By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA News Wire Contributor)
“The St. Louis American” newspaper was the big winner at the National Newspaper Publishers Association 2016 Merit Awards last week in Houston, Texas.
The American, which routinely has earned recognition throughout the industry, received the John B. Russwurm and John A. Sengstacke Trophy for General Excellence and the 2016 Samuel E. Cornish Award for Publisher of the Year.
The American also took home third place in the Carl Murphy Community Service Award; third place for the Frank L. Stanley Sr. Best Feature Story; second place for the Wilbert L. Holloway Best News Picture; first place for the Robert L. Vann Best Layout and Design Broadsheet; first place for the Leon H. Washington Best Special Edition; second place for the W.A. Scott II Best Use of Photographs Broadsheet; first place for the Armstrong-Ellington Best Entertainment Section; and first place for the E. Washington Rhodes Best Business Section.
Just prior to the awards presentation, NNPA Chair and Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes said everyone was a winner.
“This is the highlight of the year for publishers where we can show off our stuff,” said Rolark Barnes, whose newspaper took home second place honors for the Robert L. Vann Best Layout and Design Tabloid and second place for the Don King Best Sports Section award.
NNPA Foundation Chair Al McFarlane, who is also the editor and chief of Insight News in Minneapolis, took a moment to reflect on his city’s favorite son, the late icon Prince.
McFarlane made a connection between one of the singer’s songs and the importance of the Black Press.
“Prince meant so much to Minneapolis. Young, gifted, Black and beautiful and that’s what we are here to celebrate,” he said. “The quality and capacity [that we have] to generate real time information to our community…while mainstream has seen circulations drop, we’re in the midst of new vitality.”
Merit Awards sponsor Miller-Coors sent its representative Steve Canal to the event and he too gushed over the importance of the Black Press. “I understand what you do and I’m laying the foundation for whoever comes after me to understand,” Canal said.
Eric E. Peterson, the vice president of Dealer Relations for NNPA sponsor General Motors, and Mark Rainey, the automaker’s director of Dealer Development, also each touted the success of the Black Press.
“General Motors and Chevrolet are pleased to be partners with the NNPA and we have a passion about what you do,” Peterson told the crowd gathered at the awards ceremony.
Rainey said he’s pleased with General Motors’ commitment to diversity and is impressed with the aggressive goals ahead.
“I’m confident we will increase diversity in minority dealers in our network,” Rainey said.
Other big winners at the Merit Awards included the Houston Forward Times, whose columnist Jeffrey L. Boney won first place for Best Column Writing.
The newspaper also earned a second place award for Best Youth Writer; a first place award for Best Use of Photography Broad Sheet; third place for Best Entertainment Section; and the Miller-Coors A. Philip Randolph Messenger Award for Digital Excellence.
The Chicago Crusader, Michigan Chronicle, Houston Defender, Winston Salem Chronicle, Dallas Weekly, Indianapolis Recorder, Pittsburgh Courier, Philadelphia Tribune, Windy City World, the Final Call, Los Angeles Wave, Gary Crusader, the New York Amsterdam News, Insight News, Carolina Peace Maker, the Washington Informer, The Skanner, Richmond Free Press, and Seattle Medium all took home awards.
Meshach Sullivan, a student at Texas Southern University, was on hand to receive one of 21 cash scholarships worth $1,000 from the NNPA Foundation and sponsors Ford and General Motors.
In a student video contest, “GenX: The New Black Press,” Quinton Allen, Andre Burrell, and Wesley Harris earned the top three spots.
“As a cornerstone of Black culture and community, the Black Press continues to shine bright,” McFarlane said. “Illuminating the grand history and glorious future of our people. As a vital sector in the American media landscape, our newspapers demonstrate that the Black Press of America is the undisputed and indispensable master of engagement that binds our people to our destiny.”