The Southampton Press Eastern Edition, which published its first edition in 1897, and which changed ownership less than two years ago, emerged from a field of 151 newspapers across New York State to win the New York Press Association’s Newspaper of the Year award for 2020.
The Press also won the prestigious Stuart C. Dorman Award for Editorial Excellence and repeated as winner of the Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence, which recognizes outstanding work across all aspects of a newspaper’s editorial content, advertising and design.
The Express News Group, which also publishes the western edition of The Southampton Press, The East Hampton Press, The Sag Harbor Express, The Express Magazine, 27east.com and sagharborexpress.com, won a total of 43 awards in the annual New York Press Association (NYPA) Better Newspaper Contest, which was judged this year by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association.
The eastern edition of The Press earned a combined 235 contest points, winning awards across all categories of the competition. The paper received high praise from the judges, who said “this newspaper gives the community their all every week — we salute you!”
“To win Newspaper of the Year, in 2020 of all years, is a tremendous honor,” Express News Group co-publisher Gavin Menu said after the press association’s two-day virtual convention, held on April 8-9. “Even during the early days of the pandemic, with our staff working entirely from home, our papers provided critically-important information to the community during a time of real crisis. We’re proud of that work, and proud to be recognized for what I’ve known all along, that this is the best team in the business.”
“It’s difficult to put into words how challenging 2020 was for our staff,” Express News Group Executive Editor Joseph Shaw added. “The realities of the pandemic meant a smaller staff, plus the difficulty of working remotely and being unable to even interview people face to face much of the time. Putting together print editions every week was a challenge, and the demand for information online was urgent and constant. Meanwhile, the stories were unprecedented — not just the pandemic but the series of protests, a transformative election season … so much to cover, every single week.”
Features writer Michelle Trauring was named NYPA’s Writer of the Year for the second time in her career, having last won for her work in The Sag Harbor Express in 2018. She helped lead an editorial charge, alongside Managing Editor Bill Sutton, Arts and Living Editor Annette Hinkle, Features Editor Brendan O’Reilly and reporters Stephen J. Kotz, Kitty Merrill and Michael Wright that was challenged throughout last year by the pandemic, widespread local shutdowns and stories of civil unrest.
“This writer handled a diverse set of topics beautifully, mixing an investigative approach with rich storytelling and a human touch to produce in-depth news features with high community impact and interest,” the judges said about Ms. Trauring’s work. “The writer understands that all great stories, though built on solid foundational facts and data, are about people’s experiences — their joys and sorrows, theirs fears and triumphs.”
Express News Group photo editor Dana Shaw led The Southampton Press to a first-place award for Photographic Excellence, with entries that also included work by longtime Sag Harbor Express photographer Michael Heller, who finished third in the Photographer of the Year competition. He also won a pair of first-place awards for sports action and feature photos, and another in the Best Feature Photo category for his sunset photograph of Santa during a pandemic-era visit to Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.
For the second consecutive year, The Southampton Press won a first-place award for Best Sports Coverage, as veteran sports reporters Cailin Riley and Desirée Keegan joined sports editor Drew Budd to create sections that judges described as a “must-have for sports fans in the area.” Ms. Riley, a three-time Sports Writer of the Year at The Press, finished with an honorable mention in that category for her work last year.
The company’s news division took home an award for Best News Story as Greg Wehner’s reporting on bail reform was picked as the best entry in that competitive category. Ms. Trauring won a first place for Best Feature Story, and she, Bryan Boyhan and intern Julia Heming won another first-place award for their news series published in the western edition of The Press on the 25th anniversary of the Pine Barrens fire near Westhampton Beach. Mr. Boyhan, the publisher emeritus of The Sag Harbor Express, also won a second-place award in the Feature Story category for his piece on the tragic Free Life balloon launch in the Springs hamlet of East Hampton in 1970.
Marilee Foster’s “Ground Level” won a first-place award for Best Column, and Peter Waldner, a perennial award-winner with his Paw Prints cartoon, won a first place for The East Hampton Press in the Best Editorial Cartoon category.
Express News Group production managers Kerri Cunningham and Sara Mannino Kent won a first place in the graphic Illustration category, and led the company’s design team, which also includes Charlie Tumino, Mr. Boyhan and Vicky Mendelson, to a sweep of the top three awards in the category of Overall Design Excellence, as judges described the first-place Express as having “a metro-like look, which certainly must appeal to the audience in the Hamptons.”
The Holiday Book edition of The Express Magazine received high praise from judges, who called the issue “absolutely amazing, the quality incredible,” while awarding it as the Best Holiday Edition in the state. The cover, featuring a lit-up Christmas tree inside the dining room of Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor, won first place for best special sections cover as the entire magazine series was again recognized as one of the best in the state.
“This spring — in the uncertain, beginning throes of the pandemic — we really went back-and-forth on if we would even have a market for Express Magazine, but at the same time, it felt more important than ever before to offer this kind of magazine to our readers,” said Kathryn Menu, co-publisher of The Express News Group and the editor of The Express Magazine. “This hopeful Holiday Book edition was a joy to put together and I like to think it brought our readers a little cheer during a very different holiday season.”
“To win these awards this year is so satisfying, because it shows that the challenges brought out our best as a news organization,” said Mr. Shaw. “Every single person contributes — I’ve said it many times: There is not a weak link in our entire company. It’s a pleasure, and an honor, to work with these men and women. I know how great they are — but it’s nice to have our colleagues recognize it.
“Community journalism is so important, and I think 2020 demonstrated that in a way that should be clear to everyone. I’m pleased to say we delivered when it mattered most. Our readers are the beneficiaries — and they deserve the best.”