NEWS- Banquet bonanza: <i>Hook, T-D</i> take top prizes at VPA

NORFOLK– If you think newspapers aren't competitive, you didn't witness the face-to-face encounter I did between the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly at this year's Virginia Press Association awards. Standing between the two high-powered editors, who have had their well-publizized differences, I felt sandwiched between a clash of titans! Always the reporter, I grabbed my camera to record the moment. The two men smiled, dutifully posing for me, but neither seemed pleased when I complimented them both– the Times-Dispatch for its nervy willingness to forgo decades of grayness with shocking human interest covers, and Style for covering the human toll as well as the "secrecy and fear" that accompanied the T-D's overhaul. It was something I won't soon forget.

In recent years, the Hook has collected many wonderful memories at the VPA awards, as we've made a strong showing in the awards announced each March. This year, however, may be the most memorable ever. In addition to a record 21 writing and design prizes, the Hook joined the Richmond Times-Dispatch as the only two papers in state to receive the Association's highest honor, the VPA Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service.

 The T-D earned its big prize at the Association's annual meeting in Norfolk on March 24 for stories about a hurricane, local jail conditions, and the aftermath of war. The Hook won for our story of the "12-step" rape apology case, the shooting of a pet cat, and for the coverage, penned mostly by Lisa Provence, of the so-called "school bombing plot," which a VPA judge lauded as our "shining crown jewel."

Here's where our hearts start to warm some more.

"Throughout its coverage of this bizarre case," wrote judge Tim McGuire, a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, "the newspaper paints a chilling ‘Star Chamber' portrait. Under the veil of juvenile court secrecy, a dispassionate reader becomes convinced the rights of these students and their parents got kicked around like a worn-out football."

As Hook readers know, the only teen who fought the charges won a jury's acquittal in August. But the prosecution kept going, with one teen's father actually hauled into court for contempt for trying to get his son back into the Albemarle school system.

Even the judge, although noting that discussing the case with the school board was a "technical" violation of a gag order, dismissed the charge. The lead prosecutor, Albemarle Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Camblos, earned a rebuke of sorts recently when he was not recommended by the local bar association for a judgeship.

The Hook wasn't alone in pointing out the questionable prosecutions. Daily Progress reporter Liesel Nowak also earned a VPA award for her coverage of the alleged bomb plot case, one of 15 prizes won by the Progress this year.

The Hook, competing in a different category, earned 22 awards in all, including first place in the "in-depth" category for Courteney Stuart's coverage of the apology that brought about rape charges, in what's come to be known as the "12-step" case.

One really exciting fact for this editor is that every member of the paper's 2006 newsroom and art department, including Lindsay Barnes, Dave McNair, Rosalind Warfield-Brown, Mitchell Jarrett, Andy Wilkinson, Jen Fariello, William Walker, and Allison Sommers, took home at least one award.

One other Charlottesville newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, also earned awards presented at the dinner banquet.

The Hook's Mitchell Jarrett, Hawes Spencer, and Lindsay Barnes

The Hook's Rosalind Warfield-Brown and Lisa Provence

The editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Glenn Proctor, and the editor Style Weekly, Jason Roop


The Hook's 2006 VPA Awards

H. Mitchell Jarrett: Third place, informational graphics

Jen Fariello: Second place, personality or portrait photo

William Walker: First place, sports feature photo; second place, sports news photo

Rosalind Warfield-Brown, Mitchell Jarrett, Allison Sommers: First place, headline writing

Hawes Spencer: Second place, headline writing

Allison Sommers, Mitchell Jarrett: Third place, lifestyle or entertainment pages

Mitchell Jarrett, Allison Sommers, Andy Wilkinson: First place, excellence of front page or front cover; Second place, special sections

Andy Wilkinson: Second place, excellence of page design

Courteney Stuart: First place, feature series or continuing story; First place, in-depth or investigative reporting; third place, feature series or continuing story; third place, health, science, and environmental writing; Second place, education writing

Lisa Provence: First place, home, leisure and entertainment writing; third place, general news writing

Dave McNair: Second place, home, leisure and entertainment writing

Lindsay Barnes: Second place, public safety writing

Dave McNair, Courteney Stuart: Second place, multimedia

Staff: The 2006 Award for Journalistic Integrity and Community Service; First place, multimedia


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