Nashoba Valley Voice wins three awards in New England competition

Winners in the New England Newspaper and Press Association Contest from Digital First Media’s Lowell/Fitchburg group. Front row, from left, Sentinel & Enterprise Reporter Peter Jasinski and Sun Managing Editor Tom Zuppa. Back row, Sun reporter Amaris Castillo, Nashoba Valley Voice Editor Jennifer Lord Paluzzi, and Sun reporters Chris Lisinski, Todd Feathers and Matt Langone. (SUN/CRYSTAL LANGONE)

A Sun staff report

BOSTON — The Nashoba Valley Voice and its staff received three awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association on Saturday night.

Judges from across the country pored over more than 3,000 entries in the 2017 New England Better Newspaper Contest, the region’s largest writing, photography and multimedia contest.

Awards were presented at the annual NENPA dinner held at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel.

The winning entries are:

* Chris Lisinski and former staffer Anne O’Connor, first place, Government Reporting. Lisinski and O’Connor teamed to cover the upheaval in Shirley: The demotion of a police sergeant, the recall of selectmen and the officer’s rehiring.

Judges wrote: “Residents rely on the local newspaper to be their eyes and ears in the halls of government. The Nashoba Valley Voice provided a stellar example of fulfilling that role in its coverage of Shirley town government. The stories dug deep and provided multiple viewpoints, giving members of the community vital, evenhanded information over a sustained period.”

* O’Connor, first place, History Reporting, for a story about the discovery of old letters.

Judges wrote: “Interesting and well-researched account of a trove of WWII letters, tied nicely to local history.”

* O’Connor, third place, Reporting on Religious Issues. O’Connor told the story of the Groton-Dunstable High School Chorus, which had been scheduled to sing in a basilica in Rome, but had to give that up because a resident complained about church/state separation.

Judges wrote: “Good handle on a culturally significant topic.”

Newspapers in Digital First Media’s Lowell/Fitchburg cluster, which includes Voice, won 13 total awards.

The Sun of Lowell won eight awards:

* Rebecca Duda, first place, Best Blog on a Newspaper Website. Duda, an historian from Dracut, writes weekly on “Discovering the Historic Merrimack Valley.”

Judges wrote: “This well-researched and well-written blog is a joy to read, Rebecca Duda brings readers back in time to learn about the not-so-distant past. Every newspaper should have a local history blog like this one!”

* Second place, Audience/Community Involvement. The Sun’s Schools pages were opened up to opinion articles written by Jessica Landers’ students at Lowell High School.

Judges wrote: “The Schools page is a fresh take on school, community and social issues by ESL students at Lowell High School. The students’ writing is described as “passionate voices” and they do not fail to enlighten and educate.”

* Editor Jim Campanini, second place, Editorial Writing. Campanini wrote powerful editorials in support of the construction of a new Lowell High School, against a parking perk for Lowell teachers, and a criticism of action by the Townsend “Truthers” and the lives they ruined as a result.

Judges wrote: “Almost colloquial in tone, but forceful. Makes its points effectively.”

* Todd Feathers, third place, Investigative Reporting. Feathers cracked the story of overdose deaths of veterans under the care of the Bedford VA.

Judges wrote: “An important investigation, especially given the current crisis. Well-documented and written in a compelling style.”

* Matt Langone, third place, Sports Feature Story. Langone chronicled the effort by Bryan Riley of Tyngsboro to run every street in Lowell.

Judges wrote: “Interesting story about a quirky runner who wants to cover all 1,100 streets. Good sense of feel.”

* Chris Lisinski, third place, Feature Video. Lisinski created a video story of a blind Littleton man who would run the Boston Marathon using remote video technology.

Judges wrote: “This video demonstrates how cutting-edge technology can assist visually impaired runners. It was interesting to see how it works.”

* Sun sports staff, third place, Sports Special Section. “Cheering Section” contained profiles of Sun All-Stars in the fall 2016 season.

Judges wrote: “A good, solid section. Effort applauded. Love the supplement’s title.”

* Third place, Spot News. The Sun team of Amaris Castillo, Todd Feathers, Robert Mills, Rick Sobey and Kori Tuitt spent two days covering one of the most tragic stories of 2017 — a murder, manhunt and suicide in Lowell and Chelmsford — in real time.

Judges wrote: “As with so many award-winning news stories, this two-story package has so much news and detail about the shooting murder that a reader would not have to look anywhere else to answer the perennial questions of who, what, when, where and how. This was an outstanding job of reporting by The Sun staff.”

The Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg won two awards:

* Former sports staffer Chad Garner, first place, Obituary Writing. Garner wrote about the untimely passing of a beloved Leominster youth football coach.

Judges wrote: “Mike Austin’s obituary began with his description as “a leader, mentor and a coach” who had “a heart of gold.” It went on to tell the story of a person who certainly left his mark, not only with those he coached, but the community as well.”

* Peter Jasinski, honorable mention, Reporting on Religious Issues. Jasinski told the story of a woman who divorced her husband, but was not allowed to sever ties from their church.

Judges did not comment.