Washington City Paper, finalists in five of the highest-circulation categories for the 2009 Association for Alternative Newsweeklies Awards, has been named the first-place winner in three of them: arts criticism, media reporting/criticism, and innovation/format buster. In addition, this blog received second-place honors and staff photographer Darrow Montgomery, who received honorable mention in the 2008 awards, was named as the third-place winner for photography at the annual convention, where winners are announced each year. More about the first-place winners:

For the second year in a row, contributor Jeffry Cudlin won the arts criticism category for his work, which this year included the following: “Pine of the Times” about the Martin Puryear retrospective at the National Gallery of Art, “Sheet Smart” about the Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibit at the Phillips Collection, and “Pain by Numbers,” a wrap-up of what D.C. museums did and didn’t offer in 2008.

Editor Erik Wemple won first place for media reporting/criticism with his cover story “One Mission, Two Newsrooms” about the Washington Post‘s struggle to bridge the cultural and geographic divide between its print and online operations.

In the elusive “innovation/format buster” category, the cover story some loved and others hated—-“Washington City Paper Files for Chapter 86 Content Bankruptcy“—- also took home first-place honors. The piece by Wemple, Managing Editor Andrew Beaujon, and Asst. Managing Editor Jule Banville was written and presented in the form of a legal document spoofing both the changing nature of City Paper‘s journalism and and the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by our paper’s owners, Creative Loafing.

Creative Loafing’s Atlanta paper received second-place honors in the feature category for the first-person account, “Sober,” by Thomas Wheatley. The Chicago Reader, also our sister paper, received two second-place awards. Ann Ford was so honored in the arts feature category for “Life Without a Script” and columnist Ben Jarovsky‘s “The Works” was named in the column (political) category

The AAN Awards are open to its 130 member papers. Most of the altweeklies in U.S. cities (plus a few in Canada) enter the contest each year. This year, the top all-time AAN Award winner, the L.A. Weekly, led the pack with four first-place awards. In the 14-year history of the awards, Washington City Paper has won the second-most overall awards in the top-circulation categories: 51.