Environmental writing and reader engagement were the highlights of four awards won by the Cricket as part of the National Newspaper Association‘s 2021 Better Newspaper Contest, announced earlier this month at its 134th annual convention in Jacksonville, Florida.
There were two big highlights. First, Jim Behnke and Kris McGinn won for Best Environmental Story Series, for Behnke’s series, “The Wildlife of Cape Ann.” Behnke has covered all manner of interesting local species, from starlings and striped bass to ospreys. This year’s awards focused on three pieces, two of which Benhke wrote with Cricket features editor Kris McGinn on crows and bees. The pair won second place among newspapers with a circulation of 9,000 and under.
“This is an amazing series of articles about wildlife, the environment creatures live in and the varied threats they face,” wrote one of the judges.
“It’s notable that this series was elevated to a higher competitive class for editorial writing,” said Cricket Editor Erika Brown. “Behnke and McGinn rose among hundreds of other papers across the country, because their work was excellent.”
In all, judges reviewed 1,300 articles, photography, and layout designs published in 2020, and the Cricket was among more than 500 awards won by 96 newspapers in 35 states.
Another big win came with a first-place win Best Reader-Generated Campaign among all non-daily newspapers for “Postcards Home,” the Cricket’s travel feature of personal journeys from our readers. Judges highlighted Christy King’s trip to Kenya; the Wares stalled sailing trip around the world (when COVID parked them outside the Panama Canal); and Bailey Buchanan’s weekend hiking journeys to find social distancing on a section of the Appalachian Trail. (Spoiler alert: our own veterinarian Larry Lamb will feature his trip to Big Sur in the coming weeks.)
The Cricket also won Best Serious Column (third place), for Jess Yurwitz for “This Superhero Needs A Mask,” her lovely piece chronicling PPE challenges facing her husband, an ER doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital in the early days of COVID. And the paper won “Best Double Truck,” (third place) for the newspaper’s Holiday 2020 double page spread supporting area retailers during COVID with the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.
Judging was performed primarily by active community newspaper editors and publishers, as well as retired university journalism professors and retired newspaper professionals. The National Newspaper Association is one of the largest and the oldest newspaper associations in the country, started in 1885.