For the third year running, the Voice has won top honours through the Ontario Community Newspaper Association’s Better Newspaper Competition. The annual competition identifies and celebrates the best in Ontario community journalism.
The awards announcement came last Friday, July 24, delayed by three months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The newspaper managed a double-hat-trick of sorts, winning a pair each of first, second, and third place awards for stories running from autumn 2018 into autumn 2019.
First place honours came in open categories in which the Voice faced competition from significantly larger papers. The newspaper’s series of articles about alleged misconduct by family doctor Charles Duncan won first place for Best Investigative News Story. Headlines related to the 2018 municipal election, and statements by Duncan’s alleged victims, won first place for Best Headline Writing.
Second place came for Sam Piccolo’s interview with local musician Jim Casson, winning in the Arts and Entertainment category. A series of articles written by Dave Burket, John Chick, and Gloria Katch, on cannabis-related issues in Pelham, won second place for Best Feature/News Series, circulation under 10,000. In his comments, the judge wrote, “The writing and reporting was strong throughout and the final two articles were, I presume, must-read pieces in the community.”
Third place nods came for Best Sports Section, and for Best Rural Story, circulation under 10,000. The latter, headlined, “23 years and counting: the story behind that billboard,” by Dave Burket and Sam Piccolo, chronicled the two-decades-plus battle for compensation from the Town of Pelham pursued by residents Donna McIntyre and her husband, Ted Bowman, for damage done to their property. In his comments, the judge wrote, “What a story. Where do I even begin? First of all, well done…for translating all this information into a well-structured, easy-to-read story…. A bizarre, but important story to tell.”
“We’re particularly pleased by the Investigative News Story award,” said Voice publisher Dave Burket. “As government and business increasingly try to circumvent journalists, and communicate what are often half-truths directly to the public through social media, the news media’s role as reliable fact-checker grows ever more important.”
Past award-winning Voice investigative stories have included a series of articles exposing dubious land transactions engaged in by the Town of Pelham; and the mistreatment by staff of elderly residents in an apartment complex.
Burket noted that producing each week’s paper is a team effort.
“We are fortunate to have so many talented contributors, often working long hours for not much money. It’s gratifying for their efforts to be recognized by their peers.”