The Sag Harbor Express was named Newspaper of the Year for the third time in four years at the annual New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest over the weekend. The Express earned a total of 415 contest points, the most of any single flag newspaper by a margin of 185 points, and swept the top four awards in the contest.
The Express won the prestigious Stuart C. Dorman Award for Editorial Excellence and the John J. Evans Award for Advertising Excellence after winning the most contest points in both the editorial and advertising categories.
A total of 184 newspapers submitted 2,957 entries in the contest.
“The newspaper’s performance is beyond impressive,” NYPA Executive Director Michelle Rea said at the conclusion of the two-day conference, held at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.
Judges called The Express “a remarkably well-designed newspaper” with “wonderfully strong writing, graphics and photography.”
The Express won a total of 14 first-place awards, including Writer of the Year, which news editor Stephen J. Kotz won for his “evocative writing…great imagery…and skillful context,” according to judges.
The Express also won first place awards for Overall Design Excellence, Best Front Page, Coverage of Religion, In Depth Reporting, Spot News, Sports Feature, Best Special Section for The Summer Book issue of The Express Magazine, Special Section Advertising for the XO issue of The Express Magazine and Best Large Space Ad.
Staff photographer Michael Heller won first place awards for Sports Feature Photo, Art Photo, Picture Story and Spot News Photo, which he shared with Peter Boody and Laurie Barone-Schaefer for their coverage of the Main Street fire in Sag Harbor last December.
“A dazzling display of photography, with each shot telling a different aspect of the story,” judges said about the December 23 issue of The Express that followed the fire. “Gorgeously captures the action, devastation, reaction and even beauty of the event.”
The Main Street fire was, in fact, on the mind of many judges as they awarded the paper for Best Spot News Coverage, In Depth Reporting and Best Front Page.
“The Sag Harbor Express pulled out all the stops in its coverage of a downtown fire that destroyed a local landmark, the Sag Harbor Cinema,” judges said. “Stories, sidebars, photo pages, graphics and a timeline dominate this edition, and the wall-to-wall coverage shows journalistic heft with sincere compassion for the community’s burned treasures shining through. A superior effort and a clear first-place winner.”
The Express earned a total of 37 awards across all categories. Reporter Douglas Feiden won numerous awards for his reporting, including a first-place for Coverage of Religion, as did Mr. Kotz and co-publishers Gavin and Kathryn G. Menu. Graphic designer Chris Lester was honored for his design work, alongside publisher emeritus Bryan Boyhan, who together brought home the award for Overall Design Excellence.
“We’ve never had the challenge of laying out a newspaper on such broad sheets — who has? — but we can imagine it would be difficult, except in the hands of a design team such as The Express must have.”
The most awarded newspaper group of the weekend was the Times/Review Newspaper Group, which between The Suffolk Times, The Riverhead News Review and Shelter Island Reporter, had a total of 700 contest points. The Press News Group, which publishes The Southampton Press and The East Hampton Press finished with 375 total contest points.