BILOXI, Miss.—Newspapers in Tupelo, Columbus, Greenwood, Laurel, ", and Charleston were honored for excellence in news coverage and content during the annual meeting of the Mississippi Press Association.
The Daily Journal in Tupelo, The Commercial Dispatch of Columbus, The Greenwood Commonwealth, the Laurel Leader-Call, The Wayne County News, and The Sun-Sentinel in Charleston were singled out for General Excellence in the annual Better Newspaper Media Contest awards handed out Saturday in Biloxi.
Ray Mosby, editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork, was the recipient of the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence. A two-time prior recipient, Mosby was honored for editorial commentary that addressed such issues as the "defund the police" movement, the Covid-19 pandemic, and a call to change the state flag of Mississippi.
Contest judges called his work "fearless."
"And fearless wins," judges wrote.
Winner of the Bill Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism for Daily Newspapers was Isabelle Taft of the Sun Herald in Biloxi and Report for America. Her winning work covered a murder case in Picayune and social media rumors that persisted in its aftermath.
Jamie Patterson of The Yazoo Herald won the Minor Prize for Investigative Journalism for Weekly Newspapers for stories centered on the Yazoo County jail.
"This series demonstrates the reporter's initiative and willingness to dig into a highly controversial subject," judges said.
This was Patterson's fourth time to win the Minor Prize since 2010.
Alissa Zhu, a former reporter for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, won the Bill Minor Prize for General News reporting among daily newspapers for an account of deaths at the state prison at Parchman.
"Amazing, well-researched story told from multiple angles," judges commented on Zhou's work. "Great reporting."
Jason Collum, publisher of The Baldwyn News, was the recipient of the Minor Prize for General News Reporting among weekly newspapers. He was singled out for his look at how the downturn in sales tax collections during the Covid-19 pandemic could potentially impact the Baldwyn city budget and town programs.
The winners of the Minor Prizes receive a generous cash prize from a fund established in 2003 by Mr. and Mrs. Tim Medley of Jackson in memory of Minor's long career as a Mississippi journalist.
Jack Hammett of the Laurel Leader-Call was awarded the 2020 Photo of the Year Prize (above right) for his coverage of the aftermath of Jones County tornado.
Margaret Baker and Alyssa Newton of the Sun Herald received the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award for reporting on body camera footage and 911 audio related to a domestic abuse case involving a Gulf Coast lawmaker.
"Fighting for the release of the body camera footage and the recording of the 911 call in this case was strong public service and hopefully set the tone among local lawmakers, public safety officials and law enforcement officials that the newspaper will protect and champion the public’s right to know," judges wrote.
The staff of The Greenwood Commonwealth received the Community Service Award for coverage of the expensive electricity rates sold to residents of Itta Bena, an impoverished city in the Mississippi Delta. The series of articles eventually drew the notice of the Mississippi State Auditor, the Public Services Commission, and the national media.
"Impressive, in-depth reporting on an important issue," judges said. "This is what newspapers are charged to do."
The 2020 Better Newspaper Contest was judged by volunteers from the Georgia Press Association. Thirty-four newspapers submitted a total of 1,623 entries into this year’s editorial contest.
"We congratulate all the winners in this year's contest," said MPA President Kevin Cooper, senior vice president of Boone Newspapers, Inc. "It demonstrates the very hard work they all accomplished in a year that was full of extraordinary challenges for everyone in every community."
Awards for advertising excellence will be handed out in February during MPA’s Mid-Winter Conference.
Founded in 1866 and now in its 155th year, MPA is trade association representing Mississippi newspaper media.
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