The Inman News Blog won a "Best Blog" award in an annual competition by the National Association of Real Estate Editors, and James Randel, author of "The Skinny on the Housing Crisis," took first place in the Robert Bruss Real Estate Book Awards, named for the longtime Inman News real estate columnist who died in 2007.
NAREE, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, announced the winners of the real estate journalism and book awards during a conference this month in Washington, D.C.
"This blog contains news stories on timely topics that are informative about the housing industry," judges commented about the Inman Blog.
Commenting on Randel’s book, which won this year’s Gold Award, judges said, "Wow. What a concept, having stick people tell the story of one of the beefiest, multifaceted, complex and confusing bits of recent economic history in terms everyone can understand. I wish I had this on my desk when I was editing all those stories about the impact of the collapse of the real estate market. Original. Informative. Easy to read. And funny to boot. I want to see more books on topics like this."
Dan McGinn won the Silver Award and the First-Time Author Award in the Robert Bruss Real Estate Book Awards competition for "House Lust," and the Bronze Award went to Richard Bitner for "Confessions of a Subprime Lender."
Judges for the book competition included: Michael Frolove, instructor at the Real Estate Institute at Temple University, and a licensed real estate broker and appraiser in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Allen Norwood, retired Homes editor at the Charlotte Observer, a freelance editor of HGTV online, and a former NAREE vice president; and Ken Lanterman, former assistant business editor at the Houston Chronicle and former editor at several Texas newspapers.
Book topics can range from home buying and selling to urban design, architecture and green building, among other real estate-related topics.
The following is a list of categories, winners and judges’ commentary for NAREE’s annual NAREE journalism competition, which recognizes print, broadcast, and online journalists and publications:
Robert F. Brennan Award for Best Overall Entry by an Individual
Winner: Mara Der Hovanesian, Business Week
Judges said: "This reporter managed to uncover and get people to talk about the sleazy underbelly of the mortgage business. People obviously open up to her, and her article shows it. Her article serves as a model for traditional investigative reporting."
Second Place: Jennifer Hiller, San Antonio Express-News
Judges said: "This is a reporter with the dedication and stamina to follow the evidence and publicly expose the failure of her readers’ state government officials. She has the public’s interest in mind, as all good reporters should."
James D. Carper Award for Best Entry by a Young Journalist
Winner: Polyana da Costa, Daily Business Review
Judges said: "This reporter writes hard-hitting, carefully researched articles on tough topics. She knows her beat well and shows a good eye for fresh angles."
Second Place: Shannon Behnken, Tampa Tribune
Judges said: "This reporter is a skilled story teller who recognizes that articles about people make stories work. Her writing is smart and seductive."
Best Freelance Collection Award
Winner: Sharon Stangenes, freelance writer, Chicago Tribune
Judges said: "This writer recognized a growing problem that many metropolitan areas will face: the shrinking supply of water and efforts to contain its wasteful use. She brought the issue home to Chicagoans with thorough reporting."
Second Place: Michelle Hofmann, freelance writer, Los Angeles Times
Judges said: "This reporter understands her audience and packs a lot of information into her articles, always keeping the reader turning the page. A good example was her article on DIY parties in Los Angeles. It has a wonderfully archetypal, Southern California quality — ‘Times are tough, so let’s party to remodel my house.’ The reporter should be praised for discovering this trend and for carefully documenting the potential dangers they represent, such as injuries to those doing the remodeling and the unprofessional construction techniques."
Best Residential Real Estate Report in a Daily Newspaper
Winner: Jennifer Hiller, San Antonio Express-News
Judges said: "This well-investigated article is about legislative failure to empower a Texas agency to lead to builder repairs in new housing. Using the Freedom of Information Act to pry loose information and spending more than a year of research on the article, this reporter stayed the course with hard-hitting journalism that was a huge benefit for readers."
Second Place: Sharon Stangenes, freelance writer, Chicago Tribune
Judges said: "In a year of articles about the housing collapse, this reporter was still writing about problems generated by the housing expansion in the Chicago areas, specifically the decreasing water resources and how to solve this problem. It demonstrates that there are more problems related to real estate than difficulty getting financing."
