Submitted by Manotick Messenger staff
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]While 2017 may have been a truculent year for community newspapers in Ottawa, it was a big year for the Manotick Messenger.
The Ontario Community Newspaper Association announced the three finalists in each category for its 2017 Better Newspapers Competition provincial awards Wednesday. The Messenger and its sister publication, the Barrhaven Independent, are a finalist in four categories. There are close to 300 community newspapers that belong to the OCNA.
“It’s icing on the cake for what has been a fantastic year for us,” said Messenger editor and publisher Jeff Morris. “It’s something that we want to share with the people in the communities we serve. The Messenger plays an important role for local residents and families as both a source of information and something that provides an emotional connection to the community.”
The Messenger and Nunavut News North, which covers all of Nunavut Territory, were the only newspapers to be finalists in three of the 22 editorial award categories.
“It’s something we are very proud of,” Morris said. “There are only two of us here full time, and Gary (Coulombe) and I both work hard. We have a few really good part time people, and we have some amazing contributors like Larry Ellis, Phill Potter, photographer Mike Carroccetto, the councillors and community associations. For us to go head-to-head with some of the big corporate newspapers with more resources and more employees and come on top is a big accomplishment for us.”
The Messenger is a finalist for Best News Story along with the Brockville Recorder and Times and Nunavut News North. The Messenger story was on how the body of a South Carleton High School student who went missing in 1994 was unearthed by workers building a deck at a new home.
The Messenger is also up for Best Arts and Entertainment Story for a feature story on local dancer Deirdre Barnes, who took a week off from being a part of Britney Spears’ Las Vegas show to come home and work with children at the Denise Smith School of Dance. The Messenger is a finalist with Niagara This Week and Ottawa West News.
A story that ran in the Messenger and the Barrhaven Independent on high school basketball coach Daphne Marghetis is up for Best Health and Wellness Story along with Collingwood Connection and Toronto Canadian Jewish News. In the story, Marghetis walked readers through her battle with cancer and how she used it as a teaching tool and rallying point for the high school girls team she coached. She also talked about winning the city high school championship in what would be the last game she would ever coach before her passing.
Messenger editor Jeff Morris is also a finalist for the OCNA Stephen Shaw Reporter of the Year Award. It was the third time in the last decade that Morris has been a finalist for the award, Morris won the award in 2008 and was a finalist in 2010, is joined by Todd Vandonk of Peterborough This Week and Kim Zarzour of the Richmond Hill/Thornhill Liberal.
“It’s very humbling,” said Morris.
The Stittsville News was also up for an OCNA General Excellence Award as best overall newspaper in its circulation class. The newspaper, which was sold from Metroland to Post Media, was one of the former Metroland publications shut down in January.
The Ontario Community Newspaper Association Annual Awards Gala is April 20 in Toronto.