Las Vegas (May 20, 2005) — Justin Heckert, BJ ’02, was named Writer of the Year by the City and Regional Magazine Association (CRMA) in its 20th Annual National Awards competition May 16 at the group’s annual conference in Las Vegas.
This is not the first such award for Heckert; he took second place awards for Best Feature Story in the 2000 and 2001 Associated Press Sports Editors national competitions, as well as an honorable mention with Wright Thompson in 2000 for Best News Story.
CRMA president Marian Conicella made the presentation to Heckert in the ballroom of the Las Vegas Hilton following the Monday night awards gala which concluded the magazine association’s four-day national convention.
Heckert is an “uncommonly observant and sensitive reporter,” said judges, “who finds nuances in his subject’s most ordinary actions, divining meaning from them and then portraying them in vivid, poetic language. The effect is one of extraordinary honesty and understanding.”
“Heckert demonstrates a kind of fearlessness, a willingness to explore complex emotions. As in real life, the reader comes away not with an easy answer but with the kind of full understanding of all the hard complexities that leaves you thinking. It’s that kind of writing that stays with a reader.”
A staff writer with Atlanta Magazine, Heckert graduated with a degree in magazine journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2002. While in the school he won the top James D. Atwater Memorial Writing Prize, as well as the Don Romero Writing Prize, Tom Duffy Writing Prize and Sam Bronstein Award. He worked as a staff writer and editor at Vox magazine, and covered sports for the Columbia Missourian.
“Justin was fortunate to be in with a group of classmates who all valued writing and all worked hard to improve, not just in the classroom but on their own,” said Daryl Moen, one of Heckert’s J-School professors. “This informal students writers’ group taught each other, challenged each other, made each other better. In my writing class, he loved talking about writing and loved writing. He talked to some of the writers we studied. Since then, I’ve used a couple of his articles in this class as examples. The cycle continues.”
“Justin has such an affection for the written word. He reads a lot and is always studying contemporary and classic writers,” added Jennifer Moeller. “One of the things that I really admired about him as a student was that he wanted to take risks with his writing. At Atlanta Magazine, he has found a real home for his writing. They let him take risks and give him the real estate to develop beautiful narrative stories.”
“Justin was one of the most naturally gifted writers among an uncommonly strong group of writers I taught at the Missourian, but his true talent bloomed when he learned how to report a story and back up his writing with an obvious sense of truth,” said Greg Mellen, a reporter at the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Mellen was Heckert’s sports editor of the Columbia Missourian. “After reading Justin’s stories, you felt that he and you understood the subject in ways you hadn’t expected. The results could be startling or devastating. And he had an ability every so often to hit you with just an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous phrase that would make a poet proud.”
Heckert completed an internship in the sports department of the Los Angeles Times in 2001 and upon graduation in ’02 interned for ESPN The Magazine in Manhattan, before accepting a position with Atlanta Magazine in 2003. He has continued to write feature and front-of-book articles for ESPN.
The association’s 20-year-old competition garnered more than 850 entries from magazines across North America. In all, 24 different magazines won gold, silver, or bronze awards, including Atlanta Magazine, which took six awards, including three gold.
“Who could be surprised by Justin’s success? Anyone who knew his writing at the J-School knew he was headed for great things, said retiring professor Don Ranly. “I think I have read everything he has written in Atlanta Magazine. What a talent!”
Updated: April 7, 2020