The NY Press Association (NYPA) is the trade organization for NY community newspapers. Their annual Better Newspaper Contest recognizes excellence in journalism and publishing. Last month the results were announced at their spring convention held in Saratoga Springs. The Red Hook Star-Revue, in competition with 148 other papers, came away with six awards.
The Star-Revue began publishing in 2010, joined NYPA in 2012, and became a prizewinner our first time out. NYPA’s member newspapers include publication in small little farm villages as well as large urban areas. The largest papers include The Scarsdale Inquirer, The Villager of Greenwich Village, and The Sag Harbor Express in Long Island. Some of the smaller ones include the Westmore News in Port Chester, The Lewisboro Ledger publishing in Lewis County, population 27,072, and the Saugerties Times, a small paper in a town near Woodstock. Some of these papers are independent, many are part of chains. The Star-Revue is an independent newspaper.
The top prize for editorial excellence went to the Long Island Press. Advertising excellence went to The Record-Review of Bedford/Pound Ridge, a toney part of Westchester County. Other categories included photographic excellence, which went to The Southampton Press, and Best Newspaper Web Site, also won by the Southampton Press.
In total there were 2,351 entries in 60 categories. The contest was judged by members of the North Carolina Press Association.
This was the first year that we entered the contest, and winning six awards was considered highly promising by publishers we met at the convention, held in Saratoga’s historic Gideon Putnam Hotel.
The Star-Revue took second place in “Coverage of the Arts.” We submitted articles written about Jalopy’s Bayou Festival and a review of The Woodshed Prophets, an upstate band. Our third submission was an article about a new Gowanus soul club called SRB. The judges wrote “Stories were easy reads; I’d like to visit this community and partake in some of these events which were so brilliantly detailed here.”
Our next second place award was for our initial coverage of Hurricane Sandy, entered in the category “Spot News Coverage.” Spot, or breaking news is usually left to the daily papers, occasionally things happen that are so earth shaking, or shattering, that there is plenty of room for the weekly and bi-weekly publications to report on them as happening, or spot news.
Writing about the hurricane and it’s immediate aftereffects was a monumental task, especially with a staff as small as ours. The two publishers spent day and night in the office, collecting emergency information to disseminate to the hurting community. We went out interviewing people and photographing events and the aftermath day and night. Our issue published November 8th is a lasting document of the carnage and the developing community spirit that has inspired the city and country.
To be thought of as providing the second best coverage of Sandy among all the community newspapers is an enormous compliment, especially as we competed against much larger organizations in areas equally affected by the storm. The judges wrote “Now, this is great community coverage of a storm, and the coverage stands out in a sea of entries related to storm coverage. Bravo. Even if the main “Masterpiece” story had not been so well written and presented, this newspaper was thorough in its reporting before, during and after the storm. The staff is not a big one, but it tended to follow suit with the town – a community looking out for its own. Again, well done!”
Kimberly Gail Price, editor and publisher, won a third place award for a column about her father. It was one of the first columns she wrote for the paper following her ascension to editor in December 2011. Written on the occasion of her father’s 60th birthday, Kimberly recalled many of the things she watched her father do, writing about the positive effects he has had on her own life.
The judges wrote about this column, “The writer has a knack for presenting an issue in a very personal way. A thoroughly enjoyable read.”
Our fourth award was an honorable mention for a special section we published for Valentine’s Day. We sent our reporter on a scavenger hunt through Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Gowanus. We worked with local stores and restaurants, presenting her and her husband with an enjoyable evening in search of dinner and gifts. They had to figure out clues to complete their trek. Kimberly arranged the trek and wrote the clues, while George baby-sat their child. The judges comment was “This was a most interesting concept.”
Our first place award came in an advertising category – Best Small Space Ad. We submitted a series of ads designed in-house for Freebird, an eccentric Columbia Street bookstore. They were humorous, with headlines such as “Closed Five Days a Week to Thwart Your Literary Needs.”
They were sold and designed by Angelika Mitchell, who was the Star-Revue advertising manager in part of 2012. The judges wrote, “Great ads! Hilarious!”
Our final award was the result of a late night mistake on the part of our layout department, a one-man operation headed by George Fiala. For a full page story on the Red Hook Initiative’s tenth anniversary, “Hick,” instead of “Hook,” was inadvertently typed into the bold headline “Red Hick Initiative celebrates 10 years.” Our sleep deprived co-publisher Kimberly Price, generally an expert proofreader, missed this one.
The judges wrote, “The Red ‘Hick’ Initiative… just too humorous!” For this prize, a trophy was awarded. An embarrassed George walked to the podium accepting a statuette featuring half-a-horse… the rear half.
The two-day convention was held at the Gideon-Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, half an hour north of Albany. In addition to the awards ceremonies, which accompanied lunch and dinners, the convention features educational seminars and a Friday night party where editors, reporters and publishers from all over the state mingle and share war stories.