Express News Group Scores Well In State’s Biggest Community Newspaper Contest

The Express News Group took home more points than any other outlet in the 2019 New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. COURTESY NYPA

Following a year in which the Press News Group and The Sag Harbor Express merged to form a new media company, The Express News Group took home more points than any other outlet in the 2019 New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest, which was delayed five months and held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Express News Group finished with a total of 57 awards and 605 contest points between its four newspapers — The Southampton Press Eastern Edition and Western Edition, The East Hampton Press and The Sag Harbor Express — its websites, and, and its lifestyle magazine brands.

The Times Review Media Group, which is based on the North Fork, finished second in terms of total contest points with 320. The Independent, which merged earlier this year with Dan’s Papers, earned the most contest points among single flag newspapers and was named the press association’s Newspaper of the Year for 2019.

The Sag Harbor Express won a first place award in the Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence, which considers all aspects of the newspaper, from editorial to advertising to design. “This is an excellent newspaper with great content in each category,” said judges from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, whose members reviewed this year’s entries. The newspaper’s website,, was named Best News Website in the state, while The Express Magazine finished first in the Magazine category.
The East Hampton Press finished second in the General Excellence category after it “received almost perfect scores in each category,” according to the judges, and earned a first place award for Best Editorial Page.

In Advertising Excellence, the Western Edition of The Press won first place, and the Eastern Edition won second place. The Eastern Edition also won first place awards for Overall Design Excellence, Coverage of Health Care and Coverage of Crime, Police and Courts, while sweeping the top three awards for Best News Story.

“It’s been a tough year for the newspaper industry and for everyone at this company who has worked hard to produce award-winning newspapers, websites and magazines every week during challenging times,” Express News Group Co-Publisher Gavin Menu said. “Our merger last year brought together two remarkable teams, and these awards only validate what I’ve known all along, that this is an outstanding community news organization.”

“In the midst of a trying year, our entire staff never missed a beat, and I’m just incredibly proud of them all for that,” said Executive Editor Joseph P. Shaw.

Sports Editor Drew Budd placed the Western Edition of The Press and The East Hampton Press in a first-place tie for Best Sports Coverage, with The Sag Harbor Express finishing second in that category.

Columnists Carlos Sandoval and Anthony Brandt won awards in the Best Column category, while reporters and feature writers including Annette Hinkle, Michelle Trauring, Valerie Gordon, Elizabeth Vespe, Greg Wehner, Rachel Valdespino and Michael Wright received honors in a variety of categories.

Mr. Budd, Mr. Menu and former sports editor Cailin Riley, who is now a freelance writer, won a first place award for Best Sports Feature story for their series about health hazards in the game of football. The company swept the Sports Feature category, with Ms. Vespe and Ms. Riley winning additional awards.

The Express News Group’s photo editor, Dana Shaw, finished second in the Photographer of the Year category, with an “enjoyable portfolio” and a “good combination of feature, news and sports work.”

Michael Heller, the longtime photographer for The Sag Harbor Express and a past winner of Photographer of the Year, won first place awards for Spot News Photo and Picture Story, while Ron Esposito, another freelance photographer, won a first-place for Sports Action Photo.

The Southampton Press Eastern Edition finished first in the Special Holiday Edition, with editor Kim Covell’s 27east publication including “everything a guide for the holidays should have — an events calendar, nice mix of ads and local stories, a gift guide ‘wish list,’ and more.” The Eastern Edition also earned a first-place award in the Best Special Section Advertising category for its annual summer 27east Dining guide.

Other East End media outlets also competed in the contest, including The East Hampton Star and Dan’s Paper’s, with Dan’s taking home the top advertising award in a tie with the Post-Standard of Syracuse.