TN wins statewide press awards

Published 8:17 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NORFOLK—The Tidewater News won 13 awards, including Best in Show for presentation, in the Virginia Press Association’s 2008 News, Editorial and Photo Contest.

In the Sweepstakes competition, which recognizes overall excellence, The Tidewater News finished third among 51 midsize non-dailies in the commonwealth.

The awards were presented Saturday night at the press association’s annual news meeting.

“The recognition from our peers is gratifying,” said Publisher Steve Stewart. “The awards reflect our news staff’s efforts to produce a first-rate community newspaper for our readers. For perspective, our newspaper won one award in the same competition in 2006. We’ve come a long way — and we will keep working to get better.”

The Best in Show award recognized The Tidewater News’ “general makeup” as the best presentation among all non-dailies in the state. Of the pages designed by Managing Editor Jena Passut, Community Editor Cynthia Britt and former Editor Paul McFarlane, the judges wrote: “Excellent, clean design. The paper is easy to navigate. Clear, dominant package on front page tells the reader, ‘Look at this.’ Effective use of left rail — really good info in it.”

Stewart won first place in Column Writing.

“These columns touch on political elements but also have a strong human element,” the judges wrote. “The writer is empathetic and shows a wide range of knowledge.”

Staff writer Charlie Passut won second place for Breaking News Writing. The judges commended his coverage of last fall’s announcement that Southampton Correctional Center near Capron would close. “Good quotes, well written,” the judges wrote.

McFarlane won first place for Lifestyle or Entertainment Pages and Informational Graphics, second place for Front Page and Business and Financial Writing, and third place for Editorial Page and Sports Pages.

“Excellent use of graphics to inform readers as well as visually interesting,” the judges wrote of the newspaper’s Life page. “The ‘Know Your Neighbor’ section is a great idea!”

Of the TN’s sports pages, the judges wrote: “Probably the best, cleanest design of the bunch. Nuggets of info down the left-hand column of the front page combined well with the front-page packages.”

The TN’s editorial page was commended for “good layout” and “good column writing,” including the “Publisher’s Notebook,” written weekly by Stewart.

Former staff writer R.E. Spears III, who is now managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald, took first place for Combination Picture & Story for his coverage of last spring’s National Day of Prayer. “Photos captured the emotion of the event and blended well with the story,” the judges wrote.

Spears also won third place in Public Safety Writing. “Good straightforward reporting without forgetting the human element,” the judges wrote.

In the Sweepstakes competition, The Tidewater News earned 26 points, trailing only The Eastern Shore News of Accomac and The Page News & Courier of Luray in Non-Daily Group 2, which includes 51 newspapers with paid circulations between 6,000 and 12,999.