Awards Hoo-hah

A slew of Houston Press writers cleaned up at the Press Club of Houston's 1999 Excellence in Journalism Banquet, taking first place in the Investigative Reporting, Commentary/ Criticism and Sports Story categories.

"This is what investigative journalism is supposed to be all about: Find an injustice or abuse of power and expose it," commented the judges, who selected Bob Burtman's "Hard Times" for first place in the Investigative Reporting category. Burtman's piece exposed a case of wrongful imprisonment and miscarriages of justice.

Garnering the No. 1 spot in the Commentary/Criticism category was Shaila Dewan, staff writer and art critic for the Press, for her piece on Dominique de Menil, "The Last Eccentric." Dewan also took third in the category with "Art Is Dead -- Let's Have a Drink." Judges applauded Dewan's depth of understanding in the de Menil piece, as well as her ability to combine a family story with a readable history lesson.

Randall Patterson's "Taking the Waves" won first place in the Sports Story category for transforming a story about surfing into a tale of "action, drama and the universal topics of life," said the judges. It was the third year in a row that Patterson has won the sports category. Fellow Press writer Burtman took third in the category with "Bad Sports."

Steve McVicker took second place both in the Feature Story category for "The Further Adventures of King Con" and the Print Journalist of the Year category. This is the third year in a row that McVicker has come this close to the No. 1 slot for Journalist of the Year, and judges noted the strength of all three candidates, including the Associated Press's Michael Graczyk, who took first.

"McVicker did a fine job of combining strong writing and strong reporting," commented the judges. "Working in a weekly format, he was able to make the stories fresh and readable."

Brian Wallstin took second place in the Business Story category for "Biological Disaster," a tale about the Zonagen corporation, which judges described as "fascinating."

The awards were handed out at the Rice University Memorial Center the evening of April 8.

-- Jennifer Mathieu


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