – “Finding wholeness: What trans-affirming care looks like in the Triad” – Autumn Karen
  • Third Place: City Pulse – “The Red Barn House Horrors” – Todd Heywood
  • Honorable Mention: Seven Days – “Women’s Rights Advocate Peggy Luhrs Leaves Behind a Complicated Legacy” – Chelsea Edgar


  • First Place: Santa Fe Reporter – “A Shot in the Dark” – Anson Stevens-Bollen
    Judge’s comment: “
    I love everything about this: the palette, the style. Feels so cohesive and resolved, and the narrative is so clear.”
  • Second Place: Isthmus – “Isthmus anniversary” – Tommy Washbush
  • Third Place: Isthmus – “Ice skating at Tenney Park lagoon” – Madeline Vogt
  • Honorable Mention: Seven Days – “All the Best” – Jeff Drew

Feature Story

  • First Place: Seven Days – “Flower Powerhouse: Melinda Moulton Has Blended Business Savvy and a Hippie Ethos to Transform Burlington” – Ken Picard
    Judge’s comment: “A beautifully written and thoroughly reported story that held my interest from beginning to end. Not only did it capture how one woman transformed a town, but it showed you her heart and soul too.”
  • Second Place: The Inlander – “Ozzie vs. the World” – Daniel Walters, Nate Sanford
  • Third Place: Washington City Paper – “The Story of Pictureman” – Ruben Castaneda
  • Honorable Mention: Cincinnati CityBeat – “‘The King Thing’: Inside the Movement to Save King Records, the Cincinnati Studio that Produced Decades of Stars and Hits” – Katie Griffith

Column (Billy Manes Award – cash prize funded by Billy Manes Foundation)

  • First Place: The Inlander – “CMarie Fuhrman on motherhood, writing while Native, and autocorrect racism” – CMarie Fuhrman
    Judge’s comment: “Beautifully written and taking on such important subjects. Minimalist prose with a maximal effect. Loved it.”
  • Second Place: Seven Days – “Life Stories by Sally Pollak” – Sally Pollak
  • Third Place: Chicago Reader – “Columns by Deanna Isaacs” – Deanna Isaacs
  • Honorable Mention: Dallas Voice – “Cassie Nova, Ask a Drag Queen” – James Love

Special Section

  • First Place: Chicago Reader – “The People Issue (Volume 52, Number 3)” – Enrique Limón, Salem Collo-Julin, Kirk Williamson, Amber Huff, Sujay Kumar, Jim Daley, Kerry Reid, Philip Montoro, Taryn Allen, Kerry Cardoza, Jamie Ludwig, Leor Galil, Deanna Isaacs, Ben Joravsky, Mike Sula, Debbie-Marie Brown, Kelly Garcia, Katie Prout, Micco Caporale, John Dunlevy
    Judge’s Comment: “This report is executed in a fantastic way, from the thoughtful mix of people featured to the surprising details found in each profile. A refreshing take on a tried-and-true special report concept.”
  • Second Place: Washington City Paper – “The People Issue 2022” – Darrow Montgomery, Caroline Jones, Sarah Marloff, Nevin Martell, Camila Bailey, Mitch Ryals, Alex Koma, Tom Sherwood
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “All the Best: Seven Daysies 2022” – Seven Days staff
  • Honorable Mention: Boulder Weekly – “The Cannabis Culture Issue” – Caitlin Rockett, Will Brendza, John Lehndorff, Susan France

Special Publication

  • First Place: New Times SLO – “Get Outside” – Alex Zuniga, Camillia Lanham, Bob Rucker, Peter Johnson, Bulbul Rajagopal, Taylor O’Connor, Malea Martin, Jayson Mellom, Katy Gray, Drew Gilmore, Lee Ann Vermuelen, Cindy Rucker, Eva Lipson, Ikey Ipekjian, Mary Grace Flaus, Andrea Rooks, Kim Rosa, Jen Herbaugh
    Judge’s comment: “The wealth of information, photography and meaty stories presented is truly impressive. Congratulations!”

  •  Second Place: Willamette Week – “Oregon Summer” – Andi Prewitt
  • Third Place: Boulder Weekly – “Fall Arts Preview” – Caitlin Rockett, Will Matuska, Jezy J. Gray, Matt Maenpaa, Angela K. Evans
  • Honorable Mention: Orlando Weekly -“‘ Orlando City Guide'” – Jessica Bryce Young, Matthew Moyer, Daniel Rodriguez, Laura Cole, Jennifer De Witt, Rob Bartlett, Arlene LaBoy, Jim Leatherman, Mauricio Murillo, Jacquelin Goldber

Food Writing

  • First Place: Chicago Reader – “Food writing by Mike Sula” – Mike Sula, Taryn Allen, Karen Hawkins
    Judge’s comment: “The changing landscape of Chinese food; the intersection of food production, technology and psychiatric drugs; a good old-fashioned profile — these entries show the breadth of reporting for this columnist. All three stories are fascinating and written with an eye toward keeping the reader engaged from start to finish.”
  • Second Place: North Coast Journal – “On the Table” – Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “Food writing by Jordan Barry” – Jordan Barry
  • Honorable Mention: Triad City Beat – “Breadwinners: A complete guide to panaderías of the Triad” – Luis H. Garay

Best Collaboration (The BINJ Award, cash prize funded by Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism)

  • First Place: Riverfront Times – “Shadow of Death” – Ryan Krull, Monica Obradovic, Sarah Fenske, Kathy Gilsinan, Sylvester Brown Jr., Leyla Fern King
    Judge’s comment: “This well-reported package is an excellent example of the importance of good journalism to our society. The death penalty is a complicated topic about which many Americans are conflicted. This series does an excellent job of delving into the complex issues while portraying the players as real, flawed people. Terrific public service. I am sure your readers eagerly engaged in each piece. I did.”

