The Elk Valley Times captured first place in the category of Best Breaking News Coverage in the Tennessee Press Association’s (TPA) 2019 newspaper contests for its coverage of the fire which destroyed Fayetteville’s iconic Sir’s Fabrics last year.
The award was one of four presented to The Times Thursday in Chattanooga during the association’s annual awards banquet. The contests, co-sponsored by the University of Tennessee, recognizes the work of the best newspaper writers, editors, photographers and designers published statewide in 2018.
First place honors were presented to Times’ news editor Sandy Williams and editor/publisher Lucy Williams, who worked jointly covering the fire that engulfed Sir’s Fabrics and its sister store, Sir’s Marketplace, on North Elk Avenue. The blaze had gotten its start Saturday evening, Feb. 10, 2018, and then rekindled in the early morning hours Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, ultimately destroying the iconic business that had helped shape Fayetteville over the preceding 70 years.
The Times’ team, which also includes writers and photographers Paul Henry and Laurie Caruso, also won second place in the category of Best Local Features for their features on local people and places across multiple editions.
Fourth place in Best Single Feature also went to Lucy Williams for her story, “She sold well over a million copies of the EVT” in the Jan. 3, 2018 edition of The Times. The feature centered on the late Iris Wayne Brown, who was a street hawk for the newspaper for more than three decades. She had passed away the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, 2017, at the age of 87.
The Times also won another fourth place award – this one in the category of Best Website for its site at www.elkvalleytimes.com.
“The staff at The Times couldn’t be more pleased with these honors, but in regard to two of these awards, our work was heart wrenching,” said Lucy Williams. “As we were covering the Sir’s fire and all that the store had meant to our community, we were watching as our longtime friends lost their livelihood, and in regard to the feature on Mrs. Brown, that, too, was very difficult – she was a part of our family here at The Times.
“Community journalism is sometimes hard work,” she said. “We’re close to so many of the stories that we cover, because this is our community, too.”
The 2019 awards marked the 11th consecutive year that The Elk Valley Times has taken awards in the annual TPA contests.
The Times competed against other state newspapers with a total circulation of between 5,000 and 15,000. Reciprocal judging is done with another state’s association. This year, the Texas Press Association judged 1,406 entries from 72 of TPA’s 129 member newspapers.
“I want to say how much I appreciate each member of our staff – they each work hard every week to publish a great community newspaper,” Williams added. “Of course, we also appreciate our readers and advertisers – without them, we wouldn’t be here.”
The Times’ staff includes Sandy Williams, news editor; Paul Henry, writer and photographer; Janie Herrin, advertising sales manager; Berta Groce, circulation manager; Laurie Caruso, staff writer and photographer; and Faith Andres, who takes care of our classifieds section, as well as contractors, Bill Shields and Cole Hamlin, who distribute the newspaper, and Joey Worden, who is a corresponding photographer.
This year marked the 79th anniversary of the contest, which began in 1940.