Out of more than 200 member newspapers, the Houston Forward Times received four top honors at the 2014 National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Foundation Merit Awards last Thursday in Portland, Oregon.
The NNPA Foundation, the charitable arm of the Association, and MillerCoors, which sponsors the awards, announced the winners at the NNPA’s annual conference. The competition acknowledges outstanding journalism in categories such as Breaking News, Commentary, Feature and Sustainability and other important categories surrounding the layout and design of each newspaper.
Of the 16 categories presented at the 2014 Merit Awards, the Houston Forward Times, published by Karen Carter Richards, was recognized in four categories, winning two first place awards for the Ida B. Wells Best News Story and for Best Youth Writer. In addition to the two first place awards, the Houston Forward Times also came in second place for the Ada S. Franklin Best Lifestyles Section award and in third place for the Emory O. Jackson Best Column Writing award.
"Being acknowledged on a national stage as being the best at what you do is a humbling feeling," says Carter Richards. "Our entire team works extremely hard and we are committed to putting out the best quality product for the community we have served since 1960."
Houston Forward Times Associate Editor Jeffrey L. Boney placed first in the Ida B. Wells Best News Story category for his groundbreaking and extensive news coverage of the Alfred Wright murder case and subsequent cover-up by local law enforcement in the same area of East Texas where James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death back in 1998. Upon finding Wright’s body nearly three weeks after he went missing, Wright was found with his eyes gouged out, tongue cut out, throat slashed, several teeth knocked out, an ear cut off and many more things to show that foul play was indeed involved. The official autopsy, released by the medical examiner, did not reveal any of the findings that a requested second autopsy produced. As a result of Boney’s coverage, the case gained national attention from CNN’s Anderson Cooper to Good Morning America. Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice decided to take over the investigation after receiving a letter from U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who met with the family after reading the news coverage in the Houston Forward Times.
"Words cannot express how special the honor of receiving an award named after one of my historical heroes, Ida B. Wells, means to me," says Boney. "I embrace the words of Ida B. Wells and her words remind me that I have a God-given mandate to be a voice for the people; especially for those who are disenfranchised, abused and are the unwilling beneficiaries of injustice. This honor motivates me to continue even more."
Boney was also the recipient of the third place Emory O. Jackson Best Column Writing award for his article, "Hey Black Slave...What Size Are Your Wrists?" - a part of his award-winning weekly column - JBoney Speaks.
The first place award for Best Youth Writer is a testament to the work that the Houston Forward Times staff has done with its commitment to train interns through the Julius and Lenora Carter Scholarship and Youth Foundation, which was established September 2010 after the sudden passing of Lenora Carter, Publisher and CEO of Forward Times Publishing Company, several months prior. The Foundation provides internships to students through Forward Times Publishing Company to prepare them for their career in their prospective fields of study through a practical learning experience in Journalism, Printing, Broadcasting and Digital Communications. This award is a reflection of the many hours spent by Houston Forward Times staff, dedicated to helping Houston Forward Times’ high school and college interns develop innovative columns that connect with their respective audience.
Each of the awards came with a commemorative plaque and a monetary prize.
"We had more newspapers winning awards this year than at any time in recent memory," said Mary Denson, chair of the NNPA Foundation and publisher of the Windy City Word in Chicago. "I think that’s a testament to the dramatic improvement our papers continue to make."
Other multiple award winners on the evening included the St. Louis American, Final Call, Miami Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Washington Informer, Portland Skanner, Houston Defender, New Pittsburgh Courier, LA Watts Times, LA Sentinel, Black Voices and the Richmond Free Press.
Cloves C. Campbell, chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Arizona Informant, said, "As usual, the competition was extremely fierce this year and we congratulate all of the winners. This year’s Merit Awards winners have raised the bar of excellence that all of our papers can strive to meet."
The St. Louis American won the NNPA’s Russwurm/Senstacke Trophy for general excellence for the third consecutive year, marking the Missouri newspaper’s 8th time winning the NNPA ‘s top award in the past 15 years. The award is named in honor of John B. Russwurm, co-founder of Freedom’s Journal, the nation’s first African American newspaper, and late Chicago Defender Publisher John H. Sengstacke, founder of the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association, now the National Newspaper Publishers Association, in 1940. The winner of the award is determined each year by the paper that accumulates the most points in all categories of the NNPA’s annual Merit Awards. With the honor goes the title of Best Black Newspaper in the nation.
Rosetta Miller Perry, publisher of the Tennessee Tribune in Nashville, was named Publisher of the Year by her fellow publishers. The NNPA Legacy of Excellence Award was awarded to former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
A huge congratulations goes out to the NNPA and all 2014 Merit Award winners. An extra special congratulations goes out to Houston Forward Times Managing Editor Grace Boateng and the entire Houston Forward Times staff for contributing towards the Best Lifestyles Section award and the overall success of the newspaper.
The best is yet to come!
See page 5A for more NNPA Convention photos.