Best Mortgage or Financial Real Estate Report in a Daily Newspaper
Winner: Polyana da Costa, Daily Business Review
Judges said: "A very thorough, revealing article, it offers a new angle on the housing finance crisis — essentially banks redlining otherwise very expensive high-end condos, trapping owners, and nearly insuring foreclosures as no buyers can get traditional financing. Good investigation reporting was evident in the final product."
Second Place: Carol Hazard, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Judges said: "This relatively short article does a thorough job of explaining what a short sale is. In the process, the writer describes the difficulty of this new trend, which saves owners and finance companies the disaster of foreclosure. It is a good piece of service journalism."
Best Commercial Real Estate Report in a Daily Newspaper
Winner: Eric Pryne, Seattle Times
Judges said: "Mostly this is a description of a major development project — a light-rail makeover — but it has added value in illustrating a new trend toward living near work or living near a transportation hub. It has a lively lead, strong infographics, and extensive reporting." …CONTINUED
Second Place: Polyana da Costa, Daily Business Review
Judges said: "This is a well researched, multi-sourced description of how investment in land for future developments has undermined and brought down developers. The focus on resistance to selling into this market at a great loss provides insight into how unrealistic hard-core developers can be."
Best Home Design Feature in a Daily Newspaper
Winner: Charlotte Sutton, St. Petersburg Times
Judges said: "The house described in this feature is inherently interesting and unusual. While the owner-designer of this space seems a bit of an egotist, the reporter gently allows this to come through as she describes this different house and its interior furnishings."
Second Place: Eugene L. Meyer, freelance writer, New York Times
Judges said: "The article is as much about an interesting businessman as it is about a restored bungalow that is a getaway house in the countryside. The house reflects the man and vice versa. This is a nicely descriptive story that lets you dream along with the owners."
Best Report or Feature in a Daily Newspaper Under 250,000 Circulation
Winner: Amy Jeter, The Virginian-Pilot
Judges said: "In a media environment filled with predictable explanations of the bursting of the housing bubble, this reporter deserves kudos for focusing on the consequences of declining property values to education. It is an excellent report, explaining how a county can lose its only middle school."
Second Place: Andrew Gomes, Honolulu Advertiser
Judges said: "This reporter’s story about people building homes out of shipping containers is intensely interesting. His newspaper devoted a lot of space to the story over two pages, and he used it well with a wealth of memorable quotes and facts. A representative of a company that sells the containers summed up the story when he said, ‘Most architects say, "That’s a ticky-tacky box. I don’t want to work with a ticky-tacky box." But it’s amazing what you can do.’ The reporter ran with that and performed a real service."
Best Report or Feature in a Weekly Business Newspaper
Winner: Jonathan O’Connell, Washington Business Journal
Judges said: "This article shows the disconnect between city officials and charities that fund low-income housing. It is rich with a lot of context drawn from similar situations in other cities. The thoroughness of the article shows the forces with which developers must contend."
Second Place: Melissa Castro, Washington Business Journal
Judges said: "This is a solid piece of reporting about the difficulty of developing socially responsible neighborhoods in the current housing downturn. It is not a sexy topic, but the writer brings alive a topic that generally was ignored by the press."
Best Real Estate, Mortgage or Financial Report in a Magazine
Winner: Mara Der Hovanesian, Business Week
Judges said: "This article takes the outline of the housing crash and tells it as a story with a focus on the dirty little activities of the mortgage lenders, wholesalers and packagers. It is very readable and at times borders on a great expose."
Second Place: Ken Bensinger, SmartMoney Magazine
Judges said: "This article about empty-nesters seeking an alternative to lawn care and lengthy commutes takes a contrarian stance on downtown condo culture in major American cities. Now, urban life is appealing to more than the ‘cool’ youth and hip business people. The boomer generation, no surprise, has spotted a good retirement life and is returning to urban centers nationwide."
Best Home Design Feature in a Magazine
Winner: Brad Reagan, SmartMoney Magazine
Judges said: "With a smart voice that pokes fun but provides a wealth of information, this writer turns what might have been a humdrum article into a look at decks that are astonishing. While most people expect a bathroom or kitchen remodeling to give them the best return, this article shows that decks can be the most lucrative remodeling project, in terms of reselling a home, when taken to an extreme."
