The Mississippi Press Association announced the 2020 Better Newspaper Media Contest winners at its annual meeting on Saturday, July 10, in Biloxi. Signature Magazine and The Pine Belt News took home thirteen awards, including third place for General Excellence in its division.
The Better Newspaper Contest is a semi-annual event that honors excellence in news content and advertising. In the 2020 editorial division, judges from the Georgia Press Association evaluated 1,623 entries from 34 Mississippi newspapers.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our small staff and the work we do,” said Christina Pierce, publisher of both the newspaper and magazine. “Our mission continues to be to inform, connect and celebrate the citizens of the Pine Belt, and it is so gratifying to receive recognition for a job done well.”
The Pine Belt News took top honors for Editorials (Elijah Jones), In-Depth or Investigative Coverage (Joshua Wilson) and Sports Page (Andrew Abadie).
Judges said they were impressed with Jones’ “well-written” pieces that spanned a variety of topics. They explained that “writing excellence more than makes up for the longer read.”
In addition to winning Best Sports Page, the sports section received three additional awards.
“Very creative and eye-catching design, which is supported with good photography and writing. It was nice to see a mixture of story angles compared to a section full of gamers,” commented judges on the sports section’s overall presentation.
Wilson, a former editor of The Pine Belt News and Signature Magazine, won the investigative reporting category for his coverage of COVID outbreaks in Mississippi long-term care facilities.
In mid-2020, The Pine Belt News successfully won a public records dispute with the Mississippi Department of Health, which resulted in the department releasing the names of facilities with positive COVID cases and increased transparency in case number reporting.
“This (coverage) is exactly why newspapers should exist,” commented judges.
Signature Magazine also took top honors for Magazine Periodical and Magazine Story (Wilson). Overall the magazine made an impressive showing with four awards.
A complete list of winners is available at mspress.org/bnc. The Pine Belt News and Signature Magazine won the following awards:
- General Excellence 2020: The Pine Belt News, third place
- In-Depth or Investigative Coverage: Joshua Wilson, first place
- Editorials: Elijah Jones, first place
- Business Story: Haskel Burns, second place
- News Package: Joshua Wilson, third place
- Sports Page: Andrew Abadie, first place
- Sports News Story: Andrew Abadie, second place
- Sports Column: Phil Difatta, second place
- Sports Feature Photo: Jesse Johnson, third place
- Magazine Periodical: Signature Magazine, first place
- Magazine Periodical: Signature Magazine, third place
- Magazine Story: Joshua Wilson, first place
- Magazine Story: Joshua Wilson, second place