SOUTH BURLINGTON -- Seven Days was named Vermont's best non-daily newspaper of 2004 by the Vermont Press Association at its annual awards banquet last Sunday. This year's "General Excellence Award" marks the first time the statewide organization of print journalists has recognized Seven Days with this top honor. The Burlington Free Press was also named Vermont's best newspaper in the daily newspaper division. The annual print-media contest is open to 10 daily newspapers and 60 non-daily newspapers throughout Vermont.
In all, Seven Days received six awards for writing last year. Staff writer Cathy Resmer earned a first-place award for "Best Local Story" with her piece, "A More Perfect Union?" on efforts to unionize Montpelier's downtown employees. Sarah Tuff received a first-place award in "Best Sportswriting" for her stories on fly fishing, bike polo and the new sport of snowkiting.
Resmer and fellow staff writer Ken Picard shared a second-place award for "Best State Story" for their feature entitled "War Gains," which examined the financial windfall to Vermont's economy from the ongoing war in Iraq. Picard also picked up two second-place awards: "Best Local Story" for "Bullied in Brandon," about sexual harassment and negligence in the Brandon Police Department; and "Best Feature Story" for "Behind the Lines," about one mother's grief over losing her only son in Iraq.
"It's nice to see our investment in news staffing and coverage being appreciated," says co-publisher Paula Routly. "We've clearly grown from being just 'that arts paper' over 10 years," adds co-publisher Pamela Polston. "We're really proud of our whole team."
This year, the Vermont Press Association also acknowledged the lifetime efforts of Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to protect free speech and open government with its first-ever Matthew Lyon Award. The award is named after the former Vermont congressman who was jailed in 1798 under the Alien and Sedition Act for writing a letter to the editor criticizing President John Adams. In his acceptance speech, Leahy drew clear parallels between the Alien and Sedition Act and efforts by the Bush administration to stifle the public's right to know, citing its disturbing habit of classifying millions of government documents. Leahy also referred to last week's revelations in the Washington Post that the CIA is maintaining secret military prisons in Eastern Europe, which Leahy equated to the gulags of the former Soviet Union.
"No matter who is in power, there is a tendency to trumpet the things you think will make you politically popular and hide those things that are a mistake," the senator told the room of nearly 100 journalists and editors. "That is why we need the Freedom of Information Act to find out what is going on."
Earlier this month, Seven Days was also recognized by the Vermont Council on Domestic Violence with its first-ever "Community Leadership Award" for the paper's coverage of sexual and domestic violence issues. Seven Days was the only news agency to receive this award.