Free Press wins 11 state journalism awards

4/19/2018, 10:38 p.m.
The Richmond Free Press continues its 26-year tradition of award-winning excellence. The newspaper was recognized with 11 awards, including four ...

The Richmond Free Press continues its 26-year tradition of award-winning excellence.

The newspaper was recognized with 11 awards, including four first place awards, at the annual Virginia Press Association competition in writing, photography, news presentation and advertising.

The contest for work published in 2017 was judged by members of the Alabama Press Association. Winners were announced April 14 during the VPA’s annual awards banquet at a Henrico County hotel.

Free Press staff photographer Sandra Sellars won first place in the photo illustration category for large, non-daily newspapers in Virginia. Her winning photograph was a Cityscape showing a series of 17-foot tall metal rings — public art — along the South Side walkway to the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge across the James River.

“Amazing photo!” the judge wrote. “What really sets it off is the sky!”

Ms. Sellars also shared a first place award in the picture story or essay category with Free Press freelance photographer Clement Britt for a collection of 10  photos published with the article “Racists Go Home,” detailing how members of a Tennessee-based neo-Confederate group were met by hundreds of counterprotesters during their rally to support the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue.

“Besides the great photos,” the judge wrote, “the newsy aspect of this collection pushed it to the top of a VERY TOUGH category for me. The shot of the cops with a man in custody may have been the difference.”

April Coleman, Free Press vice president for production, received first place for front page design. The entry included the front pages of three editions of the newspaper — the January 2017 edition when former President Obama left office; an April 2017 edition featuring members of the Virginia Southern Christian Leadership Conference lauding racist U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his civil rights work on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death; and the July 2017 edition featuring the unveiling of the Maggie L. Walker statue in Downtown.

The judge wrote, “The pages have eye-catching pictures and headings.”

And former Free Press freelance writer Holly Rodriguez clinched a first-place award for education writing. The judge provided no comment on the submission that included a range of education stories, including ones detailing the ouster of former Richmond schools Superintendent Dana Bedden.

Second place honors went to:

• Jeremy Lazarus, Free Press vice president for news enhancement, in the business and financial writing category;

• James Haskins for sports news photography; and

• Ms. Sellars for two categories — general news photography and personality or portrait photography.

Third-place awards went to:

• A Free Press team of Mr. Lazarus and freelance writers Ronald E. Carrington, Saraya Wintersmith and Leah Hobbs for general news writing for coverage of the Confederate statue issue in Richmond. The judge wrote, “An emotional issue covered from all sides. Good, sound and fair reporting.”

• Ms. Sellars for photo illustration; and

• Mr. Haskins for sports news photography.

Meanwhile, VPA winner Ryan M. Kelly, a photographer for The Charlottesville Daily Progress whose image of a car plowing into a crowd of people demonstrating against white supremacists last August in Charlottesville was seen around the globe, won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for the photo.

Journalism’s top prizes were announced Monday.

Tim Eberly of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk was a Pulitzer finalist for investigative reporting for his series on Virginia’s “three-strike” prisoners who face unduly long sentences. His series led to changes in the Virginia Parole Board’s practices and freedom for several inmates.

Mr. Eberly was named Outstanding Journalist of the Year by the VPA during the banquet.