On Saturday, April 18, a group of journalists from the Connection Newspapers traveled to Roanoke for the annual Virginia Press Association event to collect awards for business reporting, government writing, writing about health, science and the environment, feature writing, sports writing, column writing, obituaries, cartoons, entertainment pages and writing, public safety writing, editorial pages and writing, page design, informational graphics and more.
A look at the themes of some winning entries gives some insight into the mission at the Connection: to tell stories of significance, using reporting, data and analysis while getting to the heart of why the issues matter in local lives. In a time that we, like all newspapers, are functioning with reduced resources, it helps affirm that the effort can make a difference.
Bonnie Hobbs won for ongoing coverage of a family’s efforts to provide the best life for a son they call “not special needs, but a special person,” and a second award for coverage of issues related to affordable housing and homelessness.
Judges call Michael Pope’s business reporting “first-rate, data-driven reporting and analysis on important issues.” Stories on driving habits, cesarean deliveries and the Affordable Care Act are called “well-researched, clearly written and engaging. The use of real-live people high up in stories to illustrate makes for very compelling material.”
Vernon Miles won for breaking news coverage of Arlington’s first same sex marriage, being “on the scene of a local event that has local, statewide and national significance. … The story is multi-sourced; has a strong lead that gives readers a sense of the scene; places the event in historic context; and captures the celebratory feel of the event.”
On Pope government reporting: “Rather than regurgitating official statements, the reporter tells people's stories to illuminate the consequences of government decisions. This represents a model for all government reporting.”
On Marilyn Campbell’s reporting for Wellbeing: “These articles amount to personal guidance in the best sense of the term.”
Even in recreation and entertainment, our mission is to provide our readers with the information they need to have fun, and our annual update to the “Insiders Guide to the Parks,” brainchild of Jean Card, is designed to do that.
What are we missing? We rely on our readers to let us know. We invite your story ideas, your tips, your letters to the editor, calendar listings, photos of mothers for Mother’s Day and fathers for Fathers Day, and more. Visit www.connectionnewspapers.com and click on “contact us,” or email email@example.com
Truncated list, for a complete list, see www.connectionnewspapers.com
Steven G. Artley, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Illustrations. First Place. Editorial Cartoon: Sept. 25, 2014, Al Qaeda, ISIS and ISIL “I swear these kids will be the death of me.” Also third place for Editorial Cartoon: Pope Sisyphus, Nov. 20, 2014
Bonnie Hobbs, Centre View — Feature Series or Continuing Story, First Place. Saluting ‘a Special Person,’ Mom’s Quest for an Accessible Van, ‘This Will Change Our Lives’ Judge’s comments: Clear and concise writing with a good flow. Journalist captured the emotion of the event and engaged the reader well.
Michael Lee Pope, Mount Vernon Gazette — Business and Financial Writing, First Place. A Debt to Society, Paycheck Gender Wars? Northern Virginia Stuck in Neutral. Judge’s comments: First-rate, data-driven reporting and analysis on important issues. Fine work.
Michael Lee Pope, The McLean Connection — Health, Science and Environmental Writing, First Place. Alone on the Road; Despite Advances, Many Virginians Remain Uninsured; C-Section Boom in Northern Virginia. Judge’s comments: Michael Lee Pope's stories on driving habits, cesarean deliveries and the Affordable Care Act are well-researched, clearly written and engaging. His use of real-live people high up in his stories to illustrate his findings makes for very compelling material. He seems quite capable of turning some of these topics into a book. If he does, I'll read it.
Jon Roetman, The Vienna/Oakton Connection — Sports Writing Portfolio, First Place. Madison’s Koshuta Scores 39 Against ‘Idol’ Floyd; Oakton Girls’ XC Repeats as State Champs; Madison Volleyball Drops Heartbreaker in State Final. Judge’s comments: Strong and clear writing and excellent storytelling helps game stories feel more like features. Excellent work.
Victoria Ross, Oak Hill/Herndon Connection — Government Writing, First Place. Let Sun Shine on Virginia’s Financial Disclosure Laws, Mr. Horejsi Goes to Richmond; Bulova: ‘This Will Be a Challenging Budget.’ Judge’s comments: An engaging look at a lobbyist who fights for the little guy; an entertaining story on a political candidate, helping readers put the upcoming election into context; one of the better budgeting stories I've seen lately that helps readers understand how the county's budgeting process is going to cost them more money. The supporting sidebars help bring the message home.
Jeanne Theismann, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Personal Service Writing, Obituaries, First Place. ‘I Wanted A Better Life:’ Civil Rights pioneer Nelson Greene dies at 100; The Bean Counter: Hard Times’ s Jim Parker dies at 69; F. William “Bill” Bauers: WWII pilot was honored by French government. Judge’s comments: These stories provide a glimpse inside the lives of people who have played significant roles in their communities. The writing is engaging and well-researched. And the stories serve as an example to others of how to live a life of purpose.
