Beacon brings home state press association awards

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Sunshine Week project shines across state

By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The staff of The Brunswick Beacon has been honored with seven awards from the North Carolina Press Association’s News, Editorial & Photojournalism Awards contest.

The awards were presented last Wednesday and Thursday in Raleigh.

Beacon staff writer Caroline Curran, along with the rest of the Brunswick Beacon news team, was singled out for efforts to promote community knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act with the Henry Lee Weathers Freedom of Information Award.

In the project conducted last spring, “Shining the Light on Public Access,” took local agencies and government officials to task by seeing how well they did when approached with public records requests. The results of that project were printed in the Beacon last March.

Judges said, “The Brunswick Beacon performed a fine public service when it explored North Carolina’s public records and open meetings laws. Staff writer Caroline Curran offered readers a complete report on what public records laws say, how they can be used and what state laws require regarding open meetings.

“But Curran and the Brunswick Beacon didn’t just explain to readers what the laws say. Curran and the paper also explained to readers how 19 different public agencies in the county responded to specific records requests, and it provided examples of important local stories readers would have missed if Beacon reporters hadn’t used North Carolina’s public records and open meetings laws.

“These specific examples of public records requests, and stories where records were used to report important public issues, gave readers of the Brunswick Beacon a thorough understanding of these laws and why they are important to a democracy. The effort and commitment by the Brunswick Beacon was remarkable, and a fine example to other media—and to the public—about the value of keeping government decisions and actions in the Sunshine.”

Curran also won first place in the Spot News Reporting category for her coverage of the indictment of former Brunswick County Sheriff Ronald Hewett.

“Huge response to a local problem,” judges said. “Good use of public documents.”

Curran, together with staff writers Kathryn Jacewicz and Laura Lewis, also won second place in the spot news reporting category for their coverage of the Ocean Isle Beach fire that claimed the lives of several college students.

A third-place award went to Curran in general news reporting for her coverage of Hewett’s federal investigation.

Judges said, “A sheriff who once proclaimed his innocence, finally pleads guilty after a bevy of undeniable evidence comes forward—partly as a result of the Beacon’s applying pressure.”

The news staff won first place for best editorial pages for its Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 editions, and second place for news coverage for its Sept. 4 and Sept. 25 editions.

Sports editor Michael Paul won third place in Sports Photography for his photos of Matt Lowry.