Kymelya Sari, 2016 Rookie of the Year
Vermont's free, independent newsweekly, won 10 first-place awards in this year's New England Better Newspaper Competition — including General Excellence and top honors for crimes and courts reporting, video journalism, design and human interest feature story. Staff writer Kymelya Sari
was chosen as Rookie of the Year for weekly newspapers in the six-state region. The contest is organized by the New England Newspaper and Press Association
; winners were announced at NENPA's annual convention last week in Boston.
NENPA members submitted 3,226 entries, split among five categories: daily newspapers with circulation up to 30,000; daily newspapers with circulation more than 30,000; weekly newspapers with circulation up to 6,000; weekly newspapers with circulation more than 6,000; and specialty publications. Seven Days
— which circulates 36,000 copies every Wednesday — competed against numerous other large, New England weeklies.
Seven Days' 10 awards included:
- First place for General Excellence. "Well-written and researched stories," commented one judge. "Superb weekly paper."
- First place, weekly newspaper Rookie of the Year, for Kymelya Sari. "I applaud the paper for creating a new beat on the immigrant and refugee communities," one judge wrote. "Most importantly, thank you to Kymelya Sari for the depth and quality of writing that makes the beat crucial to the readers." Sari, a Singapore native, first came to Seven Days as a reporting fellow, after earning a master's degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism. She is now a staff writer.
- First place, Overall Design and Presentation, for the Seven Days design team. "Takes design risks...and succeeds!" gushed the judge. "It's a weekly that's light on the eyes, yet not afraid to tackle issues."
- First place for Best Overall Website. "An excellent website and perfectly suited to its altweekly style," noted the judge. "Solid user interactivity across the website."
- Two first-place awards for senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger's weekly web video series, "Stuck in Vermont": News Video, first place: "Stuck in Vermont 427: Trumpnado Hits Burlington;" Entertainment Video, first place: "Stuck in Vermont 446: Hanksville Mud Bog."
- A first place in Crimes and Courts Reporting for Mark Davis. In particular, the judge praised his cover story, "A Second Chance: A Vermont Sheriff Risks His Career by Hiring a Sex Offender." "The reporting, interviews and documentation reveal a tale of conscience, struggle and complexity — and also forces the reader to reconsider the meaning of justice and redemption."
- Mark Davis also won first place for his Human Interest Feature Story, "Right in Rutland: Will Mayor Chris Louras Fall on his Sword for 100 Syrians?"
- Kymelya Sari also took first place for Racial or Ethnic Issue Coverage, for her cover story on hate-crime victim Fatuma Bulle, who has become an advocate for refugee women and families. Readers "were treated with a well-written, deeply reported feature that introduces them to a victim who refused to be victimized," wrote the judge.
- First place for "Right-to-Know" for Terri Hallenbeck and Paul Heintz. The pair wrote about Seven Days' decision to contest subpoenas received as a result of the investigation of Sen. Norm McAllister. "Seven Days invested significant financial and editorial resources to challenge subpoenas issued for three of its reporters," noted the judge. "This type of investment reflects an admirable commitment to freedom of the press. When the paper could have easily accepted the subpoenas, it instead fought them and educated its readers about the First Amendment every step of the way."
scored second-place honors for specialty publication, for the newly redesigned What's Good: A Seven Days Field Guide to Burlington.
Political editor Paul Heintz won second place for political columnist and local personality profile for his cover story on Northeast Kingdom developer Bill "Sunshine" Stenger.
Finally, Eva Sollberger, Diane Sullivan and Bryan Parmelee shared an honorable mention in the feature video category, for "Stuck in Vermont 434: Stuck Inside a Vermonter's Colon.
" The video, which documents Seven Days
art director Rev. Diane Sullivan's colonoscopy, memorializes her brother, Michael, who died of colorectal cancer in 2003.