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Votes

Connection Papers Win Awards

Reporting, photography, design and editorial cartoons commended at annual Virginia Press Association meeting.

"Great work exposing serious challenges and obstacles in the way of the public's access to public information. The articles are well written and well researched, providing concrete and compelling examples of the flaws in the systems."

That was what the judge said when awarding first place for In-depth or investigative reporting to Michael Lee Pope in the Arlington Connection.

The Virginia Press Association announced its press awards for 2013 at the annual meeting on Saturday, April 5, in Richmond.

Pope also won first place for education writing, for business and financial writing, and awards for health, science and environmental writing and for government writing. Stories appeared in the Alexandria Gazette Packet, the Mount Vernon Gazette and the Connection papers.

Bonnie Hobbs won first place for general news writing for her coverage of the proposed roundabout in Centreville. "Good work getting all viewpoints of the issue without assigning judgment to who is right and who is wrong," wrote judges.

Jeanne Theismann won first place for public safety writing and for public service writing in the Alexandria Gazette Packet.

Connection Newspapers won first place for information graphics for the 2013 Insiders Guide to Fairfax County Parks, designed by Jean Card with photos by Renee Ruggles and Craig Sterbutzel.

First place for special sections went to the Connection’s HomeLifeStyle pullout.

Victoria Ross won for feature series/continuing coverage for coverage of foster care. Judges note: "Fantastic blend of fact and narrative, and it packs an emotional punch. The stories are very well-researched, tightly written and highly effective."

Ross also won for personal service writing for her coverage of "digital legacy," and control of one’s online content after death.

Cartoonist Steve Artley began cartooning for the Alexandria Gazette Packet in December 2013, with only three cartoons in the year, but two of them won awards. His cartoon on the threatened use of eminent domain in the City of Alexandria drew this comment from the judge: "One of the best examples of editorial cartooning I have seen in years and reminiscent of editorial cartoons poignant and relevant enough to still be included in history texts today. Wonderful use of the paper boat as the flagship of eminent domain with tons of little touches which push the entry even higher."

Alex McVeigh won an award for investigative or in-depth reporting in Great Falls. Donna Manz won for her feature stories in Vienna.

The annual Insiders/Newcomers edition of the Alexandria Gazette Packet won third place for special edition, including work by Steven Mauren, Jeanne Theismann, John Bordner and Jean Card.

Editorials written by Mary Kimm won second and third place awards.

For a complete list, see www.connectionnewspapers.com

Winners

First Place

First Place for Investigative Reporting, Uncovering Secret Government. Michael Lee Pope, Arlington Connection — Judge’s comment: Great work exposing serious challenges and obstacles in the way of the public's access to public information. The articles are well written and well researched, providing concrete and compelling examples of the flaws in the systems.

First Place for Education writing. Michael Lee Pope, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Alexandria Education Dollars. Judge’s comment: This is by far the best entry in the contest. Michael Lee Pope wrote several strong articles on the cost of administration in his market. He did a very nice job of making a numbers story interesting.

First Place for Business and Financial writing. Michael Lee Pope, Mount Vernon Gazette — Judge’s comment: The story about car title loans offers an interesting look at this industry, which is proliferating due to a change in state law. Kudos for looking at how much the industry contributes to state legislators' political campaigns. Business taxes — is it fair to charge higher rates for certain professions? Pope provides a balanced look at the pros and cons. The story on a transit study covers the debate over urban vs. rural development in Mount Vernon. Pope combines thorough reporting with competent writing.

First Place for Public Safety Writing, Jeanne Theismann, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Judge’s comment: Creative, compelling ledes.

First Place for General News Writing, Bonnie Hobbs, Centre View -- Judge’s comment: The creative lede pushed this one over the top. Good work getting all viewpoints of the issue without assigning judgment to who is right and who is wrong.

First Place for Personal Service Writing. Jeanne Theismann, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Judge’s comment: Each story is an interesting and vivid snapshot of the deceased with good use of quotes and anecdote to bring the subject's personality to life and also convey why he or she was valued in the community. It is hard to write about someone who has died in a way that is upbeat and positive, but this writer has achieved this.

First Place for Informational Graphics for Insiders Guide to the Parks, Jean Card, Laurence Foong, Renee Ruggles and Craig Sterbutzel, Mount Vernon Gazette — Informational graphics: Fairfax County parks.

First Place for HomeLifeStyle, Mary Kimm, Laurence Foong, Geovani Flores, Marilyn Campbell, John Byrd, Tim Peterson and Jean Card, The Vienna/Oakton Connection — Specialty pages or sections: Judge’s comment: Clean design and easy to read. Choice of fonts work well together.

Other Awards:

Steve Artley, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Illustrations — Eminent Domain. Judge’s comment: One of the best examples of editorial cartooning I have seen in years and reminiscent of editorial cartoons poignant and relevant enough to still be included in history texts today. Wonderful use of the paper boat as the flagship of eminent domain with tons of little touches which push the entry even higher.

In-depth, investigative reporting, Alex McVeigh, Great Falls Connection — Judge’s comment: Great work continuing to follow an important environmental story that had the potential for far-reaching impacts. These articles also do a good job explaining the nature of the underground contamination and, in understandable terms, the geology behind the way they spread.

Alexandria Gazette Packet, Insiders/Newcomers Guide. Steven Mauren, Jeanne Theismann, John Bordner, Jean Card, Geovani Flores and Laurence Foong, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Judge’s comment: A good package of information for newcomers. A good array of photos of community members.

Health, Science and Environmental Writing, Michael Lee Pope, The Arlington Connection — Judge’s comment: Good solid stories on interesting subjects. A lot of good historical background adds significantly to the sterilization story. The lead on the chicken story was very good.

Government Writing, Michael Lee Pope, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Judge’s comment: We preach to our reporters to follow the money. Michael Lee Pope does great job of following the money trail to great news stories. Continue to keep them honest.

Feature Series/Continuing Story. Victoria Ross, The Burke Connection — Feature series or continuing story. Judge’s comment: Fantastic blend of fact and narrative, and it packs an emotional punch. The stories are very well-researched, tightly written and highly effective.

Personal Service Writing, Victoria Ross, The Fairfax Connection . Judge’s comment: Good job using the individual story and relating it to the wider issue. Would have liked more follow-up details about whether the social media companies are complying with the law and what the parents found on the son's social media sites.

Jeanne Theismann, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Column writing. Judge’s comment: These columns were well written and informative as well as entertaining.

Editorial writing. Mary Kimm, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Editorial writing. Judge’s comment: Very well done. Writer does an outstanding job presenting the paper's stance on the issues of the day.

Editorial writing. Mary Kimm, The Fairfax Connection — Judge’s comment: These editorials were articulate and to the point.

Education writing: Michael Lee Pope, The Arlington Connection — Judge’s comment: Concise, well put thoughts.

Page Design, Jean Card, Mount Vernon Gazette — Judge’s comment: Good job taking something that can be boring and hard to follow and making it interesting and easy to navigate.

Cartoon, Steve Artley, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Illustrations. Judge’s comment: The shackles of the tea party! Ol' Ebenezer Elephant will be surely listening for the chimes of the hour after this ghost appeared before the foot of his bed. Fantastic work all the way around.

Feature photo. Louise Krafft, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Summer Fun. Judge’s comment: Sweet found moment.

Feature writing portfolio Donna Manz, Vienna/Oakton Connection — Feature writing portfolio. Judge’s comment: Powerful ledes (and a great one for the 'puppies' story) and captivating narratives. Well-informed and well-written.