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Daily Times wins fourth General Excellence Award in six years from state press association


FARMINGTON — The staff of the Farmington Daily Times picked up 12 individual and staff awards Nov. 12 during the 2022 New Mexico Press Association Better Newspaper Contest awards banquet in Santa Fe and also earned the newspaper’s fourth General Excellence award in six years.

The E. H. Shaffer Award is given for outstanding newspaper work and general excellence. “Clean design and consistent throughout — spacing makes for an easy read. Local content interesting and well written. Production quality a standout in the category,” a judge wrote.

In addition to General Excellence, the press association awarded the Daily Times nine first-place awards for news reporting, overall sports coverage, editorial writing, classified ads and newspaper design, as well as three second-place awards in sports column, business writing and obituary page design and content.

Sports writer Steve Bortstein was the recipient of four award plaques. He won First Place for Best Sports Coverage for a variety of articles in two sports sections chosen from date rages selected by the contest organizers.

“Cleanliness in everything, from design to photos to copy. Design is up to date and easy to follow. Focus on local content is great. Appreciate the amount covered with a light staff,” a judge wrote.

Next, Bortstein took First Place in Sports Writing for an in-depth look at the challenges coaches and players faced traveling to games during the COVID-19 pandemic, including rules about how many people can occupy a hotel room and the high price of fuel.

“I loved this entry for its unique angle on sports coverage that readers themselves may not have thought about before reading the article,” a judge wrote. “I thought the coverage shined by appearing to follow the natural flow of where the reporting took the writer — into issues such as the future possibility of neutral site games and even issues with bus drivers for the teams. Exploring these issues further gave me a sense of completeness to the story and left me with no unanswered questions.”

Bortstein also brought home a Second Place in Sports Columns for his look at mental health issues affecting athletes of all ages, and a Second Place in Business Writing for a story on how bars and other businesses that serve alcohol were adjusting to the pending legalization of cannabis in New Mexico.

Reporter Mike Easterling took First Place Best Series for his articles on the issues that arose from the Tico Time River Resort’s successful venture into live concerts, and resistance from some neighbors. “A detailed, impactful look, featuring many different sources, of a conflict many in changing communities are familiar with,” a contest judge wrote. “The reporter unearths anecdotes and accounts that are colorful, engaging, nuanced and even humorous. Frankly, a joy to read.”

Easterling also took First Place in Obituary News with his story on Don Hoglund, the former New Mexico resident who led the White Sands Missile Range horse rescue in 1995.  “In-depth look at the life of an interesting man,” the contest judge said. “Good use of sources and well-written.”

Former reporter Joshua Kellogg and Editor John R. Moses won First Place for Best Ongoing/Continuing Coverage for breaking news and follow-up coverage of a Farmington Police officer’s shooting by an escaped prison inmate from Colorado — and the subsequent manhunt and capture of that suspect.

“This set of stories thoroughly covers an issue that is obviously of great interest to the Farmington community and does so in a way that is accessible and easily comprehensible to readers,” a judge wrote. He added that most questions that readers might have formed had been answered and avenues of inquiry were explored.

Moses won First Place for an editorial about issues in the Children, Youth and Families Department and the need for an independent ombudsman to protect the right of the public. “Good points, well made in this overall strong editorial,” a judge wrote.

Former Navajo Nation reporter Noel Lyn Smith won First place for Online Photo Gallery for a collection of photos documenting the T'oAltsisi Horseback Trail Ride to Honor Veterans, which took place in Littlewater. “Well done. Kudos to your talents,” a contest judge wrote.

The Daily Times advertising and design team won First Place for Best Classified Section. “Great use of color. Refreshing and gives the eye a reason to move around the page,” a judge wrote.

In Obituaries Page, the Daily Times came in Second Place.

The paper also won First Place in Design & Typography. “Nice attention to detail, clean design and use of white space set this paper on top. Graphic elements are nice and bold design choices pay off nicely,” a judge wrote.

“It’s been quite a year,” Moses said. “I was pleased that the contest judges recognized the quality of our staff’s hard and conscientious work.”