ALBANY, NEW YORK – The Ithaca Times took home eight awards, including two first place finishes, in the New York Press Association's 2017 Better Newspaper Contest over the weekend at its annual conference in Albany.

The contest, which featured nearly 3,000 entries from more than 156 newspapers across New York State, featured winners in 65 different categories spanning everything from editorial excellence to the quality of a newspaper's design or its advertising prowess. This year's performance just misses the bar set by the Ithaca Times last year, when it won nine awards (it won five the previous year), however the newspaper's editor is more than proud of the performance of his staff.

"This year's showing is a testament not just to the hard work and talent of our winners, but our entire staff," Managing Editor Nick Reynolds said in a statement. "Awards like this might exist to show off the best of a newspaper, but it only hints at the excellence exhibited by each and every one of our committed freelancers and staff members week in and week out, especially with the Finger Lakes Community Newspapers. Each and every one of them deserves so much more credit, money, you name it for the work they do and without them, this newspaper would be nothing. These people care so much for their communities and for the field of journalism, and our community is a better place because of them."

Winning their first NYPA awards this year were Reynolds, who contributed to two awards as well as taking home the NYPA's top prize for coverage of the environment; staff reporter Matt Butler, who won several prizes including a nod for best feature story; and contributing writers Isabella Grullón Paz (Ithaca College) and Austin Lamb (Lehman Alternative Community School) who each, notably, will be award-winning journalists at a professional level before entering college or the workforce.

"The type of work done by Isabella and Austin this year is an example of how taking a chance can really pay off," said Reynolds. "These two came to us looking for experience to get themselves ready for the next stage of their careers, and after proving themselves as interns, we knew they were ready to take on even more responsibility as writers. I think more publications – and even other industries – can really benefit from offering opportunities to young people with promise. Leaders really need to give these people the chance to really do something special. It certainly worked out for us."

The awards are as follows:

BEST EDITORIAL PAGE

Second Place – The Ithaca Times

What They Said: "Content is witty, pointed and original. Not afraid to take risks. Visually interesting throughout the section. Illustrations and cartoons set it apart from other entries. Topics could be more varied."

BEST NEWS WEBSITE

Second Place – The Ithaca Times

What They Said: "This website’s story layout was an excellent way to showcase photos and draw the reader in (the way a photo flows through a story). It was also nice to see print editions being teased on the site. The site was easy to navigate and served as a good guide for the local area as well."

COVERAGE OF HEALTH, HEALTH CARE & SCIENCE

Second Place – The Ithaca Times' Nick Reynolds, Matt Butler & Austin Lamb

What They Said: "A very interesting, informative mix of stories ranging from an info war on global warming, the evolution of apples, the impact of a food pantry closing on local residents and projected impact of global warming on the Finger Lakes area. Well-thought out and written with local connections in mind."

COVERAGE OF EDUCATION

Second Place – The Ithaca Times' Nick Reynolds and Matt Butler

What They Said: "There’s some exceptional reporting and writing here, particularly in the piece on the service program in New Orleans."

COVERAGE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

First Place – The Ithaca Times' Nick Reynolds

What They Said: Strong art, attractive design and nice use of pull quotes and graphics help break up the gray and draw readers into important topics like water quality, flooding, energy consumption and climate change.

COVERAGE OF AGRICULTURE

Second Place: The Ithaca Times' Matt Butler and Isabella Grullón Paz

What They Said: Immigration is such a relevant topic right now. The author’s extra effort to dig into what it’s like to live in the shadows just to make a decent living was appreciated. Community gardens are popping up all over and this well-written story highlights their importance.

FEATURE STORY DIVISION 7

First Place – Ithaca Times' Matt Butler

What They Said: "THAT ONE CORNER, By Matt Butler: Outstanding piece of local journalism. The kind of in-depth, balanced reporting that tells more than just a surface story (who-what-where when) about an issue, but that literally gets into the gutter to probe the “whys” and “hows” and “what’s next?” The lede set the mood and the personalities provided the color. The only criticism I have is for the last sentence: I would have preferred to have read a quote from someone saying essentially the same thing. Other than that, this is the kind of journalism every community needs. Excellent job."

BEST COLUMN 

Honorable Mention – The Ithaca Times' Charley Githler

What They Said: Caught me off guard with the willingness to switch up the format in each entry; I liked that originality and I’d wager the readers do too. The sarcasm is strong with this one.

Want to read more of our work? Follow us on Twitter @IthacaTimes or pick up a fresh copy of our award-winning work off the newsstand each and every Wednesday. (No weeks off here.)

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Freelance Reporter

Austin Lamb is a freelance reporter, copy editor, and social media manager. Austin is a 2018 LACS graduate and will attend Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications in 2019.

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