Second Place: Kathleen James, Design New England
Judges said: "This article on a Vermont country house that goes ‘green’ takes readers through the decisions that were made to come up with the quintessential New England home. The writer integrates the family’s commitment to community into a basic design feature that offers a multitude of valuable design tips to readers."
Best Trade Magazine Report for the Residential Real Estate, Mortgage/Finance or Building/Development Industries
Winner: Craig Webb, ProSales Magazine
Judges said: "This fascinating look at wood’s future takes advantage of everyone’s interest in this building product. The topic is intrinsically interesting to builders and especially to builder-supply outlets. Who would expect something with as much as history and continuity as wood to face so much change in the next 20 years?"
Second Place: Donna Kimura, Affordable Housing Finance Magazine
Judges said: "While this is an article on the extent of the housing crisis nationwide, it puts a striking face on the problem. It is well researched, has a lot of examples, and contains stark art illustrations. The story explains the complex relationship that affordable housing has with other related social costs."
Best Trade Magazine Report for the Commercial Real Estate Industry
Winner: Kim A. O’Connell, Traditional Building Magazine
Judges said: "Sustainability construction, next to the housing collapse, was the most overwritten topic in this year’s competition. But O’Connell’s approach succeeds in maintaining reader interest because of the contrarian approach taken throughout the article. Warning that sustainability is far more complex than the purchase of LEED-marketed products works in this article."
Second Place: Denise Kalette, National Real Estate Investor
Judges said: "Although this feature on the restoration of industrial disasters into waterfront developments has a repetitive quality, the selection of examples described and the extent of the difficulties to be overcome, while still turning a profit, made this a valuable feature on a very hot but underreported trend."
Best Online Residential Real Estate or Mortgage/Finance Report
Winner: Kathleen M. Howley, Bloomberg News
Judges said: "This article about foreclosures in military towns is riveting and has a powerful emotional appeal. It represents sound investigative reporting, and its numerous interviews bring the story home to the reader in an interesting way."
Second Place: Bob Ivry, Bloomberg News
Judges said: "This article gives great insight into what is wrong with the financing systems of the housing industry. When the banks can’t prove that they own properties, it demonstrates how far we have come from reality. This article also encourages homeowners to question and fight their foreclosures." …CONTINUED
Best Online Commercial Real Estate Report
Winner: Hui-yong Yu, Bloomberg News
Judges said: "This excellent breaking-news report on UBS discusses the ramifications when the largest Swiss bank needs to shed assets. It takes readers back to the 1980s to show similar ‘workouts’ among top lenders."
Second Place: Kathleen M. Howley, Bloomberg News
Judges said: "When a real estate brokerage makes money in the worst housing slump since the Depression, it makes for a good story. The article shows Warren Buffett’s approach to taking advantage of a down market."
Winner: Inman News
Judges said: "This blog contains news stories on timely topics that are informative about the housing industry. The writer is highly competent and knowledgeable on a broad range of topics."
Second Place: Boyce Thompson, Builder
Judges said: "This is a well-targeted blog that provides useful information. It is solid journalism but yet conversational and well targeted to its readers’ needs."
Best Broadcast Report: Online, Radio or Television — Local, Network or Cable Channels
Winner: Amy Hoak, MarketWatch/Wall Street Journal Digital Network
Judges said: "This broadcast about home auctions is lively and well sourced as well as interesting. It is packed with helpful tips for homebuyers, and the filming is highly professional."
Second Place: Shannon Behnken, Tampa Tribune/WFLA TV
Judges said: "This broadcast uses skillful narrative storytelling to show the trials of a single mother trying to keep her home when the lender foreclosed on her loan. The story demonstrates that it is frequently almost impossible to tell who owns your loan when you are foreclosed, and it can be a struggle to keep your home."
Best Spot News Report
Winner: Roger Showley, San Diego Union-Tribune
Judges said: "This article on slime-green swimming pools offers a great angle on the impact of the housing crisis on public health. It is original, interest grabbing, and of great importance. After reading this article, a lot of residents were probably checking nearby houses for the potential of West Nile disease."
