Today I learned that my article about John Dersham for DeKalb Living magazine won 2nd Place in the category of “Best Personality Profile” in the Alabama Press Association Better Newspaper Contest awards.

The article detailed John’s love of and career in photography. While living in Nashville, he worked as a regional general manager for Kodak, responsible for sales to retail stores in seven states with 45 sales representatives bellowing him covering individual accounts. The article got into the impact of declining sales on photographers and camera shops as the medium increasingly transitioned from film to digital files. While visiting friends in DeKalb County, Alabama, he and his wife fell in love with the area and moved here. He became director of the local tourism marketing organization.

In the same competition, in the newspaper category, I also won:
2nd Place – “Best News Feature Story Coverage”: “Local WWII veteran turns 100 years old”
2nd Place – “Best Spot News Story”: “Flood waters damage DeKalb bridges, homes and businesses”
3rd Place – “Best Spot News Photo”: “Peaceful protest held in downtown Fort Payne”
3rd Place – “Best Photo Essay”: “Flood waters damage DeKalb bridges, homes and businesses”

The List of Awards

I didn’t win any first place awards this year, but to receive honors for five different categories is rare and truly an honor. I’m proud of our news staff for these awards, but we’re never satisfied. Of course, we don’t do what we do for awards. We do it to serve the people of DeKalb County with a paper that’s a little better today than yesterday. Plaques are just a bonus.

Overall, my five awards contributed to a total of 20 won in the Alabama Press Association Awards. This marks the highest number of awards presented to The Times-Journal since 2012, when the newspaper received 12 awards — seven related to coverage of the deadly 2011 tornadoes. Our publications won 5 APA awards in the 2013 contest, 6 APA awards apiece in the 2014 and 2015 contests, 5 APA awards in 2016, 3 APA awards in 2017, and 6 APA awards in 2019.

So, you can see, winning this many awards is a pretty big deal. First place awards will be presented in conjunction with the 2021 APA Summer Convention banquet awards program.

Our magazine, DeKalb Living, also won first place in the category of “Best Themed Issue”. Editor Derek Jackson deserves credit for putting that one together. He now works at the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

I also can’t take too much credit as publisher since Tricia Dunne had the job until she left last October to become the City of Fort Payne’s new treasurer. She actually won a first place award for “Best Human Interest Column” with her editorial titled “Coming out of quarantine” describing her family’s experience dealing with COVID-19 last spring.

The Times-Journal competes with other small daily newspapers. Sister publications The Jackson County Sentinel in Scottsboro and The Sand Mountain Reporter in Albertville also won in numerous categories. The three Alabama newspapers serving readers and advertisers in northeast Alabama were purchased in May 2019 as part of a chain that includes two Georgia newspapers.

This year, 54 Alabama newspapers submitted 1,852 entries in the annual APA contest. Nineteen different publications submitted 298 entries in the magazine contest and 23 publications submitted 495 entries in the Advertising contest. Entries were judged by the South Carolina Press Association members.

Awards will be presented in conjunction with the 2021 APA Summer Convention banquet awards program June 24-26 at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, Alabama. Additional awards like the “Overall Excellence” title will be presented at that time.

Our other 2021 awards include:
1st Place – “Best News Feature Story Coverage”: “The road to recovery: One year later” by Cinthia Rico
1st Place – “Best Sports Feature Story”: “A Coach’s Dream” by Glendon Poe
1st Place – “Best Advertising Campaign”: “Twin City magazine” by Linda Stiefel and Emily Wooten
1st Place – “Best Themed Issue” for DeKalb Living magazine
2nd Place – “Best Local Economic Coverage”
2nd Place – “Best Local Education Coverage”
2nd Place – “Best Advertising Campaign”: “First State Bank Testimonials” by Linda Stiefel and Emily Wooten
2nd Place – “Best Classified Display Advertisement”: “First State Bank” by Linda Stiefel and Emily Wooten
2nd Place – “Best Single Ad half-page and under, black and white”: “Alabama Tube Corporation” by Linda Stiefel and Emily Wooten
2nd Place – “Best One Time Special Section”: “Collinsville Girls State Champs” by staff
2nd Place – “Best Niche Publication”: “Treasure Map” by staff
3rd Place – “Best Advertising Campaign”: “First State Bank” by Linda Stiefel and Emily Wooten
3rd Place – “Best Classified Display Advertisement”: “Twin City Paint Roll” by Linda Stiefel and Emily Wooten
3rd Place – “Best Regularly Scheduled Special Section”: “Senior Services Directory” by staff
3rd Place – “Best Use of Humor”: “Twin City-Best Ride” by Linda Stiefel and Emily Wooten