Times Features and Sunday Editor Christina M. Knott was awarded first place for the best front page category in division 4. Screenshot

WATERTOWN — The staff of the Watertown Daily Times, the Malone Telegram and NNY Magazines have been honored by the New York Press Association for their excellent work in the association’s 2020 Better Newspaper Contest.

The association, which oversaw the judging of 2,440 entries from 151 newspapers across the state, awarded recognition at the organization’s 2021 NYPA Virtual Spring Conference. The conference was streamed online for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Videos were streamed live and posted to the association’s website.

The staff of Northern New York Newspapers earned 16 awards — three more than the year prior — including five in first place, two in second place, five in third place and four honorable mentions. There were a total of 437 awards given out during this year’s virtual recognition ceremony.

“The entire news staff shares in these awards as we work collaboratively together to cover the news of the north country,” said Alec E. Johnson, editor and publisher of the Watertown Daily Times. “Readers are the real winners, because with their support, we are able to support the largest staff of news reporters in the region. The entire staff is to be congratulated for their continued work throughout the pandemic.”

Times Features and Sunday Editor Christina M. Knott was awarded first place for the best front page category in division 4.

In February 2018, a vacant Newell Street warehouse in Watertown was set ablaze. Both 18 at the time, Scott J. Munson and John H. Long admitted in a Jefferson County courtroom that they set the fire and were subsequently sentenced to two to seven years in state prison.

In July, Mr. Munson’s prison sentence was cut short after he was given a compassionate release because he was diagnosed with brain cancer while serving his sentence at Marcy Correctional Facility.

Ms. Knott received first place for the page she designed around this story, which utilized archive images of the fire, as well as new images of Mr. Munson at home in Watertown. Ms. Knott also received first place for a page she designed for the Times’ “Left Behind” series about those who overdosed on drugs, leaving behind loved ones.

“This was my overall favorite page design in this division — absolutely loved the way the page designer made the most out of the photos, especially the building fire,” the judges said of Ms. Knott’s page design. “This was a job well done in a very competitive category.”

Times Sports Editor Gregory S. Gay was awarded first place in the sports feature category in division 3, while Times sports reporter Philip J. Sanzo was awarded both third place and honorable mention in the same category.

Mr. Gay’s winning story was from the sports desk’s “Where Are They Now?” series that profiled prominent north country athletes and coaches from years prior and asked the question: Where are they now? The series was started when the COVID-19 pandemic shut sporting events down indefinitely.

Mr. Gay profiled Jerry Welsh, who spent 22 years as head men’s basketball coach SUNY Potsdam. He’s now teaching at Duke University.

Born in Chateaugay and raised both there and in Massena, Mr. Welsh was an immensely popular figure in the north country as he led his precision Potsdam team on winter weekends, according to Mr. Gay’s winning story.

“This was an interesting approach to the pandemic, to basketball and to education,” the judges wrote of Mr. Gay’s story. “It’s neat to see all three topics rolled into one.”

Mr. Sanzo placed third for his story about a Beaver River Central School exchange student who was torn between two virus-ridden nations at the start of the pandemic — the United States and Italy.

Giovanni Dellamotta already had a plan in place for graduation, according to Mr. Sanzo’s story. On June 26, 2020, the Italian foreign exchange student would have welcomed his family to his upstate New York home to see him complete his high school career in America. But he ended up having to board a plane home to Italy.

“The right writer comes across at the right time to tell a story that would make any kid or parent feel scared during uncertain times,” the judges said. “One might argue that this story writes itself, but the reporter finds a way to stay out of the way while making us feel it all.”

Mr. Sanzo also received an honorable mention for a story he wrote for the “Where Are They Now?” series looking back at Watertown’s 2000-01 magical boys basketball team.

“I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane,” the judges said. “The writer shows he knows his subjects and spent some time getting to know what made them love basketball and one another. It’s a great idea for a piece and not many small papers have the staff to make something like this possible.”

Malone Telegram Sports Editor Evan Wheaton also received an honorable mention in the sports feature category in division 1.

Times St. Lawrence County reporter Ellis A. Giacomelli earned third place in the coverage of crime, police and/or courts category for division 2.

Ms. Giacomelli was awarded for her work covering the murder of Gouverneur teen Treyanna Summerville. Ms. Summerville was found dead inside her Rowley Street home on June 22 of last year, resulting in vigils and demonstrations in the weeks to follow, all calling for justice on behalf of the 18-year-old.

Law enforcement and the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office later took one person into custody in connection with the case. The unidentified suspect, a 13-year-old girl later identified as Treyanna’s younger sister, was arraigned in the youth part of St. Lawrence County Family Court on a second-degree murder charge.

The following month, Lashanna N. Charlton, 38, Ms. Summerville’s mother, was arrested on a second-degree manslaughter charge in connection with her daughter’s death.

The case that shook a small community remains pending in court.

“Thorough coverage of a tragic death that rocked a small community,” the judges wrote of Ms. Giacomelli’s work.

In the photography department, Times staff photographers Kara D. Dry and Christopher F. Lenney, as well as Times Assistant Managing Editor Sydney D. Schaefer, all received awards for their photo work.

Ms. Dry took home first place in the feature photo category for division 3 and Ms. Schaefer received second place in the same category.

The photo Ms. Dry received first place for was an image of Wayne A. Mosher Sr., then 90, a Korean War veteran in Watertown, who received recognition from Honor Flight volunteers and his family on Veterans Day. People were crowded around his window at Samaritan Summit Village nursing home in Watertown, waving flags and clapping for him.

“Without any explanation, the photo tells the story,” the judges said. “The colors pop and the framing of the flag’s reflection around the gentleman’s face is perfect. The photo is wonderful and tugs at your heartstrings.”

Ms. Schaefer’s second-place image was created at the 26th annual AdironDuck Race in Croghan, which was held virtually in 2020 because of the pandemic. Only media and those working the event were able to attend in person. The winning image featured a girl wearing a duck costume as she cheered on different ducks while they floated down the Oswegatchie River to the finish line.

“A great shot of a lighthearted and unique event,” the judges said of Ms. Schaefer’s image.

Ms. Dry also won first place in the art photo category in division 2, as well as second place in the picture story category for division 3. Mr. Lenney earned an honorable mention in the art photo category for division 2 and third place in the spot news category for division 3.

NNY Magazines Editor Holly C. Boname placed in various categories of the competition once again.

Ms. Boname received both first and third place in the magazine category for division 3; first place in the special sections and niche publications-glossy category for division 4; as well as third place for the best real estate and home section.

Ms. Boname took home first place in the magazine category for the 10th annual issue of NNY Business’ 20 Under 40 issue, which highlights 20 young leaders up the age of 40 in the north country.

“Extremely well done,” the judges said. “Great job with the main feature, 20 Under 40, but good additional content and advertising as well.”

She also won third place in the same category for health care issue of NNY Business magazine, which was published in August 2020.

“Very good edition. Focuses well on the cover story with other topics covered nicely. Great mix of ads,” the judges said.

Ms. Boname received first place in the special sections and niche publications-glossy category for an issue of NNY Living-Weddings edition published last year. The judges said the issue went “far beyond” a standard issue special section, adding, “nicely done!”

The fourth and final award Ms. Boname received was for best real estate and home section.

“Nice publication,” the judges said. “Good mix of content and attractive ads. Cover wasn’t particularly strong as compared with others in the competition, but the inside page design was very nice. Nice use of photos throughout and better-than-average editorial content.”

On the advertising staff, Brian Mitchell earned an honorable mention in the innovative ad project category.

Examples of the mentioned winning works can be found online at NNY360.com.

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