After winning the Georgia Press Association award for three years in a row as the state's best community newspaper, The Columbia County News-Times received considerably fewer awards this year since being moved into competition with daily newspapers.
A rules change by the GPA's Better Newspapers Contest meant The News-Times, published twice weekly, competed with the state's second-largest daily newspapers rather than against other nondailies.
"Winning three years in a row, and five of the past seven years, made The News-Times a convenient target for other newspapers around the state who had difficulty competing," said Barry Paschal, the publisher of The News-Times. "The GPA has changed the rules each year for the past three years in what seemed like an obvious attempt to handicap The News-Times. This year it finally worked."
Rather than compete in its traditional category with other newspapers published more than once per week but not daily, The News-Times this year was required to compete against small dailies. The three top prize-winners in the category this year were the Athens Banner Herald, the Marietta Daily Journal and the Gainesville Times.
A GPA spokesman said The News-Times was the only nondaily in the state to compete in a daily category.
The News-Times received second-place awards for religion coverage by staff writer Valerie Rowell, sports column by Billy Byler, for the annual High School Football Preview section, and for editorial page and editorial writing. Paschal also received a third-place award for serious column.
"When the rule changes were announced late last year, I told the staff we'd be lucky to win a single award," Paschal said. "Winning six news awards, in addition to four previous advertising awards, is a significant moral victory."
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