North Carolina Health News won 14 awards last week during the North Carolina Press Association’s annual awards ceremony, five of which were first place honors for online publications.

The Press Association honored work done from October 2019 through September 2020.

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“I’m incredibly proud of our entire team for the work they’ve done this past year,” said editor and website founder Rose Hoban. “They never failed to wow me with their drive, their desire to explore the hidden corners of their beats and to produce consistently high-quality work, even as last year produced challenge after challenge.

“It’s a humbling experience to work with this dedicated and talented group,” she said. “That also goes for our behind-the-scenes crew, of copy editor, engagement coordinator and the fundraiser who makes all our work possible.”

Greg Barnes won two first place awards, one in the best ledes category and another for news enterprise reporting an article on PFAS contamination and North Carolina’s struggle to get a handle on the compounds also known as “forever chemicals.”

“Impeccably sourced and explained in terms accessible to the average reader, this series of articles by Greg Barnes offers a chilling introduction to the ‘forever chemicals’ swirling in local water supplies,” the judges wrote.

Barnes also won a second place public service award for his work on industrial pollutants contaminating North Carolina waterways, which also garnered a third place for investigative reporting.

Thomas Goldsmith won first place for beat feature reporting for a series of stories on finding support for some of the most difficult caregiving there is.

“Timely features that include helpful tips for caregivers outside nursing homes,” the judges wrote about Goldsmith’s work. “Well written, informative and interesting!”

Melba Newsome won first place in news feature writing for a story about domestic violence shelters during the pandemic.

“Telling a deeply personal story, shining a light on domestic violence and the difficult situation it leaves its victims in, while setting out to answer the question of what shelters are doing in the middle of a pandemic when domestic violence rates are up, this piece does so much with one person’s story,” the judges wrote. “Even with the heartbreaking end of not having a choice, the piece does an excellent job of putting the reader in her shoes.”

Anne Blythe, NC Health News board member Brett Chambers (a journalism instructor at N.C. Central University) and Hoban won first place for the Storm Stories special section in which teens from southeast North Carolina wrote about their experiences after Hurricane Florence struck land near their homes. The project gathered students from throughout the area for a weekend workshop to teach them how to write essays and create podcasts to express how the storm brought challenges for each of them and how they and their families coped.

“The interactivity of this site works great,” the judges said. “Also, there is some real content here that is worth a read. Has a youthful feel throughout – appropriate to the audience and the content.”

A huge shoutout to Charlize Bryan, Jonny Morales, Julia Narvaez, Shamyia Robinson, Shecoria Smith, Karissa Sowers and Abel Zukerman for their compelling essays written during the workshop, done in collaboration with Working Narratives/Coastal Youth Media.

Hoban won three third place awards, one for beat featuring writing for her story about homeless UNC-Pembroke students finding a home and hand on campus. She received third place in news enterprise reporting for her coverage of the arrival of COVID-19 in North Carolina, and third place in religion and faith reporting for a story about how churches planned to operate during the pandemic.

Anne Blythe won third place for ledes, and NC Health News won third place for headlines.

Hannah Critchfield, NC Health News’ Report for America corps member, won third place in beat news reporting for her work tracking COVID in North Carolina’s prisons.

Taylor Knopf won third place in news feature writing for “Mental health patients fill the ER, waiting weeks for help.” “Excellent reporting on an issue that needs more attention across the country,” the judges said about Knopf’s work. “The description of ‘the sorry state’ of mental health treatment in North Carolina is spot on.”

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