Print, Photography and Online Judges

Chairperson: Chrysti Shain

Chrysti Shain​ spent 25 years running metro desks at newspapers in the Carolinas, including The Charlotte Observer, The (Columbia, S.C.) State and The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News. She spent eight years as a travel writer and editor before working as a public information officer for the S.C. Department of Social Services. She is now Director of Communications for the S.C. Department of Corrections. She is an avid, yet slow runner and has survived two marathons. She’s been a Headliner judge on and off since 2002, and this is her ninth year serving as chairman of the judges’ panel.

Neill Borowski is editor/owner of 70and73.com, a digital news website covering several towns in South Jersey. He held a variety of reporting and editing positions over 21 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was a Pulitzer finalist, winner of the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard University and winner of IRE national awards. He was executive editor of The Press of Atlantic City and also top editor for three Gannett papers in Binghamton, Elmira and Ithaca, New York. He also worked as assistant managing editor/local news at the Indianapolis Star and managing editor of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.

Nicole Brodeur was part of the team that won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News at The Seattle Times for the killing of four officers in Lakewood, Wash. She is now the Chief Storyeller for Microsoft’s Customer Service and Support Story Desk. In her days as a reporter and columnist she interviewed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Courtney Love.

Peter Brophy is founder /editor of strongerwords.com, an online service that provides low-cost editing and proofreading to individuals and small businesses. His career includes stints as executive editor of The Press of Atlantic City and as an editor at the Daily Racing Form. His early career was spent as a sports writer, and he collected various writing awards including an Associated Press Sports Editors national award for his coverage of baseball’s Pete Rose.

Sharif Durhams is a deputy managing editor at The Washington Post. He rejoined The Post in 2022 after serving as managing editor at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. He is also national president of NLGJA: the Association of LGBTQ Journalists.

Bert Fox is a retired visual journalism director whose last stop in his 40-year career was the Charlotte Observer. He was a photo editor and magazine art director at the Philadelphia Inquirer, a photo editor for National Geographic Magazine and began his career as a newspaper photographer in the Northwest, where he was born and raised. His awards include five times named Photo Editor of the Year in the University of Missouri “Pictures of the Year” competition. He has edited the photos of Pulitzer Prize Feature Photography winners and the portfolios of “Pictures of the Year” Magazine Photography winners and Newspaper Photography winners.

Trudi Gilfillian is currently the Accountability and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Editor at the Asbury Park Press. Trudi has worked as a reporter and opinion editor in newsrooms in Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina. She has also served as a college media adviser at Penn State and Oregon State. 

Steve Gunn is a retired journalist. In his 44 years in journalism, he worked as an editor for news organizations in Texas, New York, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia. His final post was as editor of The Virginian-Pilot and he now lives in Norfolk, Va.

Candy Hatcher, a native of North Carolina, worked for seven newspapers around the country, from Florida to Seattle to Chicago to Virginia and South Carolina. In her 40-year career, she was a reporter, editor, editorial writer and columnist. She now lives in Beaufort, S.C.

Dawn Kujawa spent more than 30 years in newspapers, serving in a variety of design, writing, and editing roles. Today, she is the public information officer for a school district in one of South Carolina’s fastest growing counties.

Elaine Matsushita was a features section editor at the Chicago Tribune, an editor and reporter at The Miami Herald and news editor at The Press of Atlantic City, where her 30-year journalism career began. At the Chicago Tribune, she won a Chicago Tribune Beck Award and attended the Asian American Journalists Association’s Executive Leadership Program.

Carolyn Callison Murray got her journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1976 and spent the next 40+ years as an ink-stained wretch in newsrooms from St. Louis to Los Angeles and finally the Carolinas, where she worked at the Charlotte Observer and The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. She retired/took a buyout in 2015 after four years in the editor’s hot seat. She’s now working way outside her comfort zone on a work of historical fiction about Belle Baruch.

Sheila Solomon’s career has taken her from the newsroom to the boardroom. The award-winning newspaper reporter and editor has worked for numerous newspapers and is now vice chair and cofounder of Journalism Funding Partners, a nonprofit helping to secure grants to support local journalism. Solomon is also chair of the board of directors for City Bureau and strategic alliance manager at Rivet360, both based in Chicago.

Michael Walker is the global executive editor at Bloomberg Media Studios, where he creates videos, podcasts, digital articles and data visualizations for some of the world’s most influential finance and technology companies. Before joining Bloomberg, Michael was a managing editor for the Sports Illustrated Golf Group, where he covered golf around the world as a writer and video producer– breaking major PGA Tour news stories.

Mark Washburn, who has been part of three teams that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, is a semi-retired career journalist from Charlotte, N.C.  He has worked as a columnist and reporter for the Charlotte Observer, which he joined after working as a writer and editor at the Miami Herald. In his two decades with Knight Ridder newspapers, he served as a war correspondent in Iraq and New Orleans bureau chief after Hurricane Katrina.

Larry Wells contributed feature articles to the American Airlines in-flight magazine for more than 20 years, which were circulated by the New York Times syndicate. He co-founded the indie press, Yoknapatawpha Press and published five books by Harper’s magazine editor Willie Morris, among other authors. Wells is the author of two historical novels published by Doubleday. He scripted the television documentary, “Return to the River,” which won an Emmy for Best Regional Documentary. In 2014 he received the Faulkner-Wisdom gold medal for narrative non-fiction at the Words and Music Festival in New Orleans. His memoir In Faulkner’s Shadow was published in 2020 by University Press of Mississippi. 

Dr. Kathleen Wickham is a professor of journalism at The University of Mississippi. She is the author of five books, most recently James Meredith: Breaking the Barrier and numerous academic articles as well as a producer of several documentaries which have aired on Mississippi Public Television. She was recently awarded the Farrar Prize for the best civil rights journal article for “The Magnifying Effect of Television News: Civil Rights Coverage and Eyes on the Prize.” She worked as a professional journalist for 10 years at various newspapers in her native New Jersey with her longest stint at the Newark Star-Ledger  before entering academia. 

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.