WyoFile’s staff pictured in February 2022 in Cheyenne. (Michael Shane Smith)

WyoFile won 26 awards in the 2022 Top of the Rockies journalism contest — more than any other “medium newsroom” publication in the four-state competition. 

The nonprofit news organization’s winnings included six first-place awards, 12 second-place awards and eight third places going to nearly a dozen reporters, photographers and contributors. WyoFile won more awards than any Wyoming newsroom in the contest, which is administered by the Society of Professional Journalists’ Colorado professional chapter. 

“It’s such an honor to get to work with this group every day,” said Chief Executive and Editor Matthew Copeland. “As someone who knows first-hand the level of commitment and professionalism that our journalists bring to the mission, it’s enormously gratifying to see their hard work celebrated this way by our colleagues.”

Seventy-five media outlets plus a dozen freelancers from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico entered this year’s contest. Entrants submitted 1,507 entries, an increase of 15% over the 2021 contest, according to SPJ. 

“Top of the Rockies showcases the best in journalism from 2021, and it is evident that journalists in the four-state region are doing excellent work,” said Deb Hurley Brobst, the contest coordinator. 

WyoFile Natural Resources Reporter Angus M. Thuermer, Jr., Energy Reporter and Report for America Corps Member Dustin Bleizeffer and Managing Editor Katie Klingsporn all won five awards each. This included four top prizes. Thuermer took home first place in the long-form feature category for “‘Defiant Five’ win temporary freedom in wild horse roundup.” Bleizeffer nabbed first in education news for “School districts’ uses of federal relief funds worry lawmakers.” Klingsporn won first place in agriculture and environment feature for “Falcons, a via ferrata and the clash of recreation v. conservation” and first in sports feature for “Climbing conflicts: Forest Service intervenes in Tensleep Canyon.

In notes, a judge called Klingsporn’s falcon coverage “a compelling and narrative-driven series of deep dives into the challenges of balancing outdoor use with conservation.”

The nonprofit also took first place in enterprise reporting for freelancer Cooper McKim’s piece “Whistleblower list names Wyo GOP chair, others as Oath Keepers” and first in feature photography for freelancer Mike Vanata’s “Branding Brio.”

Emery Elliott helps castrate calves during a branding at the Hell & Back Ranch near Douglas. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Other categories WyoFile placed in include social justice, science and technology, politics feature, health feature, climate reporting and beat reporting. WyoFile contributors Joel Funk, Daniel Bendtsen, Rone Tempest and Eda Uzunlar won awards, along with staff reporter Sofia Jeremias, whose start date in early December gave her only a few weeks to produce a qualifying story. 

WyoFile Board President David Evans is thrilled to see the quality of WyoFile’s journalism recognized regionally, he said. Noting WyoFile’s recent newsroom growth — the organization hired three reporters and one editor since December — Evans said he looks forward to continuing progress. “We’re going to get even better,” he said. 

Copeland stressed that the accolades are a direct result and reflection of WyoFile’s foundation: its supporters. 

“Twenty-six awards is flattering, and we’re so grateful, but frankly it can’t hold a candle to 1,594 — the number of members who supported our work last year,” he said. “These honors are, in reality, a celebration of what this community has accomplished together.” 

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  1. Thanks to all the Staff and to the members who support WyoFile its a pleasure to read good and Truthful hard fought Journalism that is hard to find these days !! Keep pressing ON !!!….

  2. Congratulations on your Top of the Rockies awards! You all deserve a fresh set of waterwings for swimming against the current of what passes for “mainstream media” in Wyo. Keep up the good work…

  3. Congratulations. You are among the few sane voices heard in Wyoming. Keep up the good work.

  4. Congratulations, team WyoFile!!
    “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.” – Walter Lippmann (with a nod to Shakespeare)

  5. Congratulations! It is good to see that in depth, non-tabloid reporting on Wyoming’s most important issues pays off. Well done!

  6. Congratulations on awards well-earned. Thank you for excellent reporting that helps WY citizens stay engaged & informed.