Volume 74, Number 49 | April 13 - 19 , 2005

The Villager is voted state’s best weekly newspaper

On the strength of its standout news coverage and writing and photography, The Villager was awarded the New York Press Association’s highest honor, the Stuart C. Dorman Award for Editorial Excellence, at the association’s annual convention last weekend in Albany.

One hundred eighty-nine New York State weekly community newspapers submitted 4,159 entries to NYPA’s 2004 Better Newspaper Contest, which this year was judged by the Texas Press Association.

The Villager won 12 awards in editorial categories — including five first-place awards, six second-place awards and a third-place award — scoring the most editorial points in the contest, by doing so earning the coveted Dorman Award.

“Taking the big one at the NYPA convention is always a thrill and a tremendous motivator for the whole staff,” said John W. Sutter, Villager editor and publisher. “It validates what we do all year and I am so proud of our small staff for their huge output and the quality of their journalism, graphics and, yes, advertising sales. Special kudos to Associate Editor Lincoln Anderson for having the pulse of the community and his meticulous attention to even the smallest details of putting together a weekly paper.”

The Villager also won the Dorman Award in 2001 and has ranked in the top 10 of the state’s community weeklies the past four years in a row.

The newspaper took awards in an impressively broad range of categories, from its coverage of the Republican National Convention, anarchist protesters and the Critical Mass bicycle rides to obituaries, coverage of local government and the environment and headline writing.

The R.N.C. was last year’s big story and The Villager’s coverage of it proved award worthy. Anderson won first place for In-Depth Reporting for his articles on convention protesters. Subjects included mass arrests of protesters and their detainment at Pier 57 — dubbed “Little Guantanamo on the Hudson” — anarchists’ complaints of being smeared by the mainstream media and police and United for Peace and Justice’s “World Says No to Bush” march.

“Good coverage of a segment of a national event,” the Texas judges wrote in their comments. “Good use of photography. Very human face put on articles. Well written and interesting. A good combination of news and feature writing.” Photos for these articles were taken by Bob Arihood, Ramin Talaie and Lorenzo Ciniglio.

In the Best Obituaries category, the judges were effusive in their praise of the work of Villager reporter Albert Amateau and Villager theater critic and writer Jerry Tallmer, awarding them jointly first place. Amateau’s obits included Chelsea painter and icon Bresci Thompson and former Tammany Hall Democratic boss Carmine De Sapio, while Tallmer wrote on Helen Gee, proprietor of the legendary Limelight café.

“All stories, particularly ‘Bresci,’ [are] heads above the rest [of the other newspapers’ entries],” the judges said. “Reader interest guaranteed. Fascinating subjects. Impeccable organization of story elements. Concrete detail. Revealing quotations, tightly written. Impossible to skip over a single delicious line. Each story has its own compelling tone, some mysterious, others conversational and breezy. Fitting tributes. Fine writing!”

The Villager also took top honors in the category of Police/Crime/Courts. The entries were judged on the contents of two issues of the newspaper, which included Anderson’s articles on a shocking hammer attack by Barbara Zellman on her neighbor Miriam Sarzin, the Jane St. Association’s treasurer, in April and police busting up Critical Mass’s after-party on E. Houston St. following the cyclists’ Halloween ride.

“Good coverage of Critical Mass event,” the judges said. “Very balanced. Also good balanced coverage of woman attacked in her apartment. Good coverage of the good and bad sides of police dept. Fair and both sides were presented.”

Anderson’s article on the breaking up of the Critical Mass after-party also won second place for Spot News Coverage.

“Being there when it happens,” the judges said, “exemplifies spot news.”

East Village photographer Q. Sakamaki won first place in the Picture Story category for his photos of Cambodian AIDS orphans and child prostitutes.

“These are wonderful and haunting images,” the judges wrote.

Sakamaki also won second place for Feature Photos for his shot of John Kerry supporters in Boston slumped over a metal barricade in disbelief on Election Night as it became clear Kerry would lose to President Bush.

“Good feature photos tell a story,” the judges wrote. “I didn’t have to look at [the other photos on] the page to tell this was a post-election photo.”

Sakamaki also won third place for Spot News Photos for his photographs in Gaza last spring after the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

“[Boy wearing] Hamas bandana photo caught the tension for the young man — fear? Uncertainty? Anger?” the judges said. “There is fear as well in the second image [of Israeli settlers in an armored vehicle heading to their Gaza settlement]. Very clear. Very real. Great job.”

The Villager was judged first in its division for Headlines, based on headlines throughout the paper in two issues.

“Headlines strong, interesting!” noted the judges.

In the Coverage of Elections/Politics entry, The Villager won second place. Articles by The Villager’s staff and contributors — including Keith Crandell, Roslyn Kramer and David Ellis — on the R.N.C. and September Critical Mass ride and aftermath of Kerry’s defeat were complemented by riveting photography by Arihood, Talaie, Cinglio, Sakamaki, Robert Stolarik, Elisabeth Robert, Jake Price and Jennifer Weisbord.

“Outstanding photography” was the judges’ comment.

The Villager won second place for Coverage of Local Government. Reporter Josh Rogers’ article on the federal 9/11 Commission’s hearings at New School University was singled out by the judges for mention. The Villager’s entry also included articles by Anderson exposing Bob Rinaolo’s conflict of interest as chairperson of the Community Board 2 Business Committee, as well as reporting on the race between David McWater and Barden Prisant for chairperson of Community Board 3 and a fistfight between feuding artists groups at a hearing on the Clemente Soto Velez arts and cultural center, Amateau’s article on the Pier 57 development bid process and reporter Ronda Kaysen’s article on how the city, after facing community opposition, pulled its plan to redevelop the remaining Seward Park Urban-Renewal Area sites with affordable housing and commercial space.

“The paper did a good job of localizing issues for their readers,” the judges said. “They show why an issue in a large city like NYC is important to their readers. Good coverage of 9/11 panel…. Each story had relevance for the reader.”

The newspaper scored a second place in Coverage of the Environment based on two issues, including a profile by Melanie Wallis of use of solar power in 6BC Garden in the East Village and Deborah Lynn Blumberg’s report on The River Project’s oyster restoration project on the Tribeca waterfront. An article on the city’s redevelopment plans for the Lower East Side waterfront and a talking point by the Organization of Waterfront Neighborhoods urging Greenwich Villagers to accept a marine-transfer station for recyclables on Gansevoort Peninsula also influenced judges’ voting.

The judges wrote: “Great variety of stories — from local interest to statewide concerns.”

The East Village’s Wilson won second place for Best Humor Column for her screeds against flower-eating squirrels and a panhandler who dupes passersby into buying seemingly freely offered “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” stickers for $1.

“Unforgettable,” the judges said. “A real persona here. Witty, acerbic, belligerent. Fine conversational style and diction. Clever in the extreme. Glib, facile writer. Handles parenthetical style well. Compelling scenarios fit for television script treatment.”

The Villager’s annual ad-packed Handbook won third place for Best Special Section – Advertising.

Brett C Vermilyea, The Villager’s art and production director, showed his design skills by sweeping the category of Best Special Section Cover. His cover for the City Homes section won first place and his cover for the Back to School section won third place. Vermilyea’s cover for the Progress Report for Downtown Express, a sister paper to The Villager, won second place.

In addition, Downtown Express won several other NYPA awards, including second place for Coverage of Business; second place for Best Column by Jane Flanagan, who edits The Villager’s Arts & Lifestyles pages; and third place for Photographic Excellence. Gay City News, another Community Media newspaper, took third place in the highly competitive Coverage of the Arts category.

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