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Mississippi newspapers, journalists feted for excellence

Monday, June 17, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Editor
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BILOXI—Newspapers in Tupelo, Natchez, Meridian, Hattiesburg, Waynesboro, and Clarksdale have been cited for excellence in their audience classes in awards handed out at the annual convention of the Mississippi Press Association June 22.

The Daily Journal of Tupelo, The Natchez Democrat, The Meridian Star, The Pine Belt News of Hattiesburg, The Wayne County News, and The Clarksdale Press-Register won top honors for General Excellence in the annual Better Newspaper Contest Editorial Division.

Tim Kalich, editor and publisher of The Greenwood Commonwealth, was honored with the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence — his record-shattering sixth win in this special category. Kalich previously won the award for the first time in 1997 and again in 2006, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The award is named for the late Enterprise-Journal publisher J.O. Emmerich, considered the dean of Mississippi opinion writing. It was established in 1974 to recognize the single piece of best opinion writing in the state each year.

Kalich has served as publisher of the newspaper since 1995 and joined its staff nearly 35 years ago. He was honored this year for an editorial criticizing publicly owned hospitals for secrecy and failing to adhere to transparency laws.

"(Kalich) took on meaty, controversial topics of community interest and explained why they should be of importance to readers," judges wrote of Kalich's award-winning work. "His editorial on the importance of knowing the salaries and contracts for public hospital administrators was excellent.

"His writing is thoughtful, to-the-point, and persuasive."

Winner of the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism for Daily Newspapers was Anna Wolfe of the Clarion Ledger for her work on medical billing issue. Wolfe spent months on an investigation into what dictates medical costs and why.

It is the second consecutive year Wolfe, now with Mississippi Today, won the Minor Prize.

Jamie Patterson of The Yazoo Herald won the Bill Minor Prize for Weeklies for a series of pieces on the local housing authority and its transfer of over $500,000 in funds to a local non-profit entity without the full knowledge of the authority's board.

"(The reporter's) series of stories over a two-month period uncovered charges of doctored minutes, questionable travel and retirement party expenses, and seemingly ongoing malfeasance on the part of the housing authority board and staff," judges wrote. "Her follow-up column at the end showed how a newspaper's solid coverage can anger those involved, but the press' watchdog role is paramount."

Donna Campbell of The Daily Leader in Brookhaven was presented the Bill Minor Prize for General News Reporting for Dailies for her coverage of the murder of two local law enforcement officials.

"The stories concentrated not on the slayings as much as on the lives of those lost and their dedication to service to others," judges wrote of Campbell's work. "(She) handled the coverage of the aftermath... with empathy, compassion, and restraint."

Karen Fioretti of The Star-Herald in Kosciusko won the Bill Minor Prize for General News for Weeklies for her coverage of the slaying of two nuns in Holmes County.

"Fioretti's coverage of the senseless murder of two nuns and the family and community's insistence that the perpetrator not be sentenced to death was handled with great care," judges opined. "She simply allowed those closely involved to tell their stories of love for the sisters. Great reporting and story-telling made this entry the winner."

Thomas Wells of the Daily Journal in Tupelo was awarded the 2018 MPA Photo of the Year Prize for his coverage of the funeral of a slain Mississippi State Trooper.

The staff of The Natchez Democrat was awarded the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award for its coverage and investigation into a violation of the state Open Meetings Act by officials of the City of Natchez, who met behind closed doors to discuss a waste collection contract.

Whitney Downard of The Meridian Star and Jim Cegielski, Mark Thornton, and Sean Murphy were presented the Community Service Awards for Dailies and Weeklies, respectively.

"The work of these reporters, photographers, and their organizations shows the continued vital significance of community journalism," said MPA Executive Director Layne Bruce. "We congratulate all of the winners for their efforts this year."

The 2018 Better Newspaper Contest was judged by volunteers from the Kansas Press Association. Forty-three newspapers submitted a total of 1,937 entries into this year’s editorial contest. Awards for advertising excellence will be handed out in February during MPA’s Mid-Winter Conference.

Founded in 1866 and now in its 153rd year, MPA is trade association representing Mississippi newspaper media.




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