Greenfield Recorder wins 11 awards in annual Better Newspaper Competition

  • An editorial cartoon depicting the General Pierce Bridge by Features Editor Andy Castillo, which has been scheduled for repairs in the summer of 2021. Staff Illustration/Andy Castillo

Staff Report
Published: 4/9/2021 6:05:05 PM

The Greenfield Recorder has won 11 top awards in the 2020 New England Better Newspaper Competition, an annual conference hosted Thursday and Friday by the region’s professional trade organization for newspapers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island.

In a variety of editorial categories ranging from features reporting to editorial writing, the Greenfield Recorder won five first places, one second and five thirds.

“I’m very proud of the excellent work done by the staff of the Recorder throughout 2020,” said Publisher Shawn Palmer, who oversees the Recorder and the Athol Daily News along with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the Amherst Bulletin and the Valley Advocate as a part of the Newspapers of New England company. “To receive 11 awards, voted upon by our colleagues within the newspaper industry, is humbling. I am especially pleased to see that four of the awards recognized the work done by teams of journalists working together.

“The Recorder team is focused on bringing the residents of Franklin County the news they need to be informed, engaged citizens,” Palmer continued. “Congratulations to all who were recognized for doing just that.”

A first-place writing prize — in the local election category for newspapers with a circulation of under 25,000 — was awarded for the Recorder’s coverage of Greenfield’s 2019 mayoral race. Editor-in-Chief Joan Livingston, who moderated a number of public forums and debates with candidates, News Editor Shelby Ashline, who directed coverage, and former Greenfield Reporter Melina Bourdeau were named as recipients of the prize.

Over a period of three months in August of 2019, the Recorder published dozens of front-page articles pulling apart ballot questions and documenting the perspectives of candidates running for mayor and governmental seats.

Another first-place prize in the business reporting category was awarded to the entire staff for the Recorder’s weeklong farming series, “The New Face of Farming,” which was published over a week in September of 2019. With historical perspective, the series described challenges faced by modern-day Franklin County farmers amid a changing economic landscape.

“Our staff at the Greenfield Recorder works hard to keep up with the local news of Franklin County and North Quabbin,” Livingston said. “I am pleased that the New England Newspaper & Press Association has recognized that commitment with these awards, in particular, first place for the New Face of Farming series and coverage of the Greenfield elections, which were strong team efforts.”

Elsewhere, three editorials published in 2019 took gold in the editorial writing category. The first, a tongue-in-cheek editorial suggesting ways to use the former Wilson’s Department Store building, was written by Supplements Editor Chris Harris; the second, by Ashline, was about the role journalism can play in bringing the community together; the third was a call for the state to repair the General Pierce Bridge by Features Editor Andy Castillo.

In the local personality profile category, Castillo placed first for his 2019 profile of Keith Sherman, a Heath native and Navy veteran who traveled to all 50 states documenting the stories of Gold Star Families. Sherman, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, founded a nonprofit called Gold Star Dirt and donated his video recordings to the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.

Castillo also placed first in the food page or section category for a story about an apple pie fundraiser that’s hosted regularly by Robbins Memorial Church in Greenfield.

Additionally, one second-place prize was awarded to Harris and Castillo for an editorial page they collaborated on. Harris wrote the editorial about a proposed boutique inn at The Moody Center in Northfield; Castillo illustrated the editorial cartoon — an image of a bear eating a fish, representing the sharp economic downturn during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five bronze awards were also given to the Greenfield newspaper. Senior Reporter Anita Fritz received a third-place prize for her profile of Matt Kim, a local rock musician; former reporter Grace Bird and Castillo took third in the health reporting category for their investigative article on the lack of primary care physicians in the hilltowns; and Castillo received third-place awards in the arts and entertainment reporting category for a longform piece about poetry boxes along trails in Leverett, the editorial cartoon category for an illustration depicting the General Pierce Bridge and in the editorial writing category for a selection of three editorials.

To the south, the Recorder’s sister newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, received six awards in five categories including first-place prizes for a feature photograph by Photo Editor Carol Lollis, a sports story by Sports Reporter Kyle Grabowski and a general news story by Reporter Greta Jochem. Additionally, Jennifer Levesque, a page designer for the Valley Advocate, received a gold prize in the front-page design category for weekly publications.


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