June 22, 2013 7:25:48 PM
DISPATCH STAFF REPORT
BILOXI -- The Dispatch picked up 14 awards, including eight first-place honors, in the annual Mississippi Press Association Better Newspapers Contest. The awards were announced at Saturday's147th annual MPA Convention, held at the Beau Rivage Casino.
The Dispatch competed in the Daily Division B category, which includes the state's mid-sized newspapers. The MPA is made up of more than 120 newspapers in the state.
The Dispatch placed second in General Excellence while its magazine, Catfish Alley (Stacy Clark, editor), was the first-place winner for Best Magazine/Periodical in a division that included both medium and large newspapers.
Managing editor Slim Smith won a pair of first places for General Interest Column and Commentary Column. He won a second place in the Best Feature Story division. Dispatch education/crime reporter Sarah Fowler won first place in the Best Investigative/In-Depth Reporting for her reporting on the effect of abstinence programs on teen pregnancies while Dispatch general manager Peter Imes and page designer Matt Garner picked up first-place honors for Best Front Page.
Sports editor Adam Minichino's account of an Oak Hill and Starkville Academy girls' softball won first place in the Best Game Story. Minichino also picked up third-place honors in Best Sports Column.
Former news editor Carmen Sisson, who left the Dispatch in May for health reasons, won first place in Best General News Story with an account about anxious employees at the Columbus Country Club facing a change of ownership and Best Feature Story categories. She also finished second in Best Planned Series of Stories.
Other award winners from the Dispatch included Lifestyles editor Jan Swoope, photographer Luisa Porter and page designer Matt Garner, who won second place for best Lifestyles Page/Section and publisher/editor Birney Imes, third place for Best General Interest Column,
Norma Fields was inducted into the MPA's Hall of Fame at the convention. A longtime syndicated columnist and former capital reporter for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, Fields died in 2010 at the age of 86.
Tim Kalich from the Greenwood Commonwealth won the J. Oliver Emmerich Award for Editorial Excellence for the fourth time in his career and the second year in a row. He spoke on the importance of a strong editorial/opinion page in community newspapers. He paraphrased Jim Prince by saying "a newspaper is the soul of its community." Kalich added that he felt the editorial page is the heart of that soul. He lamented the fact that so many papers have dropped their editorial page.