The Charlotte Observer won 28 awards in the annual N.C. Press Association competition onThursday including top honors for public service journalism, general excellence for print and CharlotteObserver.com.
Other first-place finishes came in feature writing, arts and entertainment reporting, education reporting, sports photography and columns, criticism, headlines, graphics, design, and a multimedia project during the Democratic National Convention.
The Observer also won the N.C. Bar Associations Media and the Law Award. The staff entry included eight stories that chronicled the struggle between Occupy Charlotte and city authorities to strike a balance between the right to free assembly and the need to protect property and keep the peace.
In a separate contest, the Associated Press selected the Observer for the Senator Sam Open Government Award. Steve Harrison, Jim Morrill, and Gary L.Wright won for stories on the secrecy surrounding how officials were spending $50 million in federal security funds received for the DNC. At one point, city officials cited national security issues to conceal the color they intended to paint a new command center.
In public service, the Observer and the News & Observer of Raleigh were honored for a 2012 investigative series on nonprofit hospitals. The series, called Prognosis: Profits, explored the profitability of charitable hospitals, highlighted huge executive salaries, and reported on thousands of lawsuits filed by hospitals against delinquent patients. Later stories revealed how hospitals marked up the price of cancer drugs as much as 50 times over cost, and showed how prices soar when hospitals take ownership of independent doctors offices.
Ames Alexander and Karen Garloch of the Observer and News & Observer reporters Joseph Neff and David Raynor reported and wrote the series.
Ann Doss Helms won first place for a series of stories that exposed the faulty data published by Charlotte- Mecklenburg schools about graduation-track students. CMS numbers showed 98 percent of all high school students on track to graduate on time. After repeated questions from Helms, the true calculation came to 75 percent. The CMS administrator in charge of progress reports resigned after the stories.
In feature writing, Mark Price won first for The boy, the bomb and the new leg, which told the story of a young Afghan boy who came to the Charlotte area for a custom-made prosthetic after an improvised explosive device cost him his real one at age 6.
Mark Washburn won first in arts & entertainment reporting for a story on the Levine Museum of the New Souths controversial exhibit on lynching in America and the Carolinas.
Tom Sorensen won first place for exploring the complex feelings of Charlottes most successful high school baseball coach as he faced cutting kids from his team.
David T. Foster IIIs won first for sports photography for a photo of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Lawrence Toppman took first in arts criticism for reviews, including one on the comedy-drama Clybourne Park, which explores two generations, 50 years apart, occupying a house in a Chicago neighborhood.
David Perlmutt won second place in the annual Duke University/Green-Rossiter competition for distinguished stories about higher education.
The Observer won three second-place awards and nine thirds. The Observer competes in the category for the states biggest newspapers.