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Newspapers honored for editorial excellence

Monday, June 26, 2017   (0 Comments)
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BILOXI — Newspapers in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Oxford were singled out for excellence in their audience classes in awards handed out at the annual convention ofthe Mississippi Press Association Saturday, July 8, on the Gulf Coast.

The Clarion-Ledger, Hattiesburg American, The Oxford Eagle, The Lamar Times, Hattiesburg Post and Mississippi Business Journal won top honors for General Excellence in the annual Better Newspaper Contest Editorial Division.

James E. Prince, III, publisher and editor of The Neshoba Democrat in Philadelphia, received the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence, the highest prize presented annually by the Association. Prince is a two-time winner of the award, named for the late Enterprise-Journal publisher J.O. Emmerich, considered the dean of Mississippi opinion writing. Prince earned his graduate degree in journalism from the University of Mississippi after completing a degree in business from Mississippi State University. He purchased the Democrat in 2000 from longtime editor and publisher Stanley Dearman, who died earlier this year at 84.

Prince’s winning entry was an editorial deeply critical of a change of venue for three former Neshoba County employees who were accused in a $1.3 million dollar overtime scandal.

“In a very competitive category, one entry stood out for its devastatingly brief but no-holds-barred, well-reasoned language,” judges wrote of Prince’s editorial. “Keeping government accountable is one of journalism’s most important missions and this entry achieved that goal.”

Winner of the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism for Daily Newspapers was Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion-Ledger. Mitchell’s project focused on the search for and prosecution of Felix Vail, 76, who was eventually convicted in the decades-old death of his wife.

“Mitchell’s tenacity put a killer behind bars,” judges wrote. “At trial, prosecutors gave credit where it was due, telling jurors that Mitchell’s reporting made prosecution possible.

“By year’s end in 2016, Mitchell’s narrative had topped 30,000 words, all of them riveting.”

Ray Mosby and Natalie Perkins of The Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork earned the investigative prize for weekly newspapers for articles dealing with desperately needed renovations to the Sharkey-Issaquena Community Hospital.

“But for a community newspaper’s dogged reporting and commentary, the (hospital) might still be waiting on a much-needed renovation after decades of neglect,” remarked judges.

Tim Kalich, editor of The Greenwood Commonwealth, won the Bill Minor Prize for General News Reporting for a jailhouse interview with Edgar Ray Killen, the convicted murderer of three civil rights workers in 1964.

“The late Bill Minor would have especially admired Tim Kalich’s jailhouse interview,” judges wrote. “Kalich, who was forbidden by prison officials from having even a notepad during the interview, painted a vivid portrait of a dying, unreconstructed bigot whose words still haunt five decades after the killings for which he was convicted.”

Jamie Patterson of The Yazoo Herald took the prize for weekly newspapers for her story on Yazoo City residents who purchased property only to be hit with unpaid assessments against previous owners that totaled thousands of dollars.

“It seems illogical, if not unjust, that a property owner could be held responsible for unpaid assessments by a prior owner,” judges commented. “Good job by Patterson in putting a human face on the quirk in the law.”

The investigative and general news prizes come with generous cash awards. Established in 1983, the Bill Minor Prizes are funded through an endowment to the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson in honor of Minor’s long career as a reporter and columnist.

Minor, whose 70-year career spanned much of Mississippi’s history in the 20th Century, died in March at 94.

Zach Jones, a former photographer and reporter for The Lamar Times in Hattiesburg, won the Photo of the Year Award for a photo entitled “Underground Art" (pictured at top), part of a photo essay on metal working artist Jeremy Thomley.

Waid Prather, editor and publisher of The Carthaginian, took First Place for the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award. Prather’s commentary and reporting on corruption with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the closing of a private prison in Walnut Grove was singled out for distinction.

“We congratulate all of the winners in this year’s contest,” said MPA President Paul Keane, publisher of The Wayne County News. “The excellence in reporting, photography and the mechanics of good journalism is on display here and underscores how important our newspapers are to the communities we serve.”

The 2016 Better Newspaper Contest was judged by volunteers from the Kentucky Press Association. Fifty-one newspapers submitted a total of 2,089 entries into this year’s editorial contest. Awards for advertising excellence will be handed out in January during MPA’s Mid-Winter Conference.

Founded in 1866, MPA is trade association representing Mississippi newspaper media.



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