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Connection Wins Public Service Award for Homeless Coverage

VPA Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service; plus 44 other awards.

The Connection Newspapers was awarded the Virginia Press Association Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service last Saturday, April 21, "for exhaustive coverage of homelessness in the newspaper's circulation area." The award was announced in Roanoke at the press association’s annual convention.

The public service entries were judged by Robert Giles, former editor and publisher of The Detroit News and the immediate past curator of the Nieman Foundation.

Giles wrote of the Connection coverage:

"Its stories gave voice to the homeless. Its stories effectively portrayed the plight of the poor living in tents and other makeshift shelters. It reported on how poverty and homelessness affects children. It examined the causes of homelessness and explained why people don't have a place to live even when some have a job. It reported on the role of government and groups that advocate for the poor. It provided extensive lists of community organizations with missions to help the poor and homeless, and told how individuals could volunteer.

"It invited knowledgeable citizens to contribute guest editorials that offered perspectives and fresh ideas for addressing the problems of homelessness."

The online component of the homeless project also won first place in the multimedia category. Edited by Michael O'Connell, the project included stories, video and photos by Victoria Ross, Deb Cobb, Robbie Hammer, Bonnie Hobbs and Amber Healy.

The Connection Newspapers group, including the Alexandria Gazette Packet, Mount Vernon Gazette and Centre View and Potomac Almanac, won 45 awards in all.

The Alexandria Gazette Packet won 17 awards.

The top award winner was Michael Lee Pope, who won 12 awards including first place for government writing; health, science and environmental writing; in-depth or investigative reporting; breaking news and public safety writing.

In addition to her work on the homeless project, photographer Deb Cobb won individual first place awards for photo illustration for a cover depicting a vampire; for an online slide show of "wounded warriors at bat," and for general news photo.

Bonnie Hobbs won two first place awards, one for education writing and one for feature portfolio. Alex McVeigh won first place for in depth or investigative reporting for his coverage of a land use issue in Great Falls. Montie Martin won two first place awards, one for business writing, the other for personal service writing.

The Children’s Connection won an award and judges said it was a "simple and elegant idea showcasing children's artwork, a great way to attract young readers."

While it is gratifying and fun to win awards, it reflects our mission to tell the stories of the local community. We welcome your ideas and suggestions about what we should be covering now.

List of winning entries:

Winning Entries, Connection, Centre View

Virginia Press Association 2011 Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service

*Michael O'Connell, Victoria Ross, Deb Cobb, Robbie Hammer, Bonnie Hobbs, Amber Healy, 1st Place, Fairfax Connection, Multimedia Feature Report, An End to Homelessness, Judges comments: Wow. This is an amazing endeavor. The print and digital components complement each other nicely, although I would have liked to see some aggressive promotion of digital from print. The video and photo gallery provide nice layers to the overall storytelling. The webpage featuring your original coverage will be an excellent home to keep following this important topic. Well-done.

*Alex McVeigh, 1st Place, Great Falls Connection, In-Depth Or Investigative Reporting

*Bonnie Hobbs, 1st place, Centre View, Education Writing, Judges Comments: What the judges really appreciate about Bonnie's stories is that each one is a unique, interesting and very readable story that makes the sometimes dry subject of education coverage appealing to readers. Much more than the "school board did this and the school board did that" type stories that so many newspapers publish, not to say that this coverage is not important. Bonnie's work really made us want to read it. Good job, and congratulations.

*Bonnie Hobbs, 1st place, Centre View, Feature Writing Portfolio, Judges comments: These entries were fantastic. Great writing style really makes these unique stories shine. Nicely packaged final product. Well done!

*Deb Cobb, 1st place, Fairfax Connection, Online Slideshow, Wounded Warriors at Bat

*Deb Cobb, 1st place, Fairfax Connection, General News Photo, Warm Welcome, Judges comments: I love how every subject in this photo is engaged into a moment. Wonderful.

*Deb Cobb, 1st Place, Burke Connection, Photo-Illustration, Vampire Feast, Judges comments: The intensity in the model's face combined with the high contrast photo make this a dynamic illustration for a story about vampires.

*Victoria Ross, 2nd place, Fairfax Station/Clifton/Lorton, In-Depth Or Investigative Reporting

*Jon Roetman, 2nd place, Fairfax Station/Clifton/Lorton, Sports Writing Portfolio, Judges comments: This entry exhibits solid sports reporting, plain and simple. The completeness of these stories is the name of the game here. The reporter demonstrates versatility, switching from feature to news writing within the articles themselves, giving the reader the whole story.

*Lashawn Avery-Simon, 2nd Place, Arlington Connection, General News Photo, ribbon cutting at park, Judges comments: great expression and tight composition

*Michael Lee Pope, 2nd Place, Arlington Connection, Health, Science and Environmental Writing, Judges comments: Excellent writing. Diverse topics. Took what could be dry material and led me through it and kept me interested. Good work.

*Marilyn Campbell, 2nd Place, Great Falls Connection, Personal Service Writing, Beating the Holiday Blues, Great American Smokeout, Getting into ‘Right Fit’ Private School; Judges comments: Trio of strong entries.

*Mike O'Connell, Victoria Ross, Deb Cobb, Robbie Hammer, Bonnie Hobbs, Amber Healy 2nd place, Fairfax Connection, Special Sections or Special Editions, End to Homelessness, Judges comments: "End to Homelessness" tab. It is nice to see a newspaper commit to a project such as this in the form of a special tab.

*Julia O'Donoghue, 2nd place, Fairfax Connection, Education Writing W2W06 31912 Judges comments: Very nice variety in these stories, again, like the first place winner, going much deeper into the multitude of possibilities available in coverage of education and schools.

