#SCPRESS20 Daily Newspaper Awards

Writing/Reporting Awards: 4:35
Sports Writing Awards: 25:34
Design, Editing & Section Awards: 29:35
Photography Awards: 37:20
Digital Awards: 47:00
Top Honors: 52:51

Journalist of the Year

Tony Bartelme

The Post and Courier

Judges called this masterful explanatory writer’s body of work a force. Bartelme mixes strong watchdog journalism with elegant narratives that take readers on unforgettable journeys. His portfolio contained a bounty of work exceptional for its variety, breadth and significance. He teamed with Joseph Cranney to produce Above the Law, already recognized in FOI and Assertive Journalism Awards. He served as lead writer of Our Secret Delta, an epic story about power, beauty and how one of South Carolina’s last great places faces new threats. He presented terribly complicated science in a highly approachable and engaging way in “How we cook food is killing us. Scientists in SC know why.” And thanks to his reporting, Lowcountry Mount Trashmore is no more. He created compelling, impactful journalism, with unmatched storytelling, detail and pacing. 

Photojournalist of the Year

Ken Ruinard

Independent Mail

This year’s judges said they had an incredibly difficult time selecting a winner because each entrant submitted outstanding collections full of individual photos capable of challenging for first place honors in  competitions for best sports, feature, news and profile photo. They went back and forth among the collections over and over, and finally chose a winner cased on the judging criteria. They found creativity evident in “Shades of Graduation,” “Lake” and “Fireworks”; relevance in “Grad” and “Hugging”; and impact in “Dunk” and “Cheer.” This year’s recipient is no stranger to the honor, having won it just last year. 

Assertive Journalism Award


Joseph Cranney

The Post and Courier

When South Carolina’s top court officials refused to release complaints filed against some of the state’s most powerful judges, Reporter Joseph Cranney mined a network of sources to ferret out examples on his own.
And when those same court leaders balked at sharing information on the qualifications of the state’s lower court judges, Cranney found other ways to collect that information, slowly building the most comprehensive database yet on these little-known jurists. These are just two examples of Cranney’s assertiveness and tenacity as a journalist, and the results his efforts produce.
He’s a bulldog reporter who is inherently fair but unafraid to go head-to-head with those in power.
Fresh off a year in which his reporting helped send Columbia-area Solicitor Dan Johnson to federal prison for misconduct, Cranney dove into problems surrounding South Carolina’s sheriffs. He and reporter Tony Bartelme teamed up to produce “Above the Law,” which exposed how sheriffs across South Carolina lined their pockets on the public’s dime, tried to silence whistleblowers and bullied other public officials who questioned their behavior.
Cranney then turned his attention to South Carolina’s powerful circuit court judges, where he found the deck stacked against him at every turn. After numerous challenges, his story, “The Untouchables,” revealed that over the past two decades, more than 1,000 ethics complaints have been lodged against South Carolina judges, including allegations of influence peddling or judges mishandling conflicts of interest. The number of judges punished publicly as a result: zero. Court officials did their best to prevent this story from seeing the light.
Judges said Cranney’s coverage was incredibly strong with clean writing, good storytelling and extensive research. Every time he hit a dead end, he found a way to keep going. In a strong class of entries, this nominee stood out for his courage and persistence. Important, impactful work.



Matthew Hensley, Adam Benson and Richard Whiting

Good effort by the Index-Journal! Staff should be commended for their doggedness and diligence in the face of obstacles from local leaders. “Cracks in the Foundation” was an 11,000-word package on investigations into Lander University’s Foundation, with the former university president claiming the newspaper defamed him by what they had yet to report. Also, while reporting on the Capital Project Sales Tax, the staff dealt with an obstructionist county council that didn’t want to fess up to minced figures and tried to keep information from the public. Thank you, Index-Journal, for not giving in or giving up.

Montgomery/Shurr FOI Award

The Post and Courier

This award is named in memory of Reid Montgomery, the late secretary-manager of the S.C. Press Association, and the late John Shurr, who spent more than two decades as SCPA’s FOI Chair and as S.C. Bureau Chief for The Associated Press. Both led the fight for open government in South Carolina. Endowed by The Associated Press, the first place winner will receive a cash prize of $500.  

The Post and Courier offered a dozen examples of reporting that used the FOIA. While the sheer volume of work is impressive, so is the quality of writing, and the amount of research involved to produce these stories. In times where many news outlets are cutting back on this type of project reporting, The Post and Courier should be commended for devoting so much time and resources to telling these important stories. Reporters are pros, paired with fabulous editors, and the pairing works. Storytelling is spot on – reading like crime novels they’re so beautifully done and well-constructed. “Above the Law” stands out in this body of work.  Thank you for fighting for the public’s right to know. Outstanding knowledge and use of the FOIA.

President’s Awards for Excellence

SCPA’s President’s Awards for Excellence are presented by circulation division to the newspaper with the overall best performance in the contest. Winners are presented a trophy that will be theirs to display until the 2021 SCPA Annual Meeting & Awards. 

Winner in the Under 10,000 Division


Winner in the 10,000-30,000 Division

The Island Packet

Winner in the Over 30,000 Division

The Post and Courier

Includes the program with comments for First Place winners, the winners badge and more!