Second Place: Greta Guest, Detroit Free Press
Judges said: "This article does a solid job of sourcing and building a context for the data that surrounds the story of unsold houses in the Detroit area. It will have everyone checking sold/for-sale ratios in their neighborhoods."
Bob Bruss Award for Best Column
Winner: Roger Showley, San Diego Union-Tribune
Judges said: "All three columns look at current development, redevelopment, or the planning process from a historical perspective. The writer provides extensive historical research, interviews, and descriptions to make his pieces must reading."
Second Place: Kenneth R. Harney, Washington Post Writers Group
Judges said: "Well reported and well researched, the writer’s three columns identify the dumb, the overlooked, and the narrow-minded that result in major problems for homeowners or people trying to be homeowners. These columns are mini-investigative reports."
Winner: Les Shaver, Multifamily Executive
Judges said: "This series is driven by a selected number of myths about renting and selling to Hispanics, single women, and generation Y’s. It is successful as a series because it forces readers of this magazine to think about these nonmainstream groups in new ways. It makes great use of statistics, infographics, and sourcing to provide a lot of utility for readers."
Second Place: Eve Samples, Palm Beach Post
Judges said: "The housing bust was clearly the most frequently written about subject in this competition as might be expected. But this series covered the consequences of the bust far more creatively and completely than most publications. Readers left the series with a comprehensive understanding of how extensive and extended the effects were on all involved from builders, Realtors, homeowners and buyers to entire communities."
Best Collection of Work by an Individual
Winner: Lori Weisberg, San Diego Union-Tribune
Judges said: "All three of this reporter’s features were exceedingly well crafted and informative, but in telling the story of home burglaries through her own experience in first person, Weisberg provides the readers with telling prose that I doubt that few who started reading it failed to finish. And most readers would start reading anything about this subject."
Second Place: Shannon Behnken, Tampa Tribune
Judges said: "In the stories by this reporter, trucks rumble, kids play in sprinklers, and homeowners watch as sale-pending signs go up in their neighborhoods. Individual articles are used effectively to describe diverse problems related to foreclosures."
Honorable Mention: Stephanie A. Armour, USA Today
Judges said: "In a refreshing switch from stories about bankers, this reporter shows how foreclosures put financial strain on children, renters and the middle class. The writing is accessible, succinct and clear."
Best Newspaper Real Estate or Home Section More Than 250,000 Circulation
Winner: Mary James, Thom Kupper, Cathy Lubenski, Emmet Pierce, Michael Rocha, Chris Ross, Roger Showley Jim Watters and Lori Weisberg, San Diego Union-Tribune
Judges said: "This section has an open design and a good mix of editorial and illustration. Features such as ‘Home Burglary’ focus on readers’ concerns rather than the concerns of builders and financiers and real estate agents. Readers will find stories that they would not expect in a section that thoroughly covers the community."
Second Place: Steve Brown and Sheryl Jean, Dallas Morning News
Judges said: "This section stands out because of its extensive use of house-written editorial matter that goes beyond the expected topics. It makes good use of photographs to help tell the stories." …CONTINUED
Best Newspaper Real Estate or Home Section Less Than 250,000 Circulation
Winner: Patrick Twohy, Ryan Pate, J. K. Dineen, Steve Ginsberg, Melanie Stevens, Amanda Bishop, Blanca Torres, Sarah Duxbury and Jessica Saunders, San Francisco Business Times
Judges said: "This section offers a rich mixture of developed articles on real estate properties, developers, and trends for the entire Bay Area. This is a section about informing and showing rather than telling. The writing is consistently interesting, and the editorial mix keeps a reader turning the pages. This is a section with substance."
Second Place: Kristy Eppley Rupon, The State Newspaper
Judges said: "This section has a reader-grabbing front page, solid editing and good design. It contains a mix of locally produced feature stories and how-to standing columns along with selected universal features borrowed from other newspapers. Success is based more on editors than on an extensive staff of writers, which makes it a useful section for readers."
Best Shelter Magazine
Winner: Gail Ravgiala, Jill Connors, Estelle Bond Guralnick and Bruce Irving, Design New England
Judges said: "This oversized magazine elegantly presents its exquisite photography, and choice, quality dull paper provides for the soft display of advertising and editorial content. The magazines roams the entire New England region as it builds content that emphasizes the most interesting architecture, interior design, and personal fetishes of residents committed to original living environments. This is a magazine for people who love one-of-a-kind houses."
Second Place: Mary James, SD Home
Judges said: "Somewhat traditional, this magazine covers a mix of people to know, unique businesses, and unusual living environments. Well-photographed layouts with serviceable feature writing result in a readable magazine for a wide swath of upscale people in San Diego. The magazine feels like it belongs to the city."
Best Residential Trade Magazine
Winner: Denise Dersin, Evan Potler, Deborah Leopold, Ethan Butterfield, John Caulfield, Pat Curry, Nigel F. Maynard, Jenny Sullivan, Claire Koltko, Melissa Goldweitz and Sola Ayeni-Biu, Builder
Judges said: "Despite being stuffed with advertising, this trade magazine offers variety and solid research, and could pass for the homebuilder’s equivalent of Business Week in the consumer category. Articles are written for broad readership in the industry, are nearly always interesting, and usually are valuable to the readership."
Second Place: Jean Dimeo, Katy Tomosulo, EcoHome
Judges said: "Beautifully designed and well written and edited, this magazine has the look and feel that high-end green builders seek to provide clients willing to pay the freight. It offers a good blend of new product news as well as features."
Best Commercial Trade Magazine
Winner: Matt Valley, National Real Estate Investor
Judges said: "There is a wide range of industry topics presented in this magazine with a readable design. Among the pluses are: the use of standing columns, clear writing, and a well-written, timely main feature."
Second Place: Lisa Nardone, Lauren Pinch, Joanna Masterson, Construction Executive
Judges said: From front to back cover, this magazine maintains consistent and effective design that promotes the publication’s excellent editorial mix of information and service journalism. Quality editing, good writing and design, quality paper, and good printing make for a model trade magazine."
Best Web Site Solely Devoted to Residential or Commercial Real Estate and/or Home Design
Winner: Janine Sieja, Neil Pinchin, Sarah Weissman, Kris Goodfellow, Cyberhomes.com
Judges said: This site has excellent consumer coverage for buyers and sellers about every aspect of the home-sale process. Moreover, it is well written and well designed. It is easy to navigate."
Second Place: Denise Dersin, Alison Rice, John Caulfield, Pat Curry, Nigel F. Maynard, Jenny Sullivan, Kyle Gustafson, Deborah Leopold and Claire Koltko, Builder
Judges said: "This site’s pluses include video and interactive blogs along with easy-to-navigate heads. It is focused on the needs of builders and has extensive coverage of new products and new techniques."
Winner: Daren Blomquist, Joel Coen, Octavio Nuiry, Foreclosure News Report
Judges said: "This newsletter zeroes in on its readers’ need to know insider information and statistics from around the country. The articles are written as if meant for a newsletter."
Best Team Report
Winner: Mary Shanklin and Vicki McClure, Orlando Sentinel
Judges said: "This outstanding report provides localized coverage of the housing collapse in Orlando based on a massive investigation of records and on solid interviewing of the players. The headline, ‘Did Appraisers Juice the Market?’ sets the tone for this lively, context-rich team effort."
Second Place: Amy Hoak, Jeffrey Bartash, Rachel Koning Beals and David Wilkerson, MarketWatch/Wall Street Journal Digital Network
Judges said: "This multimedia look at the house of the future was comprehensive, highly interesting and informative. It leads readers through the maze of choices in devices for tomorrow’s digital home."
Best Investigative Report or Series
Winner: Peter Coy and Mara Der Hovanesian, Business Week
Judges said: "Not only do these articles captivate the reader with a portrait of escalating disaster in the housing market, but, in explaining the process of the meltdown, they extract great material about just how sleazy this industry became — even to the point of trading sex for mortgage approvals. It features in-depth reporting and analysis."
Second Place: Eleanor Yang Su, Agustin Armendariz, Emmet Pierce and Lori Weisberg, San Diego Union-Tribune
Judges said: "This report on rampant speculation in San Diego neighborhoods is a well-sourced, well-crafted, and well-organized feature on the process and effects of the real estate bust on a community, its people, and its institutions. The analysis of city, county, federal and private data is a model for computer-assisted reporting."
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