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‘Best of the Best’: My portfolio earns Best Reporter prize from Oklahoma SPJ

This was a nice surprise.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Oklahoma professional chapter honored me as Best Reporter at its 2021 virtual awards ceremony on Oct. 29.

The “Best of the Best” prize recognized a portfolio of five stories that I wrote for The Christian Chronicle, The Associated Press and The Oklahoman:

1. ‘The world doesn’t stop’: Her 15-month-old daughter died in the bombing but she lived on (reporting from Moore, Okla.).

2. 25 years ago, a prayer service gave hope to a shaken America (reporting from Oklahoma City).

3. Forgiving Carla’s killers: After a Harding University junior was raped and murdered, her parents found peace by sharing their faith with the men responsible.

4. Protests and prayers: Christians respond to George Floyd’s death with outrage, rallies and calls for justice.

5. Volunteer State: After Tennessee’s deadly tornadoes, churches play a leading role in the disaster relief effort (reporting from Cookeville, Tenn.).

The contest judge commented:

“The entries for this chapter were outstanding and made it difficult to narrow the choices to first-, second- and third-place. The breadth of Bobby Ross’ reporting and ability to tell stories and connect with a reader put his entries over the top. The reconnection with Deniece Bell is a tutorial in how to do journalism — from the way he got the story to the follow-up years later. The story of the Willmon family is another example of how to report and write. I had to judge this category; I wanted to read Ross’ stories.”

More fantastic news: The Christian Chronicle, where I serve as editor-in-chief, earned the Best Newspaper award.

The judge said:

“Interesting story selection, excellent art, good reporting on a diverse range of subjects.”

In all, Chronicle writers earned eight first-place awards, five seconds and two thirds — 15 in all.

My other awards were:

First Place, Personal Column: ‘The world doesn’t stop’: Her 15-month-old daughter died in the bombing but she lived on.

First Place, Diversity Coverage (with Cheryl Mann Bacon): Protests and prayers and related stories on George Floyd’s killing.

First Place, Editorial/Commentary: Christians react to minister’s claim of ‘crocodile tears’ and ‘phony outrage’ over George Floyd’s death.

Second Place, Feature Writing: Forgiving Carla’s killers.

Second Place, Sports Feature: At 84, retired major-leaguer Lindy McDaniel still ‘Pitching for the Master.’

Third Place, Feature Writing: 25 years ago, a prayer service gave hope to a shaken America.

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