Tidewater News wins VPA Grand Sweepstakes

Published 4:15 pm Monday, April 7, 2014

RICHMOND—The Tidewater News staff had a good night at the annual Virginia Press Association banquet, where it took home many group and individual awards. And that includes the granddaddy of them all.

After a long figurative drum roll, every staff member present jumped out of their seat as it was announced that the newspaper took home the VPA’s Grand Sweepstakes award for its circulation class. The Grand Sweepstakes is the biggest VPA award that a newspaper can compete for.

“To say we were excited would be a dramatic understatement,” said Tony Clark, the newspaper’s publisher. “To have your work validated by a group of your peers is incredibly satisfying, and our staff works so hard and is so deserving of this recognition. I couldn’t be more proud of them and all that they bring to their craft each and every day.”

There were 23 newspapers in the Non-Daily 1 circulation class vying for this award, which was handed out for the first time this year. Previously, the VPA recognized a Sweepstakes Award winner in the news category only. The new award adds together points for both advertising and news. A newspaper earns 3 points for each first-place, 2 for each second-place and 1 for each third-place finish. The Tidewater News had previously won the Sweepstakes Award in 2009 and 2012. Additionally, The Tidewater News placed first in the inaugural Advertising Sweepstakes, with 22 points. It also had 22 points in the News Sweepstakes.



The biggest individual award went to the newspaper’s advertising director, Mitzi Lusk, who was named the 2013 Sales Professional of the Year. “This award is additionally significant in that it is not an award given based on circulation category, but is a statewide and open competition where there is only one winner, and she was up against some of the state’s big boys,” said Clark. The recipient must be nominated by his or her publisher, and community businesses have to back up the nomination.

“Mitzi Lusk is passionate about the health of her clients’ businesses and the value that she brings to them. She takes personally her role as the primary revenue driver for our business and the value that she brings to us, and constantly strives to find ways to bring additional value to both,” Clark wrote in his nomination of Lusk.

“In the past two years, we have hit most advertising revenue goals because Mitzi simply refuses to fail. Plainly stated, we could not run our business today were it not for the contributions of Mitzi Lusk.

“But it’s not just the value she brings to our organization that makes her so worthy of this recognition. It is also the relationships she has developed over the years with her clients and our business community. Mitzi’s clients adore her, because they know she truly cares about their businesses and not just hitting her sales goals.”

Sarah P. Rawlings, vice president of Rawlings Mechanical Corp. in Courtland, endorsed Lusk’s nomination, writing, “The local newspaper is one of the ways we keep our name ‘out there’ for existing customers and new customers. We are very pleased with the comments we receive in regard to the advertising we do with The Tidewater News. Mitzi Lusk is responsible for that. I thank her often and I also thank her for making this part of my job with Rawlings Mechanical easier for me.”



Ryan Outlaw took home a best in show award for his Daily News email signup advertisement. The judge wrote, “Very catchy ad. Like the idea.”

Individually for advertisement, Outlaw took home 8 awards, 5 of them first place awards. He won first place in the home and garden category, the education and churches category, the entertainment and lifestyles category and the member self promotion category. Outlaw and Lusk took home first place in the food and drug (B&W) ad category.

Outlaw took home second the in professional technology services (B&W) category. He and Lusk also placed second in entertainment and lifestyles (B&W).

“Ryan is one of the most gifted designers in the industry,” Clark said. “I think to a certain extent we’ve all become accustomed to his winning numerous awards each year, and so to see him win a Best in Show reminds us of how extraordinarily talented he really is.”

Loretta Lomax placed second in the real estate category, while Outlaw and Lusk also placed third in the education and churches category.

In news, which includes writing, photography, design and sports, The Tidewater News took home 10 awards, 5 of them first place.

In the Breaking News Category, Managing Editor Cain Madden took home first place for his July 2 story, “Sheriff’s office looking for suspect in break-in,” which was the story about the paralyzed Southampton Meadows man whose home was broken into.

Andrew Faison took home an award in the In Depth or Investigative Reporting category for his spring 2013 series on Franklin’s electric department and complaints high energy bills.

Lucy Wallace won first place in the Multimedia News Report for her June 12 story, “McLemore denies calling for picketing, boycotting,” which was the story where Councilman Greg McLemore was escorted from council chambers by police officers.

Lomax earned first place in Specialty Pages or Sections for her design on the School News Pages.

Madden took first place for his photo essay on the Newsoms Fourth of July Parade.

Beth Roughton won second place in Lifestyle or entertainment pages.

Staff Writer Stephen Cowles won second place for Public Safety Writing for his Feb. 15 story titled “Four life sentences;” his March 26 story “Jury gives Steinert prison;” and his Aug. 4 story “Steinert sentenced.”

Madden placed third in feature photo for a photo of Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley from the Franklin-Southampton County Fair.

The newspaper’s staff took home third place for its 2013 Progress Edition.

Merle Monahan came in third place for her feature writing portfolio, which included her Aug. 4 piece, “Jane March passionate about Zuni history,” her Oct. 18 piece, “Working, volunteering fulfill Ivor woman;” and her Dec. 8 piece, “Sheriff has served Southampton County for 32 years.”

“What we ultimately strive for is to produce a newspaper that not only serves the needs of our readers, but is also a source of pride for the community,” said Clark. “I hope these awards is indicative of the fact that we are accomplishing both.”