Volume 75, Number 47 | April 12 - 18 2006

Villager repeats as state’s best weekly paper; wins 16 awards

For the second year in a row — and the third time in the last five years — The Villager has been judged the best weekly newspaper in New York State.

The results of the New York Press Association’s 2005 Better Newspaper Contest were announced at NYPA’s annual spring convention at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., last weekend. The Villager won 16 awards in editorial categories — including five first-place awards — earning the most total editorial contest points, thereby garnering the coveted Stuart C. Dorman Award for Editorial Excellence, NYPA’s biggest award.

The Villager won first place for Coverage of Elections/Politics; Coverage of Business, Financial and Economic News; Best Editorial Page; Historical, Anniversary or Progress Editions and Spot News Photos.

The Villager took second place in the categories of General Excellence; Photographic Excellence; Headlines; Best Column; Spot News Photos and Sports Action Photos.

The Villager won third place for Overall Design Excellence; Editorials; Editorial Cartoon; Special Sections and Picture Story (photo essay).

“We were thrilled to be recognized by our newspaper colleagues for excellence in a broad range of categories, and of course for winning again the top prize for editorial excellence,” said John W. Sutter, The Villager’s publisher and editor. “But the real stimulation in this business is trying to write honestly, independently and forcefully — on a weekly basis — about events that make a difference to the lives of individuals and families in our neighborhood.”

Entries were judged this year by the Washington State Newspaper Association on Jan. 26. Two hundred forty-two New York State newspapers — predominantly community weeklies — submitted 4,052 entries in 76 categories for this year’s contest.

In ranking The Villager’s coverage of elections and politics the best in its circulation division, the judges wrote in their comments: “Good election recap and relevant, in-depth news and feature stories.”

Entries by The Villager in this category included an article by Villager associate editor Lincoln Anderson on former City Councilmember Margarita Lopez’s 2001 campaign finance problems; Villager reporter Albert Amateau’s article on Senator Hillary Clinton walking the High Line after a federal allocation of $18 million for the project; and Villager reporter Ronda Kaysen’s report on electronic voting.

In rating The Villager’s editorial page the best, the judges wrote: “Letters show people read and react to your Op-Ed Page and paper in general. One of the few entries that has a cartoon. Notebook columns are good, strong editorials.”

Columns in The Villager’s editorial page entries included reflections by Ed Gold on Beat figure Lucien Carr, Jefferson Siegel’s commentary on Maureen Dowd speaking at New School University and remembrances by Suzanne Zionts and Andrei Codrescu of Hunter S. Thompson.

The two issues The Villager submitted for Coverage of Business, Financial and Economic News included the annual Meat Market and Lower East Side special sections.

“It isn’t the volume of division-related stories that earns the paper first place,” the judges said. “It’s clearly the topics and the writing!!! The coverage means something to a reader. And the writing establishes that connection!”

In an open-circulation-division category, The Villager’s second annual Progress Report — written by local community leaders — was ranked number one in the state. The judges said it had a “comprehensive feel.”

“Streamlined layout and relevant articles, good utilization of color photography, ad layout/design doesn’t interfere with editorial content. Nice cover. I liked the comprehensive feel of this edition,” the judges said.

Ramin Talaie won first place in Spot News Photos for his shot of an arrest at Times Square in March 2005 during protests on the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq war.

“Photographer got right into the event and tells story with a single image. Mass event (told by tie cord cuffs) protest (with soldier’s photo) and routine activity (by officer’s expression). A perfect example of what spot news should be.”

General excellence

In awarding The Villager second place in the prestigious Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence category, the judges ranked three issues of the newspaper on overall criteria, including news coverage, writing, editorial pages, sports coverage, arts pages, layout and design and community involvement.

“Good news content,” the judges said. “Good use of headlines. Nice photos. Clean ads. Well laid out. Strong editorial section. Comprehensive, easy-to-read [listings] calendar.”

The Villager also won second place for Photographic Excellence.

“Great variety of photos — lots of different angles, composition, styles, etc. that make this paper fun to browse,” the judges said. Photos in the two issues The Villager submitted were by Milo Hess, Q. Sakamaki, Elisabeth Robert, Clayton Patterson, Bob Arihood, Jefferson Siegel, Talisman Brolin, Bob Kreizel, Ramin Talaie, Josh Argyle, Lorenzo Ciniglio, Robert Stolarik, Tequila Minsky and John Ranard.

Of The Villager’s headline writing — which also won second place — the judges wrote: “Particularly on Page One, heads are clever.”

Patricia Fieldsteel won second place for Best Column for her writing about a daytrip to Auschwitz and her reminiscences of Western Beef supermarket on W. 14th St.

“Dense, detailed and very effective,” the judges noted. “Fieldsteel takes the reader places they might not like to go, but the reward for going anyway is poignant. Thought provoking.”

Clayton Patterson won second place for Spot News Photos for his on-the-scene shot of police arresting several youths whose car crashed at E. Houston St. and Avenue A after they ran a stoplight while being chased by police.

“Captures chaos of multiple arrest scene,” the judges wrote.

Gary He took second place for Sports Action Photos for his photographs of the New York University women’s volleyball team in the N.C.A.A. Division III quarterfinals.

“In addition to the action, I love the facial expression,” the judges said. “The girl in the center picture is truly priceless. Good eye!”

The Washington judges admired The Villager’s general look and layout, awarding the paper third place for Overall Design Excellence: “Like the high use of photos and graphics,” they said. “Nice editorial page.”

‘Gutsy’ editorials

The Villager’s third-place-winning entry for editorials included a March 2 editorial criticizing the protracted conflict of interest situation at Community Board 2, in which Bob Rinaolo continued as chairperson of the board’s Business Committee for 18 months after the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board had issued an opinion stating that a liquor license owner should not chair a committee considering liquor license applications; Rinaolo and the board’s then-chairperson, Jim Smith, all the while had kept the ruling secret from the rest of the board. Another of The Villager’s editorials criticized the C.B. 2 Business Committee for recommending denial of the expansion of the Village Alliance business improvement district in the face of overwhelming community support for the proposal — as well as the insertion by former board District Manager Arty Strickler of an anonymous letter blasting the BID into board members’ packets before the vote.

“Gutsy positions on community board, showing ‘the emperor has no clothes,’ ” the judges said.

Ira Blutreich won third place for Editorial Cartoon for his spoofing of Martha Stewart, Jeanine Pirro and Hillary Clinton, showing Stewart in an electronic ankle bracelet and Pirro and Clinton with their own “ball and chains” — Albert Pirro and Bill Clinton.

The Villager’s annual Gay Pride supplement won third place for Special Sections.

“Good mix of reporting and ads,” the judges commented. “Topic of great interest to the community. Novel idea for special section.”

Q. Sakamaki won third place in Spot News Photos for his pictures of female prisoners working on a chain gang in Arizona.

In advertising categories, The Villager’s Community Handbook won first place for Best Special Section – Advertising — “very easy to read, good white space, well designed,” the judges said — while a full-page ad for Bayard’s by retail ad manager Colin Gregory won second place for Best Large-Space Ad.

Community Media’s two other weekly newspapers also scored top awards in Saratoga. Downtown Express won first place for Coverage of Local Government and for Editorials, while Gay City News won first place for Coverage of Religion and third place for Coverage of Local Government.

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