The Columbia County News-Times was honored as the best newspaper in its class Friday during an awards ceremony in Jekyll Island, Ga.
The News-Times received first place in General Excellence in the annual Better Newspapers Awards from the Georgia Press Association, marking the seventh time in nine years The News-Times has been named one of the state's best community newspapers.
"This is truly an honor for The News-Times staff," said Barry Paschal, the publisher. "It's gratifying for our journalism peers to recognize our staffers' hard work in producing Columbia County's newspaper."
The News-Times competed this year in a new category with other large, nondaily newspapers published more than once a week, after having competed for two years against the state's midsize dailies. The awards are judged by newspaper associations from other states.
The contest's top award, based on an accumulation of points from each newspaper's award in individual categories for work produced in 2008, went to The News-Times , followed by the Loganville Tribune of Gwinnett County in second place, and The Paper of Hoschton in third.
In addition to the top award, The News-Times received first-place awards for its sports section, for lifestyle coverage and for headline writing.
Among staffers, writer Valerie Rowell received a first-place award for investigative reporting for her story on animal euthanasia in Columbia County.
Rowell also received first-place awards for business coverage and hard-news writing, along with third-place awards for feature writing and hard-news writing.
Staff writer Jenna Martin received first-place awards for feature writing and religion coverage, a second-place award for hard-news writing and third-place awards for spot news photograph, business coverage, and sports writing.
Photographer Jim Blaylock received a first-place award for feature photograph for his game-time shot of Olivia Fitzgerald, a young athlete with one arm.
Blaylock also received a second-place award for feature photo and two third-place awards for sports feature photo and sports photo.
In addition to his role in The News-Times' first-place award for sports section, sports writer Stephen Fastenau received first place for sportswriting.
Paschal received a second-place award for humorous column writing and a third-place award for editorial writing.
Other awards were third-place honors for layout and design, Page 1 design for the Hometown Gifts Christmas section.
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