Reporter Claire Racine, Publisher Richard Abel and Editor Jananne Abel display the many editorial and photographic awards the Westmore News received at the New York Press Association spring convention last month at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs. ALEX WOLFF|PELHAM WEEKLY
Reporter Claire Racine, Publisher Richard Abel and Editor Jananne Abel display the many editorial and photographic awards the Westmore News received at the New York Press Association spring convention last month at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

If you're a regular reader of this newspaper, or only an occasional reader, you might like to know that the Westmore News won 11 awards in the 2013 New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. Awards were handed out last month at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs during the Association's annual spring convention.

In the contest, 158 newspapers submitted 2,760 entries, competing for awards in 63 categories. The entries were judged by members of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

Most important of the awards received by this newspaper was the Past President's Award for General Excellence which takes into account the overall content and design of the paper. The Westmore News took home third place among all papers in its circulation category.

The judges had this to say: "Good meat-and-potato
coverage of significant issues affecting the Port Chester area. The photography is used frequently and to good effect in helping to package the content, and the layout is clean and modular throughout much of the paper. Good community involvement with anti-bullying stories, dog park coverage and the like. Doesn't shy away from hard-hitting stories either. Overall, a fine newspaper."

Claire Racine took second place in the Coverage of Education category and received these comments about her work: "The reporter gets credit for tackling a serious bullying incident in a school and explaining to readers in an accompanying page one box how the information came to the paper's attention and how it proceeded. The coverage also explains other conflicts well and offers some refreshing writing in a feature story on how a student and teacher appeared on the "Today Show." Nice use of quotes throughout."

Claire also garnered two first place plaques, one for news story, for the article entitled "Bullied student slits her wrists, distraught parents speak out," about incidents of chronic bullying against a student at Port Chester High School and online.

"What an amazing read," wrote the judge. "Bullying and cyberbullying are major issues that aren't always dealt with or resolved to the best of the schools' abilities. The author should be commended for taking the time to learn the story and getting all sides of the issue. It is heart-wrenching to write something like this. The newspaper should also be commended for standing its ground on its policy, but going a step further and following its heart in making this public."

The second, for picture story, covered a much lighter topic: incoming Ridge Street School kindergartners at an ice cream social. "The pictures DEFINITELY tell the story. Awesome photography. Great choice of photos. A simple topic with a great presentation," the judge wrote.

My article "FBI arrests police chief"
took second place for news story. "Great investigative piece," the judge wrote. "I commend the author and newspaper for their sources and following through with detailed descriptions of the incidents and interviews with the subjects. Well written and researched."

Our sports coverage was also recognized, as it was last year, with a second place certificate, and we were even bumped up into a higher circulation category for this award to ensure the required number of entries. Seasoned reporter Michael Iachetta as well as Blind Brook High School students Nadav Neuman, Daniel Rosenbaum and Jake Simon contributed to the sports sections submitted.

The judges wrote: "Nice in-depth coverage. Your staff clearly has its finger on the pulse of the local sports scene. Stories are well-crafted and show insight into how these teams fit into the community."

Michael's story "Dynamic Rye Brook duo brings home hoop gold and memories from the Jewish Olympics in Israel," about two recent Blind Brook High School graduates who played on a basketball team at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, was also a second place winner in the sports feature category. "A great sports feature piece that includes sports, national pride and international experience and flavor," the judge wrote.

Claire and I were also commended with a second prize for our coverage of crime/ police/courts with the comment "Reporters made the effort to take a big story and get the most out of it."

Likewise with our second-place award for in-depth reporting. "After breaking a story about money and drugs missing from police custody, the Westmore News continued to pursue the matter with dedication and perseverance. The newspaper's reports on an FBI investigation and its pursuit of the truth kept the public informed of suspicious activity within the police department and undoubtedly contributed to the village council being forced to make personnel changes for the betterment of the police department and the community."

Having judged newspaper contests for other states' press associations, I know how difficult it is, and I also know that New York has one of the best associations in the country with more than 400 member papers.

This year more than 500 people attended the NYPA's spring convention to attend sessions on a variety of topics relating to the newspaper industry including editorial, layout, online content, circulation and advertising. Myself, Publisher Richard Abel and reporter Claire Racine are already using what we learned at these seminars to make our paper even better. Just because we won many awards this year doesn't mean there isn't always room for improvement. Just because we don't have any real competition right now doesn't mean we shouldn't always strive to do our job even better and to make our product more user-friendly and informative to readers.