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COLUMBIA, Mo.-Winners of the 59th Annual Pictures of the Year International (POYi) Competition, one of the world's largest and most prestigious photojournalism contests, were announced by the Missouri School of Journalism. 

Judges viewed nearly 24,000 photographs submitted by 1,500 newspaper and magazine photographers and editors. A total of 252 awards were given to 175 people in 48 different categories. A panel of 12 of the world's leading photographers and editors made the winning selections during 19 days of judging from Feb. 10 through Feb. 26 on the MU campus. 

Brian Plonka of The Spokesman-Review was named Newspaper Photographer of the Year (NPOY), the competition's top award in the newspaper division. Plonka's competition portfolio included two stories: "Living and Dying in Libby," which showed the effects on townspeople of asbestos poisoning from the W.R. Grace vermiculite mine north of Libby, Montana, and "The Ten Commandments" in which Plonka used documentary images to illustrate the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament. Wally Skalij of the Los Angeles, received second place NPOY. His portfolio contained a story about the rise, fall, and rebirth of June Fairchild, a former Hollywood movie star and a story about the changes in the lives of women in Afghanistan. Barbara Davidson, photographer at the Dallas Morning News received third place NPOY. Her portfolio contained stories about the Palestine/ Israel conflict, about a family who has four children with fragile X syndrome and about the auditions for the Kilgore Rangerettes in Texas. 

James Nachtwey of VII/ TIME Magazine was named Magazine Photographer of the Year (MPOY). His winning portfolio includes stories about Ground Zero on September 11, al-Qaeda forces after the surrender of the Taliban, heroin addiction in Pakistan, border crossings from Mexico into Arizona, and an essay about the recovery of Americans after the September 11 terrorist attacks. John Stanmeyer, also with VII / TIME, received second place MPOY. His work includes stories about Afghan brick makers in Pakistan, Amerasians: The children of sex workers, the health crisis in Afghanistan and the impeachment of the Indonesian president. Stephen Dupont of Contact Press Images, received third place MPOY, and his portfolio contains stories about life in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the problem of stray dogs in Bucharest, India's earthquake in Gujarat, wrestling in Mexico, and the Hindu pilgrimage to Allahabad. 

Gail Fisher of The Los Angeles Times received the Community Awareness Award for her story "Crashing Into Adulthood." Her photographs documented the transition of foster care youths to emancipated adults at age 18 Jan Grarup of Rapho/Stern Magazine, received the World Understanding Award for the story "The Boys From Ramallah" which was published in Stern Magazine. The staff of Hartford Courant won the Angus McDougall Overall Excellence in Editing Award for the second year in a row. Judges sited their continued creative vision and the fact that they take non-visual stories and give them visual interest. Zed Nelson's "Gun Nation" won Best Photography Book. 

The public will choose a single Best Picture of the Year Award. Nominees will be posted online at www.msnbc.com where readers can cast their vote starting March 15. The image with the most votes on April 15 wins the award.

Publications winning the greatest number of awards include TIME magazine with 19, The Hartford Courant with 18, The New York Times with 14, National Geographic Magazine with 14 and the Los Angeles Times with 10. 

The winners will be honored during the annual POYi awards ceremonies and education day, May 10, at National Geographic's Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, D.C. The program will be open to the public. 

Judges included:

J. Bruce Baumann- managing editor, The Evansville Courier & Press
Mark Edelson- presentation editor, The Palm Beach Post
J. Kyle Keener- chief photographer, The Detroit Free Press
Betty Udesen- photographer, The Seattle Times 

Lauren Greenfield- freelance photographer
Bronwen Latimer- director of photography, US News & World Report
Larry Nighswander- visual communications professor, Ohio University
Marcel Saba- Corbis / SABA Press Photos 

Mick Cochran- editor for technology and development,
The Providence Journal Company
Chuck Gathard- director, Intranet Group, CNET Networks Inc.
Monica Moses- visual journalism faculty, The Poynter Institute
Marcia Prouse- director of photography, The Orange County Register 

POYi is sponsored by the Missouri School of Journalism, National Geographic Photographic and Digital Imaging Lab, MSNBC.com, and Fuji Photo Film. The competition is one of the world's largest, oldest and most highly respected photo contests. POYi is the only competition of its kind to be judged in public before an audience of students and professionals. 


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