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News & Record takes nine awards in state news contest

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David Conner II, left, and Tom McLaughlin / April 07, 2014
The News & Record collected five first-place awards and nine awards overall in the Virginia Press Association’s annual News and Editorial contest honoring the best journalism around the state.

Competing in the non-daily ranks, the News & Record took first place for sports news photo, sports feature photo, online slideshow, headline writing and public safety writing. The newspaper also was honored for business and financial writing, feature series and front page design.

The 2013 awards haul marks the sixth consecutive year that the News & Record has been recognized by VPA contest judges. In 2011 the News & Record won the Sweepstakes award in its non-daily circulation category after racking up the most points in three areas: art and photos, writing and presentation. The N&R finished in the top four in the news sweepstakes contest this year.

The awards were announced Saturday night at the press association’s annual banquet in Richmond.

News & Record photographer David Conner II and reporter Tom McLaughlin each took home four honors in this year’s contest. The ninth honor taken by the newspaper was a staff award: third place for front page design.

Conner’s pair of first place entries — for sports news photo and sports feature photo — drew raves from the judges, members of the Georgia Press Association. “Excellent photograph,” wrote the judges of Conner’s photo, “Among the trees,” of Comet jayvee basketball player JaKaye Dabbs. Conner’s winning entry in the sports feature category, “Focused reflection,” a close-up of softball player Trinity Martin, earned praise for the “great job with the composition.”

Conner also took second place in the sports feature category for his photo of a Comet cross country race, framed against a blues-sky background as the runners bolted from the starting line: “[The] photographer did a great job of looking for something a little different to set this photo apart from others,” wrote the judges

Conner’s fourth award, first place for online slideshow, was for his photo coverage of the annual Crossing of the Dan event in February 2013.

In writing and presentation categories, McLaughlin took home two first place and two second place honors. In public safety writing, his work on two stories — the prosecution of former Sheriff Stanley Noblin, and the fire that destroyed the Marshall Avenue home of the local restaurant owner Josh Hollandsworth — earned the first place award. One judge wrote that “I liked the selection of stories” and praised the reporter as “a dynamic writer who can make these topics interesting and engaging to read.”

McLaughlin took second place in the feature series category for his articles on the reunion of the Halifax County Senior High School band from the years 1968 to 1978. He also took second place in business and financial writing for his coverage of a local gas price war after Murphy USA opened a gas station and convenience store across from Wal-Mart, as well as his examination of what area hospitals charge for various medical procedures and his look at efforts to introduce an alternative chickpea crop in Halifax County. The gas war story, one judge wrote, effectively highlighted “the plight of small town businesses who need to compete with mega corporations, and the part community loyalty plays in their success.”

McLaughlin’s fourth award came in headline writing, a presentation category.

The News & Record’s sister newspaper, The Mecklenburg Sun, won four awards, with staff writer Susan Kyte taking first, second and third place honors in the feature writing and general news writing categories. Kyte won second place for her coverage of Buggs Island Telephone’s troubled wireless broadband initiative, a series that also appeared in the News & Record.

The fourth Sun award, third place for sports news photo, went to N&R staff photographer David Conner II for a shot taken at a Park View football game.

This year marked the first time that the Virginia Press Association combined the results of its news and advertising contests to determine the sweepstakes winners. Among the state’s largest dailies, the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk was the winner of the grand prize sweepstakes award, with the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and the Northern Virginia Daily claiming the honor in their respective circulation categories. Among non-daily newspapers, grand sweepstakes winners were The Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg, the Rappahanock Record in Kilmarnock, and The Tidewater News in Franklin. Style Weekly in Richmond won the sweepstakes award in the specialty publications group.

In addition to the award winners, the News & Record staff includes editor Sylvia O. McLaughlin, Tracey Conner, Tracy Barksdale, Regina Keichline, Wilma Dodson, George Allison, Tucker McLaughlin Jr. and Bill McLaughlin.

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