Paper places second overall in province for journalism nods

The Voice has won one First Place award, one Second Place award, three Third Place awards, and four Honourable Mentions in the Ontario Community Newspaper Association’s annual Better Newspaper Competition. This is the largest award total since the newspaper was founded, and places the Voice second in the province overall for journalism awards. (Awards are also given in advertising and other categories, which the Voice has never entered.) The 2022 competition recognizes work done in 2021.

The Gold was in Feature Writing, for “Breaking her silence,” Helen Tran’s moving interview with hit-and-run victim Faith Flagg and her struggle to get back to a semblance of normal life six years after she was run down on Canboro Road while walking with some high school friends.

“This was absolutely one of the most effective stories the Voice has ever run,” said publisher Dave Burket. “Faith’s incredible resilience, and Helen’s superb craft leave you remembering the story long afterward.”

The Silver was in Best Spot News Photo, for an image taken by Don Rickers of manslaughter victim Earl Clapp’s widow and daughters as they watched a memorial procession in Earl’s honour pass their home days after his death.

The first of the three Bronze awards was in Heritage reporting, for “Cabinets to caskets,” in part a history of the Lampman Funeral Home, looking at why local furniture makers and hardware stores often had a double life as funeral providers. The story “brought past and present together…as a springboard to explore the factors that inform today’s funeral trends, showing that history is rarely static,” wrote the judge.

The second Bronze was in Best News Story, for “A family, and community, in pain,” with reporting by Don Rickers and Dave Burket, photos by Don Rickers, covering Earl Clapp’s memorial procession.

The third Bronze was in Best Front Page, which featured an excited young Pelham Library patron winning recognition for reaching a 1000 picture-book milestone.

The first of four Honourable Mentions was for General Excellence, circ. under 10,000. “The Voice of Pelham is a good paper,” noted the judge. “Beautifully laid out, with a strong opinion section and interesting and important local stories. There was a good mix of soft news, hard news, and in-depth features. Its one shortfall was its lack of art coverage.”

The second Honourable Mention was in Best Rural Story, for “Growing up with nudists,” Michael Ruehle’s account of growing up at Sun Valley Gardens, a pioneering Canadian naturist resort in North Pelham, which the judge called, “an unexpectedly fascinating memoir piece.”

It’s an article with legs, says Burket.

“It’s remained one of the top-ten most read stories virtually every week on the Voice website since we posted it. It really is a great read, supported by excellent photos from Michael’s collection.”

The third Honourable Mention was in Best Police/Court Story or Series, for the newspaper’s coverage of Earl Clapp’s killing and the subsequent investigation and arrests in the case.

The final Honourable Mention was in Best News Photo, a shot of Pelham Town Councillor Wayne Olson intently taking aim with a hatchet at a Fonthill Legion axe-throwing fundraiser last August. Don Rickers’ image inspired one of the lengthiest comments.

“Oh, that expression,” wrote the judge. “The expression on the town councillor lining up the throwing hatchet is what gives this photo the strong focal point that tells a story. Also, the expressions on some of the people standing in the background. This photo reminds me a bit of a National Geographic shot from about 40 years ago where a smiling auctioneer at a livestock auction holds open the lips of a cow to bare its teeth as if it’s smiling too. People in the background have various amused expressions. The entire effect is as if the viewer has been let in on the joke. This is a well-timed, well exposed shot with excellent choices of composition, depth of field and timing.”

“Well, I can’t disagree with any of that,” says publisher Dave Burket. “It was a nice capper to an excellent showing by this little team of ours—and it is absolutely a team effort to get this paper produced week in and week out, and then distributed with the help of volunteers throughout the community. On behalf of our shareholders, I thank our staff, news contributors, and columnists for their outstanding work, our advertisers for making it possible, and our readers—especially our voluntary subscribers—for their wonderful engagement with the Voice. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to find people waiting around town to get their fresh copy of the latest paper on Tuesday mornings. Thank you all.”