The Coastal Journal was honored with five awards in the Maine Press Association’s 2017 Better Newspaper Contest at the organization’s annual conference in Bar Harbor on Oct. 21.

It’s a big deal to us. The act of seeking any sort of outside acknowledgment (beyond the weekly affirmations of readers) was an accomplishment.

That’s because combing through hundreds of what we call tear sheets spanning April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 to match stories, photos, and designs to 60 or so categories … in June … one of our busiest times of year … just as our new website launched … was a challenge.

You must follow careful guidelines for each entry. I’m always afraid of being eliminated for something like a misplaced staple (not to mention commas), so I fussed more than necessary over our 11 submissions, only to realize too late that half of them were likely appropriated to the wrong category.

(How do you decide between “best supplement/special section” and “best supplement cover”? Or, is this piece best feted as an editorial, local column, or opinion … the writer crosses all three? Can I nominate something I wrote or would that seem, as my mother would admonish, like “tooting my own horn”?)

We learned a lot in the process of entering the Better Newspaper Contest this year. I’m glad we found time to nominate a few examples of our work that we thought were exceptional. That effort paid off.

Reporter Chris Chase was honored with first place in the “Weekly 2” (distribution of 4,000 and up) news story category for “This land is my land,” about public access to Harpswell’s Cedar Beach, published July 28, 2016.

A judge commented, “This reporter was fortunate enough to have this intriguing land-use/accessibility story occur on their beat, and talented enough to pursue it, incorporating a broad base of historic, legal, and anecdotal detail into a compelling and interesting report that effectively draws attention to an issue that has to impact most, if not all, of Maine’s coastal communities.”

‘Nuff said.

Chris also got first place for the Critic’s Award for “Trevett Country Store is the real Maine deal,” a Midcoast Munching II review published June 9, 2016 (“No way should a review of a country store sandwich shop be this entertaining …”).

And third place in the food story/feature category for “Fighting winter’s chill,” about a Scotch tasting at Brunswick Hotel and Tasting, published March 2, 2017.
It’s not easy being the reporter on a two-person team with an editor who is too busy to micromanage. Actually, I doubt he’d complain about that.

But often I don’t find the time to tell him how thankful I am for his news-hounding, sandwich- (and whoopie pie-) reviewing, and sure-I’ll-cover-a-Scotch-tasting (or any beer-related anything), go-gettem attitude.

Christopher, as I call him, does fine work for the Coastal Journal and I’m so happy we’ve had four years together to bring this paper into the light of real community news and relevant information.

The awards included one called the “Unsung Hero,” which went to Robert Long, a senior editor at the Bangor Daily News. We have an unsung hero at the Coastal Journal, too, and I’ve been thinking a lot about him since the weekend.

Daryl Madore has worked nights, weekends, and more on making the Coastal Journal look as good as it does. He has been an integral part of making the paper function for over the year. "Stealth photo" by Marla Pastrana, MaineToday Media Press

You won’t see him on the masthead, but D, as I call him, has been working behind the scenes for the CJ since July 2016. All those flashy covers, like the one this week, and the fancy design flourishes? That’s all Daryl Madore, who now works at MaineToday Media’s output desk.

D couldn’t come to the awards ceremony because his young son was having surgery, so I accepted for him his first-place award for front page design for the Jan. 12, 2017 lead story, “State of disrepair,” about Brunswick’s many schools that need expensive fixes.

He received second place for best supplement cover for “Connecting camps with campers,” March 16, 2017. I must give a special nod, as well, to regular contributor Lorry Fleming, for writing that story and giving us so much to work with.

Daryl … where do I begin? He’s done so much for the aesthetic of the Coastal Journal, but more than that, he’s done so much for me.

In an Aesop’s moment six years ago, Daryl, in the lion’s role of deputy managing editor of the Times Record, hired me, a newly divorced and unemployed mouse of a freelance writer to copy edit for him, because managing editor Robert Long was leaving for the BDN.

I’ve been learning from Daryl ever since. I wouldn’t be writing these words if it were not for the chance he gave me. And it’s all the honor I need to show up every day and learn a little bit more.

You look back sometimes at the people who believed in you when you didn’t know what to believe in yourself. People who took the time to teach you, answer your questions, even the ones you were afraid to ask because you should probably know to use single quotes in a headline and not doubles.

No one gets there – anywhere – alone. Thanks, D, for seeing first a copy editor in me. And stalwartly supporting the editor I’ve become.

And, Christopher …

… thanks for the stories.