NEWS- Growing strong: <I>Hook</I> racks up 19 VPA awards

Believe it or not, dear Hook reader, the paper you're holding is more than just movie listings and classifieds... it's a journalistic juggernaut!

Judges for this year's Virginia Press Association competition recognized the Hook with 19 awards, ranking the four-year-old publication third in the state's "specialty" category and edging out such high-powered publications as the glossy bi-monthly Virginia Living Magazine, Norfolk's Port Folio Weekly, and Richmond's City Edition.

The awards, announced March 25 at the VPA convention in Roanoke, highlighted the Hook's growing reputation as one of the state's top weeklies. In just four years, the paper has racked up 43 VPA awards. To put that in perspective, the Hook's only in-town, in-category competition, the C-ville Weekly, has earned three awards in the same period.

Once again, art director Chris Conklin, who captured first place in the "overall design and presentation" category last year, took home another first-place this year for his cover designs. Photographer Jen Fariello captured a first-place prize for her portrait of performance artist Stevie Jay, an image that went on to win "best in show." (Fariello also won third place in the same category.)

In writing, reporter Courteney Stuart won first place in the home entertainment/leisure writing category. That talented trio, along with graphic artist Dana Cambell, also teamed up to earn a first-place for the Hook's wedding edition, "Getting hitched."

Another Hook special edition, "Charlottesville's biggest bang," a fact- and photo-packed chronicle of the Rolling Stones' concert, earned a second-place prize in the "special projects" category.

Although nearly all Hook staffers received some mention at this year's awards– including the paper's three student interns– it was Stuart who stood out, hauling in a Hook record of six individual writing prizes, including a second place in the coveted "feature writing portfolio" category.

"Stuart shows great potential and enormous range," wrote the judges. "Her stories engage the central issues for readers, and her writing is exceedingly disciplined, never going farther than the facts she has mustered."

Stuart nearly locked up the "general newswriting" category as well, winning both second and third place. In education writing, for which Stuart took third place, the judges were impressed with the way she helped readers "sort through confusing and conflicting accounts of the track record of Charlottesville Superintendent Scottie Griffin."

Award-winning staffer Lisa Provence wasn't far behind, taking home three individual prizes, as well as providing many of the stories in the award-winning Rolling Stones issue. About Provence's story on police strip-searches in Buckingham County– which took second place in the "public safety" category– the judges wrote: "This important article about a pattern of questionable strip-searches is a great example of watchdog journalism." In commenting on Provence's cover story, "Gas by the glass: North Garden's contaminated water," which won second prize in the "health, science and environmental" category, judges confirmed what Hook readers have known for years: "Deep reporting. Gives personal points of view as well as comprehensive overview. Many sources. Comprehensive and readable. A community service."

In addition, music writer Damani Harrison took third place in the "critical writing" category for his column The Prowl, which judges characterized this way: "These are more than music reviews– they're short stories. The writer's voice comes through without being overpowering."

Finally, Hook editor Hawes Spencer captured a second place prize for headline writing. In commenting on the selection, judges could have been describing the Hook itself: "Elements of fun and cleverness. Not afraid of experimenting."

Other Charlottesville publications winning awards this year include the Daily Progress with 13 and the Cavalier Daily with 11.

Top: Damani Harrison, Dana Campbell, Hawes Spencer, Jen Fariello, and Chris Conklin. Bottom: Susan Anspach, Courteney Stuart, Jocelyn Guest, Lindsay Barnes, and Lisa Provence


The Hook is nipping at the heels of two perennial Richmond-based powerhouses.