I’ll never forget the first time I won an award for journalism. I was a very young reporter, working at a 6,000-circulation, five-day-a-week newspaper in Newton, North Carolina. I received a features award for this story about a guy who hiked the Appalachian Trail.
That was 23 years ago. And I’ve got to say, it never gets old.
I am pleased to announce that Distinction scored big in this year’s Virginia Press Association Awards. We won 15, 10 of them first-place honors, for work we produced in 2019.
We’ve known about this for a while but were forbidden from talking about it. The COVID-19 crisis threw the live event – originally scheduled for April 4 – into crisis and we’ve been awaiting instructions ever since. Officials announced the results online today.
An award delayed is still an award, and we are proud of our haul this year. The full list of winners is included below, but I wanted to highlight a few standouts, starting with our first-place award for design and presentation.
We pride ourselves on being the best designed magazine in the state, and one of the best in the country. Art directors Allyson Garner (who is no longer with us) and Wes Watson did superior work in 2019; they share this honor. But I think they’d agree with me that our consistent design excellence is thanks to the vision and passion of creative director E.J. Toudt. This is his award and he deserves it more than he’ll ever admit.
Another one I am very proud of is our first-place honor for best combined picture and story. It’s an honor we’ve received for a second year in a row, and really, what’s more important to a magazine than having the art and story work perfectly together?
This year’s package was a doozy. Titled “The Power of Giving,” it detailed the importance of philanthropy to this region and highlighted several of our biggest givers. The writing by Ben Swenson and Victoria Bourne, combined with art by Wes Watson and photography by Keith Lanpher and designed by E.J. Toudt, created a powerful piece that resonated with a lot of people.
We also dominated the feature writing portfolio category, taking both first- and second-place awards. Eric J. Wallace won top honors for a trio of outdoors stories, including one about sailing on the schooner Virginia. Matthew Korfhage, our brilliant food writer, came in second with stories on surf tacos, Richmond’s Longoven restaurant and some legit sake brewed in the Virginia mountains.
There are certainly more. The judges recognized our photographers’ considerable talents, and Wes Watson, the most talented man I know, got well-earned nods for his art. But there is only so much time, and I need to get back to my makeshift work desk on the kitchen table. Please, check out the full list below, with links to the winner’s work.
Thanks for reading.
Distinction’s Award List
Illustrations | Wes Watson | Dark History of a Happy City
Combination Picture and Story | EJ Toudt, Ben Swenson, Victoria Bourne, Keith Lanpher, Wes Watson | The Power of Giving
Special Sections or Special Editions | Clay Barbour, EJ Toudt, Victoria Bourne, Wes Watson, Erica Smith, Allyson Garner | Distinction magazine: Food Issue
Specialty Pages or Sections | EJ Toudt, Wes Watson, Janine Latus, Matthew Korfhage, Todd Wright, Patrick Hayes | VISIT VIRGINIA — Staunton — A Victorian Marvel in the Blue Ridge (Feb/March 2019); Abingdon (June/July 2019); Culpeper — Tiny Town, Big Taste (Oct/Nov 2019).
Design and Presentation | EJ Toudt, Allyson Garner, Wes Watson | Distinction: Feb/March 2019, April/May 2019, June/July 2019.
Personality or Portrait Photo | Jessica Shea | Sydney Meers
Pictorial Photo | Adam Ewing | Humility & Focus portrait: Shane Zeigler
Sports Feature Photo | Todd Wright | Sailing on the Schooner Virginia
Food Writing | Matthew Korfhage | Long Time Coming
Page Design | Wes Watson | A Cocktail Lovers Guide to Richmond
Specialty Pages or Sections | Clay Barbour, EJ Toudt, Victoria Bourne, Allyson Garner, Wes Watson | Curate: Feb/March 2019; April/May 2019: June/July 2019
Feature Photo | Adam Ewing | Jackson Radford and Randy the Pig
Sports Feature | Photo Patrick Hayes | Biking Fire Mountain