‘Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.’
— Henry Anatole Grunwald
The pursuit of excellence in journalism is something for which all news organizations strive. The Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association “advocates for its members through professional development, advertising networks, legislative and first amendment advocacy and other services,” and each year the association recognizes the best of the best editorial content, in print and online, produced by its members.
For the 2016 contest, the association received nearly 2,100 entries from 59 member publications among 51 categories, which were judged by the West Virginia Press Association. The contest comprises seven divisions, which group member publications into daily and non-daily print and online-only categories.
At the MDDC’s annual editorial awards luncheon on May 12, Coastal Point staffers took home six awards in a variety of categories.
“I’m proud of all of them. I always say, ‘The staff makes the paper,’ and we have a very talented, hardworking staff,” said Point Publisher Susan Lyons. “This is a community that continues to grow and evolve, and our staff works very hard to stay on top of that.”
Coastal Point Editor Darin McCann took home two awards — receiving first place in Division E for General News Story for “Inspection alleges nearly $200,000 stolen from MVFC,” the piece he wrote in May of 2016 on the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts’ inspection report that revealed that $ 190,433.61 had allegedly been embezzled from the fire company over a three-year time span.
“The story on the embezzlement at the Millville Volunteer Fire Company was just so sad to me,” said McCann. “Here you have an organization, built largely on the backs of volunteers willing to risk their very lives to help others, and their integrity and competence as a company was put to the test by the alleged actions of one individual.
“I think this story kind of exposed how vulnerable many of our service organizations had become over the years, and I know it really forced the leadership over there to change the entire way they do things.
“It was important to me, and every other person in our office, that we presented this from every possible angle, so it didn’t look like a ‘hatchet job’ on a beloved institution. This really was a group effort by a tremendous team of journalists and a very supportive publisher.”
Lyons praised McCann for his work, while also taking a dig at his advanced age as a journalist.
“Well, the old dog still has it in him. He hasn’t written a news story in about five years, but he’s still got it.”
McCann was also recognized for his column “McHouse of McHorrors a haven for the McFlu,” which received second place in “Local column, Feature or Humor.” The column followed McCann and his wife through a weekend of not-so-great-flu-fun, while their toddler daughter had reign over the house.
“It’s always nice to know that someone appreciates your work. Hopefully, someone got a laugh or two out of the column and it made his or her day a little better,” he said.
Point Reporter Laura Walter took home first place in the Education Reporting category for her story “District needs new schools to address overcrowding,” which reported on the need for the Indian River School District to expand.
“I felt really honored to be recognized for education news, which is fun and challenging to cover. Education directly impacts thousands of families in our area,” said Walter, adding, “Thanks to Coastal Point designer David Elliott, who helped tell this story by creating an infographic (‘How full are the schools?’) that helped readers visualize the numbers on school population.”
Both McCann and Lyons praised Walter’s work, noting she has a unique perspective as a reporter, as she is also a graduate of the school district.
“Nobody knows the Indian River School District better than Laura,” Lyons said. “We’re very fortunate to have a graduate of the school who really understands what the significant issues are to the schools and the community. She gets it and helps our readers really understand the issues.”
“It was really exciting to see Laura get recognized for that story,” said McCann. “She is an active alumnus of the school district, and she really puts her heart and soul into covering that beat. You’re not going to find a more thorough and thoughtful reporter than Laura, and to see her be recognized by her peers for her exemplary work really puts a smile on your face. She earned that one over some incredibly tough competition. This entire community is fortunate to have her reporting on our schools.”
Technical Director Shaun Lambert was also recognized for his talent behind the lens, winning two first-place awards — one for Feature Photo, of a winter wonderland, and for Photo Series, for images of the Nanticoke Indian Powwow.
“Shaun has expanded his role with the paper over the last few years and has gotten the opportunity to shoot more photos,” said Lyons. “He has a very artistic eye, and you can see that with his photos and page designs.”
“Shaun has such a good eye. The photo of snow on the beach is such an iconic one, and everyone wants to get the perfect shot. Shaun did,” said McCann.
Lambert, an Alaskan Inupiaq, said he looks forward to attending the powwow every year, and one could argue it shows in his photographs.
“When I take photos, I want to capture emotion — whether it’s the emotion showing on a person’s face or the emotion that a scene might exude. It doesn’t always happen, but that’s what I want to capture,” said Lambert. “I love going to the annual Nanticoke Indian Powwow (besides the heat, being an Eskimo and all). It’s just such an awesome experience to see the Native American dress and dances. The drumming and chants remind me of home. It’s one of my favorite events to attend every year.”
Lambert was also acknowledged with a second-place award for Page Design for “That’s Seven!” which depicted the Indian River High School boys’ soccer team’s seventh straight Henlopen South title win.
“I just do them. It happens organically as the elements are displayed on the page, design ideas present themselves.
“That sports page design was an excellent example of a reporter and page designer sharing a brain. [Point sports reporter] Tripp [Colonell] and Shaun work together a lot on that sports section, so Shaun knew exactly what he wanted to do to build a beautiful page,” said McCann.
The winners praised the entire Point staff for their dedication to bringing the best news to coastal Sussex County, noting their love of covering the community in which they live.
“I say it every year, and it rings true every time, we have a wonderful staff,” said Lambert. “They put everything they have into the work they do for the paper, and it’s an honor to work with people who care about and support our communities. It’s awesome to see some of our staff be recognized for the hard work they put in every day.”
“Obviously, you don’t set out on any story, photo or design trying to win an award,” added McCann. “It’s about informing the community to the best of our abilities, and feeling good about the work you put into it. I feel like we have a staff here that does that, week in and week out.
“It’s gratifying to see our staff earn recognition for their efforts, but there have been other stories that I feel were just as important to this community that weren’t going to win any kind of awards because they don’t translate to a judge who doesn’t live here. I’m equally proud of those stories. It’s just a real honor to get to work with the people we have here at the Point.”