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Staffers claim 14 VPA awards; Hudson wins Best-In-Show

The Gazette-Virginian staff members Charles Wilborn, Joe Chandler, Doug Ford, Tiffany Hudson and Danielle Vaughn claimed 14 awards in the annual Virginia Press Association Contest Saturday night in Norfolk.

Competing against 41 other publications in the W2 category of non-dailies with circulation between 5,000 and 10,000, the newspaper totaled 23 sweepstakes points. 

Staff writer Tiffany Hudson, who has worked at the newspaper since June 2011, captured The Gazette’s fourth Best-In-Show Award over the past five years.

The best-in-show award for non-daily writing went to Hudson for “Circle of Love,” a story about high-school sweethearts reunited after 25 years. The judges wrote:

“The writer developed a nice lead. It is stylish and with a hint about the content of the story to follow. She wrote of a lengthy romance, and yet worked a dinner at Hardee’s into the equation. It would have been difficult for a reader to stop, and I certainly didn’t.  

“The writer used a creative, flowing, friendly style to tell a nice story. No murders, city council shenanigans or horrible diseases needed, thank you. Just a nice story about nice people who have a nice life. It was a nice read.” 

Hudson’s best in show comes on the heels of prior consecutive years when Gazette graphic designer Charles Wilborn captured Best-In-Show Awards for non-daily presentation. 

Hudson also placed first for a feature writing portfolio that included articles on a Virgilina farm family’s diversified all-natural chemical-free farming operation, a love story about childhood sweethearts who found each other decades later and remarried on Valentine’s Day and siblings who successfully competed in firearms competitions.

Commenting on Hudson’s first place award winning entry judges said, “The writer shows a sense of maturity, creativity, sensitivity and diversity of style. That’s very welcome in a world of sameness from many publications. Her efforts to get deeper than the surface show throughout. The subjects are good, and she made them better. Her strong efforts in such different arenas of life are noteworthy. She is good and could get even better.” 

Again this year, The Gazette was at the top of its group in presentation with Wilborn chalking up one second place award for headline writing and four third place awards for editorial pages, general makeup, lifestyle or entertainment pages and page design.

A veteran graphic designer, Wilborn has won two Best in Show Awards since joining The Gazette staff in July 2009. 

Commenting on Wilborn’s headline writing award, judges said, “Entrant offers a variety, some long, some short. Also accident photos deserve a few good words like these: ‘Beer truck gets tipsy’ and ‘Up a creek without a driver.’ You know what the photos are of without looking.”

Commenting on Wilborn’s other awards, judges said: 

General makeup: “Although there’s a lot going on, the section and story delineation is good. Great graphics, photos and a careful use of color to make things pop. A very professional looking paper.” 

 Lifestyle or entertainment pages: “Attractive layout and design that could have been even better with stronger photos.” 

 Page design: “Great job of using available images and varying colors to create attractive pages.” 

 Editorial pages: “Really nice formula for layout — clean and open. It’s a small thing, but I like ‘Write On!’ for the letter instructions. Really like the local photo feature. 

Also winning Saturday evening at the awards banquet was Gazette Sports Editor Joe Chandler. 

Chandler won two first place awards in the sports news photo and multimedia sports report, one second place in sports feature photo and one third place in multimedia sports report. 

This year marks the first time The Gazette has entered the multimedia category capturing two of the three awards in this category. 

For his first place multimedia sports report on “Comets shoot down Rockets 35-19,” judges commented, “I’d like to see the video at the top of the page, but good overall placement and nice use of additional photos rather than re-running the print photos. Engaging, well done video clearly pulls local readers into the story.” 

For his third place win in the same category, judges said, “…Good quality video given lighting and audio conditions.” 

Chandler was commended for his first place winning sports news photo with judges commenting, “Good hoops shot. Black and white is refreshing.” 

Chandler placed second for a sports feature photo entitled “United In The Cause” with judges recognizing the “good angle” of the photograph.

 Gazette sports and news reporter and photographer Doug Ford placed second in the general news writing category for a story on “Blight fight.”

“Solid writing. Attention to detail. Good storytelling – very thorough,” the judges said commending the story about South Boston’s efforts to clean up shoddy housing throughout the town. 

For the first time in his 13 years at The Gazette, Ford won an award in the news writing category. Previously, Ford’s winning entries had been in sports. 

His combination picture and story coverage of a horrific fire that destroyed historic “Creekside” on River Road captured Ford the third place award in this category. 

“Excellent layout and strong photos of the fire,” judges commented. “Package would have been enhanced with a close-up shot or two of a person impacted by the blaze.”

Vaughn, The Gazette’s most recently hired staff writer who came to work for the newspaper in November 2011, captured a second place award for her breaking news photo of a fire that gutted a Scottsburg house. 

Judges commented on the photo saying, “The upset woman makes the shot better.” 

The Gazette-Virginian staffers are no newcomers to winning VPA awards.

Over his 38 years in the newspaper business, Chandler has won numerous awards for his sports and news photography and writing including 35 from the VPA, 23 of those in the past eight years.

Ford’s two awards represented the sports writer’s fourth time winning in the VPA contest. 

Wilborn has won multiple VPA awards in the past including awards for front page makeup and business design in the daily newspaper classification.  

“The Gazette-Virginian has an outstanding editorial and design staff focused on covering the local news and information that people want to know and bringing the community feature articles on topics readers are interested in learning more about,” said Gazette Editor Paula Bryant. 

 “In recent years, the area’s largest newspaper has been privileged to package news, sports and advertising in an award-winning manner that hasn’t gone unnoticed,” Bryant added. “I’m so proud of what our staff is doing and has accomplished, and we look forward to continuing to provide our readers the best local news in print and on the web.”  

Judges for this year’s contest which included competitions in writing, photography, artwork, news presentation and multimedia were members of the Colorado Press Association.

They judged more than 3,300 entries from 108 VPA member publications. 

At Saturday evening’s annual awards program, the awards were presented to 798 winners from 94 publications.