Commentary finalist David Leonhardt has been a longtime CJR darling, linked and discussed numerous times, both for his coverage of the bailout and the healthcare debate, done through an exacting financial lens. Ryan Chittum called him a “must read” for a recent March column that persuasively cast the bankers who created the crisis as looters, called another Leonhardt piece on Social Security back in October a “smart column,” and wrote simply, “I like Leonhardt’s column this morning,” way back in 2008. Back in September, Starkman called Leonhardt’s discussion of medical malpractice within the context of the healthcare debate, “deft” , and that he “asked the right question” in another column about the federal bailout that same month.

We missed the chance to highlight eventual winners in some categories entirely, some big – like the inspiring Cinderella story of 28-year-old Daniel Gilbert’s Public Service award for an investigation chronicling the mismanagement of natural-gas royalties owed to thousands of land owners in southwest Virginia, written for the tiny Bristol, Va., Herald Courier - and some of which don’t usually fall under CJR’s gimlet-eyed purview as media critics (not to say there’s any topic too big or too small for us to tackle).

Those misses included dance critic Sarah Kaufman’s winning work in the Criticism category, the Dallas Morning News’ award-winning team in the Editorial Writing category, self-syndicated Editorial Cartooning category winner Mark Fiore for his work for SFGate.com, the winning Feature Photography work of the Denver Post’s Craig F. Walker, and Mary Chind’s award-winning Breaking News Photography for the Des Moines Register – as well as Breaking News Photography finalist, the Associated Press photo staff for their coverage of the war in Afghanistan. But our former staffer, Megan Garber, did note the lack of a good descriptive term for Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s now-famous Hudson River landing of US Airways flight 1549 - and chastised cable news’s breathless coverage of the landing as a “crash”. It turns out the best way to describe the plane’s harrowing fall from the sky wasn’t with words, but with images, which was what clinched the other finalist berth in the Breaking News Photography category for the New York Daily News photo staff. Well done, all.

Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.