The Villager wins 13 awards in NYPA Better Newspaper Contest

A shot of the Caribbean Day Parade from The Villager’s third place-winning entry for Photo Excellence.  Photo by Milo Hess
A shot of the Caribbean Day Parade from The Villager’s third place-winning entry for Photo Excellence. Photo by Milo Hess

From news articles and editorials, to photography, design and editorial cartoons, The Villager racked up a slew of awards in a wide range of categories last weekend when the winners of NYPA’s annual Better Newspaper Contest were announced.

The paper took home four first-place awards and 13 awards total at the New York Press Association’s spring convention, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

One hundred seventy-seven weekly newspapers entered the 2014 competition. The Villager earned enough points in editorial categories to finish in fifth place in the state. The Suffolk Times came in first.

The entries were judged by members of the Iowa Press Association.

Lincoln Anderson, The Villager’s editor in chief, won first place for News Story for his article on the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who overdosed on heroin in a Bethune St. apartment last February.

The judge for this category, out of fairness, consciously tried not to be “starstruck.”

“Not everybody has a celebrity die in their midst, so you have to look past the star appeal,” he or she wrote. “With that said, this entry was a hands-down winner. This story covered the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from all angles, and left the reader with very few unanswered questions. I liked the way he drew the reader in with firsthand reactions from ‘fans,’ before getting to the nitty-gritty details of the death. A great read!”

Anderson also won first place for Editorials. The three Villager editorials submitted included a “combo” one supporting Mayor de Blasio’s proposed ban on horse carriages while also advocating for the fledgling Citi Bike bike-share program; another hailing Justice Donna Mills’s ruling in State Supreme Court that three of the “open-space strips” on the N.Y.U.-owned superblocks are impliedly parkland — which threw a huge monkey wrench into the university’s South Village mega-development plan; and a third editorial urging leadership from de Blasio after a madman gunned down two officers amid the wave of anti-police protests following the nonindictment in the Eric Garner case. Reading the editorials, the Midwestern judge for this category felt transported to the Village.

“The newspaper did a commendable job of engaging readers in the topics of the editorials, and left no doubt about which position it took,” the judge wrote. “The paper also backed up its positions and led readers to see — even if they disagreed with the stances taken — why the paper’s views were supported by the facts. The editorials made me feel like I was a resident living with the issues presented.”

The Villager also won first place for Picture Story for a two-page spread of photos of the Pride March, with photos taken by Milo Hess, Q. Sakamaki and Jonathan Alpeyrie.

“This collection of photos was bold, colorful, showed emotion, and told quite the story,” the judge wrote. “The pictures were framed wonderfully and sized properly. It was also a bold move going with the picture of the woman with painting over parts of her bare chest. It worked and was tasteful.”

Ira Blutreich nabbed first place for Editorial Cartoon for his toon of Derek Jeter teaching an “Etiquette for Athletes” course to performance-enhancing drugs cheaters Lance Armstrong and A-Rod and woman-beater Ray Rice.

“What a great message delivered in a well-drawn manner,” the judge said.

VILLAGERawards2015The judge for Coverage of Police, Crime and Courts found The Villager’s entry arresting — enough so to award it second place. The judge was especially impressed by Gerard Flynn’s coverage of a Staten Island march led by Reverend Al Sharpton protesting Garner’s death during a police arrest.

“For someone who had followed this story from afar,” the judge commented, “I was hoping for a more intimate look at it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Sharply written and loaded with many heart-wrenching personal experiences, a vivid picture was painted in my mind. Readers learned a lot from this feature.”

Other articles in this entry included Anderson’s reporting on the arrest of Juan Scott, a cousin of actress Rosario Dawson, for an attempted rape in a Stuyvesant Town elevator and several other alleged sexual assaults in the East Village; Anderson’s article on “Soho Wild Man” Richard Pearson’s near-fatal stabbing of vendor Baare Batchiri; and two articles by Betsy Kim on the trial of Cecily McMillan, the Occupy Wall Street protester who was ultimately convicted of elbowing a cop in the eye.