*Kenny Lourie, longtime columnist and Connection advertising representative, won two 1st place awards from the Maryland Delaware DC Press Association, one for local column and one for sports column. Lourie has been writing about his odyssey with Stage IV lung cancer, and the judges noted: "Writer chooses tough subject, his own mortality, and handles it quite well. He gives us an honest look at a very personal issue."

*Kemal Kurspahic, Laurence Foong, Amna Rehmatulla, 3rd place, Reston Connection, Special Sections or Special Editions W2M08 30698, Children’s Connection, Judges comments: Simple and elegant idea showcasing children's artwork, a great way to attract young readers.

*Victoria Ross, 3rd place, Fairfax Connection, In-Depth Or Investigative Reporting

*Mary Kimm, 3rd Place, Burke Connection, Editorial Writing, Judges comments: Mary Kimm's columns are strong, particularly the one taking to task a school board on its disciplinary procedures in light of a student's suicide. The community is better for her work.

*Michael Pope, 3rd place, Mount Vernon Gazette, In-Depth Or Investigative Reporting

Winning Entries, Potomac Almanac (Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association)

*Kenny Lourie, first place, Local Column, Feature or Humor; Judges' comments: Writer chooses tough subject, his own mortality, and handles it quite well. He gives us an honest look at a very personal issue."

*Kenny Lourie, First Place, Sports Column

*Ken Moore, Mary Kimm and Robbie Hammer, first place for continuing news coverage about the Brickyard Organic Farm controversy.

*Ken Moore and Laurence Foong, second place for info graphics for the "insiders guide to the parks."

*Susan Belford, second place, Feature story/profile, Determined Coach

*Carole Dell, second place, Local Column, Feature or Humor, Remembering Carmel

Winning Entries, Alexandria Gazette Packet

*Michael Lee Pope, 1st place, Government Writing, Judges comments: Excellent depth of reporting on multiple engaging topics. Readers were well informed by these articles.

*Michael Lee Pope, 1st place, Health, Science and Environmental Writing, Judges comments: Really interesting stuff and like how writer sets the stage to present opposing viewpoints. Takes talent to write about a topic that could be as dull as dirt and keep the reader engaged. Really good work.

*Michael Lee Pope, 1st place, In-Depth Or Investigative Reporting, Hidden Crime, Judges comments: Shows a direct approach to capture the attention of the reader.

*Michael Lee Pope, 1st place, Breaking News Writing, School system iced. Judges comments: Thorough information on a late breaking story. The lead was good in establishing why the school superintendent was upset. And the inclusion of quotes from the ACLU was a good way to put the investigators’ action — or lack of it — in perspective. Well done.

*Montie Martin, 1st place, Business and Financial Writing

*Montie Martin, 1st place, Personal Service Writing Judges comments: Zombie story is weird enough to grab attention. Other entries workmanlike. None overwritten, which appears to be the norm in these "personal service" categories.

*Michael Lee Pope, 1st place, Public Safety Writing, Judges comments: Writer does an outstanding job tackling broader issues. The bank-robberies article is extremely well done and doesn't sugarcoat an issue sure to give local police a black eye. The article on domestic violence is equally well done, giving the perspective of a victim who is now a survivor. The look at changes 10 years after 9/11 is another strong article, providing great insight and perspective.

*Jeanne Theismann, 2nd place, Business and Financial Writing

*Steven Mauren, Steve Hibbard, Jeanne Theismann, Louise Krafft, Laurence Foong, Mike Pope, 2nd place, General Makeup, Judges comments: It's hard to make a tab appealing, but this one is. Good photography and packaging throughout. An attractive product.

*Jeanne Theismann, 2nd place, Headline Writing, Judges comments: Many of the headlines in this group are cleverly written, especially "Some Like it Haute."

*Steve Hibbard, Steven Mauren, Jeanne Theismann, Louise Krafft, Laurence Foong, Mike Pope, 2nd place, Lifestyle Or Entertainment Pages, Judges comments: Nice depth to the section is, no doubt, a go-to place for readers.

*Michael Lee Pope, 2nd place, Personal Service Writing, Obituaries, Judges comments: Well-researched and well-told biographies. Lots of interest to the community. I have to wonder, however, what sort of treatment do the less-socially-prominent receive?

*Michael Lee Pope, 3rd place, Breaking News Writing, Gen-on Power Plant to be Unplugged, Judges comments: Knowing the background here enabled the reporter to write a thorough explanation of what the closing of the power plant meant. The history of the plant — and efforts opposing it — put things in perspective for the reader. Nice touch to add the quote from the plant opponent who understood what it might means for the employees.

*Michael Lee Pope, 3rd place, Business and Financial Writing

*Mary Kimm, 3rd place, Editorial Writing, Judges comments: Mary Kimm's editorials are sharp and on point. Great work.

*Michael Lee Pope, 3rd place, In-Depth Or Investigative Reporting

*Louise Krafft, 3rd place, Pictorial Photo Kool Akademy Graduate Inaugural Class Judges comments: Nice moment caught.

Winning Entries, Mount Vernon Gazette

*Jeanne Theismann, 2nd place, Mount Vernon Gazette, Feature Story Writing, 10th Anniversary of 9-11, Judges comments: Good job of writing about the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 — many stories were written, this was one of the better ones. Nice work.

*Louise Krafft, 2nd place, Mount Vernon Gazette, Picture Story or Essay, Graduation Day in the Mount Vernon District, Judges comments: Good variety of a regular event in the community.

*Michael Lee Pope, 2nd place, Mount Vernon Gazette, Business and Financial Writing

*Michael Pope, 3rd place, Mount Vernon Gazette, In-Depth Or Investigative Reporting