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'Devilish' Sentinel scribe Morlock named Az's top community columnist

TucsonSentinel.com's Blake Morlock, author of the "What the Devil won't tell you" columns that analyze local public affairs, was named as the winner of the Community Column Writing award by the Arizona Press Club.

Morlock received the first place award in that category in the annual awards from the organization representing the state's online and print journalists.

Morlock, who wrote about 70 columns in 2017, was specifically recognized for his work on three by contest judge Martin Salazar, an editorial writer for the Albuquerque Journal:

"Morlock's 'Price for Mom’s Life' column is excellent because it explores the high cost of health care through the lens of a family that has just undergone a medical crisis," the judge wrote. "It gets to the core of the problems our country’s health care system faces, and points out that there are no simple solutions."

The columnist was typically wry upon learning of his win.

"I guess it shows what a guy and his laptop without a P key can do as part of a scrappy, professional insurgency like the TucsonSentinel.com," he said. "Big thanks to everyone who helped, read and edited."

Morlock's win in heading the pack of columnists adds to a recent run of acknowledgements for TucsonSentinel.com's journalism. Coverage of border and immigration issues and watchdog reporting on local elections won several other awards from the Arizona Press Club, with recognition for Paul Ingram, Joe Watson and Dylan Smith.

Watson and Ingram jointly won awards in both the Community and Statewide divisions for their August story "Decorated Marine vet may be deported, despite likely U.S. citizenship." Ingram, a senior border and political reporter for TucsonSentinel.com, and Watson, a freelancer working with the Sentinel, were awarded second place for Community Immigration Reporting, and third place for Statewide Immigration Reporting for their efforts on the story. The judge was Richard Marosi, a longtime border reporter at the Los Angeles Times and two-time Pulitzer finalist.

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TucsonSentinel.com Editor and Publisher Dylan Smith was named first runner-up for the Arizona Press Club's Community Journalist of the Year.

"Smith's 2017 reporting was dogged, thorough and had a consistent investigative edge," wrote judges Jennifer Napier-Pearce, editor of the Salt Lake Tribune; Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, investigative reporter with PennLive and the Patriot-News; and Sheila McCann, managing editor of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Ingram recently won a national award for his photojournalism, receiving an an honorable mention from the Institute for Nonprofit News last month in the Impact Prize for Nonprofit News Photography contest. He was one of just seven photographers  seven journalists working for nonprofit news organizations to be recognized with an INN award, which he received for his 2017 picture of a teenage boy sprinting away from the Nogales border wall that separates the U.S. and Mexico, just after illegally climbing over the barrier with a ladder from the sister city of Nogales, Sonora.

Smith was named in March as a winner of the annual Sledgehammer Award by the Arizona Press Club for his work pushing government officials to release information. The Sledgehammer, which was also awarded to the Arizona Daily Star's Caitlin Schmidt for 2017, are a tribute to journalists who relentlessly seek the truth, smashing through obstacles thrown their way.

The Arizona Press Club is the state's association for print and online journalists, and each year recognizes the best reporting, photojournalism and design work. See all of the 2017 awards at AzPressClub.org.

Smith is a vice president of the Press Club. The awards are judged by experienced journalists from outside Arizona who have no connection to the entrants.

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