Print, Photography and Online Judges

Chairperson: Wendi C Thomas, The Commercial Appeal

Heidi Carr is a professor at the University of Miami’s School of Communication. Before joining the faculty full time this year, she was an editor and writer for the Miami Herald for nearly 20 years. Carr, 29, is the mother of three: collies Foxy and Farrah, and American bulldog Cosmo. This is her third year as a Headliners judge.

Terry Collins is a reporter for the Associated Press in San Francisco. He previously worked for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This is his second year as a Headliners judge.

Paul D’Ambrosio is the director of news and investigations for the Asbury Park Press. His work has won numerous national prizes including three Headliner awards, three APME awards and the Selden Ring award for investigative reporting, and was a Pulitzer finalist for Public Service. He can be found most days wandering the Jersey beaches looking for lost treasure.

Nia Hightower works in digital communications at Georgetown University. She has spent more than 15 years as a print journalist for daily newspapers and as a writer, editor and multimedia producer in the nonprofit and higher education sectors.

Richard G. Jones teaches journalism at the University of Delaware. Before beginning his career as an educator, he spent 15 years in the newsroom working as a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times. He is a graduate of Columbia’s Journalism School and he has also taught at Rutgers University, New York University and the University of Maryland, where hi is also a doctoral candidate.

Christi Shain spent 25 years running city desks at The Charlotte Observer, The (Columbia, SC) State and The Myrtle Beach Sun News. She is a freelance writer and web editor in South Carolina, her favorite holiday is summer, and now she only runs for fun.

Sheila Solomon is a part-time recruiter for Journatic and a new member of Rivet News Radio. She has also worked for the Daily Press, Newsday, The Charlotte Observer and Chicago Tribune. Dance music and great restaurants are among her favorite pastimes.

Ernie Suggs is a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Previously, he has worked for Gannett Westchester-Newspapers and the Durham Herald-Sun. He is a 2009 Harvard University Nieman Fellow and the former Vice President of the National Association of Black Journalists.

John Sweeney is the editorial page editor at the Wilmington News-Journal.

Wendi C. Thomas is the metro columnist at The Commercial Appeal. She has been a reporter or editor at The Indianapolis Star, Charlotte Observer and The Tennessean. In 2010, she won second place in Headliner Awards for local columns. Her homemade lemon pound cake is divine.

Mark Washburn is a writer and columnist for The Charlotte Observer.

Kathleen Woodruff Wickham is an associate professor of journalism at The University of Mississippi. She previously worked as a reporter at The Star-Ledger and the Atlantic City Press. Her current research focuses on press coverage during the civil rights era in the South. She likes to read, travel and on cold winter Sundays bake bread.

Leslie Wilkinson was most recently managing editor of Turner Broadcasting’s NASCAR.com. Prior to her work in the digital space, Leslie worked at the Los Angeles Times and The Charlotte Observer, as an assistant design director and a technologist focused on content management systems. She currently lives in Atlanta and is looking for her next full-time adventure.

TV and Broadcast Judges

Chairperson: Carl Hausmann, Rowan University journalism professor

Alan Foster is an adjunct professor of English at Millersville University.

Phil Benoit is an adjunct professor of English at Millersville University.

Al Gardner is a radio personality at 730 AM, Charlotte, NC

Tom Taylor is an independent journalist, partner at RTK Media, Inc.

Former Judges

Nick Oza was a dedicated journalist and a judge of the competition’s photography, video and graphics categories since 2015. Please read our Tribute to Nick and see his photography.