NATICK, MASS. — The New England Newspaper & Press Association (NENPA) honored The Newtown Bee and its Editor, Curtiss Clark, at the 2013 New England Newspaper Conference October 10.
The Bee was one of three weekly newspapers among NENPA’s more than 400 member publications recognized with a 2013 Publick Occurrences Award for the special edition that was published on December 17, 2012. That edition was devoted exclusively to coverage and reactions to the Sandy Hook tragedy three days earlier.
This was the first special edition The Newtown Bee published since the newspaper was founded in 1877. It featured photography, stories, and the first wave of letters that poured in to the paper from the local and global community reacting to the horrific news of the shootings at Sandy Hook School that took the lives of 20 children and six women.
NENPA’s Publick Occurrences Award recognizes the very best work that New England newspapers produce each year, whether it is individual or team stories, series, spot news coverage, columns or photojournalism that ran in print and/or online. The association presents up to 16 Publick Occurrences awards to member newspapers annually.
This award was established in 1990 to recognize individual and team merit at New England newspapers to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Publick Occurrences, the first newspaper published in America. Four days after it appeared in Boston in 1690, Publick Occurrences was suppressed by the royal governor.
NENPA judges called The Bee’s special section “A beautiful, heartfelt Extra edition, produced by an exhausted but determined staff while under great stress and overwhelmed by emotion. This really shows the important role a local newspaper can play in the life and heart of its community.”
The editorial that appeared as part of that special section, entitled “Answering For Our Town,” also earned Editor Curtiss Clark the 2013 Allan B. Rogers Editorial Award, which recognizes the best editorial written on a local subject in New England. Judges praised the piece for addressing “with quiet dignity the town’s reaction to this terrible tragedy.”
The editorial was an attempt to offer a local voice to counter the superficial portrayals of the town by national media in the days following the shootings, according to Mr Clark. The newspaper sought to “transcend the caricature of a grieving town and to transform the message going out from the Newtown community to the world from one of abject grief and despair to a message of hope and love,” he explained.
Judges said that the editorial “succeeds well in fulfilling that goal, for it resists what might have been a stereotypical inclination to be maudlin and to wring one’s hands at the immensity of suffering going on in Newtown. And yet, the editorial is no way understates the scope of the horror. Far from it. It confronts the enormity of the shootings in a straightforward way.
“What it does so gracefully is to explain the strength, the community spirit and the dogged determination of Newtown to overcome this tragedy and to keep the town whole.”
They concluded: “It is an editorial embracing courage and hope, two of the most glorious emotions of the human spirit.”