A stack of 2008 memories

Published 8:40 pm Saturday, January 3, 2009

On Friday I took some time to put my John Hancock on about 40 or 50 entries our newsroom entered for the annual Virginia Press Association awards. Each year our press association gathers thousands of entries from member newspapers across the commonwealth.

Those entries are judged on the quality of writing, photography and packaging associated with breaking and continuing news stories, commentary and more. Each newspaper spends hours compiling the information and rummaging through a year’s worth of editions to find and identify its best work.

The end result we hope for is that the newspaper receives approval and accolades from its peers, earning awards based on the size of its circulation. Last year, the Suffolk News-Herald had a good showing, finishing third in its category. This year, we’ve set our eyes on the grand prize, first place in our category. Whether we accomplish that goal or not, we won’t know until late March.

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However, I thought it was interesting to look over some of the better work we’ve done this year. Considering it’s a new year, it seemed obvious to review what was considered our best work of 2008.

The most dominant news story we covered was, of course, the devastating tornado that touched down in Suffolk. Our staff worked as hard as any I’ve been associated with. We were some of the first journalists on the scene, and were in position to grab compelling photos and write first-hand accounts of the effect Mother Nature had on the lives of numerous Suffolk residents.

I find myself inspired to see how far our community has come from that dreadful day. There are no more tears, broken windows or debris left on the ground. Rather, there is a deep appreciation for those that came to the rescue of families by providing either their money or their time.

There were plenty of other stories that made 2008 an interesting year for us, including Suffolk’s popular election of a mayor. For us, it was also the first time the newspaper had endorsed local candidates for an election.

Notwithstanding the tornado, 2008 was a good year for Suffolk. While I was in our conference room rummaging through the papers, I began to look forward to 2009. What stories are going to show up on the front page, and which stories will we be submitting for the award contest next year?

More important, which stories will you remember? Which ones will mean the most to you? That’s where the real joy comes in our field of work. Every day we get to bring information and news that is important to you. No matter what the press associations say, what’s important is that our readers are satisfied with our coverage.

What’s important is that the Suffolk News-Herald becomes more relevant to your life. That’s our mission.