Villager graphic designer Chris Ortiz snagged second place for Best Special Section Cover. His winning Gay Pride section cover blended a shot of a woman flashing a peace sign with one of a Gay Pride rainbow flag.

“Very eye-catching!” the judge praised. “Nice job combining photos and choice of colors.”

In addition, The Villager took third place for Best Editorial Page.

“Interesting editorials, a strong letters to the editor section, a clean layout and great columns. A great package,” the judge commented.

Columns for this entry included the late Jerry Tallmer’s “Birth of a Voice, Chapter 4: The best job in the city,” Otis Kidwell Berger’s “Shoot! Who stole our historic iron coal chute cover?” and Tolly Wright’s “Trying to find a survival job that I could survive.”

The Villager’s photography — particularly its photo spreads — stood out, as the paper won third place for Photographic Excellence.

“Photo spreads were great,” the judge in this category wrote.

Photos in the two issues submitted included Milo Hess’s vibrant shots of the Caribbean Day Parade; Tequila Minsky’s pictures of campaigning governor candidates Zephyr Teachout dancing and Andrew Cuomo marching in that same Brooklyn parade; Sakamaki’s black-and-white iPhone Instagram shots of Jerusalem’s Old City at Sukhot; Arlene Gottfried’s 1970s and ’80s street photography; and the late Rebecca Lepkoff’s 1940s photos of Lower East Side kids playing kick the can.

The Villager won third place for Overall Design Excellence — in part due to its outstanding photos.

“Design makes this newspaper easy to read,” the judge said. “Photography may be the best in the division.”

Minsky and Heather Dubin teamed up to win third place for Coverage of Religion. Dubin wrote about a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony at Middle Collegiate Church that saw a piece of a Remington rifle hammered into a mattock (a farming tool). Minsky profiled Father Fabian Griffone, the longtime pastor at Little Italy’s Church of Most Precious Blood, who, at age 88, to the congregation’s sadness, was being forced into retirement by the archdiocese. Minsky also shot photos for the article.

“This unique story takes Scripture quite literally!” the judge wrote about the M.L.K. Day article. “Good quotes buttressed the storytelling: ‘I was quite blown away by both the symbolism and the significance of having a gun destroyed in our worship space.’ ”

West Village writer Michele Herman won third place for Best Column. Her three pieces included a critical look — as a cyclist — at the city’s expanded network of bike lanes; a recollection of when the late Pete Seeger in 1987 came to play at a Save the Village fundraiser to fight the construction of the 18-story Memphis Downtown building; and her musings on the “high-end” lobby desk planned for her building.

“The lobby desk column was one of the best I’ve read,” the judge wrote.

East Village lensman Bob Krasner clicked with third place for Art Photo for his hallucinogenic overhead shot of an upraised trombone bell amid dancers at the Golden Fest, an East European hoedown in Brooklyn.

“Really fascinating image that captures the excitement in the room,” the judge said appreciatively. “And a good crop too.”

Finally, The Villager won honorable mention for Best Obituaries. The entry included Anderson’s obituary on Village Voice founding editor Tallmer, who died in November at age 93, and Amateau’s obituary on L.E.S. photographer Rebecca Lepkoff, who died in August at 98, plus Villager arts editor Scott Stiffler’s remembrance of Tallmer.

In addition, The Villager’s sister papers at NYC Community Newspaper and the Community Newspaper Group also had a banner year.

Gay City News won first place for Coverage of Religion, plus first place for Best Editorial Page and Best Web Site Home Page. Gay City News also won second place for Community Leadership, along with third place for both Overall Design Excellence and Coverage of Crime, Police and Courts, as well as Best House Ad.

Chelsea Now editor Stiffler won second place for Feature Story for his piece on the closure of three longtime gay-centric stores on Eighth Ave. Dusica Sue Malesevic won honorable mention for a profile of a local filmmaker. Chelsea Now also won second place for Best News or Feature Series for profiles of small businesses, and third place for a series on landlord/tenant disputes by Malesevic, Winnie McCroy and Sam Spokony.

Downtown Express won a first place for Art Photo for Hess’s shot of a leaping dancer in flight.