YES! Weekly staff crashes NC Press awards ceremony

by Brian Clarey

We made the drive out to Raleigh in a very fast car Thursday night, whispering through traffic after the 40/85 split and shooting the inner loop like it was the pier at Pismo Beach. Still we were among the last vehicles to pull into the hotel lot. We parked in the back.

In the first-floor hallway off the ballroom the party was well underway – 400 or so reporters, editors, publishers, photographers, columnists, designers, illustrators, copy editors and maybe a stray blogger or two all cashing in their two complimentary drink tickets or trying to find out who wasn’t using theirs before the dinner hour and the awards ceremony that followed.

The NC Press Association Awards has been doing this for more than 100 years – the dinner, the speeches, the presentations and all, but this was the first year YES! Weekly was eligible for consideration and consequently the first time any of us had been to the banquet except Publisher Charles Womack, who’s got a few NCPA awards under his belt already.

Awards are tricky, at least in journalism. Most of us are in this business because we have stories to tell or information to disseminate to our readers or an ornery editor calling us every 10 minutes saying, “Where the hell is my story.”

We’re not in it for the money. And we don’t do it to win awards.

And yet, here they are, these hundreds of rectangular sheets with people’s names in fancy writing on them. And I must say that I am enormously proud that four of them bore the name of this publication.

Yes, four awards in our first NC Press competition and I’m beaming like a papa who’s baby came out toilet trained and throwing fastballs.

Our 2006 Greensboro Grasshoppers guide placed third for “special sections” among community and specialty weeklies in the state. The Dec 7, 2005 issue placed third in appearance and design. And our own Amy Kingsley won first place in feature writing for a story she did back in January 2006 about freight-train hopping here in Greensboro where the Norfolk Southern Line occupies four tracks in its Eastern Seaboard network.

I am incredibly proud of our design department and Ms. Kingsley, who consistently contribute to the excellence of YES! Weekly and find new ways to make me look good in spite of the fact that I’m a disorganized mess.

I somehow swindled my way into a second place certificate, the first award I’ve won since college. I won’t pretend it doesn’t make me happy – it does.

It feels good to get some props from your peers, for sure, but the best thing about my award is that it narrowly edged out a piece by my good friend and colleague Scott Yost of The Rhinoceros Times, a veritable thesis on talking cars and, I think, penguins or something which placed third in the category.

It will bring me a great deal of pleasure to address Yost as “Scott Yost III” or maybe “Trip” or “Trey” the next few times I see him.

But it’s important to keep these things in perspective. My children, for instance, are not least bit impressed that their daddy has a piece of paper on the wall with his name on it.

I told the boys about it in the car last week.

“It’s for something I wrote.”

“What did you write about?”

“I wrote about you guys and that time we went to see Santa.”

The 6-year-old smiled a little.

“Can we go to the pizza buffet?” he wanted to know.

The young fellas had a triumph of their own last week: the first of a series of swimming lessons that should carry us right up to “friends with pools” season. It was surely something to watch my 4-year-old kicking his way down the lane, giggling the whole time like the water was tickling his feet, and his big brother ducking underwater for the first time ever, the light of achievement in that one’s eye enough to make his daddy swoon.

It’s all connected, you know.

Meanwhile, the relentless weekly cycle over here at the paper continues. We look for leads. We pound out legwork. We file our stories. That’s the business. Every week.

Don’t get me wrong: We’re gonna mat and frame those suckers and stick ’em right up on the office wall. And we’re gonna leave some room on that wall, because we plan to win a bunch more next year and the year after that.

Other than that, nothing has changed, except that your favorite newspaper, the one you hold in your hands right now, can now accurately be called an “award-winning” weekly.

And, of course, we will have some framed pieces of paper on the wall with our names on them.

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