WHEELING – The staff of the Spirit of Jefferson has won recognition for work done during 2012, taking home six first-place plaques at Saturday’s annual West Virginia Press Association awards banquet at Oglebay Resort here.
“We’re proud of the effort we put in every day to create the best possible newspaper for our community,” said Robert Snyder, the paper’s editor. “To be honored as among the state’s best, that’s a nice bonus.”
The Spirit competes in Division 3, which includes all the state’s weekly newspapers with circulations of 4,000 or more. This year, journalists in Georgia reviewed West Virginia entries and selected the Spirit for a range of awards in categories including in-depth reporting, columns, photography and newspaper design.
Snyder won a first-place award for his original drawing of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, an illustration that appeared in the Spirit’s “Your Voice, Your Vote” pre-election guide. The guide itself also won a first-place award for Best Special Section.
Reporter Bryan Clark took first place in the Investigative/In-depth category for “These are My Kids,” a series of stories focusing on Amanda Underwood, whose children were taken away by the state and adopted by another family despite a child services report rated her home in the lowest category for risk of abuse and neglect. Snyder and graphic designer Rachel Fields won first place for Best Front Page of the Spirit’s presentation of that story.
Christine Miller Ford won a first-place award for editorial writing for a piece urging a tougher sentence for Berkeley County resident David McDaniel, whose license had been revoked for DUI in 2011 when he was involved in a deadly crash. At the time, his blood-alcohol concentration tested more than four times the state’s legal limit.
The paper also placed first in Best Newspaper Design. Snyder won two other second-place awards, for Best News Photography for a shot taken of a truck smashed in the derecho storm in Charles Town in June 2012 and for a sports section front that he designed.
Clark took second place in Best Legal Issues for his series of stories on the state’s congressional redistricting.
Clark and Ford won a second-place award in Best Governmental Affairs Reporting for their coverage of the aftermath of Mountain State University’s accreditation loss.
Three other second-place awards went to the Spirit, for Best Single Issue, Best Editorial Page and Best Sports Photography for the work of photographer Andrew Wilt.
Robert Smith took home a third-place Best Sports Columnist award for his look at his great-great-grandfather and Orioles’ legend Joe Kelley and Ford won a third-place Best Columnist honor for “Giving King his due,” a piece she wrote about learning about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. alongside her young daughters.
In 2013, 40 newspapers entered 2,216 entries in 25 categories. The Spirit finished third overall, accepting a General Excellence plaque in Division III for the second straight year.
In the advertising competition, Spirit ad director Mary Burns’ staff – Fields, Sharon Snyder and the now-retired Kim Schell – finished in second place in General Excellence among all Division III papers.
The team won a number of awards, including first-place honors for Best Special Section for their fall sports section and first place for their Jefferson County Fair special section. Snyder won six individual awards of which she took three first place plaques for Best Classified Display ad, Best Process Color ad over a half page and Best Black and White ad over a half page, while Fields also won three individual awards, including a first place plaque in website ad design.