  • Second Place: The Reader (Omaha) – “As Nebraska’s Latino Voters Grow in Power, Candidates Fight for Their Support in the Second District” – Bridget Fogarty, Elizabeth Rembert
  • Third Place: The Reader (Omaha) – “In one city, the pandemic accelerated a wave of white flight” – Bridget Fogarty, Sarah Garland
  • Honorable Mention: The Reader (Omaha) – “Past Union President, Now Running for Sheriff, Was Deemed to Have Used Excessive Force. Then Omaha’s Police Chief Stepped in.” – Chris Bowling, Matthew Hansen, Matt Wynn


  • First Place: Seven Days – “How Not to Get Stuck in the Mud in East Barnard with John Leavitt and The Crier” – Eva Sollberger
    Judge’s comment:
    Excellent piece. The storytelling, photography and editing make this story suitable for a PBS special. Many of your interview cuts were well-done. You elicited some snappy and humorous quotes — including the guy who said he needs to “hollar” when he gets stuck. The squishy mud photography make me feel like I was right there with you. Perhaps it was a sensitive subject, but I would have liked to see you pursue some more emotional responses about the original Crier creator and what she meant to the community and how much she is missed.
  • Second Place: The Reader (Omaha) – “Reader Radio podcast” – Chris Bowling, Isa Luzarraga, Bridget Fogarty
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “Seven Days Aloud: Capitol Offense: Nicholas Languerand’s Quest for ‘Belonging’ Led Him to QAnon, the Insurrection — and Now Prison” – Derek Brouwer, Colin Flanders, Jeff Baron
  • Honorable Mention: Seven Days – “Seven Days Aloud: With ‘GUMBO,’ Rapper and DJ Fattie B Unites a Scene and Makes the Record of His Life” – Chris Farnsworth, Jeff Baron

Arts Feature

  • First Place: Chicago Reader -“‘Will lightning strike Podlasie Club twice?'” – Micco Caporale, Philip Montoro
    Judge’s comment: “This story is joyfully readable and pulses with energy. It brings alive not just a beloved institution but looks at its history and place in the greater culture and how it impacts the city and the place where it exhibits. The perfect combination.”

  • Second Place: Washington City Paper – “Understudies: The Unsung Superheroes of D.C. Theater” – Laura Sturza
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “The Next Stage: After Four Years of Turmoil and Transition, the Flynn Enters a New Era” – Dan Bolles
  • Honorable Mention: City Newspaper – “How the humble frame went from sidekick to the spotlight” – David Andreatta, Max Schulte, Rebecca Rafferty

Innovation / Format Buster

  • First Place: Chicago Reader – “Visual arts coverage by Coco Picard” – Coco Picard, Salem Collo-Julin
    Judge’s comment: “
    Brilliant. What a perfect way to present these stories. It seems obvious to cover art through art, but the work is innovative and unique. I appreciated the chance I had to read the words and to also experience the story through the images. I’m a journalism professor, and I can see this work inspiring my students who are both journalists and artists. Brilliant work. A gift.”
  • Second Place: Austin Chronicle -” ‘Dearly Departed Dishes'” – Melanie Haupt, Joel Fried, John Anderson
  • Third Place: Washington City Paper – “The Big Dunce: D.C. Agency Edition” – Ambar Castillo, Ella Feldman, Michelle Goldchain, Caroline Jones, Laura Hayes, Alex Koma, Sarah Marloff, Nayion Perkins, Mitch Ryals, Kelyn Soong
  • Honorable Mention: Chicago Reader – “The Secret History of Chicago Music” – Steve Krakow, Philip Montoro

Beat Reporting

  • First Place: Washington City Paper – “Police Misconduct Reporting by Mitch Ryals” – Mitch Ryals
    Judge’s comment: “Sharp writing and watchdog reporting combine in these pieces that showcase what it means for local media to hold officials accountable. Mitch follows leads, gets answers and lets the story take him unexpected places.”

  • Second Place: The Inlander – “Camp Hope” – Nate Sanford
  • Third Place: Seven Days – “Alison Novak: Education Reporting” – Alison Novak
  • Honorable Mention: San Antonio Current – “San Antonio Symphony coverage by Sanford Nowlin” – Sanford Nowlin


  • First Place: Charleston City Paper – “Marshall law; Lindsey; Vaccine; Shell; sycophant” – Robert Ariail
    Judge’s comment: “Relevant current commentary. Particularly found the “shells” panel to be a fresh look at gun violence.”

  • Second Place: Seven Days – Tim Newcomb – Tim Newcomb
  • Third Place: Charleston City Paper – “Banned books; Red state; No evil; Fascists; Freedom Caucus” – Steve Stegelin