Rick Steves, Budget Travel magazine win top Lowell Thomas awards

WELLINGTON, New Zealand

Rick Steves, one of America’s best-known travelers as a guidebook writer, blogger, twitterer and TV/radio host, is the Journalist of the Year in the 2011 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition.

Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle win top honors as the best travel publications in North America.

National Geographic Traveler wins five awards, including best travel website and best cultural tourism article. Outside magazine also wins five awards, including best adventure travel and best investigative stories.

This is the 27th year of the Lowell Thomas competition, overseen by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. The awards, recognized as the most prestigious in travel journalism, were announced at the annual conference of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the premier professional organization of travel journalists and communicators.

The competition, for work from spring 2010 to spring 2011, drew more than 1,200 entries. Judges are the faculty at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Steves, Andrew McCarthy, Kate Siber

Rick Steves winner of the Journalist of the Year in the 2011 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition.

In naming Steves as Travel Journalist of the Year for his portfolio of work in the Grand Award category, the judges said: “The strength of Steves’ writing is his embrace of diversity, the range of topics and everyday candor.”

Steves sent the SATW conference in New Zealand a short video of thanks, noting that the award, which recognizes the hard work of North American travel writers, “has inspired me to continue in the work I believe all of us travel writers are cut out to do: to help our readers travel economically, efficiently, and in a way that opens them up to the wonders of our beautiful world.”

Steves also wins gold awards for his popular travel blog and for his travel broadcasts that appear on National Public Radio stations. Steves produces and distributes the program. Said the judges: “Steves’ behind-the-scenes videos and his political commentary give us a real sense of the people and places he experiences.”

Silver Grand Award winner is Andrew McCarthy, freelance writer, director and actor who won the gold in this category in 2010. McCarthy was in New Zealand to receive his award, and he spoke to the SATW conference about the positive impact that world travel has had on his life. Winning bronze is freelance writer Kate Siber.

Top magazines and newspapers

Other top magazine winners, for their publications, writers and photographers, are Afar, Southern Living, Westways, Islands, Playboy, The Rotarian, Via, Virtuoso Life, Canadian Geographic and Explore. Newspaper winners, for travel sections, articles and photography, include the Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, USA Today, Orange County Register, Portland Oregonian, Minneapolis Star Tribune, New York Times and the Record of Hackensack, NJ.

Best travel video winner is “Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose/Hong Kong” as seen on American Public Television. Winner of the best consumer-oriented article is Dan Askin at CruiseCritic.com, who investigated the ads for a “free” cruise.

“I was struck by the quality of the entries,” said judge Val Lauder, who has taught feature writing at North Carolina for 31 years. She said the winning entry in the foreign travel article category — Peter Gwin’s story from Timbuktu in National Geographic – was “haunting.”

Top travel blogs, websites, books

Winning travel websites and their journalists include MatadorNetwork.com, BudgetTravel.com, MeetingsFocus.com, Gadling.com and Geoex.com. Top blogs include blog.bradajohnson.net by food and travel journalist Brad A. Johnson and Today in the Sky by Ben Mutzabaugh at USAToday.com.

Winning best travel book is “Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo” by Vanessa Woods for Gotham Books. Gold winner for guidebook is “USA’s Best Trips: 99 Themed Itineraries Across America” from Lonely Planet, Sara Benson, coordinating author.

The awards are named for Lowell Thomas, acclaimed broadcast journalist, prolific author and world explorer during five decades in travel journalism. The competition is open to all North American journalists.

The SATW Foundation distributes nearly $20,000 to individual winners. “We want to thank this year’s underwriters — the Tourist Office for Flanders – Brussels and Travel Guard — for their support in recognizing and rewarding excellence in travel journalism,” said David Molyneaux, SATW Foundation president. “Their generosity helps make our prizes possible.”

