The Villager wins 12 awards; Haiti coverage was tops


In the annual contest of New York State community weekly newspapers, The Villager’s coverage of an international story — last year’s earthquake in Haiti — stood out. Soho photographer Tequila Minsky, who, by chance, was in Haiti on a visit when the devastating quake hit, won three first-place awards for her photos and reporting on the disaster. Call it a “triple shot of Tequila.”

The Villager garnered 12 awards over all in the New York Press Association’s 2010 Better Newspaper Contest. The entries were judged by members of the Arizona Newspapers Association. The awards were presented this past weekend at NYPA’s spring convention in Saratoga, N.Y.

(Last July, Community Media launched the East Villager and Lower East Sider, which shares content with The Villager. Only tear sheets from The Villager were entered into the competition.)

Minsky won first place for Spot News Photos for her shots taken moments after the Jan. 12 earthquake hit in Port-au-Prince, as well as her ongoing coverage of the disaster. Minsky’s camera captured Haitians running in panic just nine minutes after the quake, a girl wailing in the chaos, men trying to free someone trapped under a pancaked building and people fleeing the stricken city in boats.

“Great job in a tough situation — comprehensive coverage,” the judge for this category wrote.

Minsky also took first place for Spot News Coverage for her on-the-scene reporting of the earthquake and relief efforts in her article “With medics and rescuers: 12 days in the quake zone.” She described the food lines and tent cities that had sprung up, and documented an Israeli medical team that had arrived to tend to the injured.

“Minsky jumped into journalist mode as soon as she found herself in the middle of an international news story,” the judge in this category commented. “Her vignettes and photos offered insight only a reporter at the disaster could get.”

With Minsky’s help, The Villager also took home first place for Best News or Feature Series. The entry included Minsky’s “With medics and rescuers: 12 days in the quake zone.” In another article in the series, “Haitian school head’s pain felt by relatives here,” she teamed up with reporter Julie Shapiro; Minsky reported from Port-au-Prince on how Andree Carroll Celestin Hector, founder of the Children’s Harvest School, was coping with the catastrophe, while Shapiro interviewed the school head’s anxious relatives in Tribeca. In a third article in the series, “A goth pilot swoops into Haiti, airlifts troops in, wounded out,” associate editor Lincoln Anderson profiled Ian Dutton, another Soho resident who was caught up in the story of the disaster; a commercial airline pilot for Continental, Dutton volunteered to fly into Haiti on a grueling, marathon aid mission four days after the quake.

The Arizona editor or publisher who judged this category wrote, “A well-written and visual storytelling moment, with great art from a photographer who was in Haiti. Good local angles to the story as well.”

Anderson’s article on Dutton also won second place for News Story.

“The reporter painted a great picture of Dutton — who, like so many, provided much-needed help in Haiti after the devastating earthquake,” the judge said. “I wanted to keep reading because the story was told so well.”

In addition, The Villager won second place for Coverage of Elections/Politics. Included in this entry were Anderson’s article on Randy Credico’s long-shot challenge to Senator Chuck Schumer and Paul Schindler’s report on the primary race between Congressmember Carolyn Maloney and Reshma Saujani. In addition to the article on comedian-turned-candidate Credico, the entry included some lengthy Scoopy’s Notebook political items, notably Credico’s claim that former Governor David Paterson once bragged to him about having done lots of cocaine, and another item about Councilmember Rosie Mendez’s evading a planned snub by her nemesis Roberto Caballero at last year’s Baruch Houses Family Day.

“The paper’s attitude toward politics is flat-out fun, both insightful and appropriately skeptical,” the judge wrote. “These stories exemplify the proper journalistic attitude toward politics: It’s all a game, and even those who lose sometimes play it well.”

While The Villager can lay claim to the unofficial distinction of “best headline” in the entire contest, the newspaper won honorable mention for Headline Writing, based on headlines throughout two complete issues of the paper.

Wrote the judge: “For the single best headline I’ve seen all day, ‘Auction is bidder end for historic hospital’. ”

Ira Blutreich won third place for Editorial Cartoon.

“Bloomberg stalking the White House — good cartoon!” the judge praised.

In other photography awards, Jefferson Siegel won second place for Spot News Photos for a shot of a man hanging off a balcony on Clinton St. and threatening to jump as police looked on.

“Unusual moment. Composed well,” the judge noted.

Jason B. Nicholas won three photo awards. He took second place for Art Photo for his shot of a woman with homemade “oil” smeared on her face, with a pink flower in her hair, set against the backdrop of the green BP sign at the Houston St. gas station.

“Summarizes story in one shot,” the judge for this category wrote.

Nicholas won third place for Picture Story for a two-page spread of his photos of Shepard Fairey wheatpasting a mural on the “graffiti wall” at Houston St.

“Unique subject matter — interesting,” the judge said.

Nicholas also nabbed an honorable mention in Sports Action Photos for his shot of a bone-and-broomstick-crunching tackle in a Harry Potter Quidditch tournament.

“Fun photo of an ‘unconventional’ sport, bound to get a laugh out of the viewer,” the judge for this category wrote.

The Villager won third place in the prestigious “Excellence Awards” category of Photographic Excellence. Photos in the two issues of the newspaper submitted were taken by Q. Sakamaki, Nicholas, Clayton Patterson, Siegel and Minsky. They included Sakamaki’s shots on the 9/11 anniversary of dueling rallies over the planned “Ground Zero mosque,” and Nicholas’s photos of a “culture jam” film projection on the exterior of the planned site of the controversial project.

“All photos depict the emotion of the moment, making them very relatable and visually intriguing, adding to the stories,” the judge said. “There’s a good mix of feature and news.”

A total of 171 newspapers, mostly community weeklies, from around New York State submitted entries to the contest in 60 categories. The Villager’s strong showing helped Community Media finish fifth in the contest in total points among group or chain newspapers in the state. (Community Media’s other publications include Downtown Express, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and Thrive.)

The winner of this year’s Stuart Dorman Award, given to the paper winning the most points in editorial categories, was the Long Island Press, continuing the award’s recent domination by Long Island weeklies.