MDJ honored with four ASPE awards

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Feb. 24—The Marietta Daily Journal sports department earned four awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors' annual contest during the organization's annual judging conference held this week in Orlando, Florida.

"Kickoff '22," the MDJ's annual football preview issue, earned a national top-10 selection in the combined small- and medium-sized news organization categories.

It was the 14th straight year the MDJ had earned a national top-10 in at least one of the APSE's print contests.

"Kickoff '22" was the department's 180-page preview magazine that previewed all 27 of the Georgia High School Association football programs from Cobb and Cherokee counties, in addition to the college teams at Kennesaw State and Reinhardt.

The issue, led by sports editor John Bednarowski, was constructed with the help of some advanced work from a talented group of college interns — Stuart Steele, Mathew Welsh, Charles Burney, Lily Brody and Savannah Hernandez from Georgia, Joi Palamore from Kennesaw State, Thomas Ashworth from Jacksonville State and Banji Bamidele of Georgia State.

"This was a talented group," Bednarowski said. "They had an opportunity to find out what it truly meant to work under deadline pressure, but more importantly, how to work as a team to put together what might end up being the largest project they may deal with over the course of their career."

The MDJ sports department also earned a top-five national nod in the digital contest, which was judged by how well an organization engaged their readers online through storytelling and the use of tools like social media, video, podcasts, graphics and newsletters.

Individually, Ashworth and Bednarowski were also recognized for their writing.

Ashworth earned a national top-10 ranking in explanatory writing. His story in the annual "Cobb in Division I" project — "Where have all the running backs gone?" — took a deep dive into and answering the question of why there were only eight current running backs from Cobb County out of 176 players on Division I rosters for the 2022 season.

Bednarowski was recognized for his column writing, marking the seventh time in the last eight years he has been honored, and it was the 13th national writing award of his career. His portfolio of four columns was selected national top-10 in the small newspaper division.

Featured in Bednarowski's portfolio: "The NFL continues to lose its way," about the Cleveland Browns signing Deshaun Watson; "Thank you, Macon, but it's time to leave," about the poor location of the high school basketball championship games at the Macon Coliseum; "Cobb girls prove to be dominant in 2021-22," about how girls sports teams have risen to the top of the GHSA; and "Monday at the Masters: Hear the cash registers chime," a light-hearted look at the amount of shopping that happens in the merchandise building.

Ashworth and Bednarowski will find out their final rankings in the top 10 later this spring with the announcement of the final judging results.