ROANOKE – Judges with the West Virginia Better Newspaper Contest have for the first time cited the Spirit of Jefferson for overall excellence among large weeklies in the state.
At Stonewall Resort in Lewis County last weekend, the Spirit’s managing editor Robert Snyder accepted the second-place General Excellence plaque, a first in the newspaper’s history. No other Jefferson, Berkeley or Morgan county paper won a 2012 General Excellence award.
Even better, the Spirit took the top 2012 General Excellence award for advertising in its division.
Graphic designer Rachel Painter-Fields was awarded two first-place and one third-place award. Designer Kim Schell was awarded two first-place awards, while designer Sharon Snyder was given one second-place and one third-place award for advertising design. In addition, the design team was also awarded first place for advertising and layout of the 2011 Jefferson County Fair Special Section and two second-place finishes for the Spirit’s classified section, and one third-place award for the 2011 Fall Sports preview section.
The General Excellence award goes to newspapers who amass the greatest number of points in other contest categories.
In all, the Spirit took home 19 awards for its editorial work – a nearly five-fold increase from the 2011 contest when the paper won four editorial awards.
The newspaper was honored in a range of categories including news writing, in-depth reporting, feature coverage, columns, headlines, photography and newspaper design.
The Spirit competes in Division 3, which includes all the state’s weekly newspapers with circulations of 4,000 or more. Among those, only the Hampshire Review won more awards.
Under the rules of the contest, newspapers may enter any work published in the previous calendar year, but the Spirit’s entries for the 2012 awards all were from August through December 2011 – after Snyder took over the Spirit staff.
Among the staff members and contributors who picked up awards in Roanoke Aug. 11:
Snyder and reporter Bryan Clark shared a first-place award in Reporting of Governmental Affairs for a story on the Jefferson County Commission’s efforts to revamp rules on home-based businesses.
Clark also won a second-place award for “Dam that almost drowned Jefferson County,” a look back at an incredible proposal from the 1940s. That award came in the In-Depth or Investigative Reporting category.
Photography provided another win for Clark, who placed third in the Best Photography-News category. The winning photo showed a student involved in a science experiment.
Staff writer and copy editor Robert Smith won a third-place award for Best Sports Columnist for “Prozac for the party deck,” a piece he wrote on the Washington Redskins.
Graphic designer Rachel Painter-Fields won a first-place award for her design of the Spirit’s Dec. 14 lifestyle page highlighting Shepherdstown’s Spencer Wempe, as the reigning Miss West Virginia prepared for the Miss America competition.
Staff writer and editor Christine Miller Ford won four awards in the categories of Best News Feature, Best Written News Story and Best In-Depth or Investigative Report. She won first-place awards for a story on Shane Stoneberger, whose recently deceased grandfather had served at Pearl Harbor; on the trend toward email greetings rather than Christmas cards; and the deadly White Nose Syndrome that’s devastating bat colonies in the Northeast. She won a second-place award for an article on local Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Ford also won a first-place award in the Best Headline News category for “Wempe seen as strong contender,” which ran atop the Miss America preview.
Snyder also won a second-place award for Best News Feature for his story, “Good Fences.” The article focused on innovative changes local farmers are adopting to help clean the streams that feed into the Potomac. He won a third-place award in the Best Lifestyle Columnist category for “All a stage and his,” a reflective piece on watching his teenage son Isaac grow into a skilled performer.
Freelance writer Ann Wessel won second place in Best Lifestyles Feature Writing for her story on “On the Wall,” a book of Shepherdstown portraits taken by Hali Taylor.
The staff as a whole won five awards, for its Jefferson County Fair Guide (first place, Best Special Section); its Dec. 7 edition (second place, Best Single Issue), its Nov. 30 issue (second-place, Best Newspaper Design), its Oct. 5 front page (third place, Best Front Page) and its Fall Sports Preview (third place, Best Sports Section).