RALEIGH — The Richmond County Daily Journal and Anson Record received more than a dozen awards in a pair of statewide journalism contests Thursday night.
Staffers from both papers collected 11 accolades in the North Carolina Press Association’s 2016 Editorial Contest and two awards in the N.C. Associated Press’ 2016 News Excellence Contest. The honors were announced during the NCPA’s Winter Institute and awards banquet at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel.
“We write stories for the people of Richmond County, not for the recognition,” said William R. Toler, editor of both newspapers. “That being said, it’s always nice to get rewarded by other journalists for the work we do.”
Toler and Anson Record reporter Imari Scarbrough attended two workshops earlier in the day, prior to accepting the awards for the two papers.
Scarbrough won two awards — first place in beat news reporting and third place in city/county government reporting — for stories related to Anson County’s debate surrounding the storage of coal ash.
She also took second in city/county government reporting, as well as election/political reporting and first place in arts and entertainment reporting.
“I’m very proud of Imari and the work she does covering Anson County,” Toler said. “She has an enormous responsibility covering the entire county by herself.”
Daily Journal reporter Melonie McLaurin was once again recognized for her coverage of Richmond County’s homeless. She placed first in beat feature reporting for “From the porch to ‘the Pit,’” a story about Loaves and Fishes Ministry of the Pee Dee’s work to help feed the homeless and others needing a helping hand.
McLaurin’s reporting and former editor Corey Friedman’s editorials helped the paper to bring home the community service award in the 2014 press awards.
Toler had a repeat performance from the previous year, bringing home three of the same awards. For the second year in a row, Toler placed first in election/political reporting, this time for reporting on the college bond referendum; first for best lede, recognizing the most creative and compelling lead paragraphs in a reporter’s stories; and third in general news reporting for coverage, from arrest to conviction, of a chicken farm abuser.
“At least I’m consistent,” he joked.
Toler’s skills behind the lens were also recognized with a first-place award for spot news photography. He was on the scene as the first firefighter responded to a vehicle fire on U.S. 74 Business.
Also for the second consecutive year, Toler was a finalist for the Associated Press’ Walter Spearman and O’Henry awards. Both awards recognize outstanding writing, the Spearman for reporters with less than two years’ experience at a daily newspaper, the O’Henry is for journalists at newspapers with a circulation below 10,000.
Toler won the Spearman with his entry featuring the stories of two young drivers looking to break into the racing world with a test drive at the Rockingham Speedway.
His O’Henry entry was about medical cannabis activist Perry Parks taking his fight on the campaign trail, speaking to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump about legalization and an appellate hearing for a North Carolina man currently serving prison time for growing cannabis for medicinal use.
Former Daily Journal reporter Matt Harrelson won second place for headline writing.
The Anson Record competes in the North Carolina Press Association’s Division A, which includes community newspapers with a circulation under 3,500. The Daily Journal is in Division D, which includes daily newspapers with circulation below 12,500.
Out-of-state journalists judge the annual contest through state newspaper trade groups in a reciprocal agreement with the NCPA.
Last year, the Daily Journal received four awards from the NCPA, two from the Associated Press and one each from the Society of Professional Journalists and National Federation of Press Women.
The Daily Journal received a total of 24 awards in the previous two years from the NCPA, the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists and National Federation of Press Women.