RALEIGH — The Robesonian newsroom garnered four awards Thursday night at the North Carolina Press Association’s Winter Institute, during which individual newspapers are recognized for outstanding journalism.
Among them was third place for Community Journalism, which Editor Donnie Douglas said really pleased him.
“That was a bit of a surprise,” said Douglas, “because the categories are based on circulation. We are at the low end in our category, competing against newspapers that have staffs that are three and four times our size. As individuals, we can compete against fellow journalists, but it is tough for a staff to compete against newspapers with so many more resources, especially in the number of reporters.”
Douglas gave a nod to Sarah Willets, the newspaper’s former managing editor who guided the community coverage. She left in December to work at another journalism job in Durham.
“This really is her award,” Douglas said.
Publisher Denise Ward underlined the importance of the Community Journalism award.
“Covering the community is what we do,” Ward said. “That is our duty, and to be recognized, especially when competing with larger newspapers, shows our staff is working hard, being clever in maximizing resources, and making The Robesonian the go-to place for local news.”
Other awards went to Douglas, who took first place for Editorials, and to the two members of the sports staff, Sports Editor Rodd Baxley, who received third place for Sports Columns, and Jonathan Bym, who took third place for Sports Feature Writing.
“I am really proud of my sports staff,” Douglas said. “I have had some good sports staffs over the years, but not sure I have ever had two guys who worked harder and were as connected to the local high school sports scene as are Rodd and Jonathan.”
During the event, there was a brief “special tribute” to The Robesonian for its coverage of Hurricane Matthew, when the newspaper, with a skeleton staff and its office destroyed by flooding, worked through social media and www.robesonian.com to inform people of need-to-know information. A letter was read that was written by Bob Dixon, former advertising director at The Robesonian and a member of the NCPA Hall of Fame, in which he detailed efforts by the staff and commended them.
The newspaper’s work for Matthew was not eligible to receive awards this year because the hurricane came after the Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016, period for submissions.