Observer rakes in four awards

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

Williston’s weekly paper took home four awards for writing and photography at the Vermont Press Association annual meeting and awards luncheon in Montpelier last Thursday.

The Williston Observer team won awards in the feature stories, headline writing and feature photo categories.

The annual contest is open to the 10 daily and approximately four-dozen non-daily newspapers circulating in Vermont, according to Mike Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association. Donoghue said the contest judges were chosen by the New England Newspapers Association from top newspapers in the region (not including Vermont).

Observer staff reporter Greg Elias took home second place for headline writing (non-daily). Headlines such as “Essex church seeks sanctuary in Williston,” about the Essex Alliance Church’s plans for a facility in Williston; “New radio station signals more competition;” and “Dispute could short circuit Adelphia deal;” impressed judges.

“The headline writer puts a nice spin on even the most prosaic of stories,” wrote one judge.

Reporter Kim Howard took third place in the same category, with zingers like “Teacher stands out from the herd,” about a dairy farmer turned teacher, and “Golden years: A gay old time?” about gay and lesbian seniors in Vermont.

“The headlines tell a lot in just a few words,” a judge commented.

Howard also won third place for feature writing (non-daily) with her story on the retirement of Williston Central School receptionist Mavis Tremblay after 37 years at her job.

For photography, freelance photographer Dave Schmidt won first place for Best Feature Photo. Schmidt won over judges with his photo of a group of turkeys running around on Sunset Hill Road in November.

At the meeting, outgoing VPA president and editor of the Brattleboro Reformer, Sabina Haskell, acknowledged Mike Donoghue of The Burlington Free Press. Haskell said Donoghue has been selected to receive the 2007 Yankee Quill Award, considered the top journalism award in New England. Haskell said Donoghue is the third Vermont journalist to win the Yankee Quill.

The featured speaker at the VPA lunch was Col. James Baker, director of the Vermont State Police.

Baker, who took over as director a year ago, spoke about the importance of transparency in the State Police, and how the department will move toward greater transparency and accountability in the next year.