Choosing the Best Yankee Stories of the Year

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Each November the City and Regional Magazine Association asks editors of its nearly 70 member publications to choose the best stories, photo essays, designs, covers, and Web content produced that year. I love doing it — it’s a chance to revisit an entire year’s efforts by everyone I work with, including freelance writers, photographers, and bloggers — all the creative people who make Yankee a magazine and a Web site like no other.

But it’s also a hard time. It’s like looking over hundreds of photographs of your children and being asked to choose a dozen favorites.

2011 Covers

2011 Covers

Here’s what I do. I take each issue and read it cover to cover as if I were seeing it for the first time. It’s a delicious way to spend an afternoon in November, with the light fading by 4:00, and then when everyone leaves for the day, I’m still surrounded by all these Yankee stories and photos and wonderful Web features.

Here are some of my children, as it were, for 2011. The envelopes, please … (Here’s where a hushed tension grips the room …)

Fresh From the Orchard

Fresh From the Orchard from the September/October 2011 issue

For best food writing, I entered Amy Traverso’s wonderful “Fresh from the Orchard” from the September/October issue. If you love apples, you come away from this story with knowledge, recipes, and a desire to find some. Right away.

For reporting, I found Ben Hewitt’s “Battle Lines” from the current November/December issue to be the most lucid and most personal accounts of an environmental fight that has been the leading story in New Hampshire this year. All issue stories come down to finding people through which to tell the tale, and Ben Hewitt succeeded. We’ve received more letters praising his evenhanded reporting than for any other story we published this year.

The Restorer

The Restorer from the January/February 2011 Issue

Ian Aldrich’s “The Restorer” in our January/February issue was one of the best profiles I read in any magazine all year, as he recounted Jon Wilson’s determination to bridge the terrible emotional gulf between victim and victimizer.

Joining that story as a dual entry for best profile was Justin Shatwell’s riveting “The Memory/Keeper” in March/April. Readers learned of Joe Manning’s growing obsession with tracking down the descendants of millworkers, once the subject of Lewis Hine’s searing portraits a century ago.

Summer on the Lake

Summer on the Lake from the July/August 2011 issue

One of our photo essay nominations is “Summer on the Lake,” Richard Schultz’s portrayal of a week on Maine’s Sebago Lake, where days seem to drift with the lapping of water on shore, and children form lifetime bonds.

None of these decisions came easy. How do you choose one terrific blog from among so many? How do you choose one travel story that makes you tingle with wanting to go to that place, over another that does the same?

We send out these and another dozen entries in a few days. In a few months the City and Regional Magazine judges will let us know whether they agree that in 2011, some of the best journalism in print and on the Web, both written and visual, came from this office in Dublin, New Hampshire. I hope they do. I think they will.


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