Awards for all of us

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It’s not often we toot our own horn. Generally, we just go about doing our business, whether it’s writing stories or selling ads.

We work hard and try to be a good community newspaper. We never really know how we stack up against the competition until things such as the Ontario Community Newspaper Association (OCNA) awards come around.

On Friday, we learned we had won four categories, were runners up for two others, and also garnered a couple of third places.

Being named the best paper in our circulation size – again – is always a good indicator that we remain on the right track. Looking at the judges’ breakdown for the general excellence awards, we very easily beat 15 other papers, some from much larger towns.

“It’s as if you meet the whole community in the pages of this paper,” the judges said.

Since day one, when owners Bram Lebo and Simon Payn brought this independent paper to the Highlands, that’s been our mission. We print our mission statement in every edition, on the top of page 8, to remind us why we are here. It is, “to tell the story of Haliburton County each week. To be a source of information and inspiration through stories and ideas. To report on issues, people and events important to the community. To reflect and promote pride in the culture, people and landscape of the Highlands. To encourage Highlanders to believe in themselves, in our community, and in their power to make our place in the world better every day.”

It’s that mission statement that steered us to amp up our municipal election coverage in 2022 with both podcasts and print stories. It won us a first place for online special initiative.

Sam Gillett, who left us in 2022 to try some new things, took a couple of firsts. One was for arts and entertainment, a genre he excelled at. The other was for a first-person account of taking part in 8 Hours of Hurtin’ in the Forest.

I was pleased to be named runner-up for reporter of the year. The judges noted a strong knowledge of the different topics and styles of story submitted and were happy to see my photos complete the package.

Mike Baker was awarded a second for an excellent piece he wrote on a woman who had nearly died from Lyme Disease but is now on the road to recovery. The judges found his story both well-researched and written. They also felt it was relevant to the community.

Gillett was recognized for a heart-wrenching tale about a dog and its puppy being shot. And our head of production, Tania Moher, won a third for an ad the judges found to have a clever use of white space.

It’s nice to know that we stand out from the crowd. We don’t do it for the awards, mind you. We do it for our community, for our readers and our advertisers. It might sound trite, but we really couldn’t do it without you. So, these awards are for all of us.