The staff of the Houlton Pioneer Times, The Star-Herald, and Aroostook Republican and News collected 17 awards in writing, photography, design and advertising from the Maine Press Association on Saturday, Oct. 21, during the organization’s annual awards banquet at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Event Center in Bar Harbor. Items from all three publications are featured on thecounty.me website.
The Houlton Pioneer Times also took home second-place in the General Excellence category for its division in the small weekly category of the 2017 MPA Better Newspaper Contest. The award is the highest editorial honor the MPA gives each year.
“The amount of content they fit in each edition (and on the front page) is quite impressive, and the content is varied and comprehensive,” the judges said in their comments. “The business and sports pages are consistently high quality. Great use of photos. Visually a very easy appealing layout.”
Reporter Joseph Cyr of the Houlton Pioneer Times collected six individual awards, including three first places in photography and a third place for writing in the education category.
Production manager Jen Michaud earned a first place for her front page design of the Pioneer Times and Assistant News Editor Paula Brewer won two awards for The Star-Herald, including top honors in feature writing for a piece about a University of Maine at Presque Isle professor of geology who was named a U.S. Fulbright Scholar.
“The front page is topped by a great women’s basketball picture played big and it works,” said the judge’s comment of the front page design from March 1, 2017. “It has a neat, clean, inviting design and good story selection — pot, a bogus robbery, an upbeat Crohn’s tale, sidewalks, talent shows, a special sports fan — something for everyone.”
Brewer’s story drew this response from the judge’s, “Brewer’s story brims with the newsroom axiom: ‘When a dog bites a human, that’s not news, because it happens everyday, but when a human bites a dog — that’s news because it doesn’t happen everyday.’ Brewer teaches us something new with every paragraph and writes with enthusiasm.”
Brewer also won a third place in the scenic photo category for The Star-Herald with her shot of a vibrant display of autumn leaves reflecting off Hanson Lake. “Good angle to photograph all these beautiful trees. Beautiful fall morning.”
Cyr garnered first place honors for a news photo of the fireworks going off on the Fourth of July at the Houlton Agricultural Fair, first place for a spot news photo of Houlton firefighters attacking a fire in New Limerick in February, and first place in the picture story category for a series of photos depicting activities during the long Fourth of July weekend in Houlton.
Commenting on Cyr’s fire photo, judges said, “Photographer took right angle to show entire scene. Perfect light and well composed. Really captures the drama of the fire.”
The picture story drew the following comment from judges. “This is a nice collection of images that capture the feeling of the event. This photographer really covered the 4th activities well.”
He also won a second place for his scenic winter shot of the Gateway Crossing Bridge in Houlton and third place for a feature photo of students preparing for their Houlton High School graduation ceremony.
Judges commented on how the “different time of day can make a difference” when referring to Cyr’s scenic photo. They went on to write, “The variety of color temperatures makes a nice picture. Great color and the use of the challenging light to make an aesthetic winner.”
Cyr’s writing award in the education category was for an article about a southern Aroostook school superintendent discussing how the two distinct regions of RSU 50 needed to resolve their “unhealthy relationship.” Judges said the piece provided “an in-depth look at a very complex issue. This story is laid out well and lays the foundation for future updates on the issue.”
Writer Jen Lynds gathered a second place in court reporting for her piece in the Pioneer Times about a teenager to be tried as an adult for murder. “The story is clear and concise with the right amount of background,” the judges said. “This undoubtedly was a well-read story by the local community.”
Rounding out the wins for the Pioneer Times, Carolina Rave won third place honors for an advertising campaign with Houlton Regional Hospital and Callie Picard picked up a third place in the best circulation promotion category.
Reporter Christopher Bouchard of the Aroostook Republican collected four awards, including second place in the news category for a piece about the Caribou Planning Board voting against allowing retail sales of recreational marijuana within city limits, and second place in religion writing for an article about Woodland town officials allowing a couple to live in part of a local church while they are renovating it.
“Tight articulate and balanced reporting on how one community’s planning officials carefully considered — and rejected — the temptation of a short-run financial windfall versus the potential long-term public health and safety consequences of permitting legal retail marijuana sales,” said the judges on Bouchard’s news story about marijuana.
His religion piece drew this response from the judges, “This well-reported story is truly a new take on the age-old tensions between church and state.”
Besides his two writing awards, Bouchard also collected a third place award in the spot news photography category for his shot of firefighters from Caribou and neighboring communities battling a house fire. In addition, he won a third place people photo award for a picture of a 94-year-old Woodland woman proudly displaying a Boston Post Cane she had just been presented.
Production staffer Ben Pinette won a second place award for a front page design of the Aroostook Republican.
“They tried something creative in the water award design and it works well,” the judges said of the page design. “The wreath tossing picture is good and offsets the grip-and-grin pix in the water story. Overall, a hard-working front page.”
Journalists, editors and advertising representatives from other New England publications judged contest entries from weekly newspapers throughout the state.
“We don’t need awards to prove how passionate and dedicated our staff is about the work we do for our readers,” said Senior Editor Rick Levasseur of Northeast Publishing, which produces the weekly newspapers, “but it is rewarding to be recognized by others in the newspaper industry for the quality of our efforts.”
“The journalists, photographers, graphic designers and typesetters in our communities bring a level of integrity and professionalism that our friends and neighbors have relied upon for many decades,” said Northeast Publishing General Manager Andrew Birden. “Without their efforts, we would lose our local history. I am proud that they are receiving recognition for their unending effort. They deserve it.”