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Daily Progress named top paper of its size in Virginia Press Association contest

The Daily Progress swept the competition at this year’s Virginia Press Association contest.

Charlottesville’s newspaper of record added 35 pieces of hardware to its trophy collection at the awards ceremony Saturday evening, the most it has won since 2017. The paper also secured enough first-, second- and third-place prizes in every category to win the sweepstakes for newspapers of its size, only the third time The Daily Progress has secured the top prize since 2005.

Each year, the Virginia Press Association awards recognize newspapers across the commonwealth for exceptional writing, photography, multimedia projects, graphics, newspaper design and advertising. Entries are judged by a panel of out-of-state journalists; this year’s contestants were assessed by members of the Missouri Press Association. Prizes were handed out Saturday evening at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel on the city’s Downtown Mall.

Just as the evening’s gala was getting underway, an afternoon of violence and chaos was coming to a close on the other side of town. Earlier in the day, the University of Virginia had called in state troopers to break up a small encampment of anti-Israel protesters on Grounds. Daily Progress journalists were on the scene throughout the day, reporting live as the protesters and police clashed.

“Let May 4, 2024, be remembered,” said Daily Progress editor Reynolds Hutchins. “The same day that Daily Progress journalists were honored for their hard work, those same journalists were hard at work, out in the field, putting their own safety at risk, keeping our community informed. I cannot express how fortunate the people of Charlottesville and Central Virginia are to have these fine men and women here to tell their stories. Nor can I express how fortunate I am to lead this newsroom as we scale greater and greater heights.”

Hutchins, a former Daily Progress reporter himself, returned to the newspaper at the start of last year as city editor before being named editor in May. Earlier this month, he was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine’s “Editors Extraordinaire.”

The Daily Progress collected 13 first-place awards Saturday, claiming several of the top prizes in multiple categories including “In-depth or Investigative Reporting,” “Government Writing,” “General News Photo,” and “Public Safety Writing.”

The paper’s success at this year’s contest was accomplished with a smaller newsroom than previous years. And that newsroom happens to be staffed by multiple journalists new to The Daily Progress.

Government and politics reporter Jason Armesto, who will be reaching his first full year at the paper in June, received four of this year’s awards, one of which was a second-place recognition for his coverage of UVa’s refusal to release an independent review on the 2022 shooting on Grounds that killed three students and injured two others. The Daily Progress has since taken the university to court over the matter.

Hutchins was awarded four of the night’s honors, one of which was a first-place win alongside deputy editor Joana Suleiman for their design of the paper’s front pages. Hutchins also won second place in “Headline Writing” for “Feud & wine,” “The kids are not all right” and “Lee defeated (again).”

Judges decided that sports editor John Shifflett shares Hutchins’ mastery for crafting headlines, awarding him first place in the same category for his sports headlines, including “Six-cess!” which headlined a story about the UVa men’s tennis team’s sixth national title victory.

Photojournalist Cal Cary, who came to The Daily Progress last April, took home the most awards Saturday, 13, five of which were first-place prizes for his work documenting local sports, the Virginia wine country as well as the “Last rodeo of the season at Oakland Heights Farm.”

Cary also won the sweepstakes in the photography category for his work capturing the Tonsler League basketball championship game, with one judge complimenting Cary’s “excellent composition, color and cropping.”

No stranger to the Charlottesville news scene, crime and courts reporter Hawes Spencer, former publisher of C-Ville Weekly and the now-shuttered Hook, secured three awards.

The most recent addition to The Daily Progress newsroom, business and nonprofit reporter Emily Hemphill, won a second-place prize in the “Feature Story Writing” for her story covering the Charlottesville United Way’s work connecting the area’s struggling families with reliable automobiles.

Other prizes were won by Daily Progress sports reporter Greg Madia, interns Haley Sandlow and Luke Fountain, contributor Dayna Smith and former reporters Alice Berry, Sydney Shuler and Faith Redd.

“Charlottesville should be proud of its newspaper today,” Hutchins said. “It is our duty to keep it that way.”

A complete list of The Daily Progress’ winners at this year’s Virginia Press Association contest:

First place

Business and Financial Writing: Hawes Spencer for “‘The biggest mess’: His restaurant empire is dead, but Hunter Smith won’t quit.”

Sports Writing Portfolio: Greg Madia for “One year later, Virginia football players keep the memories of their fallen teammates close.”

Education Writing: Faith Redd for “‘An incubator of brotherhood:’ Summer academy for Black students is about more than just math courses.”

Front Page: Reynolds Hutchins and Joana Suleiman for their work on Daily Progress front pages.

Combination Picture and Story: Haley Sandlow, Cal Cary, Reynolds Hutchins and Joana Suleiman for “‘I’m going to die out here’: Homelessness is on the rise in Charlottesville.”

Picture Story or Essay: Cal Cary for “Last rodeo of the season at Oakland Heights Farm.”

Video: Dayna Smith and Cal Cary for “2023 could be a banner year for Virginia wine.”

Slideshow or Gallery: Cal Cary for “Virginia football team hosts James Madison.”

Sports Feature Photo: Cal Cary for “The Supreme Skillz basketball team celebrates winning the Tonsler League championship basketball game at Tonsler Park on Sunday Aug. 13, 2023.”

Breaking News Writing: Hawes Spencer for “Man critically injured after Page Street shooting in Charlottesville.”

Headline Writing: John Shifflett for Daily Progress sports headlines: “Six-cess!,” “Fur-gettable” and “Complete Treat.”

Public Safety Writing: Luke Fountain for “Charlottesville’s jail is preparing for a pricey renovation. The cost of life behind bars isn’t cheap either.”

In-depth or Investigative Reporting: Sydney Shuler for “State investigation of UVa shooting differs from that of Virginia Tech.”

Second place

Personality or Portrait Photo: Cal Cary for “Wylan Snow stands at a hot air balloon basket before the inaugural Foxfield Balloon Glow on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.”

Pictorial Photo: Cal Cary for “Luke Johnston uses a pole to propel a batteau through the water during a James River Batteau Company sunset cruise on Thursday, July 20, 2023.”

Business and Financial Writing: Haley Sandlow for “The Virginia wine country is growing. The local labor pool is not.”

Sports News Photo: Cal Cary for “Virginia’s Connor Shellenberger, front, celebrates during the Cavaliers’ win over Richmond in the NCAA Tournament at Klockner Stadium on Saturday, May 13, 2023.”

Picture Story or Essay: Cal Cary for “Meet the queens running Charlottesville’s drag scene.”

Government Writing: Jason Armesto for “The homeless population in Charlottesville has grown, but it’s shelter space has shrunk.”

General News Photo: Cal Cary for “Future University of Virginia graduates wait in line at the Rotunda before final exercises on Saturday, May 20, 2023.”

Feature Photo: Cal Cary for “Amir Devine, at left, falls off the goal post in Madison Bowl during Midsummers celebrations at the University of Virginia on Saturday, July 15, 2023. Midsummers, an unofficial UVa tradition and the spiritual successor of the long-gone Easters, welcomes students back to Charlottesville during the Summer.”

General News Writing: Jason Armesto for “‘Are they hiding something?’: Calls grow louder for UVa to release review of 2022 shooting.”

Feature Story Writing (Excluding Obituaries): Emily Hemphill for “United Way’s Driving Lives Forward campaign connects struggling families with reliable cars.”

Headline Writing: Reynolds Hutchins for Daily Progress news headlines: “Feud & wine,” “The kids are not all right,” and “Lee defeated (again).”

Feature Series or Continuing Story: Haley Sandlow for “The Virginia wine country is growing. The local labor pool is not.”

In-depth or Investigative Reporting: Luke Fountain and Haley Sandlow for “Virginia leads the nation in removing Confederate symbols, but many remain.”

Third place

Sports Writing Portfolio: Greg Madia for “Achieving an American dream: Azzaam Kapadia’s journey from the UVa football recruiting office to the NFL.”

Government Writing: Jason Armesto for “Tom Garrett campaign donors footed bill for travel, hotel where alleged assault occurred.”

Breaking News Photo: Michael Kropf for “Charlottesville police officers inspect a wrecked pickup truck after a gunman fired into the vehicle at the intersection of Hardy Drive and Page Street on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.”

General News Photo: Cal Cary for “A protester shouts at Israeli first-year student Matan Goldstein on the steps of the University of Virginia Rotunda during a student-led walkout over the Israeli war on Hamas on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.”

Feature Photo: Cal Cary for “Keswick hounds greet people attending the 95th Blessing of the Hounds at Grace Episcopal Church in Keswick on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023.”

General News Writing: Alice Berry and Reynolds Hutchins for “A historically Black church is now an event space. Who decides if it’s gentrification?”

Public Safety Writing: Hawes Spencer for “Albemarle socialite accused of child sex crimes says she’s not ‘particularly dangerous,’ seeks release.”

Feature Series or Continuing Story: Alice Berry for “CASPCA looking into reports of animal mistreatment, poor work conditions.”

In-depth or Investigative Reporting: Jason Armesto for “Commenting by committee: With other university leaders under fire, UVa’s president has called for a committee to determine when and how he remarks on current events.”


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