Despite Rule Changes, The SandPaper Still Wins Big in Journalism Awards

Feb 27, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill SandPaper Photo Editor Ryan Morrill was able to secure a second-place award in the Feature division of the new NJPA Photography Contest.

The New Jersey Press Association released the results of its 2018 Better Newspaper Contest last week and The SandPaper editorial staff came away with 16 awards.

David Biggy led the charge with six, including first place in the Fresh Approach to Routine Reporting category. His story covered the Manahawkin United Methodist Church Loads of Love ministry, a rather unique charity effort that provides once-a-month free laundry service to members of the community.

Biggy also finished second and third in the Sports Writing Portfolio category, and third in Sports Section Layout & Content competition. But Biggy isn’t limited to covering sports. He finished third in the Best Lede category, and shared a third prize in Coverage of Elections/Politics with Victoria Ford for their coverage of the mayoral and council races in Stafford Township.

Ford was also second in the Coverage of Crime category for reporting on a string of bank robberies; and third-place in Interpretive Writing with a story about a transgender high school student’s journey.

Gina Scala took second in the NJPA’s most prestigious category, the Lloyd P. Burns Memorial Award for Public Service, with her coverage of the ongoing work on the bridges and Causeway that connect the mainland and Long Beach Island. Scala will also be able to frame a third-place certificate in Special Subject Writing for her stories about the closing of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Plant.

Executive Editor Gail Travers and graphic designer Pattie McIntyre took first place in the Editorial Section Layout and Content category. Sarah Hodgson was second in the Robert P. Kelly Award – a.k.a. “rookie of the year” because it is only open to journalistic newcomers. Pat Johnson was second in the Environmental, Health and Science Writing category. Rick Mellerup took second place in Best Lede. Leslee Ganss was third in the Graphics & Illustration contest for “The Holiday Caravan Is Coming” Artoon.

Finally, The SandPaper staff took third in the Feature Section Layout & Content race for the paper’s business and arts & entertainment (Section 2) sections.

At first glance it would seem like The SandPaper editorial staff had an off-year. After all, it hauled away 26 awards in last year’s contest. But the Garden State’s weekly newspapers were broken into two divisions based on circulation size in the past. In 2018 the divisions were combined, so The SandPaper was competing against many more newspapers this time around.

The changes were even more apparent in the NJPA Photography Contest. There used to be weekly and daily divisions. Now everybody competes against everybody in photography – a small weekly with just a couple of thousand subscribers has to go against papers with large circulations and staffs such as the Star-Ledger. Still, SandPaper Photo Editor Ryan Morrill was able to secure a second-place award in the Feature division of the new NJPA Photography Contest.

The SandPaper advertising department had been the New England Patriots of the NJPA’s Advertising Contest for weekly newspapers, winning the NJPA’s General Excellence Award again and again and again. But just as in photography, the NJPA’s daily and weekly divisions were combined for 2018. Could The SandPaper’s advertising and artistic/production departments continue to win against the big boys?

In a word – yes!

In the 2017 advertising contest, The SandPaper nailed down 34 awards, 14 of them first-place honors. In the newly formatted 2018 contest, The SandPaper collected 31 awards including nine first-place plaques. Maybe the “big boys” chipped into The SandPaper’s winning margin a bit, but it looks likely that the home team will cart away yet another General Excellence Award in Advertising at the NJPA Awards Dinner this spring.

With so many awards, a special edition would almost be needed to tick off every winner by category, especially since two people – a graphic designer and a sales representative – are credited on most plaques/certificates. Let’s just say that graphic designers who will carry home hardware from the awards dinner include Jeffrey Kuhlman, Adrian Antonio, Jason Cascais, Nora Devin and Tiffany McFarlin, while the sales reps who will have to bring a wheelbarrow to the dinner to haul off their booty include Andrea Driscoll, Stan Kapica, Steve Havelka, Doreen Cramer, Lee Little and Jeff Linkous.  — R.M.

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