Stacked up against 15 other entries, The Highlander was named the best paper for its circulation size at the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA) awards April 14.

In the general excellence category for papers with a circulation of 6,500 to 12,499, The Highlander placed first for general excellence.

“This really is the best newspaper package in the group,” the judges wrote. “An interesting front page, solid reporting, and excellent coverage of community news. The Highlander has a great sports section and a good grasp of the local arts scene. So many people photographs – it’s as if you meet the whole community in the pages of this paper,” the judges added.

They also commented that the newspaper has a solid and varied advertiser base and a good classified section.

The paper was also recognized for its 2022 municipal election coverage, which featured podcasts as well as stories and editorials, naming it first for Online Special Initiative.

“Outstanding work in using online and print to cover the civic election,” the judges said. “The use of podcast was able to reach a younger demographic and liked that the material was used to print opinion pieces. The production of the two ensured a comprehensive coverage for the election.”

The other two first place finishes were for arts and entertainment, and sports and recreation, written by former Highlander reporter Sam Gillett. Gillett’s ‘Left for Dead revived, Minden man’s punk history remembered’ was called “a great read! Multi-sourced and well told.”

He also won for a story he wrote after taking part in the 8 Hours of Hurtin’ event in Haliburton Forest. “Always nice to have a reporter put themselves in the elements for a story,” the judges commented.

The paper was also awarded two second place honours.

Editor Lisa Gervais was runner-up for reporter of the year. The judges remarked on her “wide variety of stories, showing a strong knowledge of the different topics and styles of story. Good to see photos. They complete the package in many cases.”

And Mike Baker was runner-up for a health and wellness feature on a Lyme disease survivor.

“If you are looking for a story that will grab your interest, stir emotions, is filled with information and several good quotes, and you keep wondering what is next, then read this story,” the judges said.

And, finally, Gillett received a third place for best news story, ‘Couple seeks answers after dogs killed’. “A tragic story of a dog owner finding his dog and puppy killed by shotgun blasts heard by the owner while out for a walk with them in a forest copped third place. Gillett wrote this heart-wrenching news story with the OPP looking for the canine murderer,” the judges said.

Tania Moher also garnered a third-place finish for local retail layout for what the judges called a nice ad with great use of white space.

Publisher Heather Kennedy said, “this is just a testament to how amazing our product and team is. We have all demonstrated such commitment to a fantastic product and it shows.