Full list of Lowell Thomas winners

A list of the winners and the judges’ comments are available on the Foundation website, www.satwfoundation.org. For information about SATW, visit www.satw.org. The winners:

Category 1: Grand Award – Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year (24)

Gold: Rick Steves, author and TV/radio travel show host

Silver: Andrew McCarthy, freelance writer, actor and director

Bronze: Kate Siber, freelance writer

Category 2: Newspaper Travel Sections (15)

2A – Newspapers with 350,000 or more circulation

Gold: Los Angeles Times, Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor

Silver: The Dallas Morning News, Mary Ellen Botter, Travel Editor

Bronze: The Washington Post, Joe Yonan, Travel Editor

2B – Newspapers under 350,000 circulation

Gold: San Francisco Chronicle, Spud Hilton, Travel Editor

Silver: The Oregonian, Alex Pulaski, Travel Editor

Bronze: The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA), Gary Warner, Travel Editor

Category 3: Magazines (16)

3A – Travel Magazines

Gold: Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, Nina Willdorf, Editor-in-Chief

Silver: Afar, Greg Sullivan, Editorial Director

Bronze: National Geographic Traveler, Keith Bellows, Editor-in-Chief

3B – Travel Coverage in Other Magazines

Gold: Southern Living, Rachel Hardage, Executive Editor

Silver: Westways, Elizabeth Harryman, Travel Editor; John Lehrer, Editor-in-Chief

Bronze: Outside, Abraham Streep, Senior Editor

Category 4: U.S./Canada Travel Article (121)

Gold: John Flinn, “In Bay of Fundy, the Tides They Are a Changin’,” San Francisco Chronicle

Silver: Andrei Codrescu, “Ten Reasons to Visit New Orleans,” The Rotarian

Bronze: Wayne Curtis, “Main Street Takes a New Turn,” Via

Category 5: Foreign Travel Article (136)

Gold: Peter Gwin, “The Telltale Scribes of Timbuktu,” National Geographic Magazine

Silver: Steve Hendrix, “Austria’s Zillertal, an Alpine Valley of Great Skiing and Domestic Fun,”

The Washington Post

Bronze: Robert Draper, “The Call of Crete,” Virtuoso Life

Category 6: Photo Illustration of Travel (74)

Gold: Karla Gachet and Ivan Kashinsky, “The Road Less Traveled in South America,” Afar

Silver: Carolyn Drake, “The Spirit of Istanbul,” Afar

Bronze: Andy Isaacson, “Amazon Awakening,” The New York Times

Category 7: Special Package/Project (42)

Gold: Christopher Reynolds, “Southern California Close-ups,” Los Angeles Times print/online

Silver: Mark Boster, “Yosemite in Four Seasons,” Los Angeles Times print/online/other media

Bronze: Andrew Evans, “Bus2Antarctica,” National Geographic Traveler print/online/multimedia

Category 8: Cruise Travel (42)

Gold: Jill Schensul, “Back Channels of Eastern Europe,” The Record (Hackensack, NJ)

Silver: Jad Davenport, “Galapagos: Does Darwin’s Laboratory Still Hold a Lesson for the World?” Islands

Bronze: Craille Maguire Gillies, “In Praise of Slow,” Canadian Geographic

Category 9: Adventure Travel (65)

Gold: Rowan Jacobsen, “Heart of Dark Chocolate,” Outside

Silver: James R. Petersen, “The Long Road,” Playboy

Bronze: Michael McRae, “Rolling With Thunderbolt,” Outside

Category 10: Travel News/Investigative Reporting (22)

Gold: Joshua Hammer, “A Mountain of Trouble,” Outside

Silver: Gary Stoller, “Are These Batteries the Next Threat to Flier Safety?” USA Today

Bronze: Nancy Trejos and Andrea Sachs, “Amtrak Ridership Is Up, But Passengers Grouse

About Frequent Delays,” The Washington Post

Category 11: Service-Oriented Consumer Article (87)

Gold: Dan Askin, “The Free Cruise Offer: Scam or Legit?” Cruisecritic.com

Silver: Carol Pucci, “Travelers Lose as Airlines, Online Sites Square Off,” The Seattle Times

Bronze: Maria Lenhart, “Labor Pains: How Should Meeting Planners Deal With Hotel Union Disputes?” Meetingsfocus.com

