Villager wins 11 awards, ranks with state’s best


The Villager was judged to be one of the best weeklies in New York State — placing among the state’s top five community newspapers — in the New York Press Association’s 2008 Better Newspaper Contest.

The Villager’s news and arts coverage, obituaries, photography and display advertising helped it garner 11 awards — including five first-place awards.

One hundred eighty-two newspapers submitted entries to the annual contest. Based on total points won in editorial categories, The Villager came in fifth over all in the state.

The awards for the contest period — covering work done during 2008 — were announced at NYPA’s annual spring convention, held April 3 and 4 Upstate in Saratoga Springs.

The contest entries were judged by members of the Pennsylvania and New England press associations.

Lincoln Anderson, The Villager’s associate editor, won first place in the News Story category for his article “Former squats are worth lots, but residents can’t cash in.” Anderson’s article detailed the efforts of former squatters in 11 East Village buildings to throw off resale price caps on their units and rid their buildings of crushing debt incurred while they were bringing them up to code through a city-approved program.

“Impressive combination of in-depth research, deft interviewing, clear and compelling writing — all illuminating an important and fascinating issue,” the judge for this category wrote. “Can erstwhile squatters, by claiming ownership rights under the legal doctrine of adverse possession, make large profits selling their apartments at market rates?”

In what has become an annual occurrence, The Villager won first place for Obituaries, on the strength of Villager reporter Albert Amateau’s writing. The judge in this category particularly admired Amateau’s obituary “Anne Eco, married the boy downstairs, dies at 100.” The obit told how Eco, in first grade, wandered away from school one day and took a cow that was tied up at the Washington Mews for a walk up Fifth Ave., and how later, at age 16, she eloped with her boyfriend because she had stayed out past 10 p.m. and feared her father would “kill” her.

“Great headlines,” the judge for this category wrote. “Reads like a condensed biography with details that bring realism to the life of the deceased, especially their childhood.”

J.B. Nicholas, contributing to The Villager under the name Nick Brooks, received two first-place photography awards. Nicholas took top honors for Picture Story for his photos of the female performance artists and aerialists from the House of Yes posing amid the charred ruins of their Ridgewood, Queens, building the day after a devastating fire.

“Incredible photographs” the judge commented. “Top quality shots that really tell the story. Very powerful.”

Nicholas also was awarded first in the Spot News Photos category for his shots of radical protesters rampaging, and police battling and arresting them, at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. 

“Excellent photos of anarchists running wild at R.N.C.,” the judge wrote. “Police blasting mace while dragging protester, bloody hand, masked faces. Super job capturing glass breaking in motion as protester attacks a window at Macy’s. Photos filled with energy and motion…as it happened. Great newspaper photos take the reader there. Well done!”

Jefferson Siegel earned second-place honors for Spot News Coverage for his comprehensive report on New School students’ occupation of 65 Fifth Ave. for a day and a half in December as they demanded Bob Kerrey’s resignation as university president.

“[The article] ‘New School in turmoil’ captures the mood of the scene from both sides of the issue,” the judge wrote. “Reporter remained on the scene and got as many details and quotes as possible.” Siegel also took all the action-packed photos for the article.

In addition, The Villager won second place for Coverage of Elections/Politics. The newspaper’s entry included Anderson and Amateau’s joint coverage of City Council hearings on extending term limits, Mary Reinholz’s article on Peace and Freedom Party candidate Ralph Nader’s campaign speech on Wall St. and team coverage of Election Day and Barack Obama’s victory by Anderson, Siegel, Amateau and Isabel Wilkinson.

“A very thorough collection of stories covering both local and national politics,” the judge for this category said. “A very nice mix of stories.”

The Villager also took second place in Headline Writing. The entries were evaluated based on headlines throughout two issues of the newspaper.

“‘Box gets knocked by nabes for noise’ and ‘Gay, gray and green color hearing’ — fun, concise, provocative, good use of alliteration,” the judge commented of two front-page headlines from The Villager’s Sept. 17, 2008, issue.

The Villager’s news section headlines were written by Anderson, and its arts section headlines by former arts editor Sarah Norris.

Speaking of arts (and headlines), the newspaper won third place for Coverage of the Arts.     

 “Fun, energetic, snappy headlines,” stated the judge. “Love the Betty Boop story and Love Saves the Day article — Ed Koch reviewing film — beautiful :).”

The article on the closing of the Love Saves the Day store was a Notebook column in the paper’s news section written by East Villager Dorothy Wilson.

Speaking of columns, the judge in the Best Column category awarded Kate Walter, of Westbeth in the West Village, third place for her first-person pieces.

“Personal and profound,” the judge observed. “Well-constructed columns that readers must find interesting.”

In addition to editorial categories, The Villager also excelled in advertising entries. Speaking of Westbeth, the paper won First Place for Best Color Ad Created by the Newspaper for a full-page, color ad for Rebecca Paintings for Westbeth Gallery.

“Wow! Painting, color, layout — ad just pops!” the judge enthused.

A one-quarter-page ad for St. John’s Lutheran Church won third place for Best Small Space Ad.

“Space is utilized wonderfully in this ad,” the judge noted. “The church steeple is key to the message of the ad. Great ad!”

Both winning ads were created by Colin Gregory, The Villager’s retail ad manager, and Greg Miller, the paper’s former graphic designer.

In addition, Community Media’s combined publications — The Villager, Downtown Express, Gay City News and Chelsea Now — also finished in the top five newspaper groups or chain newspapers in total contest points — including editorial and advertising points; Community Media finished fourth in the state in total contest points.

John W. Sutter, The Villager’s publisher and editor, said, “It feels good to get some recognition. We love covering our neighborhoods and want to cover them even better.”

The other four newspapers finishing in the contest’s top five in editorial points were, in descending order, The North Shore Sun, Sag Harbor Express, The Riverdale Press and The Southampton Press – Western Edition.