March 30, 2007

VPA results


Last weekend, our state press assocation held its annual editorial awards banquet in Norfolk. It's always a fun weekend getaway, with the chance to see the top print journalism in a state that includes the Washington Post and the Virginian Pilot.

This year was even more exciting, as my staff and I combined to win 16 individual awards. Of those, eight were first place, four were second place, and four were third place. Those awards earned points toward one of the biggest awards of the night -- the sweepstakes award. For the first time since 1988, our newspaper won the sweepstakes award at last weekend's banquet.

Winning that is a big deal, and our sister newspaper won the sweepstakes in its category, making an even bigger statement in the commonwealth.

Allow me to explain a little more of the award's importance.

During the banquet, thousands of individual awards are given out. Diners babble on, paying little attention to the goings-on, except when they are getting awards or when sister publications are getting their awards. But when it comes time for the sweepstakes awards, the hundreds of attendees get quiet, and everyone waits to hear the seven sweepstakes winners.

Specialty (magazines, monthlies) publications compete for one sweepstakes award. There are two sweepstakes for daily newspapers, based on circulation, and four for weeklies, also based on circulation.

First-place awards earn three points; second, two; third, one. We totaled 36 points, with half of our awards being first-place awards. By my count, our closest competition had 31 points. Our category, weeklies with a circulation less than 5,000, has 44 newspapers in it.

To be eligible for the sweepstakes award, the newspaper must earn points in writing categories, photography categories, and presentation categories. There's also a category for new media awards, but it's not required for sweepstakes.

Before we were named the winner, the emcee announced that we had the highest points totals in two of the three required categories -- writing and presentation.

Our redesign helped propel the latter category.

Personally, I won three awards, and I shared one with my staff. They are listed below, along with the judges' comments.

First place -- government writing
A man after my own heart - I loved scooping a seven-day daily - you will go places. Very readable, insightful, just all around good stories. I read them all and didn't want them to end. Very good work!

First place -- spot news writing
Local daily and TV brief brought to life. Good interviewing skills and obviously a lot of reader interest. The cream in a very tough category.

First place -- Headline writing
You can't compete with "Rubber Ducks Stuck."

First place (with staff) -- General makeup
Redesigned issues won this for you. Great decisions. Well organized, "Inside this Week" feature on front is great addition. Opinion page is well designed.

"General makeup" has nothing to do with our use of cosmetic powders. The category involves everything that goes into the newspaper -- usability, interest, appearance, etc.

It requires participants to submit four entire newspapers -- two from specific dates and two of the submitting paper's choice. The two required dates were before our redesign. We chose two post-redesign issues for the other two, and I included an explanation of the redesign in my comments to the judges.

Not every award included judges' comments, but the rest of the judges' comments for our winners are listed below.

Solid, conversational writing - drew the reader into the story. The "fire" story was descriptive and tugged at the reader's heart strings a bit.

Three very well-written stories, featuring a focal point and plenty of relevant and artfully detailed color. "Virginia" does what good features do best: Paint a picture while telling a story.

This paper had the best overall coverage with several sports featured on section fronts. Clear, large photos enhanced overall appearance of section. Perhaps less focus on NASCAR, as it is a local paper.

Great series developed from meeting coverage. Covers all aspects of the elusive coyote from trouble for farmers to unique ways to guard against problems.

Exceptional lead, well-written and concise article.

Solid story with interesting details. The piece contains a lot of information but doesn't get boring.

The addition of local jobs is important but the competition between American and Chinese apples is probably equally important. The article is well-written and informative, but may have been better-suited as two articles - one about gatorade and one about apples.

A peek inside some families who have home schooling was interesting to most readers who aren't familiar with this new trend. The only thing missing was the impact on public school systems -- but then, maybe that's another series.

Posted by JRC at March 30, 2007 11:14 AM | TrackBack