The DOWNING Journalism Award

Rewarding Journalism Excellence

A recent addition to the roster of prestigious awards offered by Women Writing the West, The DOWNING Journalism Award, recognizes journalism and articles first published in the year prior to the entry period. The inaugural year of 2018 brought substantial submissions, and WWW looks forward to honoring future recipients of this significant award.

The DOWNING Journalism Award application for 2025 will open on January 1, 2025.

Meet 2024 Judge Mona Neeley | Guidelines | Rubric | Past DOWNING Award Winners

I am proud to announce this year’s DOWNING Journalism Award Finalists. Our judge this year, Mona Neeley, said it was tough to pick just one winner! Good job ladies!

The Finalists are:
Kenyon Bennett for “Rowdy Cowboys, Outlaws, and a Blood Feud” Publisher – True West Magazine
Chris Enss for “The Attorney Teacher: Sarah Herring Sorin” Publisher – The Tombstone Epitaph
Kathleen O’Neal Gear and Michael Gear for “Gene-Edited Bison: A Barnyard Revolution? Or a Looming Disaster” Publisher – Bison Review Magazine 

Congratulations to all.
Linda Wommack
DOWNING Journalism Award Chair

Final placing will be presented at the 30th Annual Conference
in Denver, CO, on October 10 – 12, 2024

Kenyon Bennett
“Rowdy Cowboys, Outlaws, and a Blood Feud” Publisher – True West Magazine

Chris Enss
“The Attorney Teacher: Sarah Herring Sorin” Publisher – The Tombstone Epitaph

Kathleen O’Neal Gear and Michael Gear for “Gene-Edited Bison: A Barnyard Revolution? Or a Looming Disaster” Publisher – Bison Review Magazine 

Introducing the 2024 DOWNING Journalism Award Judge
Mona Neeley

Mona Neeley recently retired as publisher and editor of Colorado Country Life magazine, which annually devoted its November issue to reviews of books authored by Colorado authors.

Originally from Iowa, Mona graduated from the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She started her career as a reporter for several local, award-winning Minnesota newspapers eventually becoming a newspaper editor. A career move by her husband brought her to Colorado in the early 1990s where she went to work for Colorado’s electric cooperatives in 1994 overseeing the co-ops’ magazine, Colorado Country Life. In 1997, Mona published the magazine’s first book review issue featuring eight books by Colorado authors. Having always loved to read, it was her way of getting to read some great books as part of her job.

And now she has more time to read, since she retired as publisher and editor of Colorado Country Life in March, after nearly 29 years leading the magazine. 

In 26 years of finding good books by Colorado authors or on Colorado topics to recommend to magazine readers each November, Mona has read hundreds of amazing books, learned so much about her adopted state and come to eagerly anticipate new books from WWW members.

In keeping with the rich history of Women Writing the West, The DOWNING Journalism Award is presented in honor of the late Sybil Downing, a noted journalist and author in Boulder, Colorado, who was also a founding member of Women Writing the West. 

Sybil Downing, founding member of WWW

Sybil Smith Downing graduated as valedictorian of her high school class in 1947. She and her husband, Mancort Downing, moved to Boulder in 1967 where she became active in community affairs, including her local school board. Downing took advantage of “mini classes” at the University of Colorado and received her bachelor’s degree in 1976.

Sybil Downing was the great-granddaughter of U.S. Sen. Thomas Patterson, a one-time owner of the Rocky Mountain News. Consequently, she became a prolific writer for the Rocky Mountain News, focusing her articles about women. She also reviewed books for that paper and later for The Denver Post.

For several years Sybil Downing chaired the Colorado Center for the Book and was dedicated to improving literacy, a cause she was devoted to until her death on November 20, 2011.

When Women Writing the West was formed in 1994, Sybil Downing served as its first president. It is therefore fitting that this new journalism award be named in her honor to further the legacy of Women Writing the West.

We believe that through a working relationship with the various editors of the media WWW will be able to gain added exposure, a new venue in networking, and partnerships that will benefit all. For example, the print media will be able to tout their winning article while WWW gains a new audience and prestigious coverage.


Guidelines for The DOWNING Journalism Award

Magazine or Journal Article – Entries must be a western-themed nonfiction article or essay published in a commercial or literary North American publication.

* Entries must be received January 1 – March 31, 2024
* Entry fee is $25.00.
* Eligible entry topics include farming and ranching, gardening, environmental, geology. animal husbandry, family issues, local and history topics as well as Native American issues and education.
* Entries are open to all, and not limited to WWW members.
* Professional media editors from newspapers, magazines, history journals, etc., not affiliated with WWW, will select the Winner and two Finalists.
* Publication date must be 2023.
* Article must be at least 1000 words and no more than 8,000 words.
* Winner receives a trophy, Finalists receive a certificate. Publishers also receive a certificate.

Entry form and payment will be available online during the entry period. Entry must contain one complete copy of media publication from newspaper or magazine that contains article, as well as three tear sheets or photocopies of said article (must include publication date) to be mailed to:

C/O Linda Wommack
4284 W. Monmouth Ave.
Littleton, CO 80123

View The DOWNING Journalism Award Rubrics Here

For more information, contact The DOWNING Journalism Award Chair, Linda Wommack at [email protected] or phone 303-798-4470

Women Writing the West is pleased to present the Winner and Finalists for The 2023 DOWNING Journalism Award.


Deanna Dickinson McCall for “Rolling With the Punches” published in The Range.


Kathryn Wilder for “Ode to the Rain” published by The Gulch.


Micki Fuhrman for “Pioneering Women Who Filmed the West” published in Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine.

The DOWNING Journalism Award 2022

Kayann Short

Corrine Joy Brown
Carolyn Dufurrena

The DOWNING Journalism Award for 2021

“Wild Women of the West: Jenny Murphy” by Chris Enss

“Living Space” by Susan Tweit.
“Ripple Effect: Will the West Figure Out How to Share Water?” by Sofia Jeremias

The DOWNING Journalism Award for 2020.

The 2020 DOWNING Journalism Award winner is
Roni McFadden for “The Case of the Confounding Cough


Second Place:
Gayle Gresham for “Heart of the Pueblo Chile”

Colorado Country Life

Third Place:
Jan Cleere for “Sharlot Hall Told the Region’s Stories as Writer, Historian”
Arizona Daily Star

The DOWNING Journalism Award Winner and Finalists 2019

The DOWNING Journalism Award Winner and Finalists for 2019

WINNER: Julia Bricklin for “Georgia Ann Hill Robinson” published in California History periodical
FINALIST: Jan Cleere for “Hopi Girl” published in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper
FINALIST: Amy Hale Auker for “Work Song” published in The Center for Basque Studies periodical