Leader brings home two firsts, a second and three third place awards in Ontario competition

·4 min read

Eganville -- The Eganville Leader brought home two first place awards, a second and three third place awards in the 2021 Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) Better Newspaper Competition.

The Leader won third place in General Excellence for newspapers with a circulation between 2,000 and 6,499. The judges complimented the Leader for its “solid journalism, informed opinion and outstanding community focus.”

“From an editorial perspective, content remains kind, but the other elements can’t be ignored,” the judges concluded.

Leader freelance writer Johanna Zomers won first place in the Heritage category with an in-depth feature on the old Sunny Dale Acres dance hall at Lake Dore.

“Johanna Zomers did an exemplary job in finding people to share insightful and entertaining stories about a local institution,” Judge Martha Perkins noted. “These stories gave shape to the past, making it less ethereal. The ghosts took shape as readers were transported to a different world. It was a sidebar that gave the Leader’s entry the single point needed to attain first place.”

The Leader won first place for an editorial for a newspaper with a circulation under 9,999 written by Debbi Christinck. It was entitled Shame on Them and published on January 6, 2021 following revelations of elected politicians had ignored restrictions on non-essential travel.

“I think the outrage was -- and still is -- something we have to give voice to,” Judge Sheena Read noted. “Good building of your arguments and good examples used to back up your position.”

A photo taken by publisher Gerald Tracey in January 2021 of a burning house at Wilno won second place in the Best News Photo category.

“It stands on its own to tell a story and does it exceptionally well,” Judge Chris Bush said. “The photographer got in close to the action -- a fully involved house fire -- to capture the action of a firefighter battling the blaze and also provided a strong foreground of firefighters changing air cylinders, which says they’d been on this fire scene for some time. To boot, the flash fill on the foreground was perfectly balanced with the background lighting. As you look around the image you see the mailboxes, the Canadian flag, the snow, and other little details that tell the viewer this wasn’t just any building, but a home that burned on a winter night.”

The Leader won third place in the Community Service category for its sponsorship of a bike ride in support of Hospice Renfrew in 2020. Publisher Gerald Tracey was joined by Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski for the ride from Eganville to Renfrew.

“When the local newspaper publisher teams up with the local MPP to raise $40,000 for the Hospice Renfrew facility, it shows real leadership and commitment to the community,” Judge Penny Sakomoto said. “The two went on an epic cycling journey joined along the way by supporters and donors and the Eganville Leader did a fine job telling the story which in turn encouraged donations. Tough to beat a determined publisher with a cause!”

The Leader won third place in the Best Sports Section, featuring stories by Terry Fleurie.

“The action photos added extra points,” Judge Jules Xavier said. “Sports is about action, not headshots of people holding a trophy. Golfers golf, so cover them golfing. Happy to see some hockey and baseball action artwork.”

Other Valley newspapers winning awards were the Valley Gazette, Barry’s Bay, winning second place for in the Best Feature/News series – under 9,999 circulation for a series written by Katrina Boguski on health care, and a third place in Special Section, circulation under 9,999 for its Christmas Wishes 2020 supplement.

The North Renfrew Times in Deep River won several awards, including first place for the Best Use of Colour category with an ad by Jane Barkley and first place for best guest/freelance column for a column from Jenna Walsh on food experimentation, including pablum, at Residential Schools. The newspaper earned a second place in Best Sports Photo category with a photograph by Vance Gutzman of a child playing hockey and second place for Best Community Website/Web Portal, under 9,999 circulation. The newspaper also received an Honourable Mention in General Excellence, Class 1 – circulation under 1,999.

Mr. Tracey expressed his gratitude to the small, but committed and dedicated staff at the newspaper, saying everyone puts forth their best with each and every edition of the Leader.

“We are committed to producing a newspaper Renfrew County citizens can enjoy each week,” Mr. Tracey said. “We know it is an important part of many people’s lives and we try our best to keep it informative and interesting.”

He added it was bittersweet winning the awards last Friday only to learn three days later the plant in Bracebridge where the Leader is printed announced its closure at the end of May.

“It just goes to show you how fast things can change,” he said. “From a high one day to a low a few days later.”

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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