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Bee Honored With NENPA Awards, Hicks Named Photographer Of The Year

BOSTON — The Newtown Bee was recognized among hundreds of New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) members February 7 and 8 for its editorial and photographic work during the period of August 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013. The awards were presented during NENPA’s annual New England Newspaper Conference.

Associate Editor Shannon Hicks was named Photographer of the Year (Weekly), along with receiving first place awards for Spot News Photo, for her iconic image of young students being led from Sandy Hook School by law enforcement responders; Photo Series, for the series of photos taken in the first few grim moments following the horrific attack, when local, state, and federal first responders were pouring into the scene and the evacuations of Sandy Hook Elementary School continued; and Reporting on Religious Issues, for her coverage of a controversy that erupted within the Lutheran Church following a post-12/14 interfaith memorial service that was attended by President Barack Obama.

Local artist Kim Proctor was award first place in the Illustration category for her touching line drawing that graced the front page of The Newtown Bee issue of December 21, 2012, featuring 27 white doves representing the 12/14 victims.

Additionally, Newtown Bee Editor Curtiss Clark was honored with a second place award in the Editorial Supplement category, for the December 17, 2012, special edition of The Newtown Bee, published within days following the Sandy Hook shootings.

The newspaper’s sales department also received a third place award in the Events category for an advertising package that promoted National Shelter Dog Month; and received honorable mention in Niche Publication for its 2013 Guide To Newtown.

Referring to the Guide, judges remarked that “every community paper in the country should produce one of these!”

The NENPA advertising awards for the Guide and the Shelter Dog Month promotion were presented February 7 during an early evening reception at the Park Plaza Hotel. The balance of the awards were presented during the annual Better Newspaper Awards Banquet the following evening, with approximately 500 people attending in the hotel’s grand ballroom.

The first award received by The Bee Saturday evening was for Ms Hicks’s reporting on religious issues, which detailed the background and outcome of a controversy that involved Rob Morris, the pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, and several other regional and national Lutheran Church leaders.

Judges for that report wrote: “A complicated story emerging from the 12/14 tragedy … that was rooted in the community but had implications at the top levels of the US Lutheran Church. Expertly detailed by the author in an engaging and highly readable feature.”

In considering the post-12/14 Special Edition that was published the Monday following the tragedy — the first ever in the newspaper’s 136-year history — judges wrote: “A tragic event brings the world to Newtown and the local weekly responds with this complimentary issue. The special edition recaps the news of the 28 deaths, the visit of the President and manages to keep its hometown readers informed, as well. Good job on an emotional and disturbing event that struck home.”

Ms Proctor’s cover illustration for the 2012 holiday edition was initially completed weeks in advance featuring Santa Claus in his reindeer-driven sleigh flying above a snow-covered Newtown Bee office. But just days after 12/14 Ms Proctor worked with Publisher Scudder Smith to redesign the illustration from its festive mood to the more respectful and somber image of 27 white doves flying over the newspaper’s office.

Judges in this category stated: “A classic approach, this page embodies a strong sense of community and tradition. Especially coming just seven days after the Newtown shootings, this illustration offers hope for the future of Newtown and its citizenry.”

Judges for Ms Hicks’s photo series complimented the “strong collection of images,” adding: “Well done in keeping your head in your job.”

In their comments for her photo of children being led from their elementary school that Friday morning, a photo that subsequently appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world, judges summed up her work as “excellent.”

When the award for Spot News Photo was announced Saturday evening, the room erupted in applause and Ms Hicks was given a standing ovation. Many later said that it was the first time anyone had received such a response during the convention.

Ms Hicks’s work rose to the top among judges considering the weekly newspaper Photographer of the Year distinction based on the body of work submitted for consideration across numerous categories.

The recognition at the annual February NENPA conference followed Editor Curtiss Clark receiving the 2013 Allan B. Rogers Editorial Award at the organization’s Fall Conference last October.

That award honors the best editorial written in New England on a local topic, and it cited Mr Clark’s editorial that appeared as part of the 12/14 special edition entitled “Answering For Our Town.”

At that fall conference, The Newtown Bee special edition also won NENPA’s Publick Occurrences Award in recognition of outstanding journalism covering the 12/14 tragedy.

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