Yahoo! Contributor Network is proud to present the winners of our 2011 Yahoo! Contributor Awards for Content of the Year!
How do you choose the five best pieces of content among thousands? Nominations poured in throughout December 2011 for our Content of the Year Awards. All through January, we enjoyed reading each piece our community had designated as among the most powerful, well-executed, meaningful, useful, original, inspiring, and moving. In the end, five pieces stood out. On its own, each is an extraordinary article. Together, they serve to demonstrate what happens when exceptional writers have the opportunity to amplify their voice in front of the world's largest audiences.
And the winners are...
Sometimes a story is so unusual that it travels around the world seemingly in a split second. That was the case when Sean told the story of a package, delivered 67 years late, that came just in time to comfort his grandmother in her last weeks of life. It began with a call on what would have been the 92nd birthday of Bonnie Adriance's late husband. The story Sean wrote ends with a touching message, but the story of his story continued: The piece was among the first Yahoo! Contributor Network articles found worthy of a coveted feature slot on the Yahoo! front page. The Yahoo! audience responded by sharing it thousands of times through social media. The story has been read by millions. Sean's grandparents may have passed on, but their story will continue to inspire and comfort others across the globe.
Every journalist dreams of reporting an event that changes the world, but the most powerful stories are often those that change the writer. Patricia Campion's recounting of her serendipitous meeting with a group of dedicated volunteers leaves no doubt in the reader's mind that the person most deeply affected was Patricia herself. "Troop greeters," many of them veterans, stand watch in Bangor, Maine, for planes filled with young soldiers returning from deployment. They shake every hand (and a few paws). The count was over 1.2 million troops welcomed when Patricia published her story in August 2011. The experiences that inspired her winning article changed Patricia, and her skillful retelling passes the same inspiration and emotion on to her audience.
The sports scandal of 2011 unfolded at Zac's alma mater. The legendary and "seemingly eternal" Joe Paterno was removed from his post as head coach, disgraced by accusations of inaction as children were allegedly sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky. Zac walks his audience through the emotional roller coaster affecting Penn State University students and alumni, whose devotion to their beloved coach was unparalleled (and even led to riots and demonstrations demanding the reinstatement of "Joe Pa"). Zac's story is both deeply personal and widely relevant. He has no sympathy for "apologists," but asks for the understanding and patience of those baffled by Penn's allegiance to Paterno. Even readers who aren't sports fans can relate to the fall of a hero and the sense of loss for those who loved him.
We urge new contributors to "tell the stories that only you can tell," and that's exactly what Ellen did when she composed this useful one-of-a-kind article drawing on her experiences with orangutans, tigers, and other exotic beasts. Who knew that you could help your anxious dog by treating him more like a zoo monkey? Or entertain a bored cat in the same way your local zoo amuses polar bears? From Ellen's depth of knowledge to her witty, relatable voice, she's a writer you can't help but enjoy reading. The award goes to a piece applicable to nearly any pet owner, but an honorable mention also goes to "5 Reasons Being a Zookeeper Will Make Me a Better Parent." Just try to read it without a giggle!
As Americans paused to commemorate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of a decade earlier, we asked contributors and Yahoo! News readers outside of our community to tell us how 9/11 changed them. Lila told of being a teenager evacuated from a prestigious New York City high school three blocks from the Twin Towers. In the weeks after 9/11, students were herded back to classrooms without adequate protection against environmental hazards created by the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. Lila's story grips you with powerful, sparse prose that takes the reader back to the confusion and fear of 9/11, then demonstrates, through Lila's own choices as founder of StuyHealth, how one can move forward from a tragedy by advocating for others.
We asked each winner for a brief "acceptance speech" to reflect on their victory...
Sean Durity: I am excited to accept this award for 2011 Content of the Year! I first want to thank my grandparents, Glenn and Bonnie Adriance, whose lifetime commitment made the article possible. I thank Bill, the postman, for going beyond his job description to deliver the photo. I thank my wife, Melanie, who encourages me to write and gives me time for it.
Finally, I must thank God. He is the one who enables me to write. He has written so much truth, love, and forgiveness into my life. The Scriptures are my ultimate inspiration. My goal is to reflect His eternal story in my writing. If any of my work does that, the credit is all His.
That this award comes from my article "Bangor, Maine, Is Site of Moving Thank You to U.S. Service Men, Women" makes this more a moment of humility than one of pride. To have had the privilege of taking part in such a powerful experience is one I will never forget. The "coin" Larry Bridgham gave me has been in my pocket every day since.
Therefore, I dedicate this award to the brave men and women of the United States military, past and present, and to the families who have waited for them to come home, to the Maine Troop Greeters for their extraordinary allegiance to our service men and women and their determination to personally shake the hand of each and every one of them in thanks for the sacrifices they have made, which ultimately make all achievements for the rest of us possible.
I thank Yahoo! for opening the door, my fellow contributors for keeping me company along the way, and "Tom" for pestering me relentlessly to walk through the door in the first place.
It has been an amazing journey.
I joined YCN in February of 2011, and it's been such a great adventure. I am a hobby writer, not a full-time freelancer, but I've still received a ton of fantastic opportunities. I've made many new friends and improved myself as a writer. Thank you to all my fans and everyone who has read my articles and helped me along the way!
Oh, no, wait. I mean I’d like to thank Yahoo!.
In all seriousness, I’m extremely honored to be among the winners for this year's Yahoo! Contributor Awards. Yahoo! has provided a really valuable service to readers and writers by providing this forum.
My article discusses the health impact of 9/11 on members of the lower Manhattan community. I wrote it because it is an important part of the story of 9/11, one that often gets forgotten or overlooked. Thankfully, Yahoo! Contributor Network made sure that on this most recent anniversary, it was not. In fact, there were many “forgotten” stories of 9/11 gathered on Yahoo! Contributor Network in September. I would know: I spent hours clicking through the site and reading them. I was glad that there was somewhere I could do this.