The Columbia County News-Times was named the best newspaper in its class in Georgia Friday at the Georgia Press Association's 2013 Better Newspaper Contest awards banquet.
During the organization's 127th annual convention held at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, The News-Times received first-place honors in General Excellence among large, nondaily newspapers published more than twice per week.
"Of the eight times The News-Times has been honored with the state's top award during my 11-year tenure as publisher, this one is the most gratifying," said Publisher Barry L. Paschal, who this past week announced his retirement from the media after 30 years. "This indicates The News-Times staff has established a strong legacy of community journalism for Columbia County that I hope continues for many years to come."
In addition to the top award overall, the twice-weekly News-Times also received a first-place award for Editorial Writing despite competing with second-tier daily newspapers in the state when not enough newspapers in its division entered that category. The News-Times also received a first-place award for Local News Coverage.
Other first-place awards include Education Coverage for former staff writer Jenna Martin, who also won first place for Spot News Photo for her picture of a Gold Cross EMT giving oxygen to a dog rescued from a house fire. The first-place Feature Photo award went to Jim Blaylock for his portrait of lung transplant patient Sawyer Mobley. Blaylock also won second place in that category.
Valerie Rowell won third place among all divisions in the state for Best Web Photo for her image of firefighters battling a blaze at an Evans home.
In addition, The News-Times received second-place awards for Page One design and Editorial Page, along with a third-place award for Lifestyle Coverage.
Other staff awards include second place for Religion Coverage to Rowell; second place for Serious Column to Paschal; third place for Sports Column to Scott Rouch, who also won a third-place award for Spot News Photo; and third place awards to Blaylock for Sports Photo and News Photo.
The Augusta Chronicle, sister publication to The News-Times. received multiple awards in the major daily division, including the top overall award and first place for Editorial Page, Editorial Cartoon for Rick McKee, Headline Writing and Special Issues for its annual Masters section, first place in Investigative Reporting to Steve Crawford, first place in Sports Writing to Scott Michaux and first place among all divisions for Web Photo to Michael Holahan.