Tidewater News shines in statewide contest

Published 8:58 pm Sunday, April 10, 2011

NORFOLK—The Tidewater News again ranked among the state’s top community newspapers, winning a dozen awards, including seven first-place honors, in the Virginia Press Association’s 2010 News, Editorial & Photo Contest.

The Franklin newspaper narrowly missed winning its second straight Sweepstakes Award, which recognizes overall journalistic excellence. Competing against 52 other newspapers in Non-Daily Division 1, The Tidewater News compiled the most points in the contest but, because it didn’t earn points in the graphics category, lost to the Orange County Review. The TN won the Sweepstakes honor last year for the first time in its 100-plus-year history.

“To have our work judged by our peers as among the finest in a state full of outstanding community newspapers is gratifying,” said Publisher Steve Stewart. “We are blessed to serve a fine region like Western Tidewater and are proud to bring some statewide recognition to this community.”

The newspaper won first-place awards in Breaking News Writing, Business and Financial Writings, In-Depth or Investigative Reporting, and Public Safety Writing. Its opinion page, front page and lifestyle page also were judged best in the division.

Stewart won second place in both Editorial Writing and Column Writing. The TN also won second place for its sports page and for Business and Financial Writing. It claimed a third-place honor in Government Writing.

In a separate advertising contest, graphic artist Ryan Outlaw teamed with account executive Mitzi Lusk to win second place in Home and Garden for a Sherwin-Williams advertisement and third place in Entertainment & Lifestyles for a Southampton Academy ad. Outlaw teamed with former Advertising Director Betty Ramsey to win third place in Food & Drug for an Overtime Grill ad.

The awards were presented Saturday night at the Press Association’s annual meeting in Norfolk.

Of the newspaper’s front page, the judges wrote, “Graphics, art, headlines attract readers. Great-looking front page. Nicely done.”

The opinion page drew commendation for Managing Editor Gwen Albers’ columns and editorials and for its standing guest column, “Your Turn.” The judges said they were “glad it was actually ‘Your Turn’ and not a couple of rotating columnists.”

Former Staff Writer Charlie Passut’s series on Franklin-Southampton Economic Development won first place for In-Depth or Investigative Reporting. “Certainly not a flashy story topic but definitely one of vital importance to your area,” the judges wrote. They commended the newspaper’s calculation of cost per job created during the five-year history of the quasi-public FSEDI, which gets money from Franklin, Southampton County and two private foundations.

Passut also won first place in Business and Financial Writing for his reporting on the economic impact of the closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill and in Breaking News Writing for coverage of a shooting death and hostage standoff on Southampton Road last summer.

“Thorough articles in a series about an event touching the entire community and surrounding area,” the judges wrote of the paper-mill series. “Good handling of the facts that were known and investigation into the ‘what-ifs.’ Good use of sources and quotes.”

Former staff writer Nicholas Langhorne won first place in Public Safety Writing for his coverage of court proceedings in a 2009 shooting death on South High Street.

Stewart’s weekly column, “Publisher’s Notebook,” was commended as “from-the-gut writing that punches hard and fast, and tells it in a straightforward, no-compromise manner.”

His editorials were praised as “entertaining, interesting and compelling.” The editorials were “well written with cogent points and flavor. Takes a stand and isn’t afraid to mix it up.”

Langhorne’s coverage of the Navy’s proposed use of Franklin Municipal Airport took third place in Government Writing. The judges commended it as “technically sound” and “professionally written.”