Category 12: Environmental Tourism (44)

Gold: Melanie Radzicki McManus, “On the Backs of Giants,” Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Silver: Kim Brown Seely, “Out of the Mist,” Virtuoso Life

Bronze: Gregory Dicum, “Peru’s Lovely Bones,” Afar

Category 13: Cultural Tourism (93)

Gold: Daisann McLane, “Ghosts of Hong Kong,” National Geographic Traveler

Silver: Edward Readicker-Henderson, “Acoustic Venice,” Islands

Bronze: Andy Isaacson, “Amazon Awakening,” The New York Times

Category 14: Personal Comment (114)

Gold: April Orcutt, “Loneliness the Same in Any Language,” San Francisco Chronicle

Silver: Gary Warner, “Stepping Behind Enemy Lines at a Tiny Japanese Bar,” The Orange County Register

(Santa Ana, CA)

Bronze: Don George, “Making Roof Tiles in Peru,” Reece: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler

Category 15: Special-Purpose Travel (110)

Gold: Margo Pfeiff, “The Last Hike with Philip,” Explore magazine

Silver: Lawrence Osborne, “Drinking in Islamabad,” Playboy

Bronze: Brian Mockenhaupt, “The Other Side of the Mountain,” Outside

Category 16: Short Article on Travel (79)

Gold: Nathan Myers, “Little Nibblers,” Islands

Silver: Don George, “The Aerogramme and the Email,” Gadling.com

Bronze: Jeannie Ralston, “The Dinner Hour,” National Geographic Traveler

Category 17: Travel Book (18)

Gold: Vanessa Woods, “Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo,” Gotham Books

Silver: Ian McNulty, “Louisiana Rambles: Exploring America’s Cajun and Creole Heartland,”

University Press of Mississippi

Bronze: Julian Smith, “Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure,”

HarperCollins Publishers

Category 18: Guidebook (36)

Gold: Sara Benson, coordinating author, and team, “USA’s Best Trips: 99 Themed Itineraries Across America,” Lonely Planet

Silver: J.W. Ocker, “The New England Grimpendium: A Guide to Macabre and Ghastly Sites,”

The Countryman Press

Bronze: Ayun Halliday, “Zinester’s Guide to NYC: The Last Wholly Analog Guide to NYC,”

Microcosm Publishing

Category 19: Online Travel Journalism Sites (13)

Gold: Traveler.NationalGeographic.com, National Geographic Traveler, Keith Bellows, Editor-in-Chief; Jerry Sealy, Art and Web Director; Kathie Gartrell, Managing Editor, e-Publishing

Silver: MatadorNetwork.com, Matador, David Miller, Senior Editor; Julie Schwietert Collazo, Managing Editor

Bronze: BudgetTravel.com, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, Nina Willdorf, Editor-in-Chief; Lisa Schneider, General Manager digital; Laura Michonski, Deputy Editor online

Category 20: Travel Broadcast – Audio (15)

Gold: Rick Steves, “Travel with Rick Steves,” on radio

Silver: Willie Weir, Spain/Portugal Commentaries, “Weekday,” KUOW Public Radio, Seattle

Bronze: Joseph Rosendo, “Ireland – The West Is the Best,” Travelscope.net podcast and radio

Category 21: Travel Broadcast – Video (18)

Gold: Susan McNally, Richard Bangs, John Givens, “Richard Bangs’ Adventures With Purpose/Hong Kong: Quest for the Dragon,” American Public Television

Silver: Joseph Rosendo and Julie Rosendo, “Thailand – From Golden Triangle to White Sands,” KQED/PBS stations

Bronze: Rick Steves, “Rick Steves’ Europe – Season Six,” American Public Television

Category 22: Travel Blog (25)

Gold: Rick Steves, Blog Gone Europe, ricksteves.com/blog

Silver: Brad A. Johnson, food and travel journalist, Brad A. Johnson, the blog, blog.bradajohnson.net

Bronze: Ben Mutzabaugh, Today in the Sky, USAToday.com

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