Jeanne Theismann, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Column Writing, Entertainment, First Place. ‘Curtain Up!’ “Gypsy,” Signature Theatre; ‘Ella’ Has Scatitude,Metro Stage; It’s All Relative “Three Sistahs” returns to MetroStage. Judge’s comments: Ms. Theismann's entertainment columns demonstrate a breadth of knowledge that gives her opinions a ring of authority and authenticity. Though I live nowhere near her area, I found it easy to be influenced by her writing and to wish that I had the opportunity to attend some of the events she talked about. All three examples are nicely written.
Jean Card, Jeanne Theismann, Steve Hibbard, Louise Krafft and Kara Coleman, First Place. Alexandria Gazette Packet — Lifestyle or Entertainment Pages.
Joan Brady, Great Falls Connection — Column Writing, Second Place. No, I’m Not a Parent; I Just Act Like One; Small Acts of Kindness; Nurturing Happy Memories. Judge’s comments: Brady draws on her wealth of experience with the foster parent system to write empathetically but authoritatively on family ties. And she does so with humanity and insight. Her writing combines depth and subtlety with eloquence of expression. In some senses, her subject matter is narrow. But viewed through a different filter, it is universal. She writes engagingly on a consistent basis.
Veronica Bruno, Mount Vernon Gazette — Feature Story Writing, Second Place. Santa Remembers His Daughter; Judge’s comments: Great twist, interesting couple combined with new situation. Not sentimental. Very original.
Jean Card, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Page Design, Second Place. Judge’s comments: Good photos, nice layout, lots of information and easy to consume.
Vernon Miles, Arlington Connection — Breaking News Writing, Second Place. Historic Moment: Celebrating Same Sex Marriage. Judge’s comments: This contains the essential elements of breaking news coverage. The reporter/photographer was on scene of a local event that has local, statewide and national significance. The reporter also was working in an environment of competing media, making this story more difficult to cover. The story is multi-sourced; has a strong lead that gives readers a sense of the scene; places the event in historic context; and captures the celebratory feel of the event. The only thing missing were comments from those who oppose same sex marriage.
Jeanne Theismann, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Headline Writing, Second Place. License to Chill (Storm closes schools, city government.)
Marilyn Campbell, Chantilly Connection — Health, Science and Environmental Writing, Third Place. Spiritual Wellness in the New Year; Consistent Bedtimes Aid Children; How To Age in Place Safely; Judge’s comments: These articles amount to personal guidance in the best sense of the term. They should serve as very helpful resources for readers of a variety of ages. In concise manner, they effectively made the concepts clear and applicable to the reader. The aging in place article was particularly relevant and insightful, the childhood sleep story was unlike anything I'd ever read (and I have two kids) and really summed up how a specific approach to children’s health makes sense. The spiritual health article was unusual, refreshing to see, and I love the variety of sources and comments.
Bonnie Hobbs, The Fairfax Connection — Personal Service Writing, Third Place. Affordable Housing Lack Can Lead to Hunger; ‘Help Us, Will You Please?’ City of Fairfax to Tackle Affordable Housing; Council ‘Honored to Support this Project;’ ‘Dream Come True’ for Lamb Center. Judge’s comments: Solid writing and good follow-through on the housing issues. The writer did a good job of including income and free lunch data without breaking the flow of the story.
Mary Kimm, The McLean Connection — Editorial Writing, Third Place. Trending in the Right Direction; Virginia Proves Elections Matter; More Affordable Housing Needed; Tragic Consequences; Deadly Medicaid Debacle. Judge’s comments: This submission consists of five well-articulated and well-grounded pieces tackling access to affordable housing and health care, a pair of closely related state and national issues with important local ramifications. The work combines passion with a persuasive factual underpinning.
Michael Lee Pope, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Public Safety Writing, Third Place. Happyland on Edge; Manhunt Ends in Tragedy; The Safeway Four.
Michael Lee Pope, Mount Vernon Gazette — Government Writing, Third Place. Checking Out Library Funding; Ways To Battle Area Homelessness; Safety at a Crossroads in Poor Communities Judge’s comments: Government reporting is not known for its heart, but there is a lot of heart in these stories. Rather than regurgitating official statements, the reporter tells people's stories to illuminate the consequences of government decisions. This represents a model for all government reporting.
Steven Mauren, Mary Kimm, Steve Artley, Geovani Flores and Laurence Foong, Alexandria Gazette Packet — Editorial Pages, Third Place.
Jean Card, Renee Ruggles and Laurence Foong, Mount Vernon Gazette — Informational Graphics, Third Place. Parks, an Insider’s Guide; Judge’s comments: I liked the maps. They were easy to read, I quickly located where each park was and was able to learn more about it, not only through the text, but through the accompanying photos. The colors were also used well. As a whole the package was informative and easily digestible.