Only minutes after a veteran journalist gave a rousing speech reminding a room of news professionals to remain true to their calling in the face of a rapidly changing industry — especially to act as the watchdogs of government and other powerful institutions — the Queens Chronicle was honored for covering local government better than any weekly newspaper in the state.
The setting was last weekend’s New York Press Association spring convention, which included presentation of NYPA’s Better Newspaper Contest awards. The Chronicle took home eight honors, including news awards such as the first place in local government coverage and others for advertising and design. The paper’s website, qchron.com, was named second-best statewide.
The speech that preceded the first awards, those for coverage of government, was given by Alex Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, former host of the PBS show “Media Matters” and now director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.
Jones warned that the technological advances changing the news industry, including the rise of social media, are taking their toll on the traditional values of good reporting, such as fairness, accuracy and a dedication to holding powerful institutions accountable for their actions while giving citizens the information they need in a democracy. He insisted that today’s journalists must stay true to their calling even as the industry remains in flux.
In awarding the Chronicle for its coverage of government, a category in which entrants submit two entire newspapers, the judges said, “Great story on Jacobs, government stories are well-enterprised and humanized. Good mix with editorials.”
The citation of “Jacobs” referred to a story by Senior Editor Anna Gustafson on the travails of a political hopeful, Justin Wax Jacobs, trying to make it onto the ballot without a party machine to back him.
The editorials the judges referenced also took first place honors. In that category, three editorials from different times of the year were submitted to the judges. The Chronicle’s entries took the city to task for its neglect of certain schools and called for further oversight of the Board of Standards and Appeals. The judges found them to be “well-written pieces that are clear, passionate, important and appropriate.”
Gustafson also won second-place honors in the Best News or Feature Series category for her coverage of the Barbara Sheehan murder trial, which the judges called “well-written and compelling.” And the entire editorial staff won an honorable mention in that category, essentially fourth place, for its stories on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
The paper also won third place in the Feature Photo category.
On the design side, Associate Art Director Ella Jipescu tied for third place in the Best Special Section Cover category for the Chronicle’s “Hidden Gems of Queens” edition.
The sales and art departments combined for a first-place award in the category for special advertising sections, for one dedicated to Pia Toscano, the “American Idol” contestant from Howard Beach.
“Congratulations to everyone on the team,” Publisher Mark Weidler said. “I’m very proud of us winning awards in all different categories — art, editorial and advertising. We hope to continue to build on this momentum throughout the year.”
NYPA received 2,437 entries from 158 newspapers statewide. They were judged by the press association in Washington State.