Villager file photo by John Bayles An article about the Lower East Side Ecology Center and its director, Cristina Datz-Romero, holding Lucky, above, in The Villager’s “green” special section last April was part of the newspaper’s


Villager wins 12 awards in NYPA newspaper contest

The Villager won first place for Coverage of the Environment, and a dozen awards in all, in the New York Press Association’s 2009 Better Newspaper Contest. The paper took awards in a wide range of categories, from spot news and sports features, to photography, editorial cartoons and advertising and graphic design.

The awards were presented last weekend at NYPA’s spring convention in Saratoga, N.Y. 

The contest covered work done during the year 2009. One hundred seventy-six community weekly newspapers from around the state participated in the annual competition — from the Riverdale Press to the Gates-Chili Post. Out of these, The Villager finished in a three-way tie for ninth place (with City Hall and the North County News) in the state in total contest points won in editorial categories. 

In addition, Community Media (which includes The Villager, Downtown Express, Gay City News and Chelsea Now) finished fifth in the state among newspaper groups or chains in total contest points.

The Villager won first place for its environmental coverage, based on the strength of its first-ever “green” special section. The section featured articles by Villager associate editor Lincoln Anderson, John Bayles, Rita Wu, Bonnie Rosenstock, Matt Townsend, Ellen Keohane and New York University’s Alicia Hurley and Christopher James. Subjects included Colin Beavan, a.k.a. “No Impact Man”; East Village bio-diesel pioneer Brent Baker; the Lower East Side Ecology Center; the Lower Eastside Girls Club’s new energy-efficient building; and N.Y.U.’s “greening” efforts. Also contributing to The Villager’s top-rated environmental coverage was an article, not in the green section, by staff reporter Albert Amateau on hydrofracking in the Upstate watershed and the threat it poses to the city’s drinking water.

Globe-trotting East Village conflict photographer Q. Sakamaki won first place for Picture Story for his photos of Xinjiang, in western China, in the aftermath of ethnic violence there last summer between Han Chinese and minority Muslim Uighurs. 

The judge wrote of Sakamaki’s work: “The depth of photos evoked emotion — you feel the devastation and despair. Small details became the composition. Photo quality, perspective and field of vision for each image was expertly executed.”

Sakamaki has been contributing his photos to The Villager since 2003. During that seven-year span, he has won first place in NYPA’s Picture Story category four times, and a Villager photographer has won the category five times.

Anderson, The Villager’s associate editor, won two awards. Garnering second place for Spot News Coverage was his article on Westbeth senior artist Shami Chaikin being partially crushed under a Parks Department garbage truck in November while she was riding her motorized scooter in a supposedly protected bicycle lane by Abingdon Square.

“The lede tells the entire story including facts and color,” the judge for this category wrote. “The rest of the story provides amazing detail about everyone involved and even includes a second-day element of showing that the problem of trucks in bike lanes is more widespread.”

Anderson also won second place for Sports Feature for an article on Yankees superstars visiting Thomas Ellenson and his Greenwich Village Little League A’s team at J.J. Walker Field in July. Ellenson, 12, voted the A’s M.V.P. (“Most Valuable Person”), has cerebral palsy and uses a device called a Tango, invented by his dad, to talk. At games’ start and end, Thomas leads the team onto the field in his motorized wheelchair; he announces the lineup, plays the “Charge!” music on his Tango, keeps the pitch count and hive-fives his teammates.

Ira Blutreich won two awards in the Editorial Cartoon category. He took second place for his cartoon depicting Bronx native Sonia Sotomayor after her confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court: Sotomayor is shown wearing Yankee pinstripes, and swinging a big gavel rather than a bat, hitting a home run against a baseball team of G.O.P. elephants.

Blutreich won third place for an editorial cartoon skewering Mayor Bloomberg for extending term limits: Blutreich depicts Hugo Chavez holding up an issue of “El Villager,” with the headline on the paper saying he upheld term limits, while off to the side, Bloomberg expresses amazement that Chavez would actually think of doing such a thing.

“Characters are very recognizable and content is very timely and relevant,” the judge wrote of Blutreich’s ’toons.

The Villager won two awards for Art Photo. Jason B. Nicholas earned second place for his shot of designer Zac Posen spray-painting a geometric-pattern dress on a live model in a window at Bergdorf Goodman, while a crowd of onlookers’ faces are reflected in the window.

“Very interesting ‘grab’ shot, showing several aspects of a moment,” the judge wrote.

Isaac Rosenthal won third for his nighttime shot of white streetlight “streaks” looking north toward Red Square on E. Houston St.

“Back to the Future meets Star Wars,” the judge for this category commented. “Composition of night shot, time elapse and content worked well for this special effect.”

Advertising and graphic design were also strengths of The Villager in the 2009 competition. 

The paper won third place in the prestigious Advertising Excellence category, which rates the overall quality of ads throughout three issues of the newspaper.

“Good layouts. Clean classified section. Smooth transition,” the judge wrote.

The Villager took second place for Best Newspaper Image Promotion, for a house ad created by Mark Hassleberger, the paper’s art director.

“Way to blow your own horn,” the judge noted. “Good use of photos from previous winning stories, etc.”

In addition, The Villager won second for Best Small Space Ad for a house ad created for West Village activist Doris Diether’s 80th birthday, using a classic photo of Scoopy, The Villager’s former office cat. Teaming up to create the ad were Colin Gregory, The Villager’s retail ad manager, and graphic designer Jamie Paakkonen.

“Amusing match of art and copy — fun — draws you in,” the judge for this entry said.

The paper also garnered second place for Best Color Ad Created by the Newspaper — for Village Apothecary — again by Gregory and Paakkonen.

The 2009 NYPA Better Newspaper Contest entries were judged in late January 2010 by members of the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. The Suffolk Times earned the most editorial points, winning the coveted Stuart Dorman Award for Editorial Excellence.