Milton, Ga. – Appen Media Group – publishers of the Revue & News, Johns Creek Herald, Milton Herald and Forsyth Herald – returned from the Association of Free Community Papers (AFCP) annual conference this month in Orlando, Fla., with 19 awards for editorial, ad creation and publication design. Five of the awards were firsts among the 83 juried categories and 1,400 entries.
“The Best of the Best” trade show recognizes extraordinary works in the fields of journalism, photography, ad design and page layout, said Appen Media General Manager Hans Appen.
“We took home 19 awards, more than any of the more than 250 newspaper groups represented at the conference, including Best in Show – the most prestigious award they hand out,” said Appen.
Executive Editor Hatcher Hurd won first place for Best Original Writing, News Article, for his summer-long coverage of the Johns Creek City Council’s attempt to oust Mayor Mike Bodker through an “investigation” of his conduct during an election campaign while one councilmember resigned her seat to run against him.
“This entry is community watchdog journalism at its best,” the judges said in making the award. “Solid, thorough reporting that kept its community informed every step of the way.”
Hurd, who wrote nearly 30 articles from June through November 2013, said it was the most sustained and grueling coverage he ever had to provide.
“I called it my long, hot summer. Very quickly, the investigation became the whole focus of the campaign. I am certainly gratified to have the AFCP recognize those efforts,” he said.
The AFCP divides the editorial competitions based on the percentage of editorial content in them, and Appen Media is in the highest classification.
Appen Media won three other news awards. Northside Woman (a monthly Appen publication written for women) had NSW Editor Katie VanBrackle register a third-place finish in the Best Original Writing – Feature Article category for her article titled “Cock-a-doodle Doo, It’s Farmer Sue.”
It entertainingly told about a retired graphics designer who now teaches art to young students at her Art Barn.
“I’m thrilled that Northside Woman has received an AFCP General Excellence award three years in a row,” VanBrackle said. “It speaks to our commitment to inform, enlighten and entertain our readers with compelling stories about women living right here in our local community.
“We also write about travel, books, fashion, food, health – any topic of interest to local ladies,” she said. “Our small staff works hard each month to create an informative and attractive magazine, and it’s an honor to be recognized nationally for our efforts.”
Other writing awards went to Alpharetta-Roswell Revue & News Editor Jonathan Copsey and a second to Hurd.
Copsey received Honorable Mention in the Best Community Service/Editorial division. He wrote about the teen suicide crisis in North Fulton and its prevention. Hurd won a third place nod in Best Original Writing – Column to Inform/Educate the Reader. That column explained how transformational the $600 million Avalon mixed-use project in Alpharetta will be for the region.
Both prize-winning editorials appear in the Opinion section of the newspaper.
However, if there is an MVP on Team Appen Media, it is David Brown, the company’s senior graphic designer. Brown had a three first place awards and won seven of the company’s 19 awards.
He won the top award for Best Ad Series (Original Pancake House), Best Single Ad (Paul Martin Interiors) and Advertising Design Contest. Brown also had three second place awards and one Honorable Mention.
Brown said the secret to a good ad is first understanding the client and the product’s audience.
“With that knowledge, you have to find page-stopping graphics. Ads are like billboards. You have to win the page to capture the eye and get the prospect right away,” Brown said.
“You have to put the sizzle on paper,” he said. “You can have the best message in the world, but you have to get their eyes to look at it first.”
Production Manager A.J. McNaughton was also in line for some kudos. His redesign of the company’s Medical AnswerBook took third in the Most Improved Publication category, and he garnered another third place award in the Best Cover Design, Newsprint Tabloid, for his Forsyth Herald Football Preview.
McNaughton sees designing covers as a puzzle.
“You have to make all of the pieces fit in such a way that it draws the people in,” he said. “You want to make the copy appealing so that the people want to read the story.
“If the headlines and graphics don’t jump off the page, the reader probably will never get to the story,” he said.
Good community journalism is a staple in any community where the standard of living is high and community interests are broad, Appen said.
“It informs, educates, entertains and connects. Appen Media Group went to a national conference proudly representing not only itself, but the communities we serve. And once again north Atlanta comes out on top,” he said.
“We have to thank our readers for their continued support,” he said. “We are proud to be your local newspaper.”