Virginia’s best

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ROANOKE—The Tidewater News was named Virginia’s best midsize weekly newspaper in the Virginia Press Association’s 2009 News, Editorial and Photo Contest.

Competing against 53 other non-daily newspapers with circulations between 5,000 and 10,000, The Tidewater News won the Sweepstakes Award, which recognizes excellence in writing, photography, presentation and multimedia journalism.

It is the first time in the newspaper’s history that it has won the Virginia Press Association’s highest honor.

The award was presented Saturday night at a banquet in Roanoke.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our staff,” said Publisher Steve Stewart. “They come to work every day with a commitment to excellence and serving our readers. To be deemed the best in our class by a jury of peers is most gratifying.

“We are blessed to serve a terrific community. Covering the news here is a privilege made possible by our loyal readers, without whom we wouldn’t exist. We were proud to bring this statewide honor home to Franklin.”

The TN staff won 16 awards in all in the contest, including five first-place honors.

The newspaper’s team coverage — led by staff writers Charlie Passut and Nicholas Langhorne — of International Paper Co.’s October announcement that it would close Franklin’s paper mill received top honors in Breaking News Writing.

“The reporters did a good job getting the important facts at the top of the story and personalizing the impact of the day’s events,” the contest judges wrote. “Nice work throughout the package.”

Passut won third place in the same category for his coverage of a similar announcement about IP’s sawmill a few months earlier. A graphic accompanying the story took second place in Informational Graphics.

Stewart won first place in Editorial Writing, earning praise from the judges for his “clear, concise opinions.”

Passut won first place and second place in Informational Graphics.

Passut won second place in Feature Story Writing for an article on coyote sightings in Southampton County.

“Crisp writing keeps reader on edge,” the judges wrote.

Passut also won second place in Feature Photography for a shot taken at the Franklin-Southampton County Fair, second place in Illustrations for an editorial cartoon about local news events in 2008, and third place in Pictorial Photo.

Passut and Langhorne teamed with former Managing Editor Jena Passut to win second place in In-Depth or Investigative Reporting for their series commemorating the 10th anniversary of the flood of 1999.

“This story is clearly the result of a labor of love,” the judges wrote. “You truly left no stone unturned. The graphics alone tell a compelling story that breathes life into the piece in a unique way. There was a great mixture of quotes from citizens that gave me an understanding of this devastation. Overall the piece was well organized and consistent.”

An accompanying graphic by Charlie Passut won first place in Informational Graphics.

Jena Passut also won first place in Feature Writing Portfolio and Page Design, second place in Editorial Page, and third place in Health, Science and Environmental Writing; Front Page; and Lifestyle/Entertainment Pages.