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article imageDigital Journal announces 'Cover Your Community' contest winners

By Digital Journal Staff     Mar 3, 2010 in Internet is proud to announce the winners of February's "Cover Your Community" contest. Congratulations to Sean O'Flynn-Magee for best feature article and Joseph Boltrukiewicz for best photo essay. Both of them win $250!
The journalism was outstanding, the photos were captivating and the efforts by passionate Digital Journalists did not go unappreciated. But only two people could take home the $250 cash prizes, and they are the winners of's Cover Your Community contest for February.
To recap: This contest asked writers and photojournalists to write about a community, whether their own or from abroad. Two categories were available: A written feature and a photojournalism feature. The contest ran from Feb. 1 to Feb. 28, 2010. Entries were judged on journalistic merit, unbiased reporting, depth of reportage, accuracy, overall structure and composition. gave special consideration to reports that were challenging or difficult to complete.
In total, received 148 entries for the "Cover Your Community" contest in February.
So what articles won?

Best Original Article: Sean O'Flynn-Magee

Throughout Iran  however  young women are increasingly challenging hijab laws. Pants have become tig...
Throughout Iran, however, young women are increasingly challenging hijab laws. Pants have become tighter, manteaus and sleeves shorter, and headscarves are drifting further and further back on the head. At the same time women like the one pictured here, have taken to challenging social norms against being unaccompanied and smoking in public.
Alpha Lam
First, in the written feature category, Sean O'Flynn-Magee, from Vancouver, Canada, took home gold for his excellent report on feminism in Iran.
In his winning article titled "Hijab Politics in Iran," Sean writes, "I'm a man, surrounded by women who are telling me a sad but beautiful tale of resistance. The heroines sitting around me, partially hidden behind cigarette smoke and glasses of strong, dark tea, are united in stubborn refusal to accept the most basic of inequalities." With this descriptive colour and setup, we are introduced to Iranian women who are upset about the patriarchy in their country.
What inspired Sean, 25, to write on this topic? "We constantly hear in the news how Iran is anti-Western, how it's dangerous, but it's not," he says in a phone interview from Tehran. "I wanted to let readers know about how the people of Iran are very different from the government. In fact, they are frustrated with how the government treats them."
Before travelling to Iran, Sean and his partner Alpha also visited Iraq for three weeks and Turkey for two weeks. He was able to find accommodation by taking part in the "couchsurfing" phenomenon, where he stays at people's houses he finds through the CouchSurfing website.
Sean's report caught the eye of Digital Journal editors because of its challenging components; Sean travelled to Iran at a time when Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to Iran. The advisory adds: "Canadians should maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times, as the security situation could deteriorate rapidly without notice." Sean visited an area his government encourages him to ignore, and got information on a very timely topic.
Sean, however, doesn't agree with the Canadian government's warnings about travelling to Iran. Walking through the streets in Iran, Sean admits he's a "walking magnet" because of his skin colour and dreadlocks. As much as he feels like foreigner, he says he feels safe.
When Sean interviewed the women for his article, he noticed "how excited they were to let the Western media know about their situation." He says provides an outlet for these under-reported stories and he credits citizen journalism for combating media concentration.

Best Photo Essay: Joseph Boltrukiewicz

Olympic Tent Village.
Olympic Tent Village.
In the photojournalism section, the winner is Joseph Boltrukiewicz. His winning entry of the early days of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games showcased the most newsworthy event in February. In his winning entry titled "Two hours of life in Vancouver," he was able to capture unique moments, some of them not always glorifying the games, such as a man shooting up drugs with a needle, or a homeless "tent village" in Vancouver.
In a phone interview, Joseph, 56, said, "I enjoy combining the elements of photojournalism, travel and artistic events, and that's what I saw in the Games."
Joseph photographed his subjects during one long walk along the notorious Hastings Street in Vancouver's east side, where celebratory Canadians suddenly shifted to homeless men and drug addicts wandering the area. Overall, he shot 424 photos during this stretch, using a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT.
The Winter Games provided a chance to unite a nation, Joseph says. "What a fantastic mood here in Vancouver! For Canadians to come together and win a record-breaking amount of gold amazing."
You would think Joseph worked as pro photographer for a news outlet, judging by the quality of his work, but when he came to Canada from Poland he became educated as an interactive CD-ROM developer and multimedia designer. Joseph taught himself how to shoot photos, and his dedication paid off: his work was published in the Vancouver alt-weekly Georgia Straight and the tourism magazine Where.
Joseph's future projects for include coverage of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day. With such a large Irish community in Vancouver, there will be ample opportunity to shoot some celebratory pics in an area pub, Joseph says.
Joseph and Sean each win $250 for their hard work, dedication and exemplary reportage. We applaud them for their extra effort and exemplary approach to the craft.
We also want to thank everyone who took part in the contest. Many entries blew us away, both in what they covered and how they covered it.
For anyone who wants to take part in our next citizen journalism contest, check out the details on March's contest called Project: Discover.
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