News + Record leads division with 28 NC Press Association awards

CN+R wins 1st place in 14 categories, more than all but two papers across N.C.; gets two ‘General Excellence’ citations

Posted 2/26/21

The Chatham News + Record captured a record-setting 28 news awards today at the N.C. Press Association’s annual news and editorial contest, winning more prizes than any newspaper in its …

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News + Record leads division with 28 NC Press Association awards

CN+R wins 1st place in 14 categories, more than all but two papers across N.C.; gets two ‘General Excellence’ citations

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The Chatham News + Record captured a record-setting 28 news awards today at the N.C. Press Association’s annual news and editorial contest, winning more prizes than any newspaper in its division and earning prestigious “general excellence” recognition in the contest’s two major overall categories.

The newspaper won 14 first-place awards, along with eight second-place and six third-place prizes.

Reporter and Web Editor Hannah McClellan won six individual writing awards, former Sports Editor Chapel Fowler won five, while Photographer Kim Hawks and Publisher/Editor Bill Horner III each won three awards.

In all, 10 current and former members of the CN+R news team — along with graphic designer Jason Justice — were recognized with individual awards at the ceremony, which was held virtually as a part of the NCPA’s annual meeting Friday.

The newspaper also won a number of staff awards, including first-place recognition for Best Use of Social Media for its work on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and Best Email Newsletter (for the second consecutive year) for the Chatham Brew, a free thrice-weekly email newsletter with a weekly reach of more than 8,000 readers. The newspaper also won second place for Best Community Coverage, a measure of overall coverage of the goings-on in the market it serves.

In addition, the News + Record’s website (chathamnewsrecord.com) won the first prize in the coveted “General Excellence for Websites” competition in the small community newspaper division.

“Winning more awards than any other newspaper in our division, and becoming one of the most-recognized newspapers in all of North Carolina, is a testament to the commitment our team has to Chatham County and community journalism,” Horner said. “It’s extremely gratifying. I’m so proud of our team, especially our first-time award-winners. North Carolina’s annual news and editorial contest is known for being among the most vigorously contested in the country, and these results show that what we’re giving our readers — in print, online and through our other digital platforms — is recognized within the industry as outstanding work.”

The News + Record took second place in the overall “General Excellence” category, finishing as runner-up to the perennial winner in the small community newspaper division, The State Port Pilot, which won 24 news awards.

In all, in the contest’s seven divisions — ranging from the smallest community papers to the state’s largest dailies — only three newspapers won as many awards as the News + Record, each three of them serving metropolitan areas: the Wilmington Star-News, the Raleigh News & Observer and the Winston-Salem Journal. The latter two newspapers competed in the state’s largest division, which has only four newspapers. The News + Record competed against 19 other newspapers for its awards. 

Among all newspapers in the state, only the Star-News (17) and the News & Observer (15) won as many first-place news awards as the News + Record (14). 

Hannah McClellan

McClellan’s two first-place awards were in the Education Reporting and Election/Political Reporting categories. She won second place for her contest entries in General News Reporting and for Ledes — newspaper terminology for “leads,” or the opening paragraphs in stories — and third place for City/County/Government Reporting. She also placed third-place in the Education Reporting category, which meant she took two of the three places in that contest.

“It’s remarkable for a new reporter to win six awards,” Horner said of McClellan, a 2020 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. “It’s even more remarkable when you realize Hannah didn’t start with us until last May. The contest year runs October through September, so she had only half a year’s worth of work to enter, compared to a full year for most of her competition. Hannah continues to do incredible work for us, and some of the stories and series she’s working on now will definitely be candidates for awards this time next year.”

Here are the stories McClellan was awarded for:

• Education reporting: 1st for “‘We want to be engaged’: CCS EC families and teachers adapt to Plan C,” and 3rd for “‘I don’t want to just see my friends on the computer’: Kindergarteners and parents adjust to remote learning

• Election and county government reporting: 1st place for coverage on Chatham Board of Commissioner candidacies and cases for election and 3rd for my coverage of monthly BOC meetings.

