Herald Community Newspapers took home nine state awards at the New York Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest over the weekend in Albany.
Long-time sports editor Tony Bellissimo earned first place in the sports feature category for his touching story of Dunia Sibomana’s amazing path from a victim of a near-fatal wild chimpanzee attack in the Congo, to an honor roll student — and a Nassau County wrestling champion — from Long Beach Middle School.
“Amazing story,” said one of the judges from the Colorado Press Association, which judged this year’s competition. “I couldn’t believe it as I read it. An incredible journey the young kid has been on.”
Sibomana was just 6 when the chimpanzees attacked his family near Virunga National Park, killing both his brother and cousin. Sibomana survived, but his lips were torn off, his cheek was lacerated, and he suffered muscle damage that made it hard to swallow or talk.
He has since undergone more than a dozen surgeries, beginning at Stony Brook University Children’s Hospital in 2016, to restore his appearance and facial functions.
Herald photo editor Tim Baker won two awards for his pictures — feature photo and sports feature photo, both for the East Meadow Herald.
“Loved this photo,” the judges said of Baker’s photo of Andy Butera, captured in an emotional moment as the East Meadow Fire Department and American Legion Post 1082 celebrated his 100th birthday with a drive-by parade.
“Just perfect composition. Great lighting, and (Butera’s) face tells a story all itself. Raw emotion.”
Baker also earned honors for his photo of Peter Hawkins and Greg Waxman, who raced 50 miles through Malverne as part of “Operation Hero,” a charity event for veterans and first responders.
“Love the camaraderie and the hand work between the two perfectly captured by the photographer,” according to the judges.
The Long Beach Herald — edited by James Bernstein — won an honorable mention for the Past Presidents’ Award for General Excellence.
“The classified layout was very nice, and was the emphasis on community and culture,” judges said. “The pictures and art were very good.”
Laura Lane, senior editor for the Glen Cove Herald, won second place for her obituary coverage.
“Wonderful ledes take a reader straight into the stories of these two people’s lives,” the judges said about Lane’s stories highlighting the lives of Teddy Roosevelt re-enactor James Foote as well as Glen Cove teenager Penny Doerge.
“The quotes and anecdotes capture their essence, leaving the reader feeling a sense of who they were. There’s warmth and spirit in these stories. And besides being a record of their lives, they tell the spirit of the community around them.”
The Franklin Square/Elmont Herald team of Robert Traverso, Ana Borruto, Brian Pfail and Kepherd Daniel earned an honorable mention for education coverage.
“The stories do not shy away from controversial issues, reporting them well and providing context and depth as to why the community should care,” the judges said. “The energy and thoughtfulness of the reporting shows in the coverage. Keep up the great local journalism.”
Herald art director Jeffrey Negrin won a pair of first places for best special section cover for the chain’s Great Homes special section, and best multi-advertiser pages for a Halloween-themed section for the Merrick Herald.
“Great community service to encourage businesses to participate in the promotion,” the judges said about the Halloween work. “Cute and appealing layout of safety tips for all ages.”
And the Nassau Herald won third place for advertising excellence, honoring Herald sales vice president Rhonda Glickman.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the ads in this newspaper,” the judges said. “Ad layout and originality are of premium quality. And the quality of copywriting is top-notch, as well.”
"The press room, production, finance, editorial, marketing and sales all together put out great newspapers 52 weeks a year," Glickman said. "So great for our team to be recognized for the work we do, and bring home awards."
Stuart Richner, publisher of Herald Community Newspapers, said it’s “always a great honor to be recognized by our peers in the newspaper industry.”
“Congratulations to all our winners. But our real reward is making sure our readers get the best and most complete news in their neighborhood each and every week.”
More than 154 newspapers submitted 2,665 entries. The overall Herald Community Newspapers group won 13 awards, with four won by its Bronx publication, The Riverdale Press, including honors for photo editor Hiram Alejandro Durán, former reporter Sachi McClendon, and both editor Gary Larkin and executive editor Michael Hinman.