Worrall reporters win NJ Press Association awards

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UNION COUNTY, NJ — Worrall Community Newspapers won four awards for reporting in the weekly newspaper division of the 2020 New Jersey Press Association annual contest.

In the “education writing” category, staff writers Amanda Valentovic and EmilyAnn Jackman won a second-place award for their joint article “Essex Co. schools make the best of remote learning.” In this article, which was published in the Essex County newspapers on April 2, 2020, the two reporters reached out to superintendents and educators throughout our Essex County coverage area to put together a comprehensive story on how the school districts in Bloomfield, East Orange, Glen Ridge, Irvington, Orange, South Orange–Maplewood and West Orange were handling the sudden shift to remote learning as the COVID-19 pandemic began in New Jersey. The judges praised this story for being a “good entry” with “strong writing.”

Jackman also won a third-place award in the “responsible journalism – enterprise” category for her Union County LocalSource story “Councilwoman mistakenly harassed.” In the Dec. 24, 2020, story, Jackman detailed the threatening messages that Roselle Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson was receiving — all because she has the same name as a Michigan state representative who had angered a number of Trump supporters. “For this story, I essentially played matchmaker between two women, who were caught up in a case of mistaken identity,” Jackman wrote in a letter accompanying her entry, explaining how the councilwoman wanted to reach out to the representative and how Jackman played matchmaker, setting up and facilitating a Zoom call between the two women. “Ultimately, the two women found a lot of common ground, feeling as if they had each connected with a long-lost friend. They have agreed to keep in touch and support each other through such a difficult time, greatly relieving their fears regarding the threats. After the story was published, Councilwoman Johnson’s colleague contacted me and told me how much of an impact my story has made in both states.”

Adding yet another NJPA award to his growing pile, staff writer Daniel Jackovino won a second-place award in the “business and economic writing category” for his article “Flower shop owner waits to get on with his life,” which ran in the Feb. 27, 2020, issue of The Independent Press. In the story, Jackovino interviewed longtime flower shop owner Nick Zois, whose 89th birthday ended in tragedy when his Bloomfield flower shop of 65 years burned to the ground. This community fixture discussed his past in the town, as well as his hopes for the future. The NJPA judges left this comment regarding the article: “I want to meet this guy! This is a great feature story.”

Lastly, editor Yael Katzwer won a second-place award in the “coverage of government” category, the Art Weissman Memorial Award, for three articles she wrote for the News-Record relating to Maplewood’s government. The first story, “TC terminates DPW director’s employment with cause,” printed Jan. 16, 2020, covered the the back-and-forth between the Township Committee and a former Department of Public Works director’s attorney at a meeting; in conclusion, the director’s employment was terminated for dereliction of duty and the attorney was called out for sexism. The second story, “Township introduces $48.2M budget,” printed May 21, 2020, was a detailed and easy-to-comprehend look at the township’s budget proposal. The third story, “Maplewood mourns Ryan’s death,” printed June 4, 2020, was a memorial piece to former Mayor and Township Committeeman Jerry Ryan, a beloved community member who left a lasting mark on the township in areas such as redevelopment, social justice and empowering others to run for political office.