• General reporting: 2nd place for “BLM billboard next to Confederate flag to be removed” article

Chapel Fowler

Fowler, who recently left the News + Record to take a position with the Fayetteville Observer, won first place for Sports Feature Writing and Sports Ledes, second and third places for Sports Enterprise Reporting and third place for Sports News Reporting.

Judges noted Fowler’s writing skill.

“The memorable post-season run lede made me want to read on about the basketball team’s turnaround,” one judge wrote. “The story lede on the death of a football coaching legend was the best, making you want to read about ‘the 6-foot-4 giant,’ with the ‘steady hand’ and the ‘penchant for the counter right run.’”

“Chapel is one of the most naturally-gifted writers I’ve worked with in 40 years of newspapering,” Horner said. “Had he been with us for a full year he would have won 10 awards, I’m sure. He took our sports pages to another level and the recognition was well-deserved.”

Kim Hawks

Hawks, a part-time photographer for the newspaper, won first place for General News Photography and Feature Photography and third place for Spot News Photography.

The judge for the Feature Photography category noted that Hawks’ work told “a personal story.”

“(This category) was hard to judge, but the impact of this photo earned first place,” the judge wrote.

“We’re fortunate to have Kim working with us,” Horner said. “She’s an experienced photographer, but shooting for newspapers is new to her. Winning two first-place prizes means that she’s now among the best of the best.”

Bill Horner III

Horner won two first-place awards, capturing top honors in both of the contest’s column writing categories: Serious Columns and Lighter Columns. In feedback from the judges, the judge of the Serious Columns category said his work was “very personal, emotional and relatable.” The judge of the Lighter Columns category said, “I like this columnist’s choice of subject matter that many of his readers can relate to. His creative thoughts and easygoing style make for great reading.”

Horner also won second place for Business Writing for his story about Chatham County’s residential real estate market.

Victoria Johnson

Victoria Johnson, who leads the CN+R’s La Voz de Chatham project, also won two first-place awards. She teamed with news intern Olivia Rojas in the Business Writing category for a story about the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program, and took top honors in Religion & Faith Reporting for a story she wrote entitled, “Chatham’s Hispanic churches maintain community, support congregations despite COVID-19.

The judge in that category called that story “an informative piece, very well written, intimate interviews, excellent quotes. Well done.”

“Our La Voz project is an important part of our work,” Horner said. “The impact of Victoria’s work is growing and making a difference in Chatham County.”

La Voz de Chatham is the newspaper’s project devoted to coverage of COVID-19 and other issues in the county’s Latinx community. Originally funded with a grant from Facebook, the project is funded now with support from Chatham Hospital.

Jason Justice

Long-time News + Record designer Jason Justice won the newspaper’s sole advertising award, capturing first place for best Retail Ad in a Niche Publication for an ad he designed for the newspaper’s Chatham Life magazine.

Other winners

Former Reporter Zachary Horner, who now works for the Chatham County Public Health Department, and former intern Adrianne Cleven won second place for Best Multimedia Project with their ground-breaking “Chatcast” podcast. The podcast, which featured 10 installments, addressed the subject of teen mental health in Chatham County.

The judge for this category wrote: “An important project, pulled together in a format more likely to reach the audience that might most benefit. Excellent job finding kids to open up in a format that will reach many groups.”

Reporter D. Lars Dolder, who had been working for the newspaper as a stringer before the contest deadline, won third place for Election/Political Reporting for his profile of the candidates in the N.C. House Dist. 54 race last September. He joined the newspaper full-time in October.

“Lars is our newest staff member and our only reporter without a journalism degree,” Horner said, “but his innate ability to find stories and write in a compelling way is so valuable to us. He’ll be a regular in the awards column by this time next year.”

Former photographer David Bradley won a writing award, capturing second place in Religion & Faith Reporting for a story about a retiring Chapel Hill pastor from Chatham County.

The paper’s 28 awards this year are a single-year record for the former Chatham News and Chatham Record, which until 2018 was owned by the Resch family. The “new” News + Record won 18 awards in the NCPA’s 2019 contest, including third-place in General Excellence, in the newspaper’s first year under the ownership of Chatham Media Group LLC, a partnership between Horner and Chatham County developers Kirk Bradley and Chris Ehrenfeld.


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