Press awards recognize ‘dogged commitment’

The Smoky Mountain News won four awards for its news coverage in the recent North Carolina Press Association News and Editorial Awards contest, including first place in the Community Service category for the staff’s comprehensive coverage of Haywood Regional Medical Center’s problems in 2008.

The Community Service prize is among the most coveted for the state’s newspapers, and this is the second year in a row The Smoky Mountain News won first place in the category. Entries in the category include a newspaper’s full coverage of an issue or event — stories, graphics, photographs, illustrations, editorials, columns, infoboxes and anything related to the story. This year’s entry was titled “Tough Pill to Swallow,” and here’s what the judges had to say: “This coverage exemplifies the best qualities of journalist community service: dogged commitment to facts and fairness, inclusive voices from all stakeholders, persistence despite obstacles from those in power. Strong reporting and writing. Great work!”

Smoky Mountain News Publisher Scott McLeod said the newspaper’s staff was deserving of the award.

“This was a story covered by all the media in the region, so to be singled out for our efforts is a testament to the in-depth, unique perspective we try to provide to our readers every single week,” said McLeod.

Last year The Smoky Mountain News won first place in the Community Service category for its coverage of development in the mountains.

In addition to the Community Service award, The Smoky Mountain News also won:

• First place in News Enterprise Reporting for Julia Merchant’s reporting on the mental health crisis facing the region.

• Second place in General News Reporting for Becky Johnson’s and Merchant’s coverage of HRMC’s initial loss of its Medicaid and Medicare licenses.

• Third place in Investigative Reporting for Julia Merchant’s coverage of Tom McDevitt’s problems at Smoky Mountain Mental Health.

Newspapers compete in different categories based on circulation. The Smoky Mountain News competes in the top circulation category for non-daily papers, as does the Mountain Xpress, The Mountaineer and the Franklin Press. Other newspapers and writers in the region that won awards include:

• Asheville Citizen-Times — Second place Best Multimedia Project, staff; third place Best Multimedia Project, staff.

• The Mountaineer — First place Photo Page, DC Buchanan; second place General News Photography, DC Buchanan.

• The Franklin Press — First place Editorials.

• The Sylva Herald — Third place Special Section, Lynn Hotaling and Nick Breedlove.

• Asheville’s Mountain Xpress — Second place Investigative Reporting, Jon Elliston; second place Serious Columns, Mark Jamison (who lives in Webster); first place Special Section, Bele Chere Guide, staff.

• The Highlander — Second and third place Spot News Reporting, Geoff Slade and Brian O’Shea; second place Feature Writing, Brian O’Shea; third place New Enterprise Reporting, D. Linsey Wisdom; second place Feature Photography, D. Linsey Wisdom; first place Editorials, staff; first place News Coverage, staff.

• Crossroads Chronicle (Cashiers) — Third place Sports News Reporting, Justin Caudell; third place Sports Feature Writing, Justin Caudell; third place Lighter Columns, Jennifer Daniel; third place General Excellence, staff; first place Editorial Page, staff; third place News Coverage, staff.

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