ALBANY – Spotlight News took home four awards at the New York Press Association’s 2022 Better Newspaper Contest on Saturday, April 1, including Best Front Page in the tabloid division for The Spot 518. The annual contest coincides with the association’s annual convention and trade show each year.
It is the second year in a row that The Spot 518 took first in Best Front Page. The category was not just for a single issue, but from issues from three different months during the year.
“This was far and away the best of the group. Each design had a strong headline that matched the photo or illustration choice,” the judges wrote in comments. “The design made it easy for the reader to focus on the content on the page, especially the centerpiece story.”
Michael Hallisey and Amaris Ford wrote the stories in the winning entries. Hallisey was the managing editor of the paper at the time and Ford is an up-and-coming writer.
“It is a fantastic example of the talent we have at Spotlight,” Publisher John McIntyre said. “Everyone in this building contributes to our papers and, as a team, we build papers from the ground up each week and win awards year after year. I am blessed to be around so many creative and hard working people.”
Spotlight also won two second-place awards, one for writing and the other for photography.
Jim Franco won for best picture story for a series of photos of insects featured in a Sept. 7 Colonie Spotlight photo Gallery.
Franco has won dozens of awards for photography, writing and design for Spotlight News over the past 20 years.
“Cool photos! We don’t get to see much macro photography in newspapers. Good quality,” the judges wrote.
Macro photography uses special lenses and tubes to pick up details you can’t see without magnification.
McIntyre picked up a second place in the feature story category for his story about Delmar native Lt. Dean Allen. Allen was killed in Vietnam in 1969, but his local friends and even his wife didn’t know what happened to him.
“This captured my attention,” the judges wrote.
This was a two-month project for McIntyre and one he found rewarding.
“I have been writing for almost 40 years, and this story had to be told,” McIntyre said. “Dean’s wife, Joyce Hallenbeck, came up after we published it to meet me and see Dean’s veteran banner that hangs by Town Hall. It was one of the most rewarding stories I ever wrote.”
During the pandemic and subsequent lockdown the Spotlight team came up with an idea to honor high school graduates when they learned there would not be any in-person graduations. The staff created a section for each public high school in its coverage area and printed the picture of each member of the graduating class. Those sections won an honorable mention in the contest.
“Love highlighting all the graduates,” the judges said.
The first year was so well received, Spotlight continued it each June. Art Director Dave Abbott and graphic designer Martha Eriksen led the production of the project, while Rachel Dottino, Frank Gillen and Susan O’Donnell organized the logistics.
“Everyone should be recognized at graduation,” McIntyre said. “This is what community papers are supposed to do. They are all local and the graduates’ pictures should be in the paper.”