The Valencia County News-Bulletin won nine awards in the New Mexico Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.
The NMPA announced the winners during a virtual awards ceremony on Monday. The annual convention was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The contest, which had 1,158 entries from 21 newspapers around the state, was judged by the Arizona Press Association.
The staff of the News-Bulletin won second place in the Best Sports Coverage, and second place in the Best Typography and Design category.
News-Bulletin assistant editor Julia Dendinger won first place in the Business Writing category about the closing of the Keter Plastics manufacturing plant.
“Typically, I might raise my eyebrows when looking at a one-source story but the writer did an extremely thorough job and got the company representative to answer every key question about the layoffs,” the judge wrote about the entry. “Nice flow to the story as well.”
Dendinger also won first place in the Columns category for a “People and Places” column she wrote about the disappointment her son endured because he and his school’s drama classmates couldn’t perform their last play because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Julia beautifully captured the feelings of so many people as we go through these unprecedented times,” the judge wrote. “The best columns are those in which everyone can relate.”
Dendinger and former VCNB reporter, Anna Padilla, won first place in the Best Series category for their four-part series on the Valencia County Animal Shelter.
“I’d have thought it would be hard to do a four-part series on an animal shelter and not sound like you’re repeating yourself. But you managed to pull it off,” the judge wrote. “Interesting, lots of numbers, people and viewpoints. I not only felt like I learned something, but that I also knew what I could do to help address the issues. Good work!”
Dendinger won second place in the Obituary News category for a story on former Belen Consolidated Schools superintendent Mary Sanchez.
“Easy to read and comprehensive, interesting,” the judge wrote.
VCNB editor Clara Garcia won second place in the Feature Photo category for a photo at the grand opening of the Through the Flower Art Space. The event featured Judy Chicago’s “Birthday Bouquet for Belen,” a pyrotechnic smoke show.
“Love the silhouette here,” the judge wrote.
Cameron Goeldner, the VCNB’s sports reporter, won first place in the Sports Writing category for a story about Belen High School student-athlete Cailean Romero’s journey into high school wrestling.
“Good profile of an up-and-coming athlete,” the judge wrote. “Gives the details about women’s wrestling becoming a sport in New Mexico and the subject’s journey.”
Padilla won second place in the Investigative Reporting category for her story about former Los Lunas superintendent Dana Sanders complaints about school board members.
Garcia, a 1989 Belen High School graduate who received her degree in communications and journalism and political science in 1997 from the University of New Mexico, served as president of the New Mexico Press Association this past year.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve this wonderful organization over the past year,” said Garcia, who has been employed at the News-Bulletin for 22 years. “It’s been a very difficult and different kind of year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but I’m proud of New Mexico newspapers that were able to overcome the challenges and continue to provide news to our communities and advertising options for our customers.
“Hopefully, next year, we’ll be able to gather together to once again inspire one another and share in each other’s accomplishments.”