by Chuck Colbert
Just in time for a noteworthy anniversary celebration, the Washington Blade won three first-place awards in the Dateline Awards competition sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) D.C. chapter.
As publisher Lynne Brown commented regarding the timing of the awards, “The Blade is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year,” she said, quoted in the publication on June 12. “These awards demonstrate we haven’t let up in our commitment to quality journalism and to serving the local market.”
Joey DiGuglielmo, the publication’s features editor, won for best feature story in the weekly newspaper category for “Remembering Sean Sasser” (Sept. 18, 2013), a piece about the former “Real World” cast member who died last year.
“The piece goes beyond the usual ‘he was such a great guy and will be missed’ obit to include the significance of his TV appearance and the career he crafted for himself after the cameras move on,” the judges wrote.
DiGuglielmo also won best arts criticism for a piece on organ music in D.C. titled, “Dynamic differences” (Oct. 22, 2013).
Yet another honor went to Blade editor Kevin Naff who won his eighth SPJ award, taking first place in the editorial writing category for a piece titled, “Victory, vindication and tears” (June 27, 2013) — about last year’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Prop 8 cases.
“The editorial has a sound analysis of the court’s opinion and asks readers to contemplate several ‘tantalizing questions for the future’ of gay rights in states without marriage-equality laws,” the judges wrote.
Naff begin his opinion piece this way: “For those of us old enough to remember the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act — and then-President Bill Clinton’s craven boasting about it in Christian radio ads during the 1996 campaign — this week brought vindication, a victory unimaginable just a few years ago and more than a few tears of joy.”
As Naff explained concerning the significance of the Court’s DOMA ruling, “It’s a refreshing and honest take on the impact of DOMA, which has stigmatized gay and lesbian couples for 17 years and done real harm to our families. Kennedy’s opinion at long last recognizes this basic fact. The stories of DOMA’s impact on our community have formed the basis for literally hundreds of Blade stories over the years. Many of those stories involve serious life-changing consequences as in survivors like the courageous Edith Windsor facing financial ruin after the death of a partner. But those dark days are over. Kennedy touches on the broad reach of the decision in his opinion.”
In his piece, Naff also took on Justice Antonin Scalia for what Naff calls Scalia’s “overwrought and predictably curmudgeonly dissent,” which he fears is judicial overreach. “It is an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’s Representatives in Congress and the Executive. It envisions a Supreme Court standing (or rather enthroned) at the apex of government, empowered to decide all constitutional questions, always and everywhere ‘primary’ in its role.” Scalia, Naff wrote, “goes on to say the question of same-sex marriage ‘should be resolved primarily at the state level.’
“That is now an open question, as same-sex couples in California rejoin the growing group of now 13 states and D.C. that have enacted marriage equality. Will a gay couple in Texas sue the government for marriage rights? Has Kennedy set the stage for a Loving v. Virginia-type showdown for the gay community?”
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