Our awards help strengthen Catholic press

This photo, taken by CNS visual media manager Nancy Wiechec in Lourdes, France, last year, won second place in the category best feature photo. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

This photo, taken by CNS visual media manager Nancy Wiechec in Lourdes, France, last year, won second place for best feature photo. (CNS/Nancy Wiechec)

If you were following our Twitter feed over the weekend, you may have seen that we were positively gushing about the number of awards we took in the Catholic Press Association‘s annual journalism contest. By my count, we had 23 first-, second-, or third-place winners, in everything from news writing to photos and graphics, and both from our staff and from freelancers who make the CNS news report even better.

It serves as a nice reminder to readers that our professionalism is second to none in the Catholic world. And since our primary service is for our publishing clients around the English-speaking world, we’d like to think that we help keep the Catholic press strong when multiple media compete for readers’ attention.

I can’t list everything here — I’d be up all night — but here are a few of the awards won by our staff:

CNS graphic artist Emily Thompson won first place in best chart or information graphic for this explanation of last fall's Synod of Bishops on the Bible in Rome. (CNS/Emily Thompson)

CNS graphic artist Emily Thompson won first place in best chart or information graphic for this explanation of last fall's Synod of Bishops on the Bible in Rome. It was meant to be published larger than the format permitted in this blog. (CNS/Emily Thompson)

For best news writing on a national event, we took both first and second places. Our first was for our coverage of last year’s U.S. papal trip, and our second was for a collection of stories on the economy (examples here, here and here). Judges said our economy stories amounted to “broad, thoughtful coverage of this issue when it was clearly important but had not yet reached the crisis it has become.”

We had similar success in best news writing on an international event. We took first place for our coverage of the release of a widely anticipated Vatican document on bioethics (examples here, here, here, and here), and third place for stories by stringer Anto Akkara on the horrific violence against Christians in India’s Orissa state (examples here and here).

Our Rome bureau chief, John Thavis, won first place for best personality profile (national newspaper) for his sketch of Pope Benedict XVI in advance of last year’s U.S. papal visit. Judges said the story “proves a strong personality profile doesn’t necessarily require face time with the subject.”

Our Paul Haring won second place in best scenic, still life or weather photo for this shot of a World Youth Day pilgrim spending quiet time at a fountain in Sydney, Australia, last July. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Our Paul Haring won second place in best scenic, still life or weather photo for this shot of a World Youth Day pilgrim spending quiet time at a fountain in Sydney, Australia, last July. (CNS/Paul Haring)

And our Latin America correspondent, Barbara J. Fraser (not to be confused with CNS international editor Barb Fraze), won third place in best feature writing (national) for her story, “In remote corner of Bolivia, a Jesuit legacy of music.”

In a separate category for associate and freelance members of the association, Eastern European correspondent Victor Gaetan won several individual awards for stories he wrote for us. Here is his personality-profile award winner.

Judging was coordinated by the American Press Institute, which promotes excellence in journalism through seminars, fellowships and other programs. Dozens of judges, all professionals in their fields, took part.

Links to some of our award-winning stories:

Visit to America: Catholic News Service special report

Catholic agencies cautiously prepare for economic future

Economic crisis makes voters take harder look at presidential race

1929 vs. 2008: Similar forces at work eight decades apart

Vatican document warns certain new research violates moral principles

Human cloning is immoral, Vatican reiterates in new document

Adopting embryos raises moral questions, Vatican officials say

Document offers teaching moment on infertility, Catholic leaders say

The Vatican bioethics document at a glance

Christians from Orissa recount harrowing experiences

Indian priest describes mob ordeal ‘like being tortured for Christ’

Scholar, pastor, enigma: German pope defies easy caricature

In remote corner of Bolivia, a Jesuit legacy of music

‘Fireworks on two legs': Priest shares faith with Belgrade Catholics

Sun? Rain? Sleet? or Snow? at the Vatican

downpour

A nun tries to shield herself from a downpour as she makes her way across St. Peter's Square in 2002. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Thanks to a new addition to the Vatican City State Web site, the 7 million to 10 million visitors to Rome each year will now have an empirically based idea of what to pack when they visit.

A new window dedicated to the weather at the Vatican has been added to the Vatican City homepage (which you can find by scrolling down and looking for a sun-peeking-behind-a-cloud icon on the bottom right on the homepage.)

The new page offers live and recorded meteorological data from the Vatican’s weather station. What’s cool (or hot) about the new page is the data are all represented by colorful dials, bars, graphs and gauges.

One glance and you can see the current temperature, the day’s maximum and minimum temperatures, wind direction, wind speeds, and how powerful those gusts are that turn your cheapo, bought-from-a-street-vendor umbrella inside out.

There are gauge arrows pointing to the level of humidity and barometric pressure and graphs plotting the rise and fall of temperatures and humidity over the last 24 hours. Three additional bar graphs indicate how much rainfall has dropped on Rome the past day, month and year.

Other features can be had by clicking on the small white oval buttons on the bottom left of the page. You can convert the readings from metric to Fahrenheit and inches by clicking on “Units.”

Meteorological and statistics buffs will want to hit the “Graph” button so they can comb through numerous pop-up charts documenting live and recorded windchill temps, wind speeds, rainfall, humidity and other measurements spanning the last 24 hours to the past year.

The “Webcam” button offers three live bird’s eye views of St. Peter’s Basilica and Square so you can see just how beautifully sunny or partly cloudy it is today.

The “Records” button will tell you record highs and lows in a number of categories. But since the Web-stats only go back to April of this year, the records aren’t that outstanding yet. For example, the hottest day in 2009 was recorded on May 26 at 3 p.m. when the mercury hit 91.8°F. That “all-time high” will definitely be beat once July and August come around.

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