The Star-Herald

County weeklies earn 38 awards in Maine Press Association contest

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — The staff of Aroostook County’s weekly newspapers — the Aroostook Republican and News, Houlton Pioneer Times, St. John Valley Times and The Star-Herald — received a total of 38 awards, including 11 first-place honors, in writing, photography, design and advertising during the Maine Press Association’s annual awards banquet Oct. 26 in South Portland.  

Staff submit entries each spring for the MPA’s annual Better Newspaper Contest in a number of different categories in the weekly division, including several types of news stories, feature stories, opinion columns, photography, advertising and page design. The press association reveals winners during its fall conference, held in a different location in the state each year.

Last year the local weeklies collected 27 awards, with seven first-place wins.  

“These awards are certainly an industry recognition of the dedication and talent of the staffs of Houlton Pioneer Times, The Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican and St. John Valley Times,” said senior editor Julie Harris. 

“But what the awards should mean to readers is that we do the best we can every day to inform, enlighten and entertain, as well as be the watchdogs of the people and institutions that hold public trust,” she added. “It is an honor to work with people who care so much about the communities we serve.”

The newspapers, listed in alphabetical order, earned the following awards.

Aroostook Republican

For the Aroostook Republican and News, reporter Chris Bouchard garnered first place for his political story on how Lisa Brisette of Van Buren inspired legislators to act after her husband lost his life because poor cellphone service prevented him from being able to call for help. 

“This story is heartbreaking, but is a well-written piece on how citizens can create change in system,” said judges.

Bouchard also won third place in the spot news photo category.

The paper earned second place in Best Young Reader Engagement Idea for its Newspapers in Education supplement.

Houlton Pioneer Times

The Houlton Pioneer Times tied for third place in the general excellence – print category, with judges mentioning a “good mix of stories, some really well-produced pictures and an attractive layout.

Also in Houlton, Assistant Editor/Senior Reporter Joseph Cyr picked up nine individual awards, including first place in arts/lifestyle feature for his story on how an autistic Hodgdon artist found the inspiration to open up through her art.

“A nice story on a local girl building up the courage to show her art,” said judges.

Cyr won second-place nods for writing in the sports section, sports news story and game story categories, and for photography in both scenic photo and people photo. He also earned third-place awards for feature photo, and for writing in the critic’s award and education story categories. 

Reporter Jen Lynds won a third-place award in the courts story category.

The paper’s staff earned third place for editorial page design. Paginator Jennifer Michaud won second place for front-page design, with paginator Lanette Virtanen picking up third place in sports page design.

St. John Valley Times

The St. John Valley Times captured five first-place awards, with three going to Madawaska reporter Morgan Mitchell, one to Fort Kent reporter Jessica Potila and one to advertising designer Callie Picard.

Mitchell won first in spot news for a story on a semi truck catching on fire, for her local column on a Texas native surviving her first winter in Maine, and for her news photo of sled dogs taking off during the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races.

“A very personable writer that just draws you in,” said judges of her column.

“The photographer got down low to the ground to get this shot putting themselves almost at eye level with the dogs,” said a photography judge. “Excellent.”

Potila earned first place for a sports story focusing on Martin Massicotte’s winning his record 10th Can-Am 250 crown at the sled dog races. 

“Very well written. This story held my interest from the first sentence to the last,” judges said. 

In the advertising design self-promotion category, Picard’s “Digital Advertising That Works” ad earned praise from judges, who said, “Very eye-catching promotion. Any newspaper would be proud to have this ad promoting their product.”

In other awards, Mitchell collected second-place awards for spot news photo, picture story, news video and sports video, and third-place awards for features/lifestyle video. 

Potila also earned second place for food story/feature, as well as third place in editorial writing and in the sports photo category.

The Star-Herald

At The Star-Herald, reporter Melissa Lizotte, the advertising/design team of Scott Galipeau and Yvonne Tardie and Aroostook Weeklies Assistant Editor Paula Brewer captured first-place honors.

Lizotte came in first with her news story on Presque Isle residents and police expressing concern about suspected drug dealing in their neighborhood.

“Too often, people who speak at public meetings feel as though no one is listening,” said a judge. “Having the local newspaper recount it in detail and ask officials what they can do is what we’re here for. …Great job.”

Lizotte also earned a second-place nod for a religion story and third place in the food story/feature category, as well as third place for a people photo.  

Brewer received first place in the opinion columnist category and second place as local columnist for her column “Walkabout: Aroostook.” 

“Excellent,” said judges. “The writer kept my interest and told a great story.”

Brewer also earned a first place in photography for her spot news photo of the Trombley plant on Dragon Drive under spring floodwater.

“A well-framed, multilayered flooding photo [that] contains a bit of whimsy in the ducks swimming around the partially submerged fence,” a judge said.

The Star-Herald staff, including sales representative Scott Galipeau and page designer Yvonne Tardie, won first place in Best Young Reader Engagement Idea for their Newspapers in Education section. 

Judges praised the use of photos of students actually creating the advertisements for the section. “It brings the section more to life with the pictures of so many students. Love the idea of the student art ads featuring their names,” one judge said.

Brent Dyer, a Presque Isle artist who contributes weekly editorial cartoons for the paper, received a third-place nod in the editorial cartoonist category.

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