The Charleston City Paper on Friday took home five national journalism awards including first places for best cartoon and best political column in an annual contest by the Association of Alternative News Media.  It represents almost 100 alternative and independent news organizations with millions of readers.

Winners included cartoonist Robert Ariail, whose weekly “Lowcountry” panel won first place for best cartoon, while longtime City Paper cartoonist Steve Stegelin picked up third place.  Editor and publisher Andy Brack also won a first place for best political column for a group of 2022 columns ranging from discussions on abortion to candidate qualifications.

Other winners included photographer Ruta Smith, who nabbed second place in the photography category.  Art director Scott Suchy, designer Christina Bailey and Stegelin shared third place for cover design as depicted in three covers – “Oceans,” “Roads” and “Monsters.”  

“This national recognition is a continuation of tributes that the Charleston City Paper is getting from news organizations for journalistic excellence,” Brack said.  “We’re honored to be picked by our peers and congratulate all winners, here and in other parts of the country.”

Ariail’s art offers “fresh look”

According to a contest judge, Ariail’s first-place series of entries offered “relevant current commentary. Particularly found the ‘shells’ panel to be a fresh look at gun violence.”

Ariail reacted today: “When I started ‘Lowcountry’ three years ago, my goal was to create a fun and lighter alternative to my editorial cartoons. It’s been rewarding and fun for me — and I hope for our readers, too — but to win a national award is an unexpected and gratifying surprise.”

Ariail’s winning entries included:

In his decades as a cartoonist, Ariail has won numerous awards, including the National Headliner Award; the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award; the Overseas Press Club’s Thomas Nast Award; the United Nations Ranan Lurie Award; the National Press Foundation’s Berryman Award; the SPJ Green Eyeshade Award ( seven times ); the S.C. Press Association’s President’s Award for lifetime achievement; and the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for The Arts, South Carolina’s highest honor in the arts. Ariail has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize three times.

Consequences that “fly off the page”

Brack won first place for political columns in three pieces dealing with free speech, abortion, Democratic Party failures and candidate qualifications.

A judge explained: ““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.”

Columns included:

S.C. Senate is poking free speech bear on abortion. An excerpt:

“The mind-numbingly endless debate about abortion in South Carolina has gotten even weirder. Radical Republicans in the legislature — the very people who haven’t stopped talking about abortion for two decades and inject it into the legislative debate at the drop of a hat – now want us to stop talking about it completely. And if we don’t? We could be complicit in breaking the law.”

Why state Democrats were embarrassed at the polls:

“Across the state, Democrats need to invest in better campaigning, better mobilization and better use of resources. Otherwise, it’s going to be more of the same and too many voters won’t have real choices — or real political checks and balances.”

Weaver needs to stop avoiding questions about qualifications:

“Perhaps voters should trust, but in today’s combative political environment regarding truth, they also should verify. [Ellen] Weaver’s campaign is avoiding verification of qualifications because she wants to control her message, which is sure to come in the fall with slick television ads and internet persuasion campaigns.”

Earlier this year, Brack was named South Carolina’s best columnist by the S.C. Press Association.

In related news, Charleston will be home to the AAN’s 2024 convention in July of next year.

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