CHAPEL HILL — Two writers for The Yadkin Ripple were among the honorees last Thursday at the awards ceremony for the North Carolina Press Association. The ceremony was held at the Carolina Club on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. A total of 113 newspapers from across the state submitted entries in more than 60 categories for the awards, which were judged by members of press associations from Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
The evening began with a powerful story from guest speaker Jennifer Thompson, a Winston-Salem native, who was presented with the NCPA North Carolinian of the Year award. Thompson, a victim of a violent rape who mistakenly identified the wrong man as her attacker, now advocates for those who have been wrongfully convicted. Thompson recently established the organization Healing Justice which works with victims of crimes and those who have been wrongfully convicted “to address this extensive human damage by providing support, reconciliation, and recovery in cases involving exonerations.”
“I’m going to make you this promise as a North Carolinian, that I will continue to make you proud,” Thompson said. “We come from a great state. It’s the only state in the country that has an innocence commission. In everything I do, I will bring North Carolina with me and I will always be proud to be from this state and I thank you for this award.”
In the communities division, Yadkin Ripple reporter Kitsey Burns Harrison claimed a third place award in the news coverage category for a series of stories detailing events leading up to and following the unexpected closure of the Yadkin Valley Community Hospital. Harrison has worked for The Yadkin Ripple since January 2014. This is her second NCPA award.
“I am honored to again be recognized with an award from the North Carolina Press Association,” Harrison said. “As a Yadkin County native, it is my privilege to cover events happening in my home community and the closure of the hospital was certainly one of the biggest stories to come out of our region this year. I am grateful to be recognized for my work covering this event.”
Also honored at the ceremony was Yadkin Ripple columnist Rod Hunter. Hunter voluntarily writes a column once a month for the paper. This is his first press award.
“I never expected to write something other people would want to read,” Hunter said. “My first essay style piece happened because I wanted to publish a couple of photographs of butterflies I had made. I submitted the photos to a publisher and they liked them, but said they would need an article to accompany the photos. I did some research on butterflies and wrote my first article. It was published along with my photos, I was surprised. Almost as surprised as I am to win this award.”
Sandra Hurley, regional director for The Yadkin Ripple’s parent company Civitas Media, said she was proud of the award winners from The Yadkin Ripple and others from Civitas Media newspapers.
“We’re so fortunate to have Kitsey and Rod serving our readers and viewers in Yadkin County,” Hurley said. “Their dedicated work for the community has brought informational pieces, interesting columns and a true picture of the areas they serve.”
Also winning awards in Hurley’s region was Nick Elmes, editor of The Stokes News in the news coverage category, and Amanda Dodson in the sports and entertainment category. Other Civitas Media winners included Bladen Journal, Laurinburg Exchange, Robesonian, Sampson Independent and Richmond County Daily Journal. New Editor Adam Orr, at the Jefferson Post, won the Associated Press Carl K. Bell Editing Award for a story he did while working at the